Dalai Lama charms 14,000 at Bell Centre

By MAX HARROLD, The Gazette, October 3, 2009

Touts message of compassion. Spend more time with your children,' exiled Tibetan leader advises parents
Montreal, canada
-- Know thyself and have an open heart toward others.

That was the simple yet potent message delivered to Montrealers yesterday by the Dalai Lama, who has come to personify laid-back cool among religious leaders.

The 74-year-old Buddhist monk and exiled leader of Tibet's 6 million people used little more than his famously down-to-Earth appeal in his talk about the power of compassion to more than 14,000 people at the Bell Centre.

"I speak to you not as a Buddhist, nor as a Tibetan, but as a human being to other humans," said the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner who was on his third Canadian stop after Vancouver and Calgary.

"My parents were illiterate peasants, but they were very honourable and kind," he said, adding that a parent's love can seed compassionate potential in all people.

He got a big round of applause when he answered a question emailed beforehand about how to raise a child.

"I'm not an expert," said the never-married monk, with a hint of his well-known humour. "But I believe warm-heartedness and brain development" are key. "Parents must also provide maximum affection and spend more time with their children." Compassion leads to better health too. "People who say: 'me, I and mine' a lot are at greater risk of having heart attacks" according to scientific studies, he explained.

"We are social animals and deep inside you feel safe when you are surrounded by others," added the Dalai Lama as he sat cross-legged with two interpreters on a stage adorned with yellow flowers.

Altruism flourishes via an exploration of the self in which a calm state of being is attained that clinches one's connection with the human family, he said.

The man forced to seek exile in India in 1959 by Chinese communist leaders also recommended having compassion for one's enemies.

"Oppose actions, not the actors," he said. This can take willpower. He said his Buddhist training helped him.

"Ninety per cent of hostility is a mental projection," he added, quoting Aaron Beck, a friend and psychiatrist he said he agreed with.

For many in the audience, the Dalai Lama's reminders about goodness were nothing new, but still a challenge.

"It's about how we should speak to each other on a human level," said Anne, a chartered accountant who would only give her first name.

"I try but it's hard sometimes." Martin Bilodeau, a 32-year-old social worker, said "he tells us how to integrate these things into modern life." Susan Berger, one of 15 women who attended from the same yoga class in Town of Mount Royal, said the Dalai Lama was, refreshingly, "not overly religious." Classmate Maria Brancatella said he made her "want to get closer to that level of consciousness, that warmth." Much to the delight of the Bell Centre crowd, the Dalai Lama was given a Canadiens hockey jersey, which he immediately draped over his shoulders and wore with a big, goofy smile.

On the back it said Kundun, meaning "The Presence."

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