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Justin Langer: How the Dalai Lama and two missed calls taught me to fight for change

Rarely does a person walk into your presence and make every cell in your body tingle.

It’s happened twice in my life.

The first was meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 1997. An incredible moment. Maybe a story for another day.

The second was a mystical experience that is hard to intellectualise, but it was so real it took my breath away.

Sitting on a Qantas flight, a stewardess asked if I would mind moving back a few rows.

After shifting seats, four of the toughest, but oddly serene looking men walked on to the plane. Next thing, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is sitting two seats in front of me.

His Holiness Dalai Lama.
Camera IconHis Holiness Dalai Lama. Credit: Graham Denholm/Getty Images

When I first saw him, a shiver washed over me like a breeze moving though my body. It was transcendent, but so real.

A few days later a friend, Graham Laitt, invited me to an event run by the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, to listen to the Dalai Lama speak.

Not only was I invited, but I was one of only two people chosen to ask His Holiness a question of my choosing.

What do I ask a man who had such a profound impact on me only a few days before? A man who I had also read about and used as a valuable resource though my life-long journey of meditation.

Nervous as I had ever been in my life, the question I settled on was: “In this world we live in, with so many incredible causes and charities, how do we decide where to spend our time, service and resources?”

His answer, after pondering for a moment or two, was: “Education is the strongest form of charity.”

In a nutshell, it reminded me of, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

My mind reverted to the Dalai Lama over the last two weeks or so when I have met and spoken to several people and organizations who are involved in various charities and foundations, particularly those dedicated to research.

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