The Dalai Lama: “There is not a choice.”

Esteban and I had the tremendous privilege and honor this morning of hearing His Holiness The Dalai Lama give the opening speech of The Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

Now in its 26th year, the Forum tackles not only the hopeful topic of world peace, but also more pressing social issues such as faith, human rights, business ethics, politics, and even the environment.

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The day began with wonderful festivities to celebrate the Tibetan New Year.

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Then came the introductory remarks.

I’d heard about the Dalai Lama’s humor from a friend and former colleague, but I didn’t expect the impish antics that ensued when His Holiness quietly drifted onto the stage, peered over an enormous speaker at the audience, and then surprised the young woman at the lectern by suddenly appearing at her side.

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I encourage you to listen to His Holiness’ keynote speech, which is available on YouTube. As I’d hoped, he did indeed discuss global conflict — and the importance of compassion and education in humanity’s continuing quest for peace.

But, for me, the biggest lessons came in the question-and-answer session afterward. Minnesota Public Radio’s Kathy Wurzer posed questions submitted by both the local and global audiences.

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The first question set the tone: What can I do as a 66-year-old man to prevent myself from being discouraged by the inequality I see in society?

I think two things, maybe, from my own experience,” responded the Dalai Lama. “Firstly, look toward the future. … And then, observe.”

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He then stated a message he’d later repeat again and again:

Medical scientists now recognize peace of mind is something very important. So now, scientific research brings us more conviction that warm-heartedness is something very important for individual happy life — including healthy body — and happy family, happy community.”

In other words, and positive change — and even global peace — starts with each of us, one person at a time.

The audience burst into laughter at his response to the second question: Your Holiness, for decades you have brought a message of loving peace, yet our world is harsh and spurns love as weakness. What is the wellspring that allows you to transcend despair?

There is not a choice,” replied the Dalai Lama.

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… if I demoralize myself or too much agitation [of the] mind, then I damage my sleep, and damage my body, but … of what use? Better keep more optimism.”

The final question came from one of my fellow attendees:

Your Holiness, we are greatly honored to be here with you and to listen to your thoughts. Please give us all who are here, and in the worldwide audience, your blessing, if you would.

Blessing? Of course, I am Buddhist, so sometimes I’m [a] little bit skeptical about so-called blessing. Blessing must come from our own action, our own motivation.”

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I’ve written before that we can’t always control what happens — but we can always control how we respond to what happens.

Today I thank the Dalai Lama for reminding me that, sometimes, our thoughts can actually SHAPE what happens.

To quote another great thinker and advocate for peace,

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Want more wisdom from His Holiness? Here’s how he responded when a waitress asked him about the meaning of life. (With thanks to my friend Tom, aka “The Blogfodder.”)


  1. I just read the precedent post and only read this title: is the Dalai Lama speaking of the snow? -“we can’t stand this weather anymore!” yell the Minnesotans in the crowd -“There is not a choice!”, answers the great man. Is he wise or is he wise? (okay I’m gonna read it now and get out of the way, sorry I couldn’t help make the joke)

    • HAHAHAAAA! You are both brilliant and *hilarious,* Miss Du Petit Bois. Thank you for your wonderful juxtaposition, and for making me laugh out loud. Gros bisous, guapa!

    • I’ve often joked that I wish the Dalai Lama offered a hotline, or even an advice column. Of course, his answer to every problem would be the same: “Respond with compassion.” Such simple words, but so difficult to apply! I feel very lucky that I was able to hear him speak, though, and pass on a few of his wise words. Here’s to world peace, Patti!

  2. Thanks for sharing. I especially reading about the article in Slate – the ‘bowling pins’ episode was hilarious and the ending brought a big grin to my face.

    • Thank you for stopping by, Angelina! I loved *everything* about that article – so glad it brought a big smile to brighten your day, too!

      Out of curiosity, I just visited your blog. Your photography is breathtaking! As your newest subscriber, I look forward to seeing more. Best wishes from Minnesota to you.

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