With the lush West Maui Mountains towering above, the Dalai Lama told thousands of people Tuesday his human approach to world peace embraces compassion, respect and love.
The 71-year-old exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, in his first trip to Maui, said by eliminating anger and frustration, people can find easier ways to face their problems.
"The most reliable source of inner strength is compassion," he said.
In his third trip to Hawaii, the Dalai Lama was greeted by Hawaiian chants and hula dancers while seated on a stage decorated with ti leaves, red heleconias, coconuts and bananas at the War Memorial Stadium.
"I didn't understand them, but judging by their warm expression, many of the words must be nice," he said after listening to the chants sung in his honor.
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, joked he was overwhelmed by the leis presented to him, saying "I'm sometimes suspicious of flowers because in India they give worms."
Wearing shaded glasses and a maroon and yellow Buddhist robe, he sat with his legs crossed on a padded wooden chair at the center of the stage, often laughing as he joked about the hot Maui sun causing frustration and mosquitoes not being appreciative of his blood. He described his beliefs as "an inner science."
Earlier in the day, he blessed the Maui Dharma Center's 27-foot (8 1/4-meter) stupa, a sacred spiritual monument used for the teachings of Buddha. He will host a commentary Wednesday on Langri Thankgpa's text "Eight Verses for Training the Mind." He also plans to meet with Hawaiian elders to discuss the Hawaiian and Tibetan populations and their struggle to keep land and culture.
The Dalai Lama on Tuesday said indigenous populations should take advantage of educational opportunities to keep their identities by learning how to become leaders in society.
"Trying to preserve identity through isolation is almost suicide," he said.
Ruth Goodfellow, a 39-year-old organic farmer from Ulupalakua, said Hawaii was a perfect place for the Dalai Lama to come.
"In Hawaii everyone works together for the most part," she said. "It's such a spiritual center for the world."
More than 5,000 students from Hawaii schools decorated prayer flags posted on an Aloha Peace Wall and more than 1,000 children filled many of the chairs spread out on the football stadium's grass. Others sitting farther away on metal bleachers could also watch on a JumboTron erected for the event.
The appearance was moved from a smaller venue after tickets initially sold out. With Secret Service protection and metal detectors installed at the entrances, people showed up hours early to get through security and to enjoy the food booths set up inside the worn, red running track.
Zena Krieder, a 15-year-old high school freshman from Kula, said her family has always been open to different religions so they all came out to the event.
"This is just a very cool experience," she said.
Henry VanderVelde, 52, of Haiku, said he believes the world needs more leaders like the Dalai Lama as "wars rage on and the environment is threatened around the world."
"He comes from a country that was invaded by a superpower and he still continues to do his work, preaching to be kind to each other," he said.
The visit is the first stop the Dalai Lama plans to make in the U.S. in the next few weeks. His itinerary includes San Francisco, Madison, Wisconsin, Chicago and Houston.