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Robert Thurman
Steve Stories
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What’s Your Hustle? – Recording the Dalai Lama and Richard Gere at Madison Square Garden

Steve’s Story: I wanted to share this story about working with His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Richard Gere years ago at Madison Square Garden. In 1991, holy smokes, it was a long time ago, more than 30 something years ago. I had the good fortune to record His Holiness this iconic event in the heart of NYC..

And we sold tapes there and it was quite an event. Here’s a personal anecdote. There was a five day event in, it was the Penta Hotel across the street from Madison Square Garden where they held a summit of the elders of all the different five lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.

It was a sellout crowd for that. There were maybe 5 or 600 people. And that was incredible. And I remember Richard Gere, he kind of ran the whole thing along with Tibet House, I believe. And Cindy Crawford was there every morning. You know, it was epic. And then I want to tell you a little story.

After that first 5 day event, there was four days of teachings with The Dalai Lama, which was incredible, and working with Richard Gere was just phenomenal. After some back and forth I did get a chance to have one on one conversation with him. He starts the conversation, “Steve, so what’s your hustle?” You know, everyone wants a piece of him, so “what’s your hustle?” he says. And I said, I just want to connect with you, let you know what we’re doing.

Told him I’d love to do audios with you and stuff like that. And I said, I also want to let you know that in An Officer and a Gentleman, that time when you are doing pushups and the sergeant is just putting him through the ringer and Gere’s character just wouldn’t quit. I shared with him that i think of that scene when things are challenging in life. I related to him how inspirational that scene was to me

So he said, thanks. Oh, I appreciate that input. Yeah, a lot of people say that that was a moving scene and he was thankful. And then we talked about maybe doing audios together and we ended up doing a couple of things together. Great stuff.

I wanted to share that anecdote, but I also wanted to share, why was everyone was at the event in Madison Square Garden?  It’s actually the Felt Form, adjacent to the main arena at MSG, the theater holds, about 5,000, I don’t know what that venue is called now. That was a sellout crowd. But the thing that was very interesting, and if you ever see when I do my lives, I have a picture of it in my podcast background in my office, the Kalachakra Mandala (see image at the bottom of this post) and initiation. So there were these incredible Tibetan monks focused and working consistently for many hours, around the clock, they were carefully building the mandala by placing the sand, grain by grain, to create an immaculate mandala. And, literally if anyone sneezed, they were back to the drawing board and had to fix it and start over.

So what’s the significance of the sand mandala, and what did they do afterwards? When they finished the creation, they took it apart. The beautiful image was gone! the monks went to the Hudson River and they took all the collected beautifully colored grains of sand sand and then ceremoniously  dropped it all in the Hudson River. So what does that signify? It signifies the impermanence of life. The whole theme, of the Kalachakra ceremony is impermanence. Because yes, you can work day in and day 0ut, and live a whole life and in the blink of an eye – it’s over – the impermanence of life. I’m sharing this story for this community, everyone hustles, does their job, raises their family. But then you take all that beautiful sand and you say a prayer and it’s gone.

The Kalachakra initiation is a beautiful ceremony but it was more than just making a nice colorful image. It symbolizes taking a beautiful process, a beautiful life and just like that – it’s all gone and you honor it and you honor the impermanence and you give thanks for every moment. That’s my Steve Story about recording the Dalai Lama and working with Richard Gere.

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Bob Thurman

Nalanda Institute

Thich Nhat Hanh

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