DANBURY, Conn. – Live your life with conviction if you want to achieve happiness and inner peace.
That was the message of the Dalai Lama Friday as he spoke to a sold-out crowd during a historic two-day visit to Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. The Tibetan Buddhist leader also held up education as essential to “build happy individuals” and families, but said, “It must include moral education.”
WestConn President James W. Schmotter presented the Dalai Lama with an honorary degree and announced that WestConn is moving toward being a compassionate university, in part with the creation of a Center for Advanced Compassion and Creativity that will receive a $50,000 gift from the Dalai Lama.
“You have touched our lives and given us much to think about for the rest of our lives,” Schmotter said.
Bethel resident David Lowenadler said he took away a lot from the Dalai Lama's talk, particularly concerning a life lived with conviction.
“I was surprised that he was so open to other religions,” said Lowenadler. “I really appreciated that, that he was so passionate about people following what they believe.”
The religious leader was introduced by actor Richard Gere, as he was the day before. Gear, an activist and practicing Buddhist, said that from humble beginnings in a farming village the Dalai Lama is now one of the most revered people in the world.
“He doesn’t even look Tibetan anymore,” Gere joked. “He looks universal.”
The Dalai Lama said that forgiveness is the other pillar of his faith and that despite what some people say, it is not a sign of weakness. “You must ask yourself, did you practice your love, your forgiveness?” he said. “It is in your interest, not God’s. He simply shows you the way.”
The Dalai Lama’s talk was sprinkled with anecdotes about his experiences, including a humorous tale of a naked man who once sat next to him. The man was oblivious to the reactions of those around him, the Dalai Lama said, which showed that he was not burdened by what people thought of him.
In essence, he was free of fear and insecurity. “We need firm convictions,” the Dalai Lama said.
He also said it is important to stay focused, because you cannot reach your goals otherwise. But during a question and answer period, the Dalai Lama admitted that not all people can remain focused and he did not know how to reach them.
“Maybe they need a psychotherapist,” he joked.