People who attended the Dalai Lama’s only public speech during his trip to Honolulu were left not with a single overriding message but their own personal takeaways.

His talk Sunday was titled “Peace Through the Power of Aloha,” and some who emerged from the University of Hawaii Stan Sheriff Center Sunday afternoon talked about peace in various ways.

“The takeaway for me is really just personal,” said Honolulu educator Alisa Maneri, 53. “For myself it’s just confirming that everybody can and has the ability to find inner peace. And that’s really why I was here. I know there are bigger issues. But for me, I came for personal reasons.”

(For up-to-the-minute updates from the Dalai Lama’s visit and the content of his speech Sunday, click over to the Civil Beat Live Blog.)

Maneri said she was still coming down from the “natural high” of the speech. Others talked about how inspired they felt.

Civil Beat interviewed some attendees. This is what we heard:

Twenty-nine-year-old student Carmen Ponce said the takeaway was, “To think realistically, he kept emphasizing that — just to have realistic thoughts because that’s the only way to have a good reaction.

“He said at the beginning that he didn’t come prepared and he doesn’t prepare speeches, but just likes to talk to you like he’s talking to an old friend, and it really felt like he did that,” Ponce said.

Ben Shen, a 37-year-old Honolulu stockbroker, identified himself as a Buddhist and said he’s been wanting to meet the Dalai Lama. Asked what stood out from the speech, he said, “Inner peace, that’s what I’m practicing right now. I learned a lot from him.” And asked for his takeaway, Shen said, “To be calm all the time, no anger, love the world and love the people.”

Civil Beat saw former Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell in line on the way in, and caught Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle on his way out. Carlisle said he was inspired by the Dalai Lama’s talk.

“He talks about this terrible thing. He lost his country. But now there’s this tremendous unity amongst the people of Tibet and people who are in the different provinces in China who are Tibetan. Chinese communism gave them that unity, and his exile in India gave him the opportunity to learn more,” Carlisle said. So he can take almost anything, look at it from all different angles, east, west, north, south, and then from above and below, and from a different angle there’s a positive to made of that. But you have to be willing to think that way.”

Some exiting the Sheriff Center said the event fell short of expectations, for different reasons.

Daniel Bender, a 60-year-old Honolulu resident, said he didn’t think the speech in front of a sold-out 10,000-person audience was the best way to hear the Dalai Lama.

“There was no personal contact … That was like not even watching a football game. It was like watching a television about a football game,” Bender said. “When you’re talking to a person who is religious — a significant person — you want to talk to them, not watch them on a screen.”

Bender also complained about the “commercialization” of the event, specifically mentioning the sale of hot dogs and beer.

“I think it trashes him,” he said. “Certainly this is something you should see in your lifetime, I have no problems with anything he said, it’s just the hotdogs and hamburgers.”

Worth Haile, a 31-year-old writer, said she thought the Dalai Lama would talk more about Hawaii.

“I guess I personally would have really loved to have seen maybe a Native Hawaiian there with him. That would have been really dynamic, I think,” she said. “He just referred early in a little way to aloha, to the spirit of aloha. And then he went on to talk about different qualities of peace and warm-heartedness.”

Still, Haile said the Dalai Lama’s comments resonated with her.

“In a lot of different spiritual conversations, there might be dialogue about the idea of peace, but I really enjoyed the conversation about how to make peace practical,” she said. “It’s always great to see the Dalai Lama. Come on!”

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