Thousands Turn Out; Dalai Lama Avoids Politics

April 13th 2008

Seattle, WA, USA, 11 April 2008 (Seattle Post Intelligencer) - Leave it to the Dalai Lama to find compassion even in war and politics.

The exiled political and spiritual leader of Tibet told an audience at KeyArena on Friday afternoon that compassion can and should be practiced in all aspects of life, for the betterment of both an individual child and the world.

On the opening day of the five-day Seeds of Compassion conference, the Buddhist monk said education, social work, economics -- "every human action" -- could be improved through compassionate action.

"Even warfare (can be conducted) out of compassion," he said. "Destruction is much less."

The Dalai Lama also said that politics was not "something dirty" in itself but was made so by politicians who lacked compassion.

That was as close as his comments veered toward any mention of political conflict, the topic hanging over the visit of the Dalai Lama at a time of unrest in Tibet and protests around the world related to China's human rights record.

About 5,700 people attended the panel discussion at KeyArena on putting compassion into action. Earlier Friday, the Dalai Lama launched the conference at the University of Washington, speaking to about 6,500 people at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. He received standing ovations at both venues, where he shared the stage with scientists and child-learning specialists.

The monk finished his long day with an onstage dialogue with Dave Matthews that preceded a benefit concert at KeyArena. The 4 1/2-hour event began with a staged talk with the Dalai Lama by Matthews and NBC broadcast journalist Ann Curry, as well as a surprise, semiacoustic set by Seattle band Death Cab for Cutie.

"Everyone told me to be myself -- and myself was nervous," Matthews quipped about his conversation with the Dalai Lama.

During the UW panel discussion, which examined the scientific basis for compassion and early-childhood education, the political turmoil in Tibet was not directly addressed.

But in his opening remarks, conference organizer Dan Kranzler of the Bellevue-based Kirlin Charitable Foundation alluded to tensions in China-controlled Tibet.

"And may I say personally, the world knows the truth," he said. "The world knows."

The Dalai Lama applauded, took Kranzler's hand and then embraced him.

The Tibetan leader told his UW audience that "problems happen because of wrong views and wrong action." He encouraged his listeners to pursue their own questions and answers.

"Then implement -- seriously, sincerely," he said.

The Dalai Lama drew chuckles at Hec Ed when he asked leading brain and health researchers whether fear or a strict teacher speeds up learning in babies. He quickly acknowledged that it's best for children to learn in a safe, happy environment.

The 72-year-old monk, wearing a maroon robe and a matching visor because of the bright stage lights, sat in a red chair, often with his legs crossed and off the ground. He occasionally clasped his hands in a prayerful position and talked in both English and Tibetan. A translator sat next to him.

At the KeyArena panel discussion, he said that the practice of compassion "brings inner strength, calmness, less fear ... and, of course, sound sleep. I love my sleep," he said as the audience laughed.

Panelists stressed the importance of modeling compassion to children from infancy, saying that the provision of physical needs was not enough and that parents need to be deeply involved socially, emotionally and academically.

John Gottman, a Seattle marriage and family researcher, related the time he scolded his then-4-year-old daughter for playing with challah bread before it was blessed on the Jewish Sabbath.

As she cried, he realized she was just hungry and made her a piece of toast.

"Well, Daddy," she said. "I hope you learned something from this. You don't say 'time out' to a big girl. You talk it over and you solve the problem."

Karen Gordon, who leads Los Angeles-based Whole Child International, an organization that cares for orphaned and neglected children, said parents need to plan a special moment each day to connect with their children, even if it's as simple as getting ready for bed.

Since a person's well-being is "directly or indirectly connected with the rest of the world," the Dalai Lama said, "from the selfish viewpoint, practice more compassion. You get more benefit."

He also acknowledged that he learned about compassion from his own childhood -- "My father (was) very short-tempered" -- and that he didn't have all the answers.

While animals innately raise their young, humans need to be taught to be responsible, he said.

