The thousands of people streaming into the arena created a tangible vibe of anticipation and goodwill, like a McCartney concert. There were vendors outside, hawking t-shirts, prayer shawls, beads, medallions, and incense sticks. Inside, there were more women than men, as many people over 60 as there were under 20, with all ages in between. There were delightful hippies who have gone to seed, but there were just as many professionals in suits.
Following a panel discussion, we broke for lunch. Because security required another bomb sweep, we were evacuated, which left 18,000 people looking for something to eat. While most of the crowd thought about food, I wondered whether the Dalai Lama's personal security team carried weapons. By the time we walked half a mile to the restaurants, there were lines of 30 or 40 people outside each place.
Whatever good feelings were generated before the event seemed to evaporate in the quest for nourishment. A group of five or six cut our line, which I thought was pretty rude. Here they had just heard one of the world’s foremost peace advocates ask us to be more thoughtful and considerate of others, and, well, at least my smoothie was good.
In the second session, the Dalai Lama stood in his red and gold robes and just talked to us, little bits of wisdom wrapped around often funny personal stories. He knew how to work a room. Although he violated nearly every principle I teach as a public speaking instructor, he was extremely effective. He has earned and carries such enormous credibility, he can do as he pleases, and he seemed pleased the entire time. He was warm, friendly, personable, sincere and he owned the crowd. They responded to every punch line, every point, with applause and laughter, and sometimes, with tears.
There are transcripts available of both sessions, but here are a few things he said as I remember them:
- Happiness means deep satisfaction.
- Human beings depend on external factors for satisfaction: taste, touch, smell. The ultimate source of happiness is within ourselves, our faith, our human warm-heartedness. Learn from babies, who must have physical touch, physical affection, to survive. You will have less fear.
- We are social animals who must show concern for each other.
- The way to reduce fear of others is to feel concern for others.
- Have an unbiased compassion for and forgiveness of your enemies.
- Always distinguish between the actor and the action.
- The world belongs to humanity, not to governments.
- Be compassionate, honest, truthful.
- Always remember: to some extent, I can serve.
- (In response to a question about his exile) Blessings from a lama are better from a distance.