the Dalai Lama’s heart-warming smile is a sight to behold let alone watching him blowing a kiss to scores of proud-as-punch primary students or witnessing the delight he took in the uilleann pipes playing gently beside him in the Square in Kildare town last week.
Over 500 people turned out to welcome his holiness, the Dalai Lama on his spiritual visit to Kildare Town, having been invited by The Solas Bhríde Centre to speak on ‘The Spirituality of Compassion’ last Wednesday.
Crowds started to gather two hours ahead of the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet’s scheduled arrival, who was in Kildare with Derry man Richard Moore whom the Dalai Lama describes ‘as his personal hero’. In 1972, aged 10, Richard was blinded by a rubber bullet and years later he befriended and forgave the soldier who shot him.
“It’s an honour to see him in the flesh - I’ve admired him for so long from afar,” said John Joe O’Meara, from Naas.
“It’s a great day for Kildare. It’s a good arena to show compassion to the world and to open our hearts,” added Aisling Hassett from Kildare Town.
“We’re just so excited at the prospect of seeing the Dalai Lama - it’s outstanding,” - said Maura Fidgan from Naas.
Nine-year-old Feilim Ayala, who was chosen alongside Niamh Hopkins to deliver a St Brigid’s Cross woven from local rushes to the Dalai Lama, was anxiously waiting in line for his big moment.
“My Principal and my teachers chose me,” he said. ”It is a big honour - I am kind of nervous - I don’t know if we are supposed to say anything to him.”
There was a huge cheer as the Dalai Lama’s car pulled up and he got out to greet the crowds before taking his seat beside Richard Moore and County Mayor Brendan Weld in the Square. His Holiness was welcomed in song - “We sing a song to Brigid” - from scores of primary school children from the De La Salle and Presentation Convent and traditional music was provided by ‘The Rambling Boys’. Sr Rita Minehan of the local Brigidine Community then welcomed the Dalai Lama to Kildare. “The waiting is over, our special guest has arrived,” said Sr Rita. “We welcome the Dalai Lama here today with a Cead Mile Mile Failte, a thousand welcomes to his Holiness the Dalai Lama to Kildare this afternoon,” added Sr Phil O’Shea.
“We are deeply honoured to have you the Dalai Lama and your special friend Richard Moore from Derry here today. Your Holiness in preparation for your visit we were amazed to discover that you established your first Tibetan school in a town in Northern India called Kildare House. So it is surely fitting that you are with us in Kildare, Ireland this afternoon.”
Sr Mary Minehan of the local Brigidine Community presented the Dalai Lama with a silver St Brigid’s cross mounted on bog oak which was specially commissioned, designed and crafted by Newbridge Silverware.
He was then presented with Brigid Flame which has burned for the past 18 years as a beacon of hope, justice and peace for Ireland and the world.
“The Flame was first presented to President Mary McAleese on her visit to Kildare on St Brigid’s Day 2006 and also jointly to Richard Moore and Charles Innis - during Féile Bride 2010,” explained Sr Rita. “Richard Moore is telling the Dalai Lama that he is in good company.”
After receiving Brigid’s Flame the Dalai Lama made his way through a guard of honour of children waving white flags to St Brigid’s Cathedral, to the strains of uilleann pipes played live by Liam O Flynn.