SEATTLE – The Dalai Lama wrapped up his five-day visit Tuesday with a panel discussion on spirituality and compassion with fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of South Africa.
There were no demonstrators outside the event, a day after a crowd of several hundred China supporters protested outside the basketball arena at the University of Washington, where the Dalai Lama received an honorary degree. Monday’s demonstration was the largest show backing for Beijing during his visit. The exiled Tibetan leader came to Seattle for a conference on compassion. Organizers of Seeds of Compassion said their conference was essentially nonpolitical, but mentions of recent turmoil in Tibet were sprinkled throughout the five days.
The Dalai Lama now heads to Michigan, where he will speak at the University of Michigan next weekend and meet with a senior U.S. official about the situation in Tibet. He left Seattle after Tuesday’s panel, organizers said.
Recent demonstrations against five decades of Chinese rule are the largest and most sustained among Tibetans in almost two decades. The unrest has led to loud protests that have been following the Olympic torch’s passage to Beijing.
On Tuesday, during the panel on spirituality and youth, moderator Roshi Joan Halifax said the gathering was a reminder of how the world was “imperiled – most notably in Tibet.”
The Dalai Lama’s visit drew tens of thousands and rattled feelings among Seattle’s large Chinese population. For the Chinese, the visit was another symbol of the vilification their country has experienced since riots broke out in Tibet.
But before the event, conference co-founder Dan Kranzler said there’s a demand for the Dalai Lama’s message of compassion because people are tired of bad news.
Seattle resident Ruth Poindexter, who attended Tuesday’s event, agreed. “I think it’s the same reasons (Barack) Obama has been successful. I think people are hungry for this message,” she said.
More than 144,000 people attended the five-day event, a little short of the 150,000 they were expecting, organizers reported.
The Dalai Lama shared the stage with Tutu and nine representatives from other religions on Tuesday, and did not address the audience at length. When he spoke, he talked about responsibility of religions to address global issues, such as the environment. He talked about how his mother was his first teacher of compassion, and he encouraged people to be skeptical of religious teachings, including his.
“My followers should not accept my teachings out of faith, but rather investigate,” he said.
The Dalai Lama and Tutu played off each other on stage while answering questions. The two charismatic leaders were crowd pleasers, drawing loud applause throughout the two-hour event.
Tutu listed Tibet as one of the troubled areas in the world and praised the Dalai Lama for keeping a “joyous” nature after 50 years of exile.
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