This past Sunday my husband and I ventured to the Honda Center in Anaheim, California for the Dalai Lama's 80th Birthday celebration. The Dalai Lama holds a special place in my heart because it was just a few years ago that my father and I were visiting San Diego. When we went up to our hotel room there he was, the Dalai Lama, staying on our floor (he was speaking at UC San Diego). Not only was he staying on our floor but he was in the room next to mine. So for a week I got to sleep next to the Dalai Lama.
I learned a lot from the Dalai Lama, especially about forgiveness. The Chinese invaded his country of Tibet in 1959 and forced him into exile. He could hate the Chinese but he instead forgave them. He then stood as the head of the nonviolent opposition to China's occupation of his home country.
It would seem like the only opposition the Dalai Lama SHOULD have is the Chinese. When my husband and I drove into the parking lot we were shocked to see the protestors outside. The BUDDHIST protestors who were shouting, "Stop lying Dalai Lama."
These protestors are Shudgen followers, a sect of Buddhism. The Dalai Lama used to include Shugden in his daily prayer but renounced the practice in 1975 because he felt that Shugden was a malevolent spirit that was dividing Tibetans. The protestors claim that by the Dalai Lama rejecting Shugden, that he is practicing religious discrimination. Personally, I think the Dalai Lama was doing the best for his people and he doesn't say that followers of Shugden shouldn't practice their beliefs.
Once inside the venue I was shocked to see that there were many seats available. The LA Times and other outlets reported that 18,000 came out to see the Dalai Lama. It was not sold out.
The event itself was more like a birthday roast minus the roasting. Ann Curry of Today Show fame was the master of ceremony.
One by one Ann called up guests to wish the Dalai Lama a happy birthday. Nobel Peace Prize winners Jody Williams and Shirin Ebadi spoke about the great work of the Dalai Lama as well as their causes. Bishop Desmond Tutu's grandson and a few more activists fighting for change spoke. I was feeling emotional and inspired from their speeches then ... a slew of lower level celebrities stepped up to the podium.
Julia Ormond, the actress, got up to speak about the Dalai Lama when someone in the crowd asked her to sit down and let his Holiness speak. It's what we were all thinking. We didn't come to the Honda Center to listen to "celebrities" talk about humanitarianism...unless you're Angelina Jolie, but I guess she wasn't available.
The "celebrity" guests on the stage read like an upcoming season of Dancing With the Stars. The "celebrities" were: George Lopez, Randy Jackson (American Idol), Wilmer Valderrama (That 70's Show), Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother), some dude named Cody Simpson and the best of them all...MC HAMMER! Um excuse me, what?! MC Hammer? His greatest contribution to the world was Jeannie pants.
The worst part is that they sat these celebs up front next to the Dalai Lama and relegated the Nobel Prize winners to the back row. The actors and musicians had nothing to add to the discussion of compassion or spirituality.
After the parade of D-listers was complete, the Dalai Lama finally spoke and we were all in rapt attention. He spoke and was brief but brilliant. Then he sat down and there was a Q and A session.
I was down for the first two questions because they seemed on point with the spiritual nature of the event but then there was a question from George Lopez. George asked the Dalai Lama about what do to about negativity on social media. Specifically, how hurt he is when people say bad things about him on Twitter.
Way to show the audience how self involved you are, George! The Dalai Lama kind of skirted over the issue and talked about criticism and truth. After MC Hammer and Randy Jackson began to talk about giving back to the world through their "art" I started to notice that people were fleeing the Honda Center in droves.
My husband and I just couldn't take it any longer either so we left as well. Even though it was frustrating having to sit through the questionable dais guests, we got to see the Dalai Lama and hear him speak. I was spiritually moved and it made me think, wouldn't it be great to see in the Dalai Lama's lifetime an end to violence and to live in a world full of peace, forgiveness and compassion?