Some 18,000 people listened to the Tibetan spiritual leader during morning, afternoon teachings
By Sarah Kuta and Charlie Howard
Link to Story: Here
Like bicyclists need helmets, Buddhists making a spiritual journey toward enlightenment need armor and protection against afflictions.
That was the message of the 14th Dalai Lama after receiving a bike helmet and jersey from Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones at the start of his first teaching at the University of Colorado on Thursday.
"There is a symbolism for this helmet, of course," the Dalai Lama said through a translator. "I am too old to bike. When I was young, I used to bike."
He wore the awkwardly fitting white helmet for several minutes before taking it off and inspecting it. He let out a deep chuckle.
The Tibetan spiritual leader frequently cracked himself up during his two teachings in front of 18,000 total people at the university's Coors Events Center in Boulder. His visit was a mostly peaceful one, with the exception of three silent protesters who were dragged from behind the stage by police during the afternoon teaching.
The stage was adorned with dozens of ferns, colorful banners, flowers and other items. Prior to the Dalai Lama's arrival, a group of 50 students from Boulder's Tibetan Cultural School wearing shiny pink and blue robes sang and danced several numbers in front of the stage. The students also sang to the Dalai Lama when he arrived, wishing him good health and that he might live hundreds of years.
During the two-hour morning session, he spoke about a wide range of topics, including the idea that all religions are fundamentally based on love and compassion.
"Therefore, (all religions) have the same potential to help humanity, to create good human beings, sensible human beings," the Dalai Lama said.
The Dalai Lama explained that every object we encounter can be broken down into smaller and smaller parts, until we realize that nothing "objectively exists." That concept — coupled with letting go of all attachments — can help us tackle destructive emotions such as anger and greed, he said.
"Of course, I'm not saying I'm experienced or something," the Dalai Lama said, drawing laughing from the audience.
In order to practice altruism more successfully, we need to practice contentment, tolerance and forgiveness, he told the crowd.
'Make the effort now'
After a short lunch break — during which the Dalai Lama met fellow 1989 Nobel Prize winner and CU chemistry professor Tom Cech — the Dalai Lama took the stage again to speak to CU students, employees and alumni.
The ornate decorations that adorned the stage during the morning session were replaced by four simple armchairs — three purple chairs for translator Thupten Jinpa Langri, Chancellor Phil DiStefano and CU student leader Colton Lyons, and one white chair for His Holiness.
The Dalai Lama made a costume change, donning a gold CU visor for the afternoon session.
The spiritual leader took questions from the audience before and after his afternoon teaching. Attendees asked him how to spread love and happiness, for an explanation on the purpose of life, how to raise children and how he deals with adversity.
The spiritual leader spoke mostly about the responsibility of young people to work together toward a common goal of making the world a happier place.
He said he believes one key to reducing violence and division in the world is an education system that teaches moral ethics. Children need to learn a "sense of oneness" with the seven billion other people on earth, he said.
"If you make the effort now, after two, three, four decades of generations who come through that kind of education," he said. "And more effort (from) politicians or media people or businessmen and women ... if we take the same goal, one goal (to make a) happier world, a compassionate world, I think it's really possible (the world) will be a happier one."
The lack of air conditioning inside the events center coupled with afternoon temperatures in the 80s led some in the audience to leave early. Some people took to social media to complain that they had a hard time hearing the Dalai Lama in the arena.
In the middle of the afternoon session, three people appeared behind the stage carrying candles and a black banner with white lettering that read, "Meat is violence, not compassion."
When police and security officials approached them, the protesters appeared to refuse to move. Police could be seen dragging the three people up the stairs to the concourse, then carrying them into a room in the north end of the building.
The Dalai Lama did not appear to notice the action behind him and kept talking.
A group called Direct Action Everywhere, which described itself as a grassroots animal rights network, claimed responsibility for the demonstration in a news release sent shortly after the protesters were removed by police.
In an email, an organizer for the group said two of the demonstrators were CU students.
The three demonstrators were ejected from the teaching for violating the rules of the venue and the event. They were not arrested, said CU spokesman Ryan Huff.
At the end of the morning teaching, an accountant gave a public report of that session's finances. He said the Tibetan Association of Colorado brought in $421,600 from ticket sales and donations and had so far spent $330,200 on event-related expenses.
Since the Dalai Lama does not accept money for his teachings, the remainder will be donated to Boulder's Bridge House, Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, the Dalai Lama Trust and the Tibetan Association of Colorado to build a proposed cultural center.
A CU student leader said the afternoon teaching was funded by student fees and ticket revenue. CU covered labor and expenses for the event and did not turn a profit, officials said.
In past interviews, CU officials said they had earmarked $200,000 in student fees for the event, though they said that number would likely go down based on expenses.
Nearly 3,500 free student tickets were issued for the afternoon session, according to CU spokeswoman Deborah Mendez-Wilson.
The Dalai Lama's visit to Boulder has been in the works for roughly two years. CU student leaders and members of the Tibetan Association of Colorado initially invited His Holiness in 2014.
He had planned a two-day visit to campus in October, but the aging Buddhist leader canceled all of his planned United States events in late September for health reasons.
"Organizing the visit has been stressful but we are delighted to have His Holiness here today," said Tenzin Tashi, part of the organizing committee that brought the Dalai Lama to Boulder.
A large crowd greeted His Holiness when he arrived at the St. Julien Hotel in downtown Boulder on Wednesday.
The 80-year-old Tibetan leader, who is the 14th Dalai Lama, last visited Boulder in 1997.