Sunday, May 12, 2013
The Dalai Lama's Visit to the City of Roses
This photo of me was taken at church today. Someone saw my status update on Facebook and requested that I bring my "khata" (white prayer shawl, which has Tibetan writing on it). Each of the more than 10,000 people who attended the Dalai Lama event in Portland received a "khata", which the Dalai Lama blessed en masse at the end of his speech.
Tickets to this all day event were $50, but I received mine for free because I was part of a winning team during a World Affairs Council trivia night event. I saw the three previous speakers at the Arlene Schnitzer auditorium earlier this year and the Dalai Lama event was the final speaker in the series. His speech was at the Veterans Memorial Colosseum (home to the Winterhawks ice hockey team) and was an all day event. I woke up too late to catch the opening of the morning session and only got to see the final 30 minutes. He was part of a panel that included Dr. Suzuki (a famous Buddhist scholar), Oregon Governor Kitzhaber, and some lady who is involved in environmental / sustainability issues in Oregon. The purpose of the event was a weekend conference on environmental responsibility. The Dalai Lama had been in Portland since Thursday, attending various events around town on Thursday and Friday. After this morning's panel interview session ended, the Dalai Lama got up and all he said was, "Lunch?" and the people in the auditorium laughed. I guess it is an unexpected reminder that he has human needs like we all do. His Holiness has to eat, too!
We couldn't bring food into the venue, so our options were overpriced stadium food. I got into the shortest line I saw, which was for pizza, which beat hotdogs for me. On the concourse around the auditorium were various booths of people selling all kinds of Tibetan souvenirs. Since I know of at least three different Tibetan stores in Portland, I didn't have to buy too much of anything I wanted. Lunch was two hours, which offered everyone plenty of time to eat and get to their seats.
The event started when film director Darren Aronofsky came out and gave a short introductory speech. Then the director introduced my Congressman Earl Blumenauer. The Dalai Lama came out and was given a Trailblazers jersey and ballcap, along with a bicycle lapel pin that the Congressman gives to dignitaries. Being a true sport, the Dalai Lama put on the Trailblazers ballcap. He spoke about compassion. His speech didn't really fit the theme of the environmental conference, but it was good to be in the same building as him and finally see him in person, even though my seat was high up in the nosebleed sections. As much as I love and admire the Dalai Lama, his speech was not all that great or memorable. I loved the moments when he laughed, though. Of all the people I've ever seen in life, no one has as great of a laugh as the Dalai Lama. He has a kind of impish / mischievous personality and I think were I to meet him face to face, I'd likely break out in laughter because he would inspire that response in me.
At one point in the speech, a loud boom went off and at first, I thought it was a bomb. But the speakers or the mike blew, which was a testament to his amazing energy. I have no doubt that he blew the speakers. There were two large screens on either side of the stage and the things he spoke into the mike appeared on the screen. We couldn't hear what he was saying, but his words appeared on the screen. He walked back and forth on the stage, asking technicians what happened. Then he sat down in the chair and made a gesture of taking a nap, which got the audience laughing. When he got a new mike, he made a joke about the "boom!" which I thought was funny. This incident really showed his patience and sense of humour.
After his speech, there was a question and answer session, with Aronofsky and Red Hot Chili Pepper Anthony Kiedis taking turns asking the questions. The closing blessing of everyone's khata marked the end of the Dalai Lama's visit and then the Red Hot Chili Peppers brought down the house with a 75 minute set. I've never seen them in concert before so it was great to finally see that. I was really impressed with Flea's stage presence. The concert began with him playing the guitar in a strange position (he bent over, making his body look like a triangle while he played his guitar close to the floor). Flea dominated the stage and I suspect that he was ADD or ADHD and found the perfect career for that. It wasn't long before lead singer Anthony Kiedis took off his shirt. They rocked through their hits and after singing one song in encore ("Give It Away"), I was surprised that they did not sing their biggest and most famous hit: "Under The Bridge." But, they did sing the song that is probably my favorite of theirs: "Snow", which is incredibly fun to sing along to.
All in all, it was a great and memorable day in the City of Roses.