Thousands Greet Dalai Lama at Greek Theater

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday April 30, 2009 - 07:31:00 PM
More than 7,000 people packed the Greek Theater Saturday afternoon to watch His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, give a speech on “Peace Through Compassion.”
Arnab Bose
More than 7,000 people packed the Greek Theater Saturday afternoon to watch His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, give a speech on “Peace Through Compassion.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama received a rock star welcome at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theater Saturday, April 18, his third visit to the campus since taking over as the head and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people in 1937 at the age of 2. 

Toddlers, teenagers, students, retired UC Berkeley professors and visitors from as far away as New Zealand braved the afternoon heat for a chance to see the 14th reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion. Sponsored by the American Himalayan Foundation and the Blum Center for Developing Econo-mies, his speech, “Peace Through Compassion,” touched upon world affairs as well as issues closer to home. 

Wearing his signature red and yellow robes, the exiled leader, who lives in India, sat cross-legged on a beige armchair, imparting words of wisdom and humor, as well as a touch of the mundane. In the span of an hour, the Dalai Lama talked about Buddhism, his gall bladder operation, his fear of caterpillars, his preference for flying business class (“first class is too luxurious”) and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. 

The Dalai Lama said that while he was growing up in Tibet, his people saw America as the “champion of democracy, liberty and freedom.” But he said that sometimes, in spite of America having a worthwhile goal, “the method is not always so realistic.” 

“In order to understand reality, we need a holistic approach,” he said, later praising American citizens for their desire for peace. “Today peace cannot be achieved through prayer. We must achieve peace through ourselves—through non-violence,” he said. 

While speaking about President George W. Bush’s foreign policies, the Dalai Lama said he disagreed with some of them, but liked the former president on a personal level. 

“I love him as a human being—very straightforward, very sweet. But not a great leader or political person,” he said. 

Addressing the audience’s younger demographic, he said, “You are the real people, you are the source of hope. Time will always be moving; if you want to waste time that’s up to you.” 

He stressed the importance of compassion for a healthy and stress-free life. 

“In every sphere of life, affection is very important,” he said. Caring for others, the Dalai Lama said, has enabled him to remain young at heart. Recalling the words of a scientist he met in New York, he said, “Persons who use the words ‘I,’ ‘me,’ ‘myself’ have greater risk of heart attack...Too much thinking of oneself—’I, I, I’—will lead to more health problems. Think of others—that will help you feel better.” 

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and actress Sharon Stone, who also sits on the board of directors for the American Himalayan Foundation, introduced the Dalai Lama Saturday. Birgeneau also presented UC Regent Richard Blum, the founder and chair of the Himalayan Foundation, with the Berkeley Medal, the university’s highest honor, for his contributions to social welfare. 

In a lighter moment, Blum joked about his own possible history of reincarnation. 

“I don’t know what I was in my last life,” Blum said, “but clearly there was a problem, because I ended up being an investment banker.”