Dalai Lama's Swiss visit huge success
by Matthew Allen, swissinfo, August 12, 2005
Zurich, Switzerland -- The Dalai Lama's Swiss visit was a bigger hit than expected with 30,000 people attending his teachings, raising SFr350,000 ($280,000) for charity.
<< The Dalai Lama's visit attracted tens of thousands to Zurich
Organisers said they were also delighted with the publicity the event generated for Tibet after the Dalai Lama met interior minister Pascal Couchepin last week in a move criticised by China.
About 7,800 weekly passes and up to 12,000 day tickets were snapped up for the teachings on Buddhist scripture at Zurich's Hallenstadion. In addition, 10,000 people came to a public speech last Sunday on the subject of compassion.
The takings easily surpassed the SFr3 million costs of staging the event and profits will be distributed among Swiss, Tibetan and international charities to be named at a later date.
The eight days of teachings were the longest period of tuition the Dalai Lama has given outside India, where he lives in exile. He also attended an inter-religious meeting at Einsiedeln and symposiums at Zurich University and the Federal Institute of Technology.
"We are very pleased that all these events were so public and that the Swiss government got involved as it showed that Tibet is an issue for Switzerland," said the Dalai Lama's spokesman Kelsang Gyaltsen.
"We are encouraged and happy that a minister (Couchepin) was willing to meet the Dalai Lama. It is important that the world does not forget the hardship that we endure. The problem of Tibet is yet to be solved."
The Chinese embassy in Bern condemned Couchepin's meeting with the Dalai Lama last Thursday, accusing the Tibetan spiritual leader of engaging in "anti-China activities" under the "cloak of religion".
Away from politics, the people attending the teachings, from 44 different countries, said they were delighted to get the opportunity to see and hear the Dalai Lama.
Hans-Georg Mescheden from Germany, told swissinfo: "I am not 100 per cent Buddhist, but Buddhism shows us the way to live life through meditation. It doesn't matter if you are Christian or Buddhist to understand this."
"The Dalai Lama is acting for peace which is particularly important in this time of terrorism and social instability. His message of peace is easy to understand for many religions," said Yangchen Dru, who fled Tibet to Switzerland in 1960.
The Dalai Lama also found time to see people who were suffering from illnesses. One elderly man, who had also found refuge in Switzerland from Tibet, said: "I knew this would be my last chance of meeting the Dalai Lama. Meeting him in person has given me peace and serenity in my final days."