September 24, 2009

Is it OK to fist bump the Dalai Lama?

Yesterday the Mayor of Memphis, Tennessee, Myron Lowery, made headlines when he chose to greet the Dalai Lama with a fist bump. Though the Dalai Lama appeared to take the gesture in stride, laughing and offering his own fist, Lowery has received a flurry of criticism. In response Mayor Lowery fired back with an open letter defending the actions that his critics have deemed "inappropriate" and "disrespectful":

I had been told by his representatives that the Dalai Lama had a wonderful sense of humor, and would enjoy the exchange. Indeed, he did. His Holiness laughed, returned the gesture, and gave me his blessings.

And in our brief time together, I saw in his eyes the sparkle of kindness, love and good humor.

Lowery goes on to suggest that he was actually protecting the Dalai Lama by reducing the spread of germs. Lowery contends that he has been advocating the "fist bump" in Memphis as a way to avoid the spread of swine flu.

The "fist bump heard round the world," as Lowery himself dubbed it, has been discussed on several Buddhist blogs (see here and here.)

To read more of Lowery's take on his infamous fist bump, click here.

[Image: CNN]

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wendy yee's picture

great human story
birdsound zendo

Karma Palden Nyima's picture

It was the fist bump of

Hal Mandel's picture

When His Holiness the Dalai Lama gazed upon me I knew he could see into my heart of hearts, and still he was gentle and gave his blessing despite my sins and character flaws.

His Honor the Mayor received the same inspection and blessing.

It matters not how he chose to greet the Teacher. It matters that
he was kind enough to be himself right then.

BlindRob's picture

Well for sure the exchange got shown on a lot of media and for that reason alone was great PR. Myself, I thought it was also great outreach to the fistbumpers among us. And surely HHDL finds 'most all of our customs to be as, if not more, exotic to Tibetan manners and protocall?

illusion's picture

What a wonderful gesture. It does indeed matter! This is a great story about a light hearted greeting in the midst of a world living in fear. Why be so upset over nothing? Who benefits from us being so fearful? As I've said before, the gesture was made out of the utmost respect and in great humour. Lighten up and live, people! We do not know how lucky we are to be here, so now let's all let go of this screen in front of us and live with people around us. Come on, everyone! Ready? Walls down!

mapmanic's picture

At inter-faith conferences, I'm always amazed at how seriously the participants take themselves--from the pope to Elie Wiesel--but then the Dalai Lama gets up to speak, we laugh, the ice is broken and we remember we're human after all.

James Fisher's picture

Looks like the Dalai Lama is enjoying himself -- he carries himself lightly and it's a lovely model of how to behave in any circumstance. They he took it with good nature makes it appropriate -- he's interested in things that matter. This does not.

Mary's picture

I think it's entertaining and harmless. And, as Laurie said, the Dalai Lama has much more pressing things to be upset about, and so should the rest of us.

Dara's picture

I really doubt the Dalai Lama was upset by this, as gentle and good natured as he appears to be I'm sure he took it in stride I personally don't find it offensive

Laurie's picture

Are we really concerned with whether to fist bump or not, when we can use our minds to help alleviate hunger, lack of shelter and illness instead?

Jon's picture

Absolutely not disrespectful, nor inappropriate. Buddhism is about breaking down barriers and dogma, externally, internally and secretly. I always "bro shake" my teachers hand and we hug.

Ted's picture

I used to have quite a few, what I'd call "Dharma Dreams" which included visitations of various saints and sages from different traditions. Doesn't much happen anymore, but these dreams were lucid and quite a bit different than a normal dream. While I'm not a buddhist, I did have the occasion to see the Dalai Lama in one of these dreams. He initiated a football game like "chest bump" wherein the participants jump mid air and bump chests. So, yes. I'd say that the fist bump is "OK". Got it?