The Dalai Lama, the exiled political and spiritual leader of Tibet, began a three day series of Buddhist teachings Thursday at New York City's famed Radio City Music Hall, which holds nearly 6,000 people.
An atmosphere of joy and camaraderie filled the streets surrounding the venue as people waited to pass through the security checks to attend the Dalai Lama's lecture on meditation and the Buddhist way of life. Those are subjects a beaming young ticketholder, named Mark, says he knows almost nothing about.
"I'm here to check out what he has to say, hear what kind of wisdom he has to share and to do my best to follow it, you know."
Manhattan is a world away from the Himalayan mountain kingdom where the Dalai Lama was born, and where Tibetan Buddhist mind training was developed. But New Yorker Ann Smith feels the message is universal.
"It has helped in the sense that when I have a problem I try to stop and think about the causes of the problems that I've created myself and what I can do to be constructive about it, rather than just venting anger or just being frustrated," says Smith, adding the Dalai Lama's teachings of nonviolence, patience and discipline have been a tremendous help in her daily life.
A gray-haired New Yorker, named Elizabeth, has been standing behind us in line listening and nodding.
"The Dalai Lama has thought a lot about life and he has a healthy, sane approach to the world," she says. "He believes that the way we think causes our problems and if we make our minds clear and calm, the world will be a calmer and saner place."
One lady came to New York from Dallas, Texas - over 2,000 kilometers away - to hear what the 1989 Nobel Peace Laureate had to say.
"He is the epitome of compassion to me. He loves everyone," she says. "And if you notice everyone on this line, they exude peace and tranquility and love and kindness that it's just phenomenal to be around."
Nearby, Gabriel is exuding curiosity.
"I came here for spiritual nourishment, I suppose you could put it that way," he explains. "I want to become more educated in terms of Buddhist scriptures and I think he certainly has been studying them long enough to explain them to lay people. He is a wonderful human being."
A young woman named Whitney expresses hope the upcoming lecture will satisfy her spiritual and her intellectual sides. She says she likes the way the Dalai Lama builds bridges between different peoples and different ways of thinking.
"I think he is a really cool dude. I study neuroscience in college and I love that he is interested in neuroscience and is trying to combine Eastern and Western philosophy and that he has the curiosity about how we think, and he kind of embraces our ideas and he shows us his."
Before long, Whitney and several thousand other attendees have passed through the iconic Art Deco portals of Radio City Music Hall, and taken their seats inside to hear what the Dalai Lama has come to share. After completing his New York lectures, he will continue on to Japan later this month.