The Dalai Lama visited the UK for four days at the end of June 2015. The trip included a first-time visit to the Glastonbury festival, a public talk in Aldershot and an interview on BBC Four, which is due to be aired on 6 July, the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday.
Tibet Society attended the Glastonbury festival on the day of the Dalai Lama’s appearance with an information and merchandise stall. Postcards – with information on the Dalai Lama and the current situation in Tibet – and posters – with “I love Tibet” on one side and the Tibet flag on the other – were distributed to festival-goers.
Over 9,000 postcards were distributed in under 2 hours, along with a couple thousand posters. The postcards and posters were a joint initiative of Tibet Society, Free Tibet, Students for a Free Tibet UK and the Tibetan Community in Britain.
Glastonbury Festival – 28 June 2015
The Dalai Lama’s first stop at the Glastonbury festival was the King’s Meadow, site of a stone circle, in the Green Fields area of the festival. The site featured a specially constructed peace garden and Tibetan chörten (stupa) next to a small wooden stage. Despite constant rain and the relatively early time for a festival (10.30am) well over 10,000 people made their way to the King’s Meadow to hear the Dalai Lama speak.
The BBC’s Alan Yentob introduced the Dalai Lama who spoke for an hour on love, tolerance and fairness. The Dalai Lama praised the festival, noting it was “a festival of people, not governments or politicians”.
The Dalai Lama said, “Humans killing each other in the name of religious faith. Unthinkable. Carry the message of love and tolerance and forgiveness.” He added, “Our purpose of life is happiness… Hope is the basis of our life.”
Though media reports suggest between 1,000 and 5,000 were present for the Green Fields talk, we can confirm the real figure was in excess of 10,000 as we gave out all our postcards and we didn’t manage to give one to everyone!
Climate change debate
The second stop on the Dalai Lama’s tour of Glastonbury was at a Guardian sponsored panel discussion on climate change. The included the Guardian’s editor Katharine Viner and columnist George Monbiot.
During the debate the Dalai Lama said it was the duty of people to “say more… we have to make more of an effort, including demonstrations in a non-violent way.” He also called on fellow religious leaders to “speak out about current affairs which affect the future of mankind”.
Further reading: Guardian article 28 June (includes 5 minute video)
The Dalai Lama’s final appearance at Glastonbury was on the main stage (the Pyramid Stage). He was introduced to the 50,000 plus crowd by legendary singer Patti Smith. He was presented with a birthday cake and the crowd sang a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’.
The Dalai Lama gave a short speech during which he said, “We are all same. All human beings… Compassionate feeling and sense of concern of others well-being (is) the ultimate source of happy mind… that brings self-confidence (and) creates honesty, truthful(ness)… (which) brings trust and friendship.”
CTA: His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Glastonbury Festival (with additional quotes)
Reuters: Dalai Lama finds joy in Glastonbury festival (includes 2-minute video)
BBC: Glastonbury: Dalai Lama warms up for Lionel Richie
Independent: Glastonbury 2015: Dalai Lama joins Patti Smith on Pyramid Stage
At a news briefing, when questioned about the Dalai Lama’s appearance at the festival, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China’s position was consistent on the “international scuttling about of the 14th Dalai Lama to serve his political aims”. Lu continued, “China resolutely opposes any country, organisation, body or individual giving any kind of platform to the 14th Dalai Lama to engage in anti-China splittist activities.”
Further reading: Reuters
On the day following his Glastonbury appearance, the Dalai Lama gave a public talk to over 6,000 people in Aldershot. He also blessed a Buddhist centre built by the local Nepalese Buddhist community.
The Dalai Lama stressed the need for inner peace. He said, “All our religious traditions, despite philosophical differences carry the same message of love and warm-heartedness that is the source of such peace of mind.”
Note: a number of media reports focussed on protestors outside the Aldershot public talk. The protestors were from the Shugden community, a sect that has made various accusations against the Dalai Lama including restricting religious freedom. In fact, the Dalai Lama has only discouraged (not banned) worship of the Shugden deity, which he believes is destructive, but has clearly said individuals are free to choose for themselves. [You can read the Dalai Lama’s statement on Shugden here.]
Further reading: CTA: The Dalai Lama’s visit to Aldershot (2nd half of article)
The Dalai Lama on BBC
During his trip, the Dalai Lama was interviewed by BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis. The interview was broadcast on Monday 6 July, the Dalai Lama’s birthday, on BBC Four. It can be watched on BBCiPlayer until 2 August. You can read some of the Dalai Lama’s responses to the interview via the Central Tibetan Administration’s website (link below).