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Dalai Lama: The change will take a long time but we need to start it now

The Bratislava public lecture by Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, on the afternoon of October 16 was a true stadium-filler, both symbolically and literally.

Dalai Lama in Bratislava (Source: Jana Liptáková )

The National Tennis Centre (NTC) Arena which can contain several thousand visitors was packed, and organisers said that if 200 more tickets were added immediately before the event, they would be sold out in a few minutes.

From the outfits, the conduct and communication, it seemed that some visitors perceived the lecture more as the occasion to be seen rather than an event to come and see.

However, the core of visitors were obviously there to get first-hand experience with the person who has authored many books on spiritual development and who represents Tibetan Buddhism, as well as wider teachings of patience, love and compassion. This could be felt when he entered the auditorium, as everyone stood and offered massive applause, not unlike some athletic event, to the point that it sent shivers down one’s spine.

The Dalai Lama spoke of how to live and handle the challenges of the current world and then audiences were allowed to pose questions which he patiently and vividly answered. Unlike the lecture which was more universal and abstract, the answers to the questions – which were quite specific, too – were more pointed and instructive. They also made His Holiness laugh and joke at some moments, and pray with all sincerity at others.

Under his spell

It may be his spontaneity and the sheer charm of his presence that lures thousands of people anywhere around the world to his events. Despite his age he seemed – especially on the mental level – not to be bored, tired or bothered at all. He also looked fully present in each and every moment of the lecture and ensuing questions – which may be one of his messages which he sends through direct example, in an unobtrusive, and thus maybe even more impressive way. Instead of many abstract words, he teaches by his living example and his presence.

Apart from his musings on notions like compassion, love – biological and learned – he also explored the idea of tolerance. Tolerance not just among people or nations but also among religions (which have one and the same goal), which is possible and viable: Tenzin Gyatso gave India as a living example. He insisted that hatred and killing are not innate parts of any religion, including Islam, and that if someone causes bloodshed, he stops being a Muslim. Even the way to suppress Jihad lies in tolerance, compassion, and peace of heart, he suggested, adding that religious teaching, the teaching of love and compassion should come and help handle the situation.

As for politics, the Dalai Lama mentioned his lunch with the Slovak president and praised it as a positive experience; while also complimenting the US President Barack Obama. He gave these two politicians as an example of promising ones, when asked about how the qualities of compassion and tolerance could be applied in a practical way. When asked about how he sees the global peace if Donald Trump is elected for US president, he answered that during the campaign, he prefers to remain silent.

Tradition of coming to Slovakia

This is the third visit of the Dalai Lama to Slovakia but as the previous ones took place in 1999 and in 2009, it was a completely new experience for some people in the audience. This also holds true, in a way, for a boy who attended the first lecture – albeit involuntarily, through his pregnant mother. This time, he came quite of his own accord.

Read also: Read also:Dalai Lama visits Slovakia, meets president, university students

And he would probably make His Holiness happy, as a big part of the afternoon was dedicated to the future and the core of potential global change: the education system and the urgency to amend it, to make it fit the new situations, new challenges and new balances around the globe. The 14th Dalai Lama admitted that he was 81, so he might not live long enough to experience the change to come – but still, it needs to be started now, as it will take decades to show.

The Slovak visit was organised by Suzanne and Csaba Kiss of the At Home Gallery in Šamorín, and apart from the lecture, it also included a meeting with students and representatives of the Comenius University, the lunch with President Andrej Kiska and a meeting with four politicians. The lecture was introduced by Martin Bútora, social analyst, lecturer and former Slovak ambassador to the USA. As it was part of his wider European tour, he left for Prague the next day (October 17).

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