Surfing and the Dalai Lama

The exiled Dalai Lama talks with Pope John Paul II at the Exedra Hotel on Nov. 27, 2003, in Rome, Italy. The Dalai Lama visited the pope eight times, more than any other foreign dignitary, and the two were close friends.

I have spoken plenty about how Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI engage the environment in several places, here, here and here for example. What does the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism have to say? Recently Kelly Slater, the world’s best surfer ever, among other celebrities, met with the Dalai Lama and asked him questions. Kelly Slater’s:  “Have you ever thought about catching a wave?”

You can read the article here, but basically the Dalai Lama had to have surfing explained as a new concept.  “He then went on to talk about he had grown up near a pond but never learned to swim. Now, when he travels, he often looks out the window of the plane while flying over great bodies of water and thinks about what would happen if the plane were to go down in the ocean.”

Yet personal experience isn’t necessarily a mark for caring for Creation. While John Paul II was an avid outdoorsman, Benedict XVI has plenty to say about the environment and has a clear aversion to the practice of sports (for himself). Like Pope Benedict XVI the Dalai Lama doesn’t seem like the practicing type, but has said much on the issue.  Interestingly, there seems to be a similarity in finding the root of environmental problems in interior human behavior and the commitment to future generations:

“Peace and the survival of life on earth as we know it are threatened by human activities that lack a commitment to humanitarian values. Destruction of nature and natural resources results from ignorance, greed and lack of respect for the earth’s living things; “As people alive today, we must consider future generations: a clean environment is a human right like any other. It is therefore part of our responsibility towards others to ensure that the world we pass on is as healthy, if not healthier, than we found it.”

But while there are similarities, there are also clear distinctions, which draw on the sources of personal transformation, what moral values are upheld, and vastly different conceptions of theology and God. For more on the Dalai Lama and ecology read here. 


The Spirituality of Mountain Climbing

This is a quote from Pope John Paul II on the significance of sports and specifically mountain climbing. The meaning it has for the Christian life and how it can enhance our spiritual growth. The original in Italian can be found here, and the quote in English can be found in the book “A Catholic Perspective: Physical Exercise and Sports”, by Robert Feeney. Enjoy!

“If it is true that sports activity, in developing and perfecting the physical and psychological potential of the person, contributes to a more complete maturity of the character, this is especially true for those who practice mountain climbing and engage in it in respect for the ideals which this sport sustains and nourishes. I exhort you in the words of my predecessor, Pius XII, to be “docile to the lessons of the mountain: 

. . . it is a lesson in spiritual elevation, of an energy which is more moral than physical.” I congratulate you on your programs which aim at educating your members in respect for nature and in a deepened examination of the message which she imparts to the human spirit. Have special concern for the young, to train them to follow the type of life that the mountains demand of their devotes. It requires rigorous virtues in those who practice it: strict discipline and self-control, prudence, a spirit of sacrifice and dedication, care and solidarity for others.Thus we can say that mountain-climbing develops character. In fact, it would not be possible to face disinterestedly the difficulties of life on the mountains if the physical and muscular strength, which is very necessary, were not sustained by a strong will and an intelligent passion for beauty. Help your members also to be contemplatives, to enjoy ever more deeply in their mind the message of creation. In contact with the beauties of the mountains, in the face of the spectacular grandeur of the peaks, the fields of snow and the immense landscapes, man enters into himself and discovers that the beauty of the universe shines not only in the framework of the exterior heavens, but also that of the soul that allows itself to be enlightened, and seeks to give meaning to life. From the things that it contemplates, in fact, the spirit is lifting up to God on the breath of prayer and gratitude towards the Creator.”