Tour de Force
In November 2001 the Dalai Lama paid his first visit to Portugal. Following the success of the Portuguese edition of his book Ethics for the New Millennium demand for tickets was high; and the 6,000-seat Rosa Mota in Porto sold out in a few days.
Sagarapriya, the first Portuguese member of the Western Buddhist Order, translated the Dalai Lama's English into Portuguese during his teachings and many meetings, and provided a running commentary in the Dalai Lama's ear during activities and discussions that took place in Portuguese.
Sagarapriya described his experience. 'The Dalai Lama's energy is phenomenal: his day started at 4am, with time for his own practice, then from 9am until 6pm he attended to various commitments one after the other, showing no sign of tiring. We travelled in separate vehicles, and as soon as we arrived anywhere I was pushed through the crowd to stand at his shoulder. I was glad most of the journalists spoke English so I could have a break.'
The Dalai Lama travels with a large retinue of monks, administrators and security personnel. 'He remained incredibly relaxed and positive, even when others around him were getting stressed out' said Sagarapriya. His brother Gyalo Thondup, who disrobed some years ago and was educated in the US, was also part of his retinue. 'I was struck by how friendly and funny Thondup was. He fooled around with everyone, keeping a real touch of humour throughout our busy schedule.'
According to Sagarapriya, Tibetan Buddhism is becoming popular in Portugal. 'Visiting lamas say they find Portuguese people very open and warm-hearted. And I think what we in Portugal find so attractive about someone who has been practising the Dharma deeply is their kindness and stillness.'