an afternoon with the Dalai Lama

A couple of months ago, I was fortunate browsing through a newsletter from the Royal Albert Hall, and noticed the Dalai Lama was going to be speaking at an event in June. I studied Tibet in high school and have always been intrigued and inspired by this peaceful, forgiving, and lovely man. I snapped up a ticket and marked it on the calendar.

Yesterday was the day. I caught the bus over to South Kensington and walked up to the ever wonderful venue that is the Royal Albert Hall. It was abuzz with lots of people still queuing at the box office, one lady plaintively asking around to see if anyone had a spare ticket. No one rose their hands and I quickly went inside to find my place, feeling sympathetic, but grateful.

As I work part-time at the moment, I had gone for the cheapest ticket. My expectations were suitably met when I walked up many, many flights of stairs to find the gallery.

This wasn’t even the top.

I made my way to a suitable spot. The hall was full to the brim, and there were all sorts of people there. Mothers with young children, business men in suits, twenty somethings and hippies, and people from a similar generation to the man we were all waiting to see.

The hall ceiling. Quite irrelevant to this post, but I do love it.

The afternoon began with a Tibetan musical group full of young and old alike, in place to sing and perform with traditional Tibetan instruments. Then the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, walked on stage. It was quite a surreal moment, and I became unexpectedly, yet abruptly, emotional. It was wonderful to see this living example of wisdom and kindness, and determination, there, in the same room as me (albeit a rather large one). The thousands of people in the hall stood and applauded him as he waved and smiled, before taking a seat angled towards the performers and away from the crowd. The music began and it was really special. At the end, the Dalai Lama thanked the group and stood with them, clasping their hands graciously, genuinely happy to be a part of it.

For the next hour or so after that the stage featured two single chairs, one for the Dalai Lama, and one for his translator, who he sometimes turned to when he couldn’t quite find the right word. The translator looked so appreciative and pleased to be there with the Dalai Lama, I don’t think it really mattered that the rest of us were also present! I think this is the effect he has on everyone.

The things I took away from the event were his passion to bring about worldwide, positive change, his confidence and ease of being, his peacefulness. He was never rushed, never hurried. Even at the end when answering questions, he wanted to stretch the time available to the maximum, to stay a little longer, to help enlighten others a little more. There was also a lot of laughter, and for a man who has witnessed the tragedies that he has, and fought such a long and hard fight for the freedom of his people and their country, the fact that he is so joyful is a testament to his amazing nature.

In short, it was a special afternoon; one I won’t forget. I left the hall along with many others and listened to small groups of people chatting about it in the street as I walked back to South Kensington station. I wondered what the world would be like, full of hundreds, thousands, millions of individuals ready to embrace peace for all people, or even just for themselves. Now that’s something to hope for.

The Dalai Lama on-stage with the Tibetan music ensemble. You can tell I was quite far from the front!

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