MIAMI (CBS4) – Tuesday afternoon students and faculty at the University of Miami got a lesson about the achieving the “The Quest for Happiness in Challenging Times” from Dalai Lama.

Thousands of students and faculty packed the university’s BankUnited Center and listened with rapt attention as the Tibetian holy man urged them to “Respect your brothers and sisters” because “Every continent, every nation, everything is interdependent.”

The Dalai Lama to the crowd that the “Destruction of your neighbor is the destruction of yourself” because “We’re all just the same human being on a small planet.”

“I’m just a human being, you’re just a human being, emotionally, physically, we are the same.”

He said it is important for each one of us to be confidant in ourselves.

“A feeling of strong self, that’s very important. Practice compassion, but first, love one’s self. It is Impossible to extend compassion if you don’t love yourself,” said the Dalai Lama. “You need self confidence; it’s the basis of courage and basis of will power.”

However, he pointed out an extreme self centered attitude is very bad and can lead to arrogance, rudeness and bullying behavior.

He also talked about how we should we aim for a peaceful century. The Dalai Lama said there will always be differences but we need to practice respect, compassion and listening. He pointed out that while all religions, though different, focus on human compassion.

He also said that we all have the desire and the right to a happy life.

“I want to be happy, live a happy life. My happiness is entirely dependent on the community,” said the Dalai Lama. “Friends should come on a basis of trust. In order to trust, you must extend your heart. Open your heart and trust will come.”

“I loved how he preached a message of tolerance which is important in today’s society. I liked how he talked about being a good person doesn’t mean you have to be religious. You can still have good morals and values and not be religious. I loved how it was so informal and it was really positive,” said religious studies major Abigail Garner.

“I loved how it was so objective. You don’t get that from any other leaders, especially religious leaders. They’re always so biased. Even if his message is so simple, it’s correct and it’s beautiful,” said student Max Keil.

The Dalai Lama even mentioned former President George W. Bush.

“I really love your former President, Mr. Bush,” he told the crowd.

He said when they first met they became very good friends but by their fourth or fifth meeting he said he had some reservations about some of Bush’s policies and told him so. He said Bush’s policy wasn’t holistic so it was not realistic.

The Dalai Lama also discussed the importance of a variety of religions which he compared to food. He said some people may like Chinese food while others prefer Mexican or Italian and religion is like that. He added that sophisticated minds require different varieties of religion.

“Just one medicine, all illness, impossible to cure.”

Then he talked about missionaries and how they can help by bringing food, health and education to those in need. But the harm comes when they try to convert people. “Must keep your own tradition. Much safer.”

He then focused is speech on the thousands of students in the audience.

“As students you are very, very important for our future. Have compassion for the community, compassion for the world. That is my main hope.”

“It’s amazing that he’s so open. He’s such a faithful Buddhist, but he’s so open to other religions. It was really interesting how he said to not be so dedicated to one religion. It was amazing how open and objective he is. Objectivity is what really stuck with me,” said Elizabeth Chung.

He talked about how important it is for people to get compassion at a young age. If they do, they’ll be happy and productive members of the community, but if they don’t, they’ll find life very difficult.

“It was very insightful. I think it’s great that the university had this opportunity and made it open to students. I took away to be open and compassionate,” said Laura Holtzman.

After his speech, the Dalai Lama answered questions submitted by the students.

One of the students asked him how he could always be happy and have positive attitude with what his people are going through. He replied that one of his teachers told him if there’s a problem, really look and analyze the problem and see if you can overcome it. If you can, then stop worrying about it, just put in effort.

“If you can’t overcome it, then there’s no use worrying about it,” he said laughing.

The appearance at UM was his second speaking engagement of the day. Tuesday morning he addressed a gathering at Temple Emanu-El on Miami Beach.

The Dalai Lama is the leader of Tibetan Buddhists who believe he is the reincarnation of a line of spiritual leaders.

CBS4 intern Lindsay Oliver, who was at UM for the Dalai Lama’s speech, contributed to this report

The Miami Herald contributed to this report.

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