With the Dalai Lama

The first thing is the crowd waiting outside the Usher Hall. Because we are all waiting for the Dalai Lama, it seems to be all right for everybody to chat. So it becomes more like waiting for an Irish rural bus service than Lothian Road. So I had a chat to a girl who was struggling to be a full time community artist and we talked about the community art which has broken out in Kinross and Cumbernauld. Then somebody told me about their motor-neurone disease … and so it went on. And some seemed to think that for me to be there involved some great sacrifice of principle.

The event itself was extraordinary. You might ask about what hunger for faith – or maybe for authenticity and integrity and a bit of joy – fills the Usher Hall but not the churches. The Dalai Lama has a gift for communication. He’s a little frail, sharp and funny. He put on a scarf in the Scottish peace tartan and instantly I thought of Mandela with the Springboks. At times you wonder what is happening and yet it is strangely moving as well. I think that’s because of the amount of hope which people invest in him.

And then we went up to the Scottish Parliament and sat round the table with him in a gathering of faith leaders – about 20 of us. And it was different – he talked about spirituality, silence and Thomas Merton. Remarkable really.