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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

At the Dalai Lama Conference

May 13, 2009

Social Perceptions of a Curious Neophyte
By Silvia Uribe
Santa Barbara Independent
May 11, 2009

As the organizers had recommended, my daughter
and I arrived at the Thunderdome a little over
two hours in advance. We had been anticipating
this day for six long month, since the day we
bought the tickets. Although people might think
the Dalai Lama quite removed from our Methodist
affiliation, in reality, spiritual values, good
morals, and ethics are universal, as the Dalai Lama later told us.

However, what happened before, during, and after
His Holiness’s appearance was as enlightening as
the conference itself, in a different way. We
found ourselves standing at the beginning of a
very short line, with the eyes of many security
guards upon us. They were probably wondering if
our legs would be strong enough to stoically
stand for the next two-and-a-half hours, since,
as we soon learned, the morning conference was
not yet over. What? “It’ll be ten minutes before
this session is over, and we will open the doors
in about two hours after that,” admonished an
authoritative-looking man in a black suit.

The weather was sunny and warm, but breezy enough
to be comfortable. Before we knew it, and
immediately after a big round of applause that
was audible from outside, the crowd started
pouring out from every side of the Thunderdome.
It took us by surprise to see that many of them
had something in common: They were wearing
accessories or items of clothing that had an
Asian motif--from scarves to dresses, pants,
bags, shoes, jewelry, you name it. Some of the
attendees were wearing several such pieces.
Whether these pieces matched or not was a
different story. They had them, and they wore
them! It was definitely a loud and colorful fashion statement!

By this time, some others were standing behind
us. Small talk began, and shortly thereafter we
were like old friends reunited, chatting and
sharing our reasons for being there. We learned
that several of them practiced, and were very
knowledgeable about, Buddhism and the Tibetan
traditions. Some had traveled many miles, from
north and south, to see their spiritual leader.
We saw some who were meditating in lotus position, eyes closed, along the wall.

Finally, a tall, thin man who spoke through his
teeth told us that the doors would be open in
five to ten minutes, but a half hour passed
before they started screening us and letting us
in. For the first time in my life, I was the first person to go into an event!

Coming in, we could see the stage, and along the
basketball court, rows of white chairs, followed
by rows of blue chairs. Only the narrowest of
aisles divided the colors in the
soon-to-be-packed multitorium. The white chairs, we were told, were for VIPs.

My daughter and I were way up in the bleachers,
so we had great vantage point from which to watch
everything happening down below. It was
interesting, for instance, to observe how some of
the people who were sitting on the blue
chairs--whose tickets were more expensive than
the bleacher seats even though they were quite
far from the stage--were having a hard time
sitting in the back. A few of them tried to get
moved forward, but their efforts were in vain, so
they finally accepted reality and sat down.

I was wondering how I would be able to sit on the
bleachers’ hard wooden bleachers for two hours.
The mere thought made my derriere hurt. Still,
people became close friends for the time being,
up there in the bleachers; talking to each other,
laughing, even sharing snacks. It was dark up
there, so we helped each other reach seats and climb stairs.

Finally, the Dalai Lama came out. We stood up to
greet him with respect. I like those formalities!
Some UCSB directors and the University’s
Chancellor Yang came out with him. They were
there to introduce the Dalai Lama, and to promote
UCSB’s academic leadership and accomplishments.
To be really honest, it felt out of place. Don’t
take me wrong! I want UCSB’s status as one of the
nation’s top universities to be known, but I
would have preferred to hear the Dalai Lama
speaking for those additional 15 minutes.

Since you’ve already heard or read a lot about
the Dalai Lama’s talk, I’ll just say that he
spoke to us in a rather simple, everyday style.
He used clear reasoning, but no pompous words or
concepts. His teachings always had a positive
slant. This humble man, who seems to have no ego,
who possesses a good sense of humor, and who
obviously enjoys laughing, focused on three
things: compassion, the importance of values, and
a global conscience. He emphasized seeing things
from different points of view if we want to
understand others and maintain a dialogue.

At the end of the two hours, I did leave with a
hurting derriere, but happy that I had seen and
heard one of the most important spiritual leaders
in the world deliver the same simple message that
other leaders have given us throughout the times,
but we seem not to be able to hear.

Maybe one day...
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