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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

No matter their religion, reverent fans of Dalai Lama extol his message of love

May 23, 2010


May 20th 2010, 8:57

Q: How do you get 5,000 New Yorkers to stand in complete silence for
five minutes at Radio City Music Hall?

A: Have the Dalai Lama slowly make his way across the stage.

The feeling was reverence, though he looked like a server at McDonald's
with a maroon visor on his head and matching maroon and gold outfit.

He, on the other hand, was irreverent as he spoke, surrounded by 200
monks and follower Richard Gere under a lotus tapestry of Buddha.

In a deep, raspy voice reminiscent of actor Jet Li, he told the story of
a woman who came to him in tears in a refugee camp in India to thank him
for feeding and educating her children.

"She said that she was a Christian, and was going to stay a Christian,"
the 75-year-old spiritual leader said. "But in the next life, she'll be
a Buddhist."

He was cool with that.

"I never say Buddhism is best. Buddhism has been best for me. Each
person is different. I cannot say what is best for 100 people: Their own
religion is best for them. It's like medicine. We cannot say pick one
medicine, this is best for everybody."

Which brought him to another anecdote.

The leader in exile of some 20 million Tibetan Buddhists has reached out
to other religions, like the Jains - you know, the guys who won't even
step on a bug.

"So the Jain master came out, and he was completely naked," and began
doing a series of yogalike moves. "He demonstrated everything, and I was
sitting right next to him. I guess he had nothing to hide."

Many of the New Yorkers who came to listen - it'll be 36,000 in all
through Sunday - liked what they heard.

"I'm from a Christian background," said Shane Brauner, 33, an IT
consultant. " I like that fact that we keep our own tradition - but
incorporate some things from Buddhism."

Allison Wright, a 35-year-old lawyer, said she is also a Christian, but
"you can ... adopt aspects of the Buddhist faith, like compassion, love,
goodness and helping others."

But maybe the Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, has too
much compassion, at least when he's dealing with China.

He was declared Dalai Lama at the age of 2. At age 16, the Communist
Chinese invaded his country and forced him to sign it away. He's been
negotiating with them to regain Tibet's autonomy since 1974.

You might ask: What the hell do the Chinese want with this
subsistence-farming country of yaks, the highest in the world?

Oh, what do you know, somewhere under Mount Everest, the Chinese
discovered $128 billion worth of zinc, copper and lead reserves. And
they're not too keen on religion, either.

Yesterday, the Dalai Lama insisted, "I'm optimistic." So was Geronimo.

Afterward, reporters were allowed one question each, and encouraged by
his lightheartedness, I was tempted to joke: "What did the Dalai Lama
say to the hot dog vendor?" ("Make me one with everything.")

Unhappily, the Dalai Lama won't be doing any sightseeing during his
weekend in New York. I would have loved to have seen him on the Wonder

"Do you like New York?"

"Ever since I was a small boy, I think of New York," he said. "The big
buildings! The small streets! "I LOVE NEW YORK!"
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