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'Why does a simple monk attract so much attention?'

 INSP 12 June 2019

The Dalai Lama has inspired the world for years, but some argue his philosophy has never been as relevant as now. Residents of England and Scotland, from the highlands to the capital, are gearing up for a rare visit of His Holiness himself. (652 Words) - By Danielle Batist

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Dalai Lama provides hope where politicians have failed 1

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama during his last visit to Scotland in 2006Photo: courtesy of Dalailamascotland.org

Dalai Lama provides hope where politicians have failed 2

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama during his last visit to Scotland in 2006Photo: courtesy of Dalailamascotland.org

Dalai Lama provides hope where politicians have failed 3

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama during his last visit to Scotland in 2006Photo: courtesy of Dalailamascotland.org

Dalai Lama provides hope where politicians have failed 4

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama during his last visit to Scotland in 2006Photo: courtesy of Dalailamascotland.org

Dalai Lama provides hope where politicians have failed 5

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama during his last visit to Scotland in 2006Photo: courtesy of Dalailamascotland.org


With venues selling out quicker than The Beatles' concert in the sixties, pupils from remote primary schools travelling for a day just to catch a glimpse of the action, and box office callers crying on the phone upon hearing that the tickets were all gone, the question why the Dalai Lama is so popular right now seems relevant.

Victor Spence, visit co-ordinator for Scotland, says he and his colleagues asked themselves that very question as soon as they saw how quickly the tickets for the Dalai Lama's latest tours -both in Scotland and around the world- sold out.

"This is the third time I am co-ordinating a visit of the Dalai Lama and tickets sales have never been faster. When His Holiness visited Hawaii last month, 20,000 seat venues sold out like that. Here in Scotland, the event in Edinburgh sold out in 48 hours, Inverness in 24 hours and Dundee in just two hours. We've had various conversations about this matter: Why does a simple monk attract so much attention?"

The answer, Spence believes, lies in the current political and economic climate of most Western countries. "People right now are reviewing their lives and the world. When they look around them, they see that politicians have let everybody down. People do not believe their leaders anymore, they are no longer trusted."

"People like the Dalai Lama because he gives them hope"

The global financial crisis has also fuelled the need for a deeper sense of purpose across countries, says Spence. "People are in growing great difficulty. They are looking for guidance of a deep and spiritual nature. His Holiness and others for years have been highlighting the growing gap between rich and poor. […] People like the Dalai Lama because he gives them hope. He is a leading light in the world."

The UK visit, with events in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Dundee and Inverness, carries the theme 'Be the change' and focuses particularly on young people. Spence: "We asked ourselves: 'How can we get the most benefit out of this visit?' Interest [in the Dalai Lama and his beliefs and teachings] is across all ages, but young people hold the future in their hands, so we wanted to focus on them."

Pupils from across the country have been invited to send in questions for the Dalai Lama, which will be asked by youngsters on stage during the various events. Spence and his team are honoured with the task to select the best ones, ranging from 'Is there an alternative to war?' to 'Can morality be taught, or is it something we need to have a natural understanding of and instinct for?'.

"His Holiness and others for years have been highlighting the growing gap between rich and poor"

Whilst the Dalai Lama has visited Scotland twice before (in 2005 and 2006), it will be his first time in Dundee and Inverness. "When I said goodbye to him at the airport the last time, he said he would like to see 'up north' some time. Ever since that moment I have been working to make that happen", says Spence, who has followed the Dalai Lama on various visits and alongside Scottish entrepreneur Tom Farmer was invited to his private residence in India in 2005.

The organising committee expects large crowds of people to turn up everywhere in the UK, but particularly in Scotland. Spence: "We have heard of people travelling great distances, especially in the north. Many in Inverness believe this might be the most high profile visitor of all time and they want to celebrate this special day in local history."

With some 6,000 people attending events in Scotland alone, Spence hopes that the Dalai Lama's wisdom on how to 'be the change' will spread nationwide. "The potential benefit for the country is huge. I see him [the Dalai Lama] as a catalyst for dialogue and change, both in individual, community, national and international levels."

"Many will be uplifted by simply seeing him, receiving a handshake, or witnessing that thing that he is most famous for: his smile."

For more info (and the last remaining tickets for the Manchester event), see www.dalailama2012uk.org and www.dailamascotland.org