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Saturday, December 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 26.0° F  Overcast
The Daily
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Dalai Lama's wise words hard to understand during Wisconsin Assembly speech
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The Dalai Lama has now visited Madison nine times.
Credit:Nick Berard

The Dalai Lama had the rapt attention of legislators, a handful of state Supreme Court justices and a full gallery when he addressed the Wisconsin Assembly Tuesday afternoon. Just how much they were able to make out, though, is unclear. Regardless, they played along, laughing when he laughed and keeping their eyes trained on the charismatic leader.

The Dalai Lama, it must be acknowledged, speaks English poorly. He gave his own speech, turning to the translator next to him only when searching for a word or two. Perhaps the location of the press table, to the side of the podium, exacerbated the situation for me. I gave up taking notes until a kind colleague offered to let me listen on a set of headphones that were plugged directly into the Assembly sound system.

I mention this because I feel I missed out on a lot of the Dalai Lama's message of enlightenment, as well as his charm, due to the language barrier. And I know I'm not the only one who felt this way.

Nevertheless, I did manage to pick up on a few observations from the spiritual leader of Tibet, who has a special relationship to the local Buddhist community and UW-Madison researchers (particularly Dr. Richard Davidson), and has now visited Madison nine times, giving public speeches in 2007 and 2008.

People are all alike, despite the job they might hold or any other material distinction.

Most people just want a happy life.

Formality should be dispensed with.

There should be no room for cheating other people; inner value, not money or power, is what's important.

Trust brings friendships.

To practice compassion, practice tolerance and forgiveness.

The Dalai Lama wrapped up his speech by pledging to continue his work to preserve Tibetan Buddhism and culture. And he asked that lawmakers hold him to his promise.

"Please watch me from time to time. If you have some sort of doubt or criticism then please tell me. Please educate me."

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