Celebrating his 80th birthday Sunday at Anaheim’s Honda Center, the Dalai Lama dispatched advice that resonates through the ages.
“Peaceful world. Not easy to achieve. We really need hard work. Remain truthful, honest, determined. It may take time, but time passes,” he said. “We all have a moral responsibility to be concerned about humanity. And make effort to make a happy humanity.”
Exiled Tibetan children, human rights activists, Nobel winners, climate change scientists, artists, and politicians shared the stage with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and recognized his global contributions.
“Go after my right and go after my people’s right without hatred,” said Shirin Ebadi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, referring to the lessons she learned from the Dalai Lama.
The three-day celebration will continue with a talk on climate change Monday and a discussion on youth leadership Tuesday.
Prior to the start of the event, dozens of Tibetans gathered outside the Honda Center, playing music, singing and dancing in celebration. Today roughly, 127,000 Tibetans live in exile around the world, including the Dalai Lama.
Tenzin, who did not want to give her last name, moved to Los Angeles at age seven from the Dharamshala, India, the city the exile Tibetan Government. She’s been an active volunteer in the Southern California Tibetan Association since high school.
“Living in LA, materialism surrounds us everyday. The Dalai Lama has said he lives as a simple monk,” said Tenzin. “He would never tell Brad Pitt to stop being Brad Pitt and go live out in the woods. If you get your internal excesses under control, materialism is easier to control.”
Among the throngs outside the Honda Center were members of the International Shugden Community, which protests the Dalai Lama’s authenticity. Shugden is a branch of Buddhism that was denounced by the Dalai Lama in 1996.
Rachel Jeffrey, a media liaison for the Shugden Community, said the Dalai Lama was discriminatory for not cracking down on other Buddhists who refuse to provide service to members of the Shugden Community.
“He started it. He can stop it,” said Jeffrey.
Orange County, home to a leg of the most trafficked freeway in the U.S., might sound like an unlikely place for His Holiness to spend his birthday and talk about global warming.
“I think “city of kindness” is nice, but the reality is a city of anger, city of fear,” said the Dalai Lama.
Following the Honda Center event, he had a discussion on education with Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, who started the Make Kindness Contagious campaign for the Anaheim’s School District in 2012.
The campaign includes an Acts of Kindness Essay contest organized by Anaheim City School District Superintendent Linda Wagner that encourages students to partake and write about their efforts of compassion.
“It’s the low hanging fruit if you want to change your school district,” Tait said. “Kindness takes hold and everything changes.”
The Dalai Lama also made a brief appearance at an event at the Hyatt hotel hosted by the City of Garden Grove, where he was presented with his third birthday cake of the day, and a key to the city.
There, before city officials from Garden Grove and Westminster and an audience of many Vietnamese Americans, the Dalai Lama noted his appreciation for the Vietnamese American experience, saying that he also knows the feeling of losing one’s home and country.
“I’m a refugee, you’re a refugee, so we have some kind of special connection,” he said.
Thy Vo contributed to this story.
Jenny Cain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org