Review of 'Compassion - The Foundation of Well-Being'

Dalai Lama


When we found out the Dalai Lama was coming to London to give a talk in the O2 I was quick to grab tickets. How often does one get a chance to hear from one of the most iconic people of our time? The spiritual leader of Tibet who has been in exile for 56 years now living in India having fled the Chinese invasion of his country.

On the way into the O2 we were immediately confronted with the fact that his Holiness is a man of controversy with people handing out brochures alternatively condemning and condoning his actions as well as a group of protesters to the left of the main entrance. We were here to hear what the man had to say.

Our seats were not great, immediately to the left of the stage on the second tier, but we were able to see, uninterrupted, pretty much everything on the stage, though from a distance. Originally the talk was supposed to start in the evening but, for some reason, it was rescheduled to start at 1:00 pm though it actually ended up being 1:30 pm before anything happened. We were first treated to some music from Tibetans living in London: A man singing traditional songs (and one of his one composition) as well as a youth choir which the Dalai Lama very much enjoyed, having his picture taken with them. For a man of 80 he certainly gets around - Very jolly - Laughing a lot and talking plainly.

His Holiness' English is remarkably good though he did have an aid at his shoulder at all times to chime in with the appropriate English word should it fail him. He spoke for about 30 minutes on the idea of the need for “secular ethics” - In a world where religion is on the wane we need to find and teach a common set of ethics to govern our behaviour. The key to this is the idea of understanding and living with compassion “…from which all other positive inner values emerge such as kindness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness and generosity” (quoting from the event guide). He spoke a lot of sense and described various experiences he has had where this has been needed.

After his talk, he sat down and answered a few questions that had been sent in prior to the talk though not before someone in the audience shouted out a question in regards to the protesters outside. Remarkably, he not only heard the question but also answered it with great though and wisdom - Evidently the protesters were talking about the lack of religious freedom given to a particular sect. His answer essentially indicated that the sect itself, as other religions, was so restrictive that it was not offering religious freedom itself so he had ended his support of it previously (or, at least, this is my interpretation of his response). He is surprisingly modest, determined to push aside any platitudes that are aimed at him though he is also very much conscious of his role as spiritual leader - Blessing the various performers, bestowing them with white scarves, a short prayer here, etc.

The questions were generally around the idea of compassion and how this can be achieved in the modern world, for example, what can individuals do? His response was that we have to have compassion in ourselves as this will spread to others and eventually help avert the sort of crises we see around us. He was keen to see the barriers between peoples removed - both political and spiritual. He seems to be more concerned about unity and love, compassion than he is about religion - After all, what is religion, but, supposedly, teaching us to love one another? I picked up his book “Beyond Religion” which I will certainly be reading to understand more. Quite an interesting person for someone who is the head of a religion himself…

Fascinating and enlightening. He kept the audience enthralled for the few hours he was with us. Sure, it was sometimes hard to hear what he was saying and he tended to ramble at quite some length but the key points, I felt, were made effectively and plainly. An amazing man.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2015-09-19

London O2 Arena

Location: London (England)

Address: Peninsula Square, London SE10 0DX ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE North Greenwich

Telephone: +44 (0)20 8463 2000


Originally the “Millennium Dome”, this was the site of an exhibit during the millennium which then fell into disuse for quite a number of years before being re-purposed as a multi-purpose venue with the massive 20,000 seat “arena” taking up the majority of the space under the dome (when inside the arena you cannot see any of the large tent above you - it is just a large…arena). Under the tent and surrounding the arena are a number of restaurants (some are not that bad), a cinema and a few other smaller entertainment venues. The restaurants now extend to other buildings surrounding the O2.

Seating can be problematic here which is typical for such large arenas. As it is rectangular and artists perform at the one end visibility and cramped necks are an issue. Ideal seating is in the first, ground level of seats but NOT in front the stage (unless you are in the first few rows the person sitting in front of you is going to block your view). Cheaper seats in the second level are quite steeply raked and it can also get hot up there.

Food in the arena itself is quite expensive and you are not allowed to bring in external drinks unless you remove the lids (and they are, of course, non-alcoholic). In fact, any drinks you purchase on site have their lids removed, evidently to avoid the bottle being used as a weapon.

Getting in and out of the arena is generally extremely good with the proximity of the tube station on the Jubilee line (running high capacity trains) very helpful in quickly allowing people to leave. If attending an event on the weekend be sure to check if there are any engineering events though as this has been known to happen during popular performances…