After nine months of preparation, the Wood River Valley welcomed His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Sept. 11, when an audience of some 10,000 people gathered at Phil Homer Field in Hailey. The main event was widely publicized. CNN broadcast it live.
Some fury developed over the handling of the free tickets. They were distributed on a first-come, first-served basis approximately six weeks before the Sept. 11 gathering, designed to commemorate the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Dalai Lama was invited by a personal friend, the financier Kiril Sokolff, who owns a house north of Ketchum. His Holiness the 14th the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the head of state and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. Born July 6, 1935, he was recognized at the age of 2 as the reincarnation of his predecessor the 13th Dalai Lama, and thus an incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion.
During his speech, he counseled on ways to deal with suffering by looking at tragic events from a wider perspective and making a regular effort to develop a calm mind. He said that during times of heartbreaking news, sentient beings are capable of solving problems within the framework of friendship.
"Within atmosphere of compassion, meaningful dialogue can take place," he said.
The Dalai Lama has been living in exile for 46 years since the Chinese began their long occupation in Tibet.
"In my life I go through lot of difficulties and painful experience—hopefully my mental state can remain calm," he said. "Warm-heartedness is truly precious. We cannot buy them through supermarket or medicines. It must develop most within us. We have the seed of this quality at birth. Pay more attention to (this) inner value. This will make you happier."
Drawing parallels with his own storied country's history, he said, "We lost not only our freedom but our country. For 46 years we always keep our spirit. (We) never give up our hope. No matter how tragic we should not lose our hope or determination.
"I think (the) 21st century is the most important century. There are positive signs. I look forward, full of spirit and determination and with clear vision. If the last century was one of pain and violence, this century should be one of dialogue and compassion, led by these people," he said, pointing to the audience who all wore red compassion bracelets and held them high.
He was asked to address an apparent human trend to cause violence and fight war in the name of religion.
"There are many mischievous people everywhere," he said. "It's a mistake to blame whole religions for those people. I have Muslim friends who are very gentle, very compassionate. They say people who act (in violence) in name of Koran are not real Muslims. All traditions talk about love, compassion, forgiveness, self-discipline and contentment. So, all major religions have the same potential to make better human beings, happier human being."
Other events surrounding his visit were a private reception with invited business people, an interfaith gathering with assorted clergy, the blessing of a custom-made Tibetan prayer wheel at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden near Ketchum and a gatherings with Idaho youths at Wood River High School in Hailey.