BOULDER - One of the world’s major spiritual leaders spoke before thousands at the University of Colorado-Boulder on Thursday.

Tenzin Gyatso, also known as The 14th Dalai Lama, is a Buddhist monk, considered to be the spiritual leader of Tibet and other Buddhists around the world. He gave two speaking sessions, where he talked about love, understanding and peace – with a little humor, too.

The Dalai Lama took the stage in true Boulder fashion: wearing a bicycle helmet given to him by the Mayor of Boulder. It was a light moment before he started speaking.

“All major world religions carry the same message – a message of love,” the Dalai Lama said.

For Tibetans in Colorado, the entire event is considered a major achievement.

“Having His Holiness in Boulder, not just in India, where he lives, it’s huge. And being a small community, 300-400 people, it’s a pretty major event for us,” Tenzin Tashi of the Tibetan Association of Colorado said.

The Dalai Lama lives in exile in India. He fled Tibet after China invaded in 1950 -- and has since walked a fine line between spiritual leader and a Tibetan representative to the world.

“He must claim, for instance, that he seeks only increased autonomy for his people, not independence – for his mere mention of what I or you might think might be a more just solution of self-determination for his people, could set in motion devastation for his people and his nation at the hands of the Chinese,” Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado said.

The Dalai Lama delivers a speech in front of thousands at CU Boulder on Thursday. 
The Dalai Lama delivers a speech in front of thousands at CU Boulder on Thursday. 

During his two sold-out speaking sessions at CU Boulder, the Dalai Lama spoke of having compassion in life and how, despite our differences, we all have much in common.

“We are the same human being – mentally, emotionally, physically,” the Dalai Lama said.

An estimated 18,000 people saw him speak on Thursday. It was an unforgettable experience that touched some profoundly.

“It was just beautiful,” Ivett Avalos said. “There was all this calmness. I’ve never felt all this calmness in a room and quiet and respect – it was just beautiful.”

The Dalai Lama is now 80 years old. He originally planned to visit Boulder last fall, but had to cancel because of health reasons.

The Dalai Lama does not accept payment for his speeches. The proceeds from Thursday’s event – about $88,000 – were donated to four Boulder-area charities. Among them are Bridge House, which helps the homeless, and the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, which helps victims of domestic abuse.