Dalai Lama brings message for youth

By TERRI THEODORE, The Canadian Press, Sept 8, 2006

Buddhist leader says goal of B.C. visit is cultivating compassion

VANCOUVER, Canada -- In a humorous, educational, and sometimes critical look at the world, the Dalai Lama urged a crowd of young people Friday to cultivate compassion.

<< The Dalai Lama speaks to B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell during a private meeting in Vancouver on Friday. The Dalai Lama says he is proud to have been given honorary Canadian citizenship. (CHUCK STOODY / CP)

He told the group that society is becoming more and more detached from the news of poverty, murders in American suburbs and suicide bombers in Iraq.

"In a sense, we could see this as a chronic disease that we’re experiencing," the Dalai Lama said through an interpreter.

"That must change," he emphasized.

The 71-year-old Buddhist leader had the audience laughing when he happily put on his gift of a red Canada visor, which perched precariously on his bald head throughout the session.

The goal of his Vancouver visit, he told the crowd, was to cultivate compassion from a young age through education.

"I think one of the most important influential things is education and also environment," he said.

"For the younger generation it’s easier to see the new reality. Change is easier."

Dressed in the traditional red and yellow robe of a Buddhist monk, with his large glasses and constant smile, he spoke with gentle warmth and occasional bluntness.

He doesn’t like the modern education system saying it seems one-sided, with little focus on teaching inner values such as compassion and caring.

"Having said that I must admit that I haven’t attended a single class in my life in the modern education system," he laughed. "So I am full of ignorance."

The Dalai Lama, the leader of millions of Buddhists around the world who has been awarded honorary Canadian citizenship, as in Vancouver to open an education centre in his name.

He spoke mostly English to the crowd, but occasionally used an interpreter beside him to complete his point or to understand a question from a student.

He was highly critical of Europeans and Westerners of the 15th- and 16th-century, calling them troublemakers who invented weapons and Colonial rule with "maximum exploitation on Asia, on Africa, on Latin America, and China."

However he felt they had redeemed themselves more recently by promoting issues such as democracy, equality, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and concern for the environment.

And on the question of bridging the gap between rich and poor, he suggested education, training, equipment and a little push.

"Otherwise these people, some of my friends in South Africa, they always complain, but (they’re) very lazy," he said to laughter and applause.

His message was well-received by several teenagers leaving the session.

"He was really inspirational," said Sarah Sangha, a 15-year-old Surrey high school student.

"He has an infectious laugh. I thought he would be very serious, but he was really funny and he cracked some really good jokes."

Milena Canta, a Coquitlam Grade 11 student, was already making plans in the lobby to make a difference by organizing something at her school.