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THE DALAI LAMA OF TIBET Toronto, ON, CA – October 31, 2007


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The Dalai Lama is the (un)official spiritual and political leader of Tibet. He has been living in exile as a “guest†of the Indian government for five decades. As you likely know, the political situation surrounding the China-Tibet issue is very explosive, and His Holiness’ visit to Canada, especially including a 40 minute meeting with Prime Minister Harper, is considered international news. (He is actually also an honourary Canadian citizen.) It was an honour to be in his presence on this visit.

Our evening started with a nice surprise. We were walking from the subway station to the Rogers Centre, when we noticed that every cop in Toronto appeared to be congregated around the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. We then had the honour of seeing the Dalai Lama walk out the front door, stop and wave and bow to us (“us†being a large crowd of people, but we were directly in front of him across the road) and we stood there waving back in a weird awe. His Holiness was quickly ushered into a car, and we proceeded to the venue.

We arrived to find a line-up that seemed miles long. After some investigating, we found out that we had tickets that entitled us to go to a much shorter line-up. When we arrived at that line-up, however, it actually stretched around a corner as far as we could see. It seemed pretty apparent we were going to miss the beginning … until … we learned of a third line-up; and we were inside in about five minutes.

The Rogers Centre was “sold outâ€, but they obviously intended to keep it fairly empty. The crowd was a total of 16,000. I had completely forgotten, but I was pleasantly surprised to be reminded that I had 14th row centre floor tickets. Woo hoo!

We were nearly at our seats when a representative of the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Society came out and made a long, drawn-out speech into the mic. He eventually built up to this cathartic moment, when he said, “…and it is my great honour to introduce to you, His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet!†… and then a long, awkward pause, followed by... “Ah, I am told that His Holiness is not coming out yet.†(long pause) “Ah, I am told I have to entertain you…†After a very uncomfortable 15 to 20 minutes or so, listening to this person painfully tell us stories in a vain attempt to amuse a crowd of people after he had already made this fantastic introduction, Lassie and I were finally sitting down in our seats and marvelling over our perfect view when His Holiness actually did hit the stage.

Of course, he was in traditional Buddhist Monk attire; peach and red coloured robes with one arm exposed. He started out, by sitting cross-legged on an antique sofa. He then pulled out this goofy looking red visor that looked like something you might see worn around a poker-table, and put that on. He was now comfortable enough to begin.

He made it clear that he had very little to teach us. He also thought it quite senseless if anyone in the audience who came out expecting him to have some sort of healing powers. He then explained his essential theory on life, the world, and “The Art of Happinessâ€.

He explained that humans are social beings, who all come from mothers. This is different than some other life-forms, like plants or fish. In turn, this means we need affection, and are naturally interdependent. We rely on others. Further, in our ever increasing globalized world, in which we all affect our macro-environment, all of “us†(animals, planets and the sun included) are interdependent on each other. He explained that this century is one in which we have reached a point in history that we are ready for dialogue rather than war. To date, this century is the most peaceful one in recorded history, in his opinion. He seemed to see the current conflicts going on around the world as relatively minor, given that we no longer have two superpowers ready to launch nuclear missiles at each other. (He has a point.)

He explained that, although he is a Buddhist Monk, he was not here to speak about any particular religion; or religion at all. Rather, he espouses a “secular ethicsâ€. He was also clear that he may not mean “secular†in the sense that some of us may understand it. He does not mean “secular†in terms of rejecting religion(s). He means “secular†in terms of being something other than (but consistent with) religion(s). He believes we need an ethics that is beyond religion, because when you involve religion in the equation you end up with a situation in which people who follow different religions disagree about irrelevant tangential differences, and the important ethic of interdependence and universal caring, which he believes is inherent to all religions, tends to get lost in the scuffle. (I think he and Nietzsche would have gotten along; as much as anyone would get along with Nietzsche that is.)

His secular ethic seems fairly easy to summarize; from my simple-minded perspective… Take care of ourselves, each other, and our world/universe.

After he was done speaking, he answered questions that were submitted earlier to a website. The questions were put to him verbally by his “translatorâ€, and he would generally precede each answer with a screwed up face, indicating serious thought. He was eventually asked the question as to whether he thought that if China enacted a law like Canada has, in which the Tibetan language was made a second official language in China in the way that we added French as a second language, would that ease tensions between Tibet and China? This person wanted the Dalai Lama’s views on this. To say the least, this was a touchy issue, and this answer could have gone any which way. His Holiness screwed up his face, squinted, thought about it for quite a long time, and said “That’s a great idea. Please contact my Chinese brothers and sisters and suggest it.â€

Quote of the Day:

The concept of war is out of date.

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The Dalai Lama mentioned in the beginning of his talk that those in attendance with expectations may leave disappointed .

I went in expecting to smile and laugh, and he certainly did not disappoint! He is so funny and honest and humble and that's why I love that guy so much!

another fave quote of the talk...

to answer that question specifically...I don't know!
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