Dalai Lama Wows Thousands

September 11th 2006

Vancouver, Canada 10 September 2006 (Christina Montgomery / CanWest News Service) -- It was not so much a three-day love-in as a 'compassion-in.'

Students climbed on stage to say they wanted to be more compassionate. Education experts said they knew a way to teach them how. And researchers said all the scientific data showed it was possible. For grown-ups too.

Speaking to sold-out crowds including 12,000 people who jammed General Motors Place in Vancouver Saturday the Dalai Lama simply told them to get busy with the 'hard work, hard work' of living a life of kindness.

They responded with laughter, applause and a copy of the motion MPs passed unanimously in Parliament last June awarding him honourary citizenship.

Federal Immigration Minister Monte Solberg presented the framed paperwork Saturday before the Dalai Lama's lecture at GM Place.

When backstage manoeuvering initially delayed the Dalai Lama's appearance in front of the crowd, they filled the silence with a spontaneous chorus of 'O Canada' first a lone voice, then the entire stadium.

They saluted themselves with raucous applause, then repeated the entire exercise when the award was actually made.

In Vancouver to inaugurate an educational and research centre that will be the first to bear his name, the Tibetan Buddhist leader-in-exile held dialogues with students, education specialists and scientists on 'educating the heart' and 'cultivating compassion.'

Bennett Chung, a 13-year-old from nearby Burnaby, B.C., set aside his nervousness about the 2,800 people watching him on stage at the Orpheum Theatre Friday to ask the 71-year-old Dalai Lama how it was possible to show compassion to strangers.

Consider them part of your human family, he was told. 'No need for introduction then.'

Later, before dashing back to an afternoon math class, Chung said he thought it was a 'very good' answer.

Sisters Lisa and Anya Lau, 9 and 11, whose family let the them skip school in Surrey to take in a lesson on kindness instead, were still awed 20 minutes after the talk ended.

'I am going to really try to be nice. Try, you know?' Anya said.

Only slightly less awed were the parade of scientific and education experts who beamed and bowed as they took the stage Friday and Saturday to explain their research and question the Dalai Lama.

Audiences from the families and teens at the student sessions Friday morning to the mixed bag Friday and Saturday afternoon watched in hushed awe too, with the exception of the laughter that broke out as he cracked jokes.

Some of his remarks were simple acting compassionately is hard work, but will make you happy and thus society peaceful.

Some were surprising. Asked for a precise definition of happiness, he said: 'I don't know.'

Some were useful. 'For me, morning best. Everything fresh. Especially after good breakfast, I very happy.'

Some were thoughtful. He called the 20th century a 'century of bloodshed, a century of violence' and said the 21st must be a 'century of the heart.'

And some remarks were likely painful to some of the audience. On religion, he said: 'More religions, more hatred. What benefit?'

But he also encouraged respect for the truly religious, and noted that although Buddhists are non-theists, 'I have become defender of Muslims' suffering discrimination after 9/11.

The Dalai Lama will hold private talks Sunday with leaders of industry and social programs.

Podcasts of the events and information on the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education are at dalailamacenter.org.   cmontgomery@png.canwest.com  

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