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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

'He is Buddhism'

October 26, 2010

Adam McDowell
The National Post
October 23, 2010

It has become commonplace to call the head of the
Gelugpa Buddhist sect a rock star but in certain respects the comparison works.

Like, say, Van Halen, the Dalai Lama sends an
advance technical road crew to apply meticulous
oversight to preparations. Weeks ahead of the
Tibetan leader's speech at the Rogers Centre in
Toronto, a team of monks from his monastery
supervised the assembly and blessing of three
four-metre-tall statues, as if fulfilling the world's most exotic tour rider.

At 75, the Dalai Lama spends about six months a
year on the road, speaking to groups big and
small. The home of baseball's Toronto Blue Jays rates as big.

Like a touring arena rock act, the Dalai Lama's
main event -- a talk titled Human Approaches to
World Peace--is preceded by local openers.

As more than 15,000 spectators streamed into the
stadium yesterday, Tibetan-Canadian youths
performed traditional song-and-dance numbers in
brightly dyed ethnic garb, swinging ukelele-like
instruments in synchronized fashion a la ZZ Top.

Television personality Seamus O'Regan encouraged
spectators to welcome His Holiness by waving
Tibetan flags, available for a minimum $1
donation. Mr. O'Regan pointed out that flags were
available at the concourse merchandise tables.

Anti-child labour activist Craig Kielburger
delivered the introduction of His Holiness,
calling the talk an "honour we are about to
receive." His voice breathy and his tone
evangelistic, he promised, "I'm certain that you
will never forget the words that you hear from him today."

Except, to put it kindly, the Dalai Lama is not a
strong orator in English. A translator helps him
find the occasional word. In a halting manner and
with sometimes interesting diversions, he
explained how we can create peace if we look
within and find that human nature is essentially peaceful.

Wearing a tennis visor in robe-matching maroon to
shield his eyes from the stage lights, he asked
audience members to consider human anatomy in
deciding whether we are a predatory or co-operative being.

"Look at our teeth," he said, seated in a
throne-like chair placed about where second base
would be in a baseball game. "Quite close to
rabbits' and sheep's teeth, not tigers.... We are
social animal. Each individual future rest on community."

The Dalai Lama said we should feel compassion
for, and pursue dialogue with, even the violent
and the predatory. Even al-Qaeda. He reminded the
audience that after Sept. 11, 2001 he said the
West should listen to what Osama bin Laden wants
from it. It is "not good to remain distant and
criticize, and not listen," he said.

Not once did the Dalai Lama mention China directly.

To the question of how to make peace, he gave the
basic Buddhist answer: self-control. The
peacemaker is one who possesses a "constant calm
mind. Basic mental attitude is good mood."

Afterwards, Torontonian Pat Rigby admitted she
had some trouble following the speech. "His
English, well ..." She made a face. "But he realizes he's not infallible."

"I closed my eyes and relaxed and tried to feel
what he was saying instead of listening, and that
worked much better," she said. "His whole message
is compassion. The story he told is, you don't
have to accept someone's actions, but you still
have to be compassionate and respectful of them."

All in all, Ms. Rigby left happy for having been
in the Dalai Lama's presence. "I wanted to feel
it. You don't get that on TV. I was immensely impressed."

Halla Bereskow of St. Thomas, Ont., said she came
seeking a message about Buddhism. Did the
religious studies student at the University of
Western Ontario come away with it? "Not entirely,
because I think it's such a wide audience, he
can't address a particular group."

And yet she left content as well. "Coming to see
the Dalai Lama was a special thing. He is Buddhism," she said.

The Dalai Lama is preparing to enter a state of
semi-retirement next March, after
Tibetans-in-exile elect a new temporal leader.
And, inevitably, an heir to the post will have to
be selected one day. While dodging the question
of whether he might be succeeded by a woman,
Dalai Lama number 14 pointed to his face and
joked, "This will be very attractive" in female form.

"I'm not the best Dalai Lama out of 14 -- but
also not the worst Dalai Lama," he grinned just
before standing up to exit stage left. "Also,
quite popular Dalai Lama. Being popular Dalai Lama, is good, nice."

Whatever reservations it may have harboured about
the performance, the audience rewarded the
smiling, waving and departing Tenzin Gyatso with
a short but enthusiastic burst of applause, then
promptly headed for the exits. The Dalai Lama may
be looking forward to a future rebirth, but he
doesn't do the other kind of encore.
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