Reflections on the Dalai Lama’s Visit to Rutgers Stadium, NJ
September 25, 2005
I got up this morning at 4:45 a.m. so as to arrive on the Livingston Campus of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, prior to the massive traffic jams we’d been advised of for the past two months. The Dalai Lama was coming to town to talk about War, Peace, and Reconciliation. We arrived so early there were absolutely no traffic problems, which afforded my friends and me two hours to chat in the stands, buy food from the concession stands (they actually had humus and crackers!) – no meat ‘in honor of the Dalai Lama’s visit’, and enjoy the Tibetan monks’ chanting, and many musical and choral performances. My only preparation for this event was to watch the Brad Pitt film Seven Years in Tibet which depicted a friendship between the Dalai Lama when he was a child and an Austrian Olympic gold medalist. (Definitely worth seeing!)
The Dalai Lama pulled up behind the stage right on time at 10:30 and was greeted by a standing ovation of approximately 35,000 people. I had tears in my eyes because of the immense crowd who had come to listen to his words, and he was so well received. He was first conferred an honorary doctorate for his contribution to world peace. Then he simply stated he was going to start his lecture. He spoke initially in his native language and then thankfully the crowd realized his interpreter was right next to him. The Dalai Lama presented his thoughts in English and from time to time consulted with his interpreter.
He sat on a chair in center stage so as to have an informal talk with the crowd. He apologized for the lack of formality, but he told us we were just going to have to accept it - and that we did! What an unassuming, humble man. He described himself as a man with perhaps a different skin color, and a nose with a slightly different shape from others, however, his point was, we are all alike – he included. The Dalai Lama continued by saying if we had all come to the stadium that morning to hear great words of wisdom on war, peace, and reconciliation, then he was sorry that we were probably going to get bored and be disappointed because we had all most likely given a great deal of thought to these concepts, and he really had nothing new to add. His sense of humor was delightfully unexpected. He then pointed out that no matter what we got out of the lecture, we must all revel in the beauty of the weather of the morning and the flight of the birds overhead and know that this was important to the day.
He told us that war is an outdated concept. It has no use in these times. The idea of enemies is past, gone, extinct because we are all connected. We are all one humanity. To kill is wrong. The twentieth century was the century of war. The twenty first century will be the century of peace. The Dalai Lama said that people are innately mischievous but we need to be accountable for our actions. We must contribute to the common good in our local communities, however, we must think globally. We are spoiled and some of us are lazy, yet we must be responsible – to ourselves and each other. Respect is paramount. Education and knowledge will take us to the peace in our world we deserve.
The Dalai Lama spoke for a solid hour and then proceeded to answer questions emailed to the Rutgers’s website prior to his visit. In response to the question concerning Israel and the Gaza Strip he started by saying he was not an authority in that area, and then he continued with several statements about what he did know, while finally concluding with a definitive “I do not know the answer to the question”. He was interrupted by applause several times. The entire crowd who strained to hear and understand his every word appreciated his informality, humor, and honest straightforwardness.
I was honored and grateful to have been able to attend such a momentous event. I could never have imagined the splendid presence such a humble man created in that stadium of 35,000 people. Upon leaving, I was struck with the knowledge that I have heard his message before. These are the many teachings spiritual leaders have told us. We will have peace in the twenty first century. In fact this shift in consciousness is happening right now. We are accountable – to ourselves and each other because we are all connected.
© 2005 Janet Armstrong
Lovingly submitted in light, knowledge, and respect,