What? The Dalai Lama is a hater? Guess he won't be giving the benediction prayer at Obummer's inauguration either.
No, of course not, but Buddhism is not about "feeling good." Buddhism has a rigorous moral code for both followers and for monks. It does have moral proscriptions against homosexuality and His Holiness agrees with them, teaches them.
Why? Because the Dalai Lama understands what all too many Americans are wanting to forget. Homosexuality is not about "being born that way." It is not like race It is about behaviour.
I first met the Dalai Lama almost 20 years ago when I was a teenager studying at a college run by Roman Catholic monks. He had come to see a Christian monastery in action. Although the Dalai Lama was not a globally famous figure at that time, I was captivated immediately by his charisma, and by the tragic plight of the Tibetan people. I visited China and Tibet two years later, in 1986, and later became a director of the London-based Free Tibet Campaign.
During his current tour of the United States, the Dalai Lama has confirmed his status as the world's No. 1 feel-good guru, reaching across boundaries of culture and religion. Who could fail to admire a spiritual leader who, fresh from meeting President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, tells Harvard students to spend less time on their studies and more on becoming nice people, and makes them laugh by telling how he hit a parrot with a stick when he was ''a young, naughty Dalai Lama?'' A leader who suggests that dialogue and compassion are the best way to deal with terrorists? Who gives a free public talk in Central Park?
But the risk of the Dalai Lama's ever growing celebrity is that it distorts what he really represents, namely an ancient cultural tradition that is not always appealing to the Western world. In short, the Dalai Lama -- or a simplified version of him -- has been appropriated by the American people over the last decade. A chain e-mail message recently circulated with his ''millennium mantra,'' offering advice such as ''Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon'' and ''Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.'' This e-mail message was in fact a hoax, but it nevertheless was widely circulated. During his United States tour in 2000, after being briefly mistaken for a Muslim by Larry King on CNN, the Dalai Lama had to endure being introduced to a crowd in Los Angeles by Sharon Stone. Barefoot and draped in a feather boa, she described him as ''the hardest working man in spirituality'' and as ''Mr. Please, Please, Please Let Me Back Into China!'' That he came from Tibetwas momentarily lost.
The Dalai Lama has become whoever we want him to be, a cuddly projection of our hopes and dreams. This enthusiasm, though, has not translated into any tangible political benefit for Tibetans. He has been seen on advertisements for Apple computers and SalesForce.com software; significantly, he was not paid for either of these uses of his image. Some of the books that purport to be written by the Dalai Lama are scarcely by him at all, but have his face on the cover to increase sales.
In reality, Tibetan Buddhism is not a values-free system oriented around smiles and a warm heart. It is a religion with tough ethical underpinnings that sometimes get lost in translation. For example, the Dalai Lama explicitly condemns homosexuality, as well as all oral and anal sex. His stand is close to that of Pope John Paul II, something his Western followers find embarrassing and prefer to ignore. His American publisher even asked him to remove the injunctions against homosexuality from his book, ''Ethics for the New Millennium,'' for fear they would offend American readers, and the Dalai Lama acquiesced.
When he is speaking to his own people, the Dalai Lama is very different from the genial figure we see in the West. I remember a public talk he gave at his headquarters in Dharamsala in northern India in 1990, after conflict between Tibetans and Indians there. He spoke in Tibetan, and his delivery was stern and admonitory, like a forbidding, old-fashioned father reprimanding his children. The crowd listened respectfully, and went away chastened.