The Ultimate Change-Maker

STORY BY Swati Narayan

Published: March 7, 2014

On February 25, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama addressed thousands at the Forum during his visit to Los Angeles. The ultimate changemaker, the Dalai Lama embraces a philosophy of a joyous life full of action and compassion.  His extraordinarily deep laughter and perpetually smiling face are his most endearing qualities. He stood for an hour and a half, speaking without notes and from the heart, pausing only for a few sips of water and his trademark laughter, which was infused throughout his speech. Dictation cannot take the place of hearing him in person, but below is a humble attempt to share his message of global responsibility and compassion.

The excitement in the air was palpable as thousands in Inglewood, CA waited to hear the venerable Dalai Lama speak. As the 14th incarnation in the line of Dalai Lamas and the temporal leader to Tibetans, his purpose, he says, is to serve and teach all of humanity. As the Forum doors opened, the masses filed in, quickly taking their seats in anticipation of being blessed by his Holiness’ presence and wisdom. Among those seated were over 1000 students, lucky enough to be able to see and hear one of the world’s greatest teachers, courtesy of Los Angeles’ Lourdes Foundation. 

The start time quickly passed, as did another half hour, and then another. A nervous energy filled the vast hall. Then just at the moment when desire was about to meet with frustration, the lights dimmed, the music began, and His Holiness, the Dalai Lama took to the stage. After a musical welcome by Eric Benet and opening remarks by the Mayor of Inglewood, the former first lady of California, Maria Shriver introduced the Dalai Lama, a remarkable man to “lift our hearts and quiet our minds.”


After a standing ovation, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama briskly walked to the podium with his trusted translator, Thipten Jinpa, by his side. His speech began with laughter – a most melodious and supremely happy sound. It was contagious, as the entire audience followed suit and began to laugh, but it set the tone for his discussion regarding global responsibility and compassion in an unsettled world. “We are all the same,” he began, his views shaped only by personal experience.  “Every human being possesses the same desires for a happy life, and most importantly, every human being has the right to that happy life.” For all seven billion people inhabiting this earth, the universal goal and responsibility is to cultivate real enduring happiness for all living beings. "Once we understand that like us, other people want to live a happy life and that our future depends on others like them, it will be easier to develop compassion. And in order to protect our sense of compassion, we need tolerance and forgiveness." These are the ideals, he believes, that should shape our lives, communities, and political policies. There should exist a sense of oneness among all 7 billion human beings.

The Dalai Lama spoke of the mind being the solution to and the source of all the world’s problems. He called for restructuring of the modern day education system to include the teaching of compassion and moral ethics starting as early as Kindergarten. Education, his Holiness believes, is much more than teaching knowledge and skills so that finite and tangible goals can be achieved. It should include awareness of the needs and rights of others. Students should also learn and understand that their actions have universal implications. He spoke of scientific studies that showed simple training exercises in compassion can reduce stress and anxiety among students, which in turn improves relationships, thus reducing distrust and bullying. His Holiness challenged the Inglewood School District to implement such a program. To that, the house erupted in applause.

The Dalai Lama then spoke of mankind’s responsibility towards protecting the earth. He cited examples of recent natural disasters which resulted in environmental devastation and loss of human life. The size of the world’s population and the power of science and technology have grown to a point where they have a direct negative impact on nature. People must work cohesively to change their lifestyles to protect the environment he stated. There is an urgency to this effort as inaction is a cost to the planet and humanity that is simply too great to absorb.

As his speech came to a close, the Dalai Lama insisted that the world will change when each individual makes the attempt to relinquish his/her negative thoughts, behavior, and emotions and when everyone practices compassion towards all. He concluded by looking directly at the 1000+ students and stated, "Those of you who belong to the 21st Century, the future is in your hands. The past is gone, remaining only a source to learn from. But the future is open; you can reshape it."

As people began exiting the hall, more slowly than they had come in, the experience of being in the Dalai Lama's presence began to sink in. His voice still echoed in their ears, his words resonated in every conversation. His simplistic combination of rationalism, humanism, and non secular beliefs provided a moral response and solution to the challenges of our time. His language was simple, but yet his message was profound; his wisdom and experiences were shared on multiple levels and conveyed in ways that no written words can adequately capture.


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