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Dalai Lama at Berkeley Community Theater February 23rd: how to be happy

Peggy Reskin
Peggy Reskin
Peggy Reskin

His Holiness Dalai Lama arrived in Berkeley at the Berkeley Community Theater today and filled the stage with his message of how to be happy in your life. Introduced by Congress woman Barbara Lee, as the 19899 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and in 2011 acting as the Spiritual Leader of Tibet, his warm presence and enthusiasm were irresistible to the audience. Barbara Lee spoke of the pride she felt for having Dalai Lama in the city of Berkeley. She spoke of Berkeley's history of social reform and how it related to the struggle of the exiled Tibetan people. Berkeley, Lee said, is the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement in1932 where the first Peace Movement happened. And Lee pointed out, it was a group of Berkeley women in February of 1966 who went to stop the gears of the Oakland military Induction Center in protest to the steady flow of young men being sent into the war in Viet Nam.

Listening carefully to everything Barbara Lee said, the Dalai Lama endeared himself to the audience immediately by having Barbara Lee come and sit with him on the bright orange small sofa, rather than a chair nearby. The Dalai Lama held Lee's hand as they sat close in the confines of the sofa.

When he came to the microphone, he spoke without notes or a script, and first pulled an orange visor from the bag he brought which allowed him to look out and see the people in the audience rather than the glare of the lights. He took a good look, smiled and greeted different people in the audience. Then he got right to the topic of how to be happy in life. He identified the ultimate factor was too much "I" and "me" and "mine." That way of being serves to separate oneself from others, he said, and does not lead to being happy- regardless of the money or power one holds in the world. Hurt, anger, hate and jealousy come from the divisions and separations and the "I" orientation, the Dalai Lama said. Less emphasis on the self, he said, actually results in less stress and more insight and allows for the sense of community, rather than isolation and competition, scarcity. He pointed out that the best way to be happy, even for those well education and respected in society, is to find inner peace, to find compassion for self and others.

Building friendships is a product of trust and a result of compassion, the Dalai Lama said,and it is through this trust that one can have more attention for the outside world and not be stuck in the "I" world. The practice of opening the heart and experiencing compassion is where the one can find contentment, peace. This, he said, is the opposite of self centered, desire and greed-which as a person or a nation leads not to happiness.

Religion and/or organizations that manipulate and exploit followers for selfish gain need to be recognized and require the courage for people to move away from them, the Dalai Lama said,emphasizing the word courage.

Questions were invited, and one was from a parent who wanted to know how he could influence his son to study hard and do well in the world. The Dalai Lama said, to answer that question, first he would have to marry and have a child, because he is not an authority on that question. To the question from the audience about death, he had this to say: "If you have lead a meaningful and compassionate life, heaven is 100% sure to be what happens upon your death. If you did harm to others throughout your life, then there is no beginning,no ending and no heaven. It is a matter of changing from body to spirit, he seemed to say and compassion for self and others provides the doorway to the next level of reality.

He ended with the reminder again that compassion and personal responsibility are the way to be happy in this lifetime. For all of the attendees and those who had the benefit of the live streaming of the event, there was obvious appreciation in the response to the Dalai Lama as he left the stage as the applause and music filled the room.