Denver, USA 18 September 2006 (Chase Squires / AP) - From high in the rafters of the Pepsi Center, surrounded by more than 14,000 people, perched on a broad, bare stage in a big leather chair, the Dalai Lama looked small Sunday.
But his message was as big as the world.
'This century should be the century of dialogue,' he said. 'The past century somehow became a century of violence, century of bloodshed.'
As global trade, travel, telecommunications and the Internet bring people together, the old ways of war and territorial thinking have to give way to mutual respect and aid, he said.
'Take care of others, you will benefit,' he said. 'Think only of yourself, you will lose.'
The Dalai Lama, a Nobel laureate, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the leader of the exiled Tibetan government, said people all over the world must practice what he called 'inner disarmament.' By focusing internally on compassion for others, instead of selfish thoughts, individuals can help the world achieve peace, nuclear disarmament, and eventually the abolition of weapons and war, he said.
The Dalai Lama was in Denver for the weekend, attending an international youth conference called PeaceJam with nine fellow Nobel Peace Prize recipients. He also blessed the Shambhala Mountain Center in the Rocky Mountains. He also addressed a sold-out crowd of 14,600 at Pepsi Center, Denver's event center, taking a stage under banners celebrating the city's sports teams as his face was projected on screens over logos for Pepsi and Coors beer.
Security outside the arena was tight, with a long line stretching back from checkpoints. His presentation was delayed about 20 minutes to allow attendees to clear security.
Standing outside in a chilly wind, Colleen Norwine held up a sign: 'I need 2 tickets.'
'I came down from Boulder and paid for parking just on the chance I could get tickets,' she said. She was still waiting a half hour before the event.
Two others who showed up without tickets, Lynette Ferraro and Tracy Long, drove more than 100 miles down from the mountains and tried their luck with a handmade sign asking for extras. They scored tickets from separate people. In both cases, their benefactors tried to give them away free, but the women said they insisted on paying something.
Grateful, however, for the discount, Long said, 'It's karma.'
The Dalai Lama spoke for about an hour, then took questions for 20 minutes. He focused on promoting positive interaction among people, tolerance and understanding.
One troubling trend, he said he saw, is the growing division between Islamic people and the United States after the terror attacks of September 11.
'I am a Buddhist monk now becoming a a defender of Islam,' he said. 'It is unfair to look at Islam as a whole as violent.'
As they left, friends Freddy Bosco and Steve Hare said they were touched by the message.
'It's absolutely incredible that somebody of that stature would bring a message of peace for these people, and that all those people would come here to hear that message, not just watch a basketball go through a hoop,' Bosco said.
'The most wonderful thing was the simplicity of his message,' Hare said. 'He says in very simple words the things we all know: Be gentle and warmhearted and things will work themselves out.'