Our friends got us tickets to see the Dalai Lama at the Indian Cultural Center. We arrived about 30 minutes early to find a long line already formed.  The event was supposed to begin at 2:30, but by the time they got as many people in as possible, it was later than that.  Every seat, lower floor and balcony, was taken.  As everywhere in India, there was a lot of security, and of course, the Dalai Lama himself had a big entourage.

His topic was the “Art of Happiness.” He spoke from a podium with a young monk at his side. He spoke without notes. After about 45 minutes, the representative of the sponsor, Penguin Books India, announced that he would take a few questions, but that “no questions about politics would be permitted.” The Dalai Lama and his monk took seats in the center of the stage.

The questions were interesting, as much for the questioners as for the questions.  The first person called on was an Indian; the next a young man; the third a physician from Spain, evidently there for a conference. Next came a neuroscientist from London, who wanted to know whether there had been any advances in viewing the brain while meditating (he shows a video to his classes of the Dalai Lama and a CT scan).  Next was an Indian woman right behind us who wanted to know how one could be happy when she had to watch a loved one suffer.  Finally there was a woman who wanted to know who had put the prohibition on the political speech.  This part of the program was interesting – my husband wrote down some of his pithy remarks:

“There will never be a universal religion. Only science is universal.”
“There is no definition of God; it is a mystery.”
“Replace hate with compassion.”
“Even a lie can be compassionate; remember the hidden Jews under Hitler’s regime.”
“Find the ‘spot’ of compassion even in hate, and concentrate on that.”

The most interesting thing about him was his sense of humor.  At the end of every answer, he made a quip or a joke.  For example, he said that whenever someone asked him about China, he said, “I don’t have an answer; I am retired.”  He has a deep belly laugh that is contagious.

The young monk by his side supplied an English word when he couldn’t bring it forward.  For example, he gave him the word “inconceivable,” which the Dalai Lama obviously knew but couldn’t recall.  It was amazing how the young man sensed what he wanted to say.

The speech was wildly popular with the audience, both those inside and the 300-400 people outside viewing the presentation on video.  He stayed until the last person had left the auditorium, mingling with the crowd.