DR. ZORBA GOES TO WASHINGTON
Having a chance to see my old friend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, get the Gold Medal Award from Congress (past winners include President George Washington, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and Winston Churchill) was truly an enlightening experience. The joy that I felt sitting beneath that famous American icon – the Capitol Rotunda – hearing the leaders from both parties and the President praise this humble monk for his work on compassion and non-violence was truly beyond explanation. It put joy in my heart as well as – judging by their glowing and contagious smiles – the hearts’ of all the dignitaries present.
Twenty years ago it was hard for His Holiness to meet with anyone in Washington, let alone be honored. It seemed like everyone who was there was worried about the Chinese response to a meeting with the Tibetan leader in exile. So knowing that he was going to get this award was a fantastic chance to be able to see the world flip around.
I first learned about Tibet’s plight in 1967 when I met Geshe Sopa (Geshe means Doctor, PhD type doctor) who at that time was teaching at the University of Wisconsin. My personal voyage with His Holiness began in 1976 when my wife and I first met him in India. We were involved with His Holiness’s first visit – and numerous subsequent visits – to the US, and I have been personally involved in keeping him healthy as his personal physician when he is in the States.
My trip started off in New York City where His Holiness spoke to a large crowd at the Radio City Music Hall. His spirit of joy set the mood for the entire trip. I stopped off at Johns Hopkins to help plan for a possible Gates Foundation grant for TB treatment and prevention in the Tibetan community. Hopkins has some of the premier international TB researchers and epidemiologists. Talking to them about improving Tibetan health was an excellent prelude to the Gold Medal ceremony, where His Holiness didn't fail to impress.
His message never changes. Compassion, extinguishing anger, finding balance in your heart and soul are crucial for a long, sweet, prosperous life. As a family physician, working with dozens of patients every day, this is my primary concern. Preventing a problem or dealing with it means working with the body and the mind.
We entered the Rotunda by taking the “senator” subway from our Senator’s, Russ Feingold, office. We went through security, security, and more security. But it was worth it. Sitting under the grand dome, listening to Bach and Mozart played by the military orchestra, watching the presentation of the color guard, and then seeing the leaders of our country absolutely awestruck by being in the presence of this very powerful leader who teaches compassion and peace: That my friends, was a time that you sit back, take a deep breath and say, “Glad to be here.”