Dalai Lama Comes to Charlottesville

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The Dalai Lama took Charlottesville by storm with multiple events Thursday.  He started his day with a panel discussion on "Compassion in 21st Century Medicine" at The Paramount Theater and then held a public talk titled "Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World" at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion.

At The Paramount Theater, the Dalai Lama sat cross-legged on the stage speaking cheerfully and quietly, inviting the packed house and those watching the live stream into an intimate conversation about compassion.

Panelists from UVA Health System asked the Dalai Lama to share his wisdom on incorporating compassion into medical care, something they strive to do in their practice.     His holiness emphasized the importance of paying attention, being mindful, and giving a patient a sense of hope, peace and satisfaction with their life, especially at the moment of death.

Denise Pastoor, a healing touch practitioner and wellness educator said, "It resonated with everything that I preach to my students and my patients about living heart-based, living with compassion…being very present and establishing relationships with people." 

The Dalai Lama praised UVA's compassion care initiative and called for research on how to incorporate mindfulness and compassion in all hospitals.    

After the event at The Paramount, the Dalai Lama took to the stage at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion on the downtown mall for a public talk titled "Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World."  His holiness addressed a packed house at the pavilion, 3,800 people showed up to hear him.    

He spoke at the pavilion for about an hour and a half before fielding a few questions. The talk was about looking beyond religion when it comes to compassion.   

The Dalai Lama said everyone has the right to be happy in life. He spoke about the need for one approach to promote inner values including tolerance and forgiveness. He also talked about secularism and highlighted the importance of the oneness of humanity. 

"We should have a sense of brotherhood, sisterhood.  Not only our surrounding people but entire seven billion human beings, we should consider as a human brothers and sisters," he stated.

The Dalai Lama also lightened things up a bit by cracking some jokes. During the question portion of the event, we learned that his holiness gets up every morning at 3:30.    

The last question asked was "Is there hope for humanity?"  The Dalai Lama said yes, he is optimistic, but the world still needs positive change.

Both of Thursday's appearances were sold out. Those who attended shared their thoughts with us on what they took away from the spiritual leader's message.   

The crowd was diverse in age, race, and religion with many saying there was something for everybody in his message.  All of the people we talked to characterized this visit the same way, calling it a "once in a lifetime opportunity."  

Many said they found it interesting that the Dalai Lama drew on teaching morality and compassion within our education system.   

One attendee, Rick Podgorny, said, "He's the epitome of, as he said, compassion - wisdom. He speaks the truth we all feel in our hearts and he is doing what he says we should do. He's living it. You know sometimes we talk the talk, but we don't walk the walk." 

Others said even though they do not necessarily identify themselves as Buddhist they learned the importance of leading by example.

Another attendee, Ngawang Choechen stated, "Although he is a Buddhist teacher, he respects all religions. He says that some people misunderstand secular. He says secular respect all religions, even the non-believers."    

Most of the people we spoke with were from the central Virginia area, but some traveled from all over Virginia to hear the Dalai Lama's message. Overall, people said they just enjoyed having his energy in Charlottesville.

Before leaving Charlottesville, the Dalai Lama received a key to the city, seeds from Thomas Jefferson's garden at Monticello and Mayor Huja declared Wednesday "Peace Day."