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