Sydney: It has been a joyous week in cities around Australia, as the country welcomes His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet on his tour from June 13th-23rd, where he will be giving talks to packed venues in sold-out events in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Darwin.
Beginning last Friday night in Sydney, His Holiness was warmly welcomed by local Tibetans and Australians who made their way to Sydney airport to meet him. He was accompanied by his sister Am-la, who shared a meal with members of the local Tibetan community of Sydney, a dinner few will soon forget. Always immensely popular, his office was inundated with phone calls for his 2-day Sydney talk, 'Beyond Religion: the 14th Dalai Lama on the Benefits of Living Ethically'.
During his time in Sydney he also made a public appearance at Sydney's Town Hall for the Young Minds conference, where he answered questions of young students, some as young as six. There he spoke about the importance of secular ethics, which are now being taught in Australian schools as an alternative to religious classes.
For those who could not afford the ticket to see one of his talks, His Holiness visited the Exodus Foundation in an Ashfield church to talk to the homeless and serve them lunch. The church serves up to 1,000 meals per day, and many of its patrons never thought they'd have the chance to meet the spiritual leader.
In the eyes of the church's Reverend Crews, one thing was clear: "China with all of its power and all of its military is frightened of one man who is as homeless as the people who come and eat here every day". The Reverend also said it was "beautiful that we on Earth have someone of such a nature" as His Holiness.
The visit has, unfortunately, not been well publicised in Australia due to political fears of causing tension with China, a major trading partner for Australia. Politicians have been noticeably silent on the visit, preferring instead to squabble over menial matters and swap insults with each other.
In a candid interview on his final night in Sydney, His Holiness told journalist Susan Wood that the Tibetan spirit is strong and that many Chinese were now showing a great interest in Tibetan culture and demonstrating solidarity with the Tibetan people's fight to keep their language and culture alive.
The Tibetan spiritual leader was confident of changes happening in Tibet, and while comparing the situation to the current conflict in Syria, he said he did not feel let down by Western countries because quite often situations can be too complicated and we can be helpless to do anything about it.
He noted the growing frequency of Chinese voices critical of government policy within China, and added that after all, "this problem must solve between Han brothers and sisters and Tibetan brothers and sisters".
His Holiness now moves on to Melbourne, where he will be accompanied by a group of dedicated Tibetans gladly volunteering their time to help out during the visit.