Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Dalai Lama calls for “century of dialogue”

Listen to the Dalai Lama's public lecture, "Generating a Good Heart"

To the students in the audience for his public lecture in Stabler Arena Sunday and the youth around the world, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama issued a great challenge: “All of our hopes are now on you.”

Calling the 20th century “a century of war,” the Dalai Lama said: “The 21st century should be a century of dialogue.”

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning spiritual and state leader of Tibet delivered a sold-out public lecture at Stabler Sunday afternoon in the midst of his historic six days of teaching at Lehigh University. The teachings, which started Thursday, are sponsored by the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center of New Jersey. They continue Monday and Tuesday, with sessions each morning and afternoon.

In his talk titled “Generating a Good Heart,” the Dalai Lama called on people to cultivate love and compassion in their own hearts, and to embrace non-violence as the only way to ultimately solve problems in the world.

The Dalai Lama, who turned 73 on July 6, said the time is fast approaching for the next generation to inherit the world that his generation is leaving.

“Now, we are ready to say goodbye,” he said. As he started to talk about young students, he looked down at the front row of the audience, and started laughing. “Of course, in front line, most of my generation,” he quipped, as the audience roared with laughter.

Then, returning to his message, he said: “My generation, I think, create a lot of problems, left a lot of mess.”

He called on the younger generation to “achieve a happier world, a peaceful world, a compassionate world. That is very important. That is your responsibility. That is your future destiny.”

"The exemplar of our mission"

The Dalai Lama speaks from a couch at center stage, as translator Thupten Jinpa sits nearby.

The stage was set up with a couch in the center, where the Dalai Lama sat cross-legged as he spoke. He delivered his remarks in English, occasionally consulting with his principal translator, Thupten Jinpa of Montreal, who was seated next to him.

The Dalai Lama said that war and violence may temporarily resolve conflicts, but they inevitably lead to more problems and more violence. The terrorists of the 21st century, he said, “are due to resentment cultivated in the 20th century or even before.”

Long a voice for religious harmony, the Dalai Lama said there are what he called “mischievous people” in every religion, but that “a few mischievous people cannot represent whole systems or whole traditions.

“Sometimes in the West, some [have the] impression that Islam, whole, is something militant. It’s totally wrong, unfair. Therefore, since Sept. 11, I try to reach out to Muslim brothers and sisters,” he said, noting that Tibet has a long history of Buddhists and Muslims co-existing that dates back to the 5th Dalai Lama providing land to build a mosque.

In what was termed “a moment of gathering” at the beginning of the event, Lloyd Steffen, the professor of religion studies and university chaplain who organized a year of academic events on Lehigh’s campus leading up to the Dalai Lama’s appearance, noted that the theme for the event was “Listen, Learn, Love.”

“These words have guided us in all we have done to prepare for this event,” Steffen said. “They guide us today.”

Daniel E. Smith Jr. ’71, chairman of the Lehigh University Board of Trustees, then welcomed the Dalai Lama to Lehigh.

“Your Holiness, we offer you our friendship, our thanks for your presence among us today and our gratitude for all you do to make this world a better place. A home for us all. A home for peace,” Smith said.

After Lehigh President Alice P. Gast introduced the Dalai Lama as “one of the most revered spiritual leaders in the world” and “the exemplar of our mission” as a university, His Holiness rose to speak. He placed his hands together and bowed, as the applause steadily grew, culminating in a standing ovation.

As he began his talk, the Dalai Lama embraced the “Listen, Learn, Love” theme, saying: “Love, compassion is the main thing.”

People—and even animals, such as dogs and cats—naturally show love or compassion based on how others react to them.

“It is biased, limited,” he said. “Because of that, that kind of compassion cannot extend toward your enemy.”

By learning and listening, the Dalai Lama said, that basic, human compassion can gradually be cultivated to grow into an infinite, unbiased compassion that is no longer dependent on the actions or attitudes of others.

“That’s true compassion,” he said. “That, we need.”

The perfect answer

Lehigh President Alice P. Gast bestows an honorary degree on His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

Following the lecture, the Dalai Lama answered questions read by Lehigh President Alice P. Gast that had been submitted in advance through Lehigh University’s Dalai Lama Web site.

In her introduction before he spoke, Gast said of the Dalai Lama: “His sense of humor and humility remind us to stay rooted when we face adversity.”

That sense of humor was on display throughout the afternoon. One of his biggest laugh lines came when he was asked what livelihood he thinks he would have chosen were he not chosen to be the Dalai Lama.

After initially demurring, he replied: “Engineer.” As the audience laughed and applauded, Gast remarked: “That warms our hearts at Lehigh University.”

On a more serious note, the Dalai Lama was asked what accounts for so much anxiety, depression and unhappiness in the United States.

After first quipping, “I’m wrong person to ask. You should ask an American,” the Dalai Lama said the never-ending quest for something new and something more was part of the problem, as is the gap that exists between rich and poor.

“If you’re a millionaire, you want to be a billionaire,” he said. “If you’re a billionaire, you want more and more and more.”

Following the lecture, Gast presented the Dalai Lama with an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree from Lehigh. Provost Mohamed El-Aasser read the formal citation, which lauded the Dalai Lama “for all you have done in the adventure of your life, a simple monk and global citizen, as leader of your beloved Tibetan people,” and as a champion for human rights and peace.

The Dalai Lama’s playful wit was on exhibit once again as he accepted the honorary degree, which he joked was “a high degree, without much study.”

But as he concluded, he offered an eloquent summary of his life’s work. “Until my death, until my last breath, my life is dedicated for service to humanity of this world.”

The Dalai Lama's public lecture was an historic day for Lehigh University. For more, please read Lehigh community listens to, learns from, and loves the Dalai Lama.

--Jack Croft

Photos by Douglas Benedict

Posted on Sunday, July 13, 2008

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