His Holiness the Dalai Lama Speaks to Crowd of 3,000+ at Symposium

July 27, 2008  • Institute Contributor

His Holiness the Dalai Lama Speaks to Crowd of 3,000+ at Symposium

Hosted by Aspen Institute and Conservancy for Tibetan Art and Culture

Aspen, Colorado. July 27, 2008 — His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke to an overflow audience about compassion and universal responsibility in a keynote address as a part of a symposium on Tibetan art and culture, hosted by the Aspen Institute, event co-chairs Margot Pritzker and Richard Blum, and the Conservancy for Tibetan Art and Culture.

For his speech in Aspen’s Benedict Music Tent, His Holiness the Dalai Lama donned a white Tibetan katak, or scarf, decorated with drawings by local Roaring Fork Valley children. The children also decorated a massive conglomeration of colorful Tibetan prayer flags and paintings and drawings that served as the stage’s backdrop. The artwork was conceived and installed by acclaimed contemporary artists and brothers Doug and Mike Starn.

After taking to the stage with a standing applause by the audience, the Dalai Lama drew attention to his scarf. “I was very touched by this. These children, their minds are not yet spoiled,” he said, adding that they represent the importance of humanity. “We sometimes lose the importance of humanity, but rather consider the importance of my religion, their religion, my religion, their religion. I think we should forget about religious differences. Focus on the importance of warm-heartedness. Everybody need that.”

“I do not see any differences,” he continued. “We are all same human beings. Physically … we have minor differences, but also basically the same physically, too. But then, more importantly, mentally and emotionally, we are the same — 100 percent the same.”

“Today’s reality,” he said, “All human beings just one entity; whole world, just one planet. Just one small planet. Religious boundaries, nothing significant. Many problems are due to too much emphasis, importance given to secondary differences: religious differences, different nationalities. We forget basic humanity.”

In his hour-plus speech, His Holiness addressed in more depth the need for compassion and the universal responsibility of every individual to foster and encourage compassion. He recalled his exile from Tibet and his first visit outside of India, when he said he first felt this responsibility. He also spoke about Marxism versus capitalism, proclaiming himself a Marxist at heart, and spoke about the Chinese government’s censoring of media information to its citizens, and finally, world peace and war. “The concept of war — that it is logical to use force — is outdated. Foreign ministries: not needed anymore, because you consider your neighbor not foreign, but a part of yourself.” He later added: “Peace must come through inner peace. Inner peace must develop in the families and start also with individuals. Inner peace cannot come through common law; it must start in the individual’s mind. It must also come through leadership — leadership that is truthful, transparent, open.”

The three-day program — featuring His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the keynote speaker — brings together an extraordinary number of eminent scholars, teachers, practitioners, and ordained Tibetan Buddhist monks and tradition-bearers from around the globe to shed light on the rich historical and philosophical significance of Tibet and its impact on global issues today — with programming on Tibetan and Himalayan art, culture, science, medicine, spiritual practice, and history.

On the symposium’s final day, attendees partook in panel discussions, presentations, and breakout sessions on Tibet’s unique Buddhist heritage and the Tibetan Plateau’s fragile geologic environment.

Participants witnessed a traditional and ceremonial smoke offering on campus performed by Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery, and later watched as the monks dismantled an elaborate sand mandala and poured it into the Roaring Fork River in a ceremony on campus.


  • Just after dawn, a group of Tibetan rinpoches, lamas, and Drepung Loseling Monks performed a ceremonial “Mountain Smoke Offering,” in ancient Tibetan Buddhist tradition. While burning incense and other fragrant substances such as juniper branches, sending billowing clouds of smoke into the sky above the Institute’s Aspen campus, the tradition-bearers prayed aloud. In conclusion of the ceremony, all attendees gathered in a semi-circle and threw handfuls of barley in the air, chanting “Ki Ki, So So, Lha Gyal Lo!” meaning, “divine victory” or “may the Gods prevail!”
  • The monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastery performed a collection of ancient Tibetan dances, chants, and an incense offering, demonstrating the mystical arts of Tibet for an audience of 2,200 before His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s keynote speech. In an especially popular part of the performance, a giant snow lion — a mythical and symbolic creature in Tibetan culture — entertained the crowd with a lively and humorous dance around the stage and through the front of the seated audience. The audience responded enthusiastically by clapping to the rhythm of the Tibetan music and gave the snow lion a booming round of applause.
  • The sand mandala created by Tibetan Buddhist monks was dismantled in a ceremony on campus, demonstrating the impermanence of life. His Holiness the Dalai Lama blessed the mandala before its dismantling. Half of the blessed sand was distributed to the audience, and half was carried in a ritual procession to the nearby Roaring Fork River, where it was poured into the water as prayers were recited.

For video highlights and clips from sessions, visit www.aspeninstitute.org/tibet.

WEBCAST OF THE DALAI LAMA’S TALK is available for viewing at: www.aspeninstitute.org/tibet.

The Conservancy for Tibetan Art & Culture is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1997 under the patronage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. CTAC supports activities dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Tibetan culture through teachings, exhibitions, symposia, and cultural research. Collaborating with Tibet Fund, Tibet House, and other experts and scholars, CTAC aims to increase awareness of Tibet’s living cultural heritage among the Tibetan communities and the general public.

The Aspen Institute, founded in 1950, is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Through seminars, policy programs, conferences and leadership development initiatives, the Institute and its international partners seek to promote nonpartisan inquiry and an appreciation for timeless values. The Institute is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has campuses in Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River near the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Its international network includes partner Aspen Institutes in Berlin, Rome, Lyon, Tokyo, New Delhi, and Bucharest, and leadership initiatives in Africa, Central America, and India.



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