Vancouver, BC, Canada, 28 September 2009 (By Douglas Todd, The Vancouver Sun columnist) - Although the Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle and Karen Armstrong aren't necessarily everyone's spiritual cup of tea, you wouldn't have known it Sunday as throngs of enthusiastic British Columbians and others turned out to welcome them with adoring arms.
The world-famous spiritual teachers joined roughly a dozen other well-known spiritual and humanitarian notables in two public dialogues on Sunday at the University of B.C.'s Chan Centre.
Well-dressed audience members, some of whom paid hundreds of dollars for tickets to the Vancouver Peace Summit, were enthralled as they heard nuggets of wisdom from the Tibetan Buddhist leader; Tolle, the Vancouver-based author of The Power of Now, and Armstrong, a British author of numerous best-selling books on world religions.
The two key topics of the Peace Summit sessions, which included a total of four Nobel peace laureates, were peace and compassion. The discussion centred on how to more effectively promote them around the world.
The sweeping concepts of peace and compassion turned out to be less sentimental, and more complex, than many may have at first thought.
When it came to compassion, many speakers said it amounts to much more than feelings of pity or idle sympathy. Compassion, they said, demands direct action, both individual and institutional.
The dialogue on peace, like the one on compassion, centred on the bigger role women need to be able to play in being catalysts for change. Some of the talk explored the difficult question: How aggressive can one be in the cause of peace?
There were many funny and moving moments as the spiritual and humanitarian leaders sat on chairs on the Chan Centre stage and talked about their topics in a decidedly non-sectarian way, which befits a West Coast province where many people like to say, "I'm spiritual, but not religious."