Warm applause for Dalai Lama's Cambridge visit

Deborah McGurran
Political editor, East of England

Media caption,
The Dalai Lama has visited Cambridge three times in the past 60 years

He's 77 years old and he says he's retired from political engagement. But the Dalai Lama is still revered wherever he goes.

Hundreds of students in Cambridge heard him preach his message of peace when he addressed a conference in the city - some were even lucky enough to meet him.

"Cambridge is a very famous institution, I am very very happy to be here," he said. "It is an opportunity to share my views about non violence".

He had been invited to Cambridge by the Global Scholars Symposium, an organisation that brings together students from around the world to find solutions to the world's most challenging problems. He was to speak on the theme of non-violent conflict resolution.

"He is a paragon of thought, he shapes the minds of millions and we're honoured to have him," said Josh Carpenter who helped organise the visit.

"He is the iconic image of non-violence. A force for good."

During his two days in Cambridge the Dalai Lama would deliver three speeches and hold a series of private meetings with students. Our only opportunity to speak to him was at his press conference.

He expressed his fears about the lack of peace in the world. As well talking about his home country of Tibet he mentioned Syria where he said things were "very bad" and turning to North Korea he warned that "the first casualty would be innocent people" if war was to break out.

"I wish scientists could invent one bullet which goes for the real trouble maker not all the innocent people," he said.

In very lengthy, but considered answers, he attacked material wealth, talked about the importance of religious harmony and the lack of respect and compassion shown by people towards each other.

"We need proper education, from kindergarten to university about moral ethics - to educate people about the importance of happiness, compassion and affection.

[If that happened] "I think there is some hope that within this century humanity, through education, can be more compassionate."

He held up India as an example of a country where all faiths lived together in relative harmony and said other countries should follow its example.

He ducked a question from a national newspaper about the Government's changes to welfare reforms, he was also rather bemused when a student newspaper asked him if he would sing a song that summed up his life.

"I am not allowed to sing, I am a Buddhist monk," was his answer.

He left the room to warm applause. He made a point of shaking every journalist's hand, he even high fived the BBC Look East cameraman.

You don't see that sort of thing when British politicians hold news conferences.