Spiritual star rocks the Saddledome

By Annalise Klingbeil

His Holiness the Dalai Lama shared his inspirational message of peace and compassion with approximately 18,000 listeners on Wednesday afternoon.

The Dalai Lama made his first visit to Calgary in almost three decades for the two-day NOW conference hosted by the University of Calgary.

“We must consider the entire world as a part of we,” he said.

“Destruction of your neighbour is destruction of yourself.”

The Tibetan spiritual leader spoke on a range of topics- everything from his recent gall-bladder surgery to former U.S. president George Bush. The theme of the talk was peace and the power of compassion.

“In our blood, the seed of compassion is there,” said the non-violence advocate, dressed in a maroon robe with his right arm exposed.

Olympic gold medalist Mark Tewksbury and Grey’s Anatomy actress Sandra Oh hosted the event at the Saddledome.

“Can you actually imagine promoting world peace?” Oh asked the audience.

“I’m having a hard enough time being the political and spiritual leader of my own life.”

Local elementary school children, the Tibetan Association of Alberta’s music and dance group and a youth choir were all included in the many performances that took place before His Holiness came onstage.

The audience, a mix of young and old, rose to welcome the Nobel laureate, who was presented with the U of C’s highest honour- a doctor of laws degree.

“His life’s work has enlightened us all,” said U of C president Harvey Weingarten.

Tibet’s exiled political and spiritual leader said he was honoured to receive the degree and wore the red, white and yellow convocation hood he was presented with over his robe for the entire speech.

“I should say a special thanks because I’m quite a lazy student,” he said before talking about his schooling as a child.

“I hope this degree may not waste.”

The Dalai Lama geared his talk towards the youth in the audience. He said his generation comes from a century of violence.

“Now you belong to the new century,” the exiled monk told the youth.

The Dalai Lama, who was given the name Tenzin Gyatso, was seated in front of a large combination of Calgary youth choirs. Lucky high school and university students had the privilege of sitting cross legged directly in front of His Holiness, much like a big kindergarten class.

When asked what they had taken away from the talk, members of one youth choir responded with nothing but positivity.

“It was just so inspirational,” beamed choir member Alaire.

“I learned that we need to have inner peace to achieve external peace.”

The Dalai Lama’s talk ended with questions submitted by the audience ranging from serious to silly. A six-year-old asked if he, “always wears those robes? Do you own a pair of pants?”

The spiritual leader responded that he has worn pajamas at night and had to wear a disguise when he escaped Tibet. He also donned pants when he visited China in the 1950s.

The self-described “simple Buddhist monk” also revealed he wakes up at 3:30 a.m. every morning and mediates for five hours before starting his day.

“The best meditation is eight to nine hours of sleep,” he said with a deep laugh.

All audience members received simple white scarves as a symbol of commitment to building a better community in Calgary.

At the conclusion of the talk, the Dalai Lama asked for the lights to be turned on so he could see the audience’s faces. He then explained the symbolism behind the scarves each audience member received.

“The white color symbolizes the purity of your heart,” he said.

He explained the smooth texture of the scarves symbolized more gentle behavior.

“My dear friends, my dear brothers and sisters. I want a happy life. You also have the same desire and wish. We all have the right to have happy life.”

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