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How Glastonbury Reacted To The Dalai Lama

They say that nobody is as big as Glastonbury. Not Mick Jagger, not Kanye West, not even Lionel Ritchie can compete with the 5-day celebration of life, music, freedom and creativity that is Glastonbury Festival.

Would the Dalai Lama be any different? Would he be just another face in an endless parade of showmen, eager to entertain and earn the accolades of the crowd? Isn’t he, after all, part spiritual leader, part counter-cultural icon, and part pop idol?

His sudden appearance in the middle of the Patti Smith set was as unexpected as it was moving. His Holiness’s presence lit up the stage, the very personification of humility and compassion.

His slot included characteristically pithy and thought-provoking observations which the crowd lapped up enthusiastically. They cheered, they laughed, they sang him happy birthday and they hung on his every word.

The remarks he made about every day being like your birthday, and the importance of fun and laughter in ones’ life, genuinely resonated with the crowd. For some, it was nice to have the affirmation that hedonistic abandon might be a necessary part of a fulfilling life. While others took home the idea of the ‘power of now’: The realisation that all past mistakes need not be dwelt on, as the only reality is this present moment.

For those who revel in the spirit of Glastonbury, the festival is about creating one’s own reality on one’s own terms, with none of the shackles of everyday existence. This makes Glastonbury a sort of holiday from life.

But the festival is also about the realisation that values such as happiness, creativity and cooperation are more important than material wealth. Glastonbury gives many people the chance to be themselves, to explore their own consciousness and to experience a world where compassion is the ultimate human value.

While The Who, Lulu, and Florence are mere cogs in a much bigger whole: The Glastonbury experience, the Glastonbury experience is itself one cog in an even bigger phenomenon: Call it ‘Peace and Love’, or call it ‘hope for a better world’ or call it ‘compassion’. This is bigger than Glastonbury. And it is the reason why the biggest star of Glastonbury 2015 was a humble, quiet-spoken exiled monk from Tibet.

Kerry Smallman