The captivated 3,300 spectators at the Färs & Frosta Sparbank Arena in Lund followed the Dalai Lama’s lead in perfect unison – he laughed, they laughed; he spoke, they listened.
The mood was light and entertaining as the 75-year-old Buddhist monk, born Tenzin Gyatso, covered everything from raising children to the current political situation of Tibet and its exiled government.
Often addressing the audience during his 90-minute on-stage conversation with Swedish comedian Johan Wester, the Dalai Lama randomly alternated between quick nuggets of insight or lengthy explanations.
Wester opened the afternoon with a joke aimed at His Holiness’ choice of attire, commenting that even during his fourth visit to Lund the Dalai Lama still chose to don the same colours as Lund’s handball team.
And from that point a relationship fused and a conversation flowed.
“What is the best thing to teach children these days?” Wester asked the insightful monk.
“It is a troubled world and our real hope is in the hands of the future generations. Children must be raised with maximum compassion and affection. Even discipline must come from a place of compassion for the long-term well-being,” replied the Dalai Lama, who says the seed of his compassion came from his own mother, the illiterate wife of a farmer.
To further illustrate this, the endearing Buddhist leader told of his lack of interest in studying when he was 6- or 7-years-old.
The teacher therefore kept two whips close at hand, one regular whip to be used on the Dalai Lama’s only classmate and one yellow ‘holy’ whip in case the holy student needed help focusing on his studies.
He insisted this ‘toughness’ originated from a genuine concern for his overall education.
The Dalai Lama also emphasised the need for modern educational systems to provide children with moral teachings and principles, not from a position of religious beliefs but from a point of secular values.
“In previous times, the church took care of moral teachings, but with a growing number not interested in church, the schools must begin to include morals and ethics in education. This is a very serious matter,” he said.
His Holiness is often asked about happiness – how to achieve it and how to sustain it.
“We have so much to be happy for in Sweden. But why do we still have so much loneliness?” Wester asked.
The answer was quite simple – too little human contact with one another.
“If you take care of your neighbour, you feel a part of them and they feel a part of you. And this then begins to feel like community,” replied the Dalai Lama.
He said a self-centred attitude keeps people at a distance from one another and that breeds constant notions of loneliness, distrust, suspicion and fear, which the hailed Holiness believes destroys the self and one’s immune system.
“There is too much competition in business, in politics, in most things and this creates anxiety and stress. You must think more about your inner value, which is important to bring value into life, and then transfer that value to others. Then you will have peace of mind, healthy body and satisfaction.”
Further charming his audience, the endearing Dalai Lama disclosed his secret in removing barriers and connecting with people from all over the world.
“I think my smile has a little effect,” he leaned toward the audience, erupting in laughter at his joke.
“I always see people as my Human Brother or my Human Sister, no matter if they are a king, a president or ordinary. And if I offer a genuine smile and show an open heart, they also smile. What do you think? Does that make sense?”
His Holiness got personal and shared his daily routine, which begins with a 3.30am wake followed by meditation until breakfast at 5.30am.
The vegetarian’s day ends without dinner, “because a heavy meal before bed creates a dark mind in the morning and no meal means you rise with a clear mind.”
He usually turns in for the night by about 7pm.
He listens to BBC radio nearly every day, does not watch TV as he finds it “makes the mind dull,” prefers analytical meditation to “keep perspective” during his free time, shrugs off yoga, and maintains at least eight hours of nightly sleep to fully renew his energy.
On a serious note, the 14th Dalai Lama touched upon humanity, peace and religion, which were injected with personal anecdotes from his travels around the world, including, India, the United States, Italy, Portugal and Japan.
His nuggets of wisdom were continuously embraced by the audience with an approving applaud.
“Your best friend is your knowledge. It is always with you. And will always help you.”
“If humanity struggles, we as individuals struggle. We must take care of each other to achieve maximum happiness and maximum satisfaction in life.”
“Prayer is not sufficient. Peace must come from action.”
“The major religions of the world teach the same things – love, compassion, forgiveness and tolerance. With more than 6 billion people in the world, we need these different approaches that reach different people. It is a new reality and we must accept different religious traditions.”
And naturally His Holiness offered further explanation toward his recent decision to relinquish half his role and, while remain Tibet’s religious leader, retire as the exiled nation’s political frontman.
“Religious and political institutions must be kept separate. I say that to others all the time and to not practice that would be hypocritical, no?” he laughed.
After 10 years in the making, he felt the time was right to step down from the political scene, a move that ended four centuries of tradition and created a fully democratic system.
“Our little secret?” he asked the audience and winked. “That night, I had an unusually deep sleep, very comfortable sleep. That means I did my duty.”
The Dalai Lama’s visit was sponsored by the Swedish humanitarian organization, Individuell Människohjälp, and raised about a half a million kronor ($80,000), which will be used to support the organization’s efforts for Tibetan refugees living in India.