As part of his eight-day visit to the UK, the Dalai Lama ventured to Aldershot in Hampshire, just a few minutes down the road from the Explore office. Explore staff Michelle Bird, Louise Ponting, Hannah Methven and Jude Berry took the opportunity to go and hear him speak on issues such as peace and universal responsibility.
"It’s not every day that the Dalai Lama is speaking just ten minutes away from the office, so when we heard that he would be, we knew we really wanted to be there.
The event was taking place at Aldershot Town Football Club’s ground, where the stands were packed with people and the pitch was home to a colourful stand adorned with prayer flags and flowers for the Dalai Lama to make his speech from.
The morning started with entertainment in the form of Nepalese dancers, showcasing traditional music and dance, before we were advised over the tannoy that the Dalai Lama had just touched down at Farnborough Airport and would be with us shortly.
It was at this point that we really took in our surroundings and thought about how completely surreal the entire situation was. The big Nepalese community in the Aldershot area means the town was a logical stop on the Dalai Lama’s visit to the UK, but to be stood in a football ground awaiting his arrival is something none of us ever thought we would be doing!
When he arrived at the ground, it was to the sound of bagpipes (his apparent favourite), and, as he strode across the pitch to take his place on the stand, he was surrounded by professional photographers and camera crews scrambling to get a picture of him – a far cry from the peaceful entrance some may have been expecting. Understandably though, his visit was a once-in-a-lifetime event and the news outlets wanted to get the best coverage possible.
As the Dalai Lama took his place on stage he was welcomed by the head by the Buddhist Community Centre who had invited him to the town, as well as the Mayor, both of whom spoke of the honour of him accepting their invitation to speak in Aldershot.
It was then time for the Dalai Lama himself to speak, a speech which started off talking about the importance of upholding tradition – including the very British tradition of tea and biscuits which is how he was welcomed to the stadium!
His speech continued, with the pervading messages of peace, respect, equality and tolerance coming through to the rapt audience. Listening to him speak was exactly as we’d hoped it would be - the messages and thoughts he was sharing span the borders of religion and nationality.
Following his speech, the Dalai Lama walked around the edge of the pitch, greeting the Nepalese dancers and waving to the crowds before finishing off by conversing with the disabled audience members seated at the edge of the pitch.
In all, it was quite the morning. Not only getting to hear the Dalai Lama speak, but also to witness the crowd reaction to what he had to say – everyone was enthralled and listening very intently. We imagine it was the quietest crowd the EBB Stadium has seen in a long time!"