Newspaper article

The Dalai Lama on Staying Optimistic in Troubled Times: 'There Is No Other Choice'

Newspaper article

The Dalai Lama on Staying Optimistic in Troubled Times: 'There Is No Other Choice'

Article excerpt

Moments before the Dalai Lama took the stage at the Minneapolis Convention Center Saturday morning to deliver his opening keynote speech for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Russian troops invaded Ukraine in what most of the planet considers a declaration of war. At the same time, a new wave of violent protests against the Venezuelan government choked the streets of Caracas, and in North Minneapolis, mourners gathered to say goodbye to five children who were killed in a tragic house fire last month.

Just three reasons why, when asked by an audience member to sum up the world in one word, the 78-year-old holy man replied, "Complicated."

Far from the seemingly endless travails of the world, and yet not, the Dalai Lama spent the weekend in Minneapolis and St. Paul, spreading as much love, compassion, empathy and inspiration as one man of peace can. Saturday he was at the Convention Center; Sunday morning he was the featured event at an Augsburg College-sponsored celebration of the Tibetan New Year, and Sunday afternoon he addressed students, faculty and staff of Macalester College on "The Nature of Happiness, Fulfillment, and Embodiment."

All told, a total of 9,000 Minnesotans took in the Dalai Lama's words, which repeatedly stressed an urgent agenda of love, compassion, oneness, peace, the inner life and a reimagining of the world that starts in the individual heart and ripples out to our fellow man, woman, child, animal, plant.

Throughout the weekend, the self-described "simple Tibetan monk" was serious, warm, impish, funny, irreverent, extremely present, and reminded all comers that there are 7 billion people on the planet, and that we all have to look out for one another.

"Brothers and sisters, wherever I go, whoever I meet, I remember that we are all the same physically, mentally and emotionally," he began Saturday morning.

"From my own experience when I was younger, I know to focus on such differences on my being a Tibetan, a Buddhist and even the Dalai Lama creates anxiety. It can lead to pretentiousness and hypocrisy.

"Gradually I came to realize that on a basic level of reality, we are all the same as human beings. When we focus on the secondary differences that distinguish us, we rapidly decline into a sense of 'us' and 'them,' which easily leads to cheating, exploitation and even killing one another. …

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