WASHINGTON D.C. – “I lost my freedom at age 16,” he said, “ then [at] age 24; I lost my country.” More than 20,000 people gathered from all over the world and waited for hours in the scorching hot sun to see the Dalai Lama speak on July 9 on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. He spoke about his struggles and his passion for achieving world peace.
People of a variety of ages and cultures gathered on blankets with hopes of finding inner peace. The crowd included; Buddhists, monks, curious civilians,- and many proud followers of Tibet, all fans of the Dalai Lama.
As, Desmond Tutu, the first black South African arch bishop, said at the gathering, “with very small changes, we can make a big ripple, and those who do not care to listen will finally hear this battle for peace.”
The Dalai Lama is the leader of Tibetan Buddhism and is an inspiration to many. Advocating peace for his people, though they have faced Chinese aggression for decades, the Dalai Lama, said Tutu, “is a man who considers himself a simple monk yet has changed the world and has brought hope to many.’’ Tutu spoke just prior the Dali Lama’s remarks in D.C.
“I really couldn’t hear much,” said a civilian bystander Phil Cerrato of Virginia, “but just being in his presence is an honor. Much of his focus was emphasizing the act of compassion and understanding in order to find inner peace.”
The Dalai Lama’s attendance in Washington, D.C., was to conduct rituals for the first three days of the Kalachakra, one of the most complex systems within tantric Buddhism. The Kalachakra custom circles around the idea of time and cycles, – and teaches the practice of working with the most delicate energies within one’s body, on the path to attaining a higher spiritual knowledge which frees a person from the cycle of rebirth. Such rituals include the chanting of prayers, the Kalachakra Ritual Dance, – and prayers for the long life of the Dalai Lama. The ten day program was organized by the Capital Area Tibetan Association. His next public speech will be in Chicago at the University of Illinois on July 17and will give a talk on “Bridging the Faith Divide”.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, was born into a farming family in Northeastern Tibet in 1935. He studied monastic education for 17 years. In the annual Monlam Festival in 1959, he passed his final examination, – and was awarded the highest-level degree, equivalent to a doctorate, of Buddhist philosophy. But due to the brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by the Chinese troops, he was forced to escape to Northern India, where the Tibetan political administration is located.
He was involved in Tibetan politics and in 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet, because he has continually advocated non-violent policies, even when facing extreme aggression. He was later recognized for being the first Nobel Laureate to care for global environmental problems. In 2001, the people of Tibet elected him to be the new political leader for Tibet. He has travelled all around the world, meeting prime ministers, presidents, scientists, and rulers of more than 62 different countries, written more than 72 books; and has received over 84 honorary awards for his non-violent message and inter-religious understanding.
To his followers, the Dalai Lama has changed their lives. His story of overcoming such big struggles has had such a huge impact on the world and has inspired many people. “After 9/11 I struggled with depression, my kids were so young then, that they really didn’t understand. I lost family members in the collapse of the towers and I really needed the support of a meditation group,” said a Buddhist monk named Heidi from Tai Wan, “Buddhism has helped me overcome my depression and achieve a higher spiritual level, so being here with the Dalai Lama and listening to his teachings is something that I will never forget.”