By Mike Lockley | Birmingham Mail
ON THE WEB, 19 April 2015
t’s a story so fantastic, heart-warming and brimful of hope it could have been scripted by Disney.
The schoolboy who sent fan mail to the Dalai Lama and received an invitation to meet Tibet’s spiritual leader.
Incredibly, 13-year-old George Morris was granted a private audience with the exiled Holy Man in a monastery in Dharamsala, India.
After talking about faith, he left the “life-changing” meeting with 18 books and a blessed statue, presented by the Dalai Lama.
“Buddhists do not believe in one god,” says the Edgbaston teenager who made the religious journey with dad Andrew.
“But it did seem God himself had dropped the words into the Dalai Lama’s mouth.”
Andrew, a teacher, was equally moved by the meeting.
“I was stunned,” admits the 53-year-old. “It was one of those moments when you really don’t know what to say, when your brain goes blank. It had a massive effect on me.”
George, a pupil at King Edward VI Five Ways School, is no ordinary youngster.
Sharp, perceptive and with an intellect way beyond his years, he searches for spiritual answers and rails against global injustices. He has strong views on poverty when many his age are simply worried about the Premier League title race.
Of China’s brutal crackdown on Tibet’s campaign for independence, he says: “There has been a genocide since 1959. Some 1.2 million people have effectively been slaughtered, and 200,000 forced out of Tibet.
“Yet this is a country we are striving to strike trade deals with.”
He converted to Buddhism 18 months ago – “Granny thinks it’s a fad, she thinks I’m a hippy,” he laughs – and wrote a speculative letter to the Dalai Lama last September.
“I expressed my sympathies and views on the situation in Tibet,” he recalls. “I expressed how I thought he is doing good work in trying to end that in a peaceful way.”
To George and his family’s shock, the Dalai Lama replied, inviting him to Dharamsala.
George and Andrew began a long journey, punctuated by a three day stop-off in Dubai, the unbridled luxury providing a stark contrast to the poverty they encountered on the Indian sub-continent.
They were among 1,500 devotees from 56 nations who gathered at the monastery gates, but George and Andrew were among just a handful to be granted a one-to-one meeting.
“I was paranoid about doing something stupid, like not turning my phone off,” says George.
“Imagine if it rang in the middle of our conversation. Now that would be embarrassing!”
During the 10-minute meeting, the Dalai Lama described the boy’s conversion to Buddhism as an inspiration, but warned: “Do not follow a faith blindly.”
“He told me not to look on Buddhism as just a philosophy, but as a revolutionary science,” says George. “I thanked him for everything he has done for the Tibetan people.”
“He was everything I thought he would be and much, much more. He had a God-like aura.”
And it may not be the last conversation between the unlikely pair.
“He said I could call him and ask him anything,” reveals George.
Andrew admits to dwelling on more earthly thoughts.
“He came in so normally. I remember thinking he had soft hands,” he chuckles, “and wondering if he uses moisturiser.”
“It was a life-changing moment,” he adds on a more serious note. “And I thought his message not to follow a faith without question was phenomenal. He wasn’t pushing his religion. He was saying, ‘Don’t just be a Buddhist, look into it first’.”
Since their return from the two-week trek, George has struggled to find people who believe a tale that seems too tall to be true.
Thankfully, he has the photographic evidence.
“The usual response is ‘That’s amazing, but did it really happen?’ shrugs George. The meeting has strengthened his faith, and his parents support the path their son has taken.
“I thought Buddhism made the most sense,” he explains. “It impacts on my decisions, but it does not impact on my routines. The way that I think about what I do is impacted.
“Granny thinks I’ll grow out of it – but she thought the same when I became a vegetarian.”
The stark contrast between life in oil-rich Dubai and India has only hardened George’s resolve to pursue a legal career centred on civil rights.
“I loved India, but hated Dubai,” he admits. “Dubai is a capitalist venture, built solely to get money out of people. It is a hideous place.
“In India, at times I felt guilty because I was in a nice, air-conditioned car and I was seeing people begging for water.
“But they love their country, they are very patriotic. I loved the people and I loved the culture.”
George publicly thanks King Edward VI Five Ways head teacher, Mrs Y Wilkinson, for allowing him time off to make the incredible journey. She has asked for only one thing in return – the prize pupil has to give an assembly on his meeting with the Dalai Lama.
He is bracing himself for the inevitable whispers from classmates: “C’mon, it’s a wind-up.”
George Morris has the statue and books to prove it.