The Dalai Lama will celebrate his 80th birthday this summer with a Global Compassion Summit in Southern California, the nonprofit Friends of the Dalai Lama announced Thursday.
The spiritual leader will kick off three days of events focusing on the role of compassion in the world by speaking July 5 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, according to the organizers. The Dalai Lama's birthday is July 6.
The next two days of events at the University of California, Irvine, will include discussions with the Dalai Lama’s friends, fellow Nobel laureates, and other leaders with whom he has collaborated or shares common values on working toward universal peace, according to the announcement.
“His Holiness has devoted his life's work to positively guide audiences all over the world to open their minds and hearts to peaceful and compassionate existence,” the Venerable Lama Tenzin Dhonden, the Dalai Lama's personal emissary for peace and the founder and chair of Friends of the Dalai Lama, said in a statement.
Dhonden elaborated on why compassion was the chosen topic in an interview with The Huffington Post. Compassion, he suggested, is integral to addressing everything from poverty to war and violence.
"Compassion is the antidote to suffering. If you think of it this way, the cultivation of compassion has a direct effect on suffering. This applies at a personal level as well as at a global level," Dhonden said.
"A lack of spirituality and too much focus on selfish attainment creates competition, not with each other but against each other,” he added. “When you see the other as enemy, the result is destruction, even self-destruction. When compassion is applied, there is a respect for the values of others and it becomes important to coexist in an interdependent world.”
Dhonden grew up at Namgyal Monastery, the Tibetan Buddhist leader’s personal monastery in Dharamshala, India. Over the last decade, he has organized several of the Dalai Lama's global appearances.
He described Friends of the Dalai Lama as “dedicated to uniting a global audience and building a network of global innovators" in support of the Dalai Lama's vision in six areas: "human values, social integrity, inter-religious dialogue, environmental protection, compassionate education and ethical leadership.”
Anaheim was chosen as one location for the 80th birthday celebration, he said, in part because of its City of Kindness initiative. Similarly, UC Irvine, which hosted the Dalai Lama in 2004 and 2011, has “really carried on the values His Holiness shares. They value the education of the heart as much as they value the education of the mind.”
In particular, Dhonden pointed to a Kindness Month project and various efforts to promote compassion in medicine at the university. Behind both initiatives were UC Irvine students who had received Dalai Lama scholarships.
Tickets for the Global Compassion Summit events, which are being coordinated in partnership with UC Irvine and the Irvine-based nonprofit Center for Living Peace, go on sale April 2.