Dalai Lama Captivates With Compassion

On Sunday, the 14th Dalai Lama made his most recent Los Angeles appearance in more than three years to address a sold-out audience at the Gibson Amphitheater in Universal CityWalk, North Hollywood. He expounded upon his selected topic, "Cultivating Compassion and the Needs of Vulnerable Children," while also discussing his controversial role in recent history.

Speaking on his public relations with China, he called on the country to reestablish the Tibetan people's basic rights, to freedom of religious belief and cultural heritage. Once these have been restored, he said that he would have "no problem" returning to Tibet.

"Once any positive things are done in Tibet, I will praise the Chinese government," said the Dalai Lama. "Waiting for this moment is not easy."

The Dalai Lama has been exiled from Tibet since 1959, when China invaded the small country to gain control. When President Obama welcomed a visit from the spiritual leader last week, the meeting was kept unpublicized so as to ease international relations. The Chinese government views the Dalai Lama as a radical threat to their control of Tibet and does not approve of any who welcome his visitation.

"We believe the actions of the U.S. side have seriously interfered in Chinese internal affairs," said a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman regarding the Dalai Lama's visit with Obama.

For however much disapproval, the Dalai Lama seemed happy and amiable throughout his talk at the Gibson. He frequently erupted into laughter while presenting anecdotes related to his topic of compassion.

Regarding his role as Buddhism's spiritual leader, he mentioned that the title of Dalai Lama may not survive to the next generation. He leaves the continuation of the tradition up to his followers.

"Some journalists say that I am not the best Dalai Lama, but I am also not the worst," he said. "In this way, my role will cease with grace."

He welcomed some questions from the crowd, but was quick to affirm his role, not as a problem solver, but as a philosopher.

"I am not an expert," he said. "I open the discussion and luckily there are scientists and others that can realistically make it happen."

Responding to a question about methods to attain world peace, he urged the crowd to create their own individual zone[s] of peace within their communities. "It is up to you to think on how to promote inner peace and strength," he said. "Through this, you can change your community and the world."

Whole Child International's founder and CEO, Karen Gordon, opened the event by introducing her cause and thanking her supporters. A non-profit organization focused on providing for the emotional needs of orphans worldwide, Gordon's organization focuses on restructuring orphanages around the world by educating caregivers and redefining the environment of their facilities. Her charity is also making use of text-based donations, recently made popular by the Red Cross' relief efforts for the earthquake victims of Haiti.

"This organization is doing a great work," said the Dalai Lama. "Without compassion, vulnerable children can become open to manipulation. Compassion must be taught from infancy."

Singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow performed three songs in his honor, including an acoustic cover of The Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun."

"I am very happy to be here on this joyful occasion," she said. "And this is one of the cooler gigs I've ever gotten to do."

The audience's attentive silence was punctuated by enthusiastic applause whenever the spiritual leader would make a particularly affirmative remark. Some came dressed in traditional Tibetan clothing; they frequently bowed to the Dalai Lama from their seats in the theater.

Closing the event, the Dalai Lama left the crowd by saying, "You are the people who can reshape the future. You have a crucial responsibility to create a peaceful century of dialogue instead of force."