Dalai Lama enthralls sellout crowd in only public appearance

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

MANOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Dalai Lama treated a sellout crowd at the Stan Sheriff Center to his message of peace and compassion -- and his trademark humor.

Sunday's appearance was the only event open to the general public. Tickets to the event, sponsored by the Hawaii Community Foundation, sold out several days in advance.

The audience was treated to entertainment from the likes of Michael McDonald, Henry Kapono, Willie K, Amy Hanaiali'i and Jerry Santos. The Tibetan spiritual leader entered as McDonald and Kapono were ending their set. The 9,000 or so people stood and applauded.

The Dalai Lama's topic was "Advancing Peace Through the Power of Aloha." He admitted that at first, the word "aloha" didn't have meaning. "It was just the sound, 'aloha, aloha.' But now I learned the deeper meaning of aloha," he said.

The Dalai Lama initially looked a little tired after two whirlwind days of events. He had already spent the morning in a discussion at the East-West Center with Hawaiian Leaders, including Hokulea navigator Nainoa Thompson of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

At the public event, he also took some questions, including one that the crowd considered to be provocative.

"How should indigenous people, who have become strangers in their own land, try to regain inner peace when surrounded by their oppressors?" said emcee and PBS-Hawaii president Leslie Wilcox, reading the question from a card.

"Indigenous people have every right to preserved your own right, your own culture, these things. But at the same time, things change. We have to think about today's reality," he responded.

He also pointed to his own experience when he was exiled from Tibet. "That tragedy opened Tibetan eyes. There are six million Tibetan people. Before that, I think they closed their eyes. Now open," he said.

There were also several examples of the humor that he has shown during his island visit. When one question asked whether he was smiling all the time, he responded, "Yes!" But he also said there is one time that he doesn't smile, and that would be in the bathroom. "Then you need a little pressure. So, no time smiling," he said. The remark brought the house down, and also caused his interpreter to break up in laughter for several seconds.

The Dalai Lama thinks of himself was a simple monk. Those who attended appreciated his message.

"Just simple things, simple things that will make a difference for every person, every individual, with all the differences in the world," said Lauren Au.

"Simple, simple messages that if we all just tried to follow every day, the world would be a much more peaceful place," said Au's mother, Brenda Lovette.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.