The Dalai Lama’s visit to Liverpool
Thursday 27 May 2004 at the Anglican Cathedral
Report by Red-Eye
The Anglican Cathedral was the setting where His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was given an Honorary Fellowship by John Moores University for his outstanding contribution to public life. In the words of Professor Michael Brown, JMU’s Vice Chancellor, “The Dalai Lama is a remarkable role model, a true symbol of peace,” and this honour was in recognition of his tireless efforts to promote understanding, tolerance and compassion between all people, regardless of religious belief.
Outside the cathedral, the queues were long as the 2000 lucky ticket holders waited expectantly to see the temporal and spiritual leader of Tibet on one of his rare visits to our country. There were many dignitaries present – lords, ladies, mayors, and bishops – but most were ordinary people who came simply to be in the presence of a man much loved and admired for his kindness, compassion and his ceaseless fight for human rights.
Some people, (including myself…), were half expecting this incarnation of God on earth, this ‘Buddha of Compassion’ to float down from the skies to collect his honour. Much to my relief, the man who strode down the aisle was a small, frail, grandfatherly figure with an easy grin and a twinkle in his eyes. The Dalai Lama smiled and waved at the crowd as he walked in procession to the podium to receive his Honourary Fellowship. Despite the size and formality of this ceremonial occasion (complete with full gowns, starched mortar-board hats and chains of office) the warmth, humanity and sheer mischievousness that emanated from His Holiness succeeded in debunking all the stiffness around him and transformed the audience into an intimate gathering of friends and well-wishers.
Something very real and genuine was evident as we were treated to the sanity and wisdom of “a poor, atheist monk” – his own humble description. In his quiet, self-deprecating way, (and dispensing with the help of a waiting translator), he spoke for an hour about all kinds of issues – his childhood in Tibet, his recognition at the tender age of two as the incarnation of the previous 13th Dalai Lama, his separation from his family, his exile from his homeland, and his meetings with notable figures such as Mother Theresa, The Queen Mother, and President Tutu. But whatever he spoke about, he always returned to his central message: the fundamental importance of peace, love and compassion in our lives. These, he said, should be practised even in our small and seemingly insignificant day-to-day activities in order to bring about transformation on a global scale. We should not consider ourselves to be isolated individuals but be aware of our connection to the whole “human family”: - by thinking about others in the wider community we will all benefit from an increase in the happiness and peace that surrounds us.
That this Buddhist monk has literally spent a lifetime developing and practising the love and compassion that formed the basis of his ‘lecture’ on human ethics was readily apparent. Since his exile from Tibet as a result of the Chinese invasion in 1959, over 1.2 million of his fellow countrypeople are reported to have been murdered, yet he has continued to travel the world promoting his message of “universal responsibility” and “peaceful solutions based on tolerance and mutual respect”. In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his continued non-violent struggle to regain possession of his homeland, which still, sadly, seems a distant dream.
Ultimately, the whole event was really about respect – respect for this kind, compassionate man and what he has endured throughout a lifetime of non-violent struggling to regain his country from the Chinese invaders. From chatting to members of the audience today, I know that many people, regardless of their religious beliefs (or lack of them), would like to thank him simply for coming here with his uplifting message of hope and his faith in human nature. As the barwoman at the View2 gallery said last night: “I’m just glad he’s here; the world is a better place with him in I”.
See www.freetibet.org for some
thought provoking facts(?) and figures(?)…