"But how? I don't know. My knowledge is just as you (possess)," he told panelists, calling for academic and social work experts to make concrete recommendations on "how to educate from kindergarten up to the university level."

"Not just necessarily for one child," he said, "but everybody involved in the future of the world. ... Ultimately, that's the preparation for world peace."

Before Friday night's benefit concert at KeyArena, Matthews and the Dalai Lama decried the machismo driving many global conflicts.

"Now it's time to start female rule," the Dalai Lama said with a big smile.

Matthews then praised his mother for teaching him values that kept him out of gangs as a teen. "I always thought my mother should be queen of the world," he said.

Responded the monk: "My compassion comes from my mother's affection."

Some of those attending the various sessions said they took the Dalai Lama's message to heart.

"To know the conversation that started will have a ripple effect will be amazing," said Neave Megenhardt, of Ballard. Her husband, Phil, said he was encouraged to know that he was doing some of the parenting tips advocated by panelists.

Even though organizers said that no conference tickets were available, the UW and KeyArena panel discussions had a total of more than 4,500 empty seats. Many tickets had been given in blocks to organizations, which might not have fully distributed their allotment, an organizer said.

With seats presumably no longer available at events featuring the Dalai Lama, the conference was supposed to be broadcast at 11 sites around the city. But one church site was locked and quiet at 9 a.m., when the first session was set to start, while another couldn't get its TV going.

And, while sound from a separate show occasionally broke into the broadcast at the Center for Spiritual Living in Hawthorne Hills, two dozen people watched the session and seemed to come away satisfied.

"I was crying a lot of the time," said Mary Kelly Greene, of Seattle, one of many people who took off from work to see the Dalai Lama. "I think it's extraordinary that he's here in Seattle and I wanted to be a part of that energy."

A half-dozen people watched the afternoon session broadcast at the Ballard library. The turnout disappointed Meg Pettibone of Seattle.

"I wanted more of a group experience here," she said.

Joy Barrera, of Seattle, said she admired how the Dalai Lama dealt with the occupation of his country and oppression of his people.

"It puts all of our troubles in perspective," she said. The Dalai Lama's visit here is the first to the U.S. since riots erupted last month in Tibet. Worldwide protests against the Beijing Olympics also have intensified, largely because of the Chinese government's controversial human rights record.

The Chinese government has blamed the Dalai Lama for the protests and said that Tibetans have been violent.


SINGING: His Holiness bumps fists with Dave Matthews after their conversation about compassion in the media and in music at KeyArena. Also on stage is Ann Curry of NBC News.

TEACHING: The Dalai Lama talks with his interpreter, Dr. Thupen Jinpa, at KeyArena during a discussion on how parents and educators can bring compassion into the lives of children and families.

LEARNING: The Dalai Lama during a panel discussion titled the "Scientific Basis for Compassion: What We Know Now" at Bank of America at Hec Ed Pavilion at the University of Washington.


These events, each featuring the Dalai Lama, are full, organizers say, and will be webcast at seedsofcompassion.organd broadcast on the channels indicated.


·  1 to 3 p.m. -- The Heartbeat of Humanity. Includes a diverse celebration of compassion expressed through music, art, dance and spoken word. Coverage starts at 1:30 p.m. on KONG 6/16.


·  10:30 a.m. to noon -- Discussion featuring the Dalai Lama on the importance of philanthropy to benefit social, emotional and early childhood learning.


· 10:45 a.m. to noon -- Children and Youth Day. Includes 15,500 students and educators expressing compassion through art and stories. Seattle Channel 21 and UWTV Channel 27.

·  3 to 5 p.m. -- University of Washington honorary degree awarded. UWTV Channel 27.


·  9:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. -- Youth and Spiritual Connection Day. Includes an interfaith discussion with South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others. UWTV Channel 27.


Seats remain open for 80 workshops on a variety of topics Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. For details, go to



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