One of the biggest concepts His Holiness the Dalai Lama promotes is mutual respect. Because of this, I was really thrown off by some of the aspects of the Pillars of Peace Hawai‘i event that occurred this past weekend.
The primary issue I had with the event, even before I arrived, was that there was going to be roughly two and a half hours of entertainment preceding the Dalai Lama’s actual lecture, not to mention a few musical acts after his talk. Anuhea, Taimane Gardner, Jake Shimabukuro, Jack Johnson and all the others did wonderful jobs. But do we need to be entertained for an inspirational and educational talk? Are our attention spans really that short? A Nobel Peace Prize winner, spiritual leader, and global advocate for peace should be enough to hold our attention.
More importantly, does the Dalai Lama really need a parade to ride in on? The length of the entertainment in whole was roughly three hours, while the Dalai Lama spoke for roughly two hours. That marginalizes his talk, making it come off as a segment, rather than a feature. It made it seem as if the Dalai Lama were a poster boy for advertisement purposes regarding the Pillars of Peace event. He was given the rock-star treatment, catered to as though he were a celebrity rather than an inspirational figure. In fact, at one point during Shimabukuro’s video, I looked on stage and there were four people debating how to properly fluff and place the pillow on the Dalai Lama’s chair.
Yes, he deserves a tremendous amount of respect. But at what point does it become too much? The Dalai Lama opened his talk asking us to think of him as another human, as a brother and an equal. And while his accomplishments deserve admiration, we need to watch out for the point at which our attitudes toward him go over the top. Though the Dalai Lama mentioned that he has started many of his talks with that initial message of equality, to an extent it sounded more like a comment on the treatment he was receiving.
He was later asked what the most compassionate thing he has seen in Hawai‘i was, to which he replied that he hadn’t been here long enough to know, but that a lot of the reception he had received seemed superficial. Watching the event, as well as his arrival in Hawai‘i, it’s clear what he was talking about.
The Pillars of Peace event was not a bad thing. We should feel lucky that the organization was able to bring one of the most important world advocates for peace to give it a strong start. But I hope Pillars of Peace can learn as much as everyone in the audience did from the event. Learn to simplify, learn to prioritize, and learn to show genuine Hawaiian compassion and hospitality – not the kind on the postcards.