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Excerpted from The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, M.D. Copyright © 1998 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, M.D. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"If we can leave the differences aside, I think we can easily communicate, exchange ideas, and share experiences."

Dalai Lama, 
The Art of Happiness
, Part 1

I found the Dalai Lama alone in an empty basketball locker room moments before he was to speak before a crowd of six thousand at Arizona State University. He was calmly sipping a cup of tea, in perfect repose. "Your Holiness, if you’re ready…"

He briskly rose, and without hesitation he left the room, emerging into the thick backstage throng of local reporters, photographers, security personnel, and students – the seekers, the curious, and the skeptical. He walked through the crowd smiling broadly and greeting people as he passed by. Finally passing through a curtain, he walked on sage, bowed, folded his hands, and smiled. He was greeted with thunderous applause. At his request, the house lights were not dimmed so he could clearly see his audience, and for several moments he simply stood there, quietly surveying the audience with an unmistakable expression of warmth and goodwill. For those who had never seen the Dalai Lama before, his maroon and saffron monk’s robes may have created a somewhat exotic impression, yet his remarkable ability to establish rapport with his audience was quickly revealed as he sat down and began his talk.

"I think that this is the first time I am meeting most of you. But to me, whether it is an old friend or new friend, there’s not much difference anyway, because I always believe we are the same; we are all human beings. Of course, there may be differences in our cultural background or way of life, there may be differences in our faith, or we may be of a different color, but we are human beings, consisting of the human body and the human mind. Our physical structure is the same, and our mind and our emotional nature are also the same. Whenever I meet people, I always have the feeling that I am encountering another human being, just like myself. I find it is much easier to communicate with others on that level. If we emphasize specific characteristics, like I am Tibetan or I am Buddhist, then there are differences. But those things are secondary. If we can leave the differences aside, I think we can easily communicate, exchange ideas, and share experiences."

With this, in 1993 the Dalai Lama began a week-long series of public talks in Arizona. Plans for his visit to Arizona had first been set into motion over a decade earlier. It was at that time that we first met, while I was visiting Dharamsala, India, on a small research grant to study traditional Tibetan medicine. Dharamsala is a beautiful and tranquil village, perched on a hillside in the foothills of the Himalayas.

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