Respect: Recovering alcoholic Murray (left) is looking forward to the visit of the Dalai Lama. Photo: Tamara Dean The Loaves and Fishes Free Restaurant in Ashfield, where the Reverend Bill Crews’ The Exodus Foundation provides up to 1000 meals a day to the poor and homeless, is a world away from the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
The restaurant’s clients, such as 62-year-old Murray, could not afford to pay up to $721 to attend the Dalai Lama’s speeches at the venue as part of his Australian visit.
Yet Murray will have his own audience with the Dalai Lama on Monday when the Tibetan spiritual leader visits The Exodus Foundation in the grounds of the Ashfield Uniting Church to speak to the homeless and serve them lunch.
It’s a coup for the organisation. When the Dalai Lama arrived in Sydney on Thursday for his eighth Australian tour, his office was so swamped it had to turn on the answering machine to say all tickets for the Sydney and Melbourne events were sold out.
Ticket prices ranged from $337 to $721 for the two-day Beyond Religion: the 14th Dalai Lama on the Benefits of Living Ethically event at Sydney Entertainment Centre to $1855 for a gold pass to the two-day Melbourne conference next week.
Events held abroad are an important fund-raiser for the Tibetan cause – most of the Dalai Lama’s public talks are in India, where the tickets are free.
Mr Crews said it had been a battle to keep the ”toffs” away from the event at his foundation.
”They can meet him anywhere. This is for the people who didn’t think they’d ever have a chance.”
Paul Bourke, executive officer of the Australia Tibet Council, said event organisers usually would be asked to make ”some contribution” to the Dalai Lama In Australia Ltd charity in exchange for his appearance. The Paddington charity organises most of his conferences and whatever is left in the kitty after paying for such things as venue hire, security, staff and marketing goes back to charities.
Last financial, year Dalai Lama in Australia Ltd made a loss of $369,939.93, according to its financial statement filed with ASIC. It made $53,635 in merchandise sales and $63,072 in ticketed events but earned just $798.30 in donations.
On Sunday at his Sydney event, a team of 70 volunteers planned to hand out ”kindness cards” to the audience of 10,000 people, who will each be invited to do one small act of kindness and then email in their story. These stories will then be compiled into a book and given to the Dalai Lama as a thank-you gift.
The idea came from Jono Fisher, the founder of the Wake Up Project, who will also present at the conference. Mr Fisher’s kindness cards gained a cult following on his blog and there are about 90,000 circulating in Australia.
Reverend Crews invited the Dalai Lama, who he described as being homeless for more than 50 years, to visit Ashfield last year. He had known the Dalai Lama for more than 20 years, said the longtime advocate for Tibetan causes. ”He is the only person I know who is himself everywhere,” Reverend Crews said. ”That I’ve found is a real strength.”
Murray, a recovering alcoholic who has been a client of the restaurant since 2000, said he was not daunted by the prospect of meeting the Dalai Lama.
”It’s beautiful that we on Earth have someone of such a nature, the guidance and where he’s been and also his teachings,” he said.
Murray said the visit was keenly anticipated saying he had noticed an air of respect that the clientele are showing now they realise the Dalai Lama is coming to see them.
The message of the visit is simple, Reverend Crews said: ”China with all of its power and all of its military is frightened of one man who is as homeless as the people who come and eat here every day.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.