The Dalai Lama grins broadly Saturday morning as he welcomes guests to the Benedict Music Tent in Aspen. Thousands came out to hear the spiritual leader discuss everything from China and inner peace to life in Aspen and his temper. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)
ASPEN — Aspenites met the world’s most famous “simple Buddhist monk” Saturday.
The Dalai Lama, who outlined a blueprint to world peace, was greeted by a standing ovation from 2,000 people at the Benedict Music Tent as the keynote speaker of the Aspen Institute’s Tibet symposium.
Some 1,700 watched from remote locations.
Neither a living god nor the “demon” of the Chinese press, the Dalai Lama called himself a “simple Buddhist monk.” Clad in red robes and a silk scarf that school children decorated with peace signs and sunbursts, he said children just don’t care about race, religion or country.
“Their mind is not spoiled yet,” he said. “At least in this tent we should forget about our differences.”
But His Holiness, who speaks broken English and is assisted by a translator, pronounced “forget” as “f--- it,” sending a roar of laughter through the crowd.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, repeating “forget” as the laughter built.
It was one of many delightful moments in the Dalai Lama’s 90-minute talk, which was broadcast live on Aspen Public Radio, GrassRoots TV 12 and on the Aspen Institute website.
Sitting cross-legged on a soft armchair, the Dalai Lama stressed the interdependence of the planet’s six billion people and the importance of finding inner peace.
He had met with a group of Chinese professors before his speech Saturday, and the Dalai Lama directed much of his talk to the men, calling for frank discussions about Tibet and the opening of China’s media.
His Holiness, who has lived in exile for nearly 50 years, said Tibet should remain a part of China as long as Tibetan culture and religion is allowed to flourish.
And he supports the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
These are all facts that have been distorted as he has been demonized in China, he said.
“Some Chinese leaders call me a demon in monk’s robes. The truth is, I’m a simple Buddhist monk,” he said, adding that attempts to demonize him simply draw attention away from the plight of the Tibetan people.
The Dalai Lama called himself a Marxist, an ideology he said protects the needy from exploitation by the elite.
“My brain could be more red than Chinese leaders,” he said. And he called China a communist regime governed without communist ideals.
“Now we really need the sense of global responsibility,” the Dalai Lama said.
The very concept of war is “outdated,” he said, and the notion that we are separated by race, religion or government is nonsense.
“We must look at the entire world as part of yourself,” he said. “Destruction of your neighbor is destruction of yourself.”
The Dalai Lama called the 20th century a “century of bloodshed,” and said the 21st must be a “century of dialogue.”
And any vision of peace starts with the individual, in a process of “inner disarmament. I think peace must come through inner peace.”
While it is something that governments cannot mandate, leaders must be truthful, transparent and open, he said. And the media should be the watchdog, “smelling” not just the false front of politicians, but the “behind” as well.
Journalists should inform the public honestly and without bias, he said, something sadly lacking in dictatorships.
An audience member asked His Holiness how one could have compassion for everyone, even frustrating family members and colleagues.
“I occasionally lose my temper,” His Holiness said. “It is reality. Don’t be discouraged.”
But developing real compassion springs from basic biological affection — motherly love in childhood — and grows through training, he said.
“We all have the same potential like that.”
He does not believe in any “absolute evil” in the world, but said all people can change.
And, responding to another audience question, the Dalai Lama got big laughs when he said he could offer no solutions to the riddle of Aspenites being disgruntled despite their beautiful surroundings.
“That entirely depends on you,” he said to the crowd. Each person should resolve conflict through dialogue.
He pointed to the worldwide gap between rich and poor — whether in Washington, D.C., or between city dwellers and rural people in China — and said it is the root of jealousy and violence.
Once, when asked by a wealthy Indian family for a blessing, His Holiness told the family to bless others by giving of their wealth to support the education of people in need.
“It’s the real source of blessing,” he said.
Asked to send a message to the Chinese people, the Dalai Lama said he doubted it would get to them because of the nation’s filter on media.
But the simple monk said he can weather being demonized in the Chinese press; he only wishes that Chinese people could know the truth.
He spoke of a 50-year-old promise from Chairman Mao that Tibet would be autonomous, under its own flag, and that Chinese troops would leave peacefully after helping Tibetans.
“I want to make clear to the Chinese people, but there is no way to make known these things,” he said.
The Dalai Lama hung silk scarves on Aspen Institute officials and waved and shook hands with audience members as he walked offstage and, shadowed by federal agents, across the campus.
His Holiness will make his way back to Dharamsala, his home in firstname.lastname@example.org