The Dalai Lama Promotes Peace and Compassion During Recent Visit to Emory University
With the upcoming holidays, we can all take away a few gems of wisdom from the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to the South as part of the Emory-Tibet Partnership.
His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama capped off what was called “The Visit: 2013” not with a grand gesture or ceremony, but with a reunion. Making his way into the crowd to see old friend Richard Moore of Northern Ireland’s Children in Crossfire, His Holiness acted in the spirit of acceptance, open dialogue and consideration that he emphasized throughout his visit to Emory University in October.
Through the Emory-Tibet Partnership, the Atlanta liberal arts college has been a facilitator for the exchange of Eastern and Western ideology, culture and philosophical tradition, the reason for the Dalai Lama’s third visit to the Southeast since 2007. Serving as a presidential distinguished professor on Emory’s faculty, His Holiness visited the university on October 9 and 10. With all proceeds supporting the Emory-Tibet Partnership and Science Initiative, His Holiness gave a series of public talks and panel discussions, as well as private lectures and panels for Emory students.
While the Dalai Lama’s visit was highly publicized, his foray into the crowd to see Moore, his self-appointed hero, was incredibly indicative of the energy of the event. With a focus on secular ethics, the Dalai Lama dubbed the 21st century the “century of compassion,” encouraging listeners to participate in open dialogue with others. His Holiness led by example, discussing his idea of ethics in a technological world with many experts of different backgrounds and creeds, such as Moore and Dr. Paul Wolpe, an Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Bioethics at Emory’s Center for Ethics. Those present in the packed auditorium in Duluth, Georgia, were encouraged to place an emphasis on wisdom, experience and insight in a world dominated by instant gratification and rapid access to information; in short, the Dalai Lama, a self-described “hopeless professor,” asked his audience to be learners and listeners.
While Emory’s partnership with the Dalai Lama is significant and commendable in many ways, perhaps the most striking aspect of the relationship is its ability to bring global knowledge not only to the university, but to the Southeast as a whole. Students, journalists and avid learners traveled from as far away as Maryland and Texas to hear His Holiness’s thoughts on creating “a politics of compassion” in the 21st century. While the Southeast is stereotyped as a region typified by its Bible Belt denizens and a conservative outlook, the fact that a major university in the Deep South has fostered a strong relationship with the Dalai Lama, also considering the controversial state of affairs in Tibet, is nothing short of remarkable. Emory’s partnership with the state of Tibet has proved to be an enriching initiative for not only the university, but for international culture in the region as a whole.
The Dalai Lama might have been the Gwinnett Center’s most unexpected visitor as of late, but his message of international dialogue, a reason-based moral code and the wise use of technology were incredibly universal. While he opined that “Our new technology is helping immensely to increase our destructive power,” he also urged listeners to use the cross-cultural tools afforded to us in the technological age to create “the peaceful century.” A nuanced approach to religious creed was also advised, as he cited its ability to unite individual followers while at the same time isolating said followers from their neighbors.
To develop the kinship, kindness and community that our world needs to bring an end to violence and strife requires, in His eyes, “the real promotion of compassion, based not on faith, but on other reasons.” While a major religious leader urging followers to take their own faith at times with a grain of salt might seem contradictory, the Dalai Lama simply urged the audience to remember that “the real purpose of faith is the practice of love.”
The Visit: 2013 promoted a universality of ethics and compassion, along with an open dialogue amongst all citizens and neighbors. The Dalai Lama’s message holds especially true in our impending holiday season. While Thanksgiving and Christmas are often boiled down into services, meals, rituals and gatherings, we can all take this time to recognize love as the basis of these celebrations.
In love, we can be thankful for all things, in particular the connection and kindness we can only experience through relationships with others; we can be thankful for the learning that can only be achieved from an open mind and a willingness to absorb; and we can praise the newness and joy that comes from not only our religious faith, but also the interconnectedness that we, as humans, are blessed with. In light of the words spoken by His Holiness this last month, we can use this upcoming holiday season to promote a century of peace and a politics of compassion through gratitude, openness and love for one another, with a mug of hot chocolate and a slice of pumpkin pie in hand.
Watch the full video of the Dalai Lama’s public talk below. He starts speaking at 8:55.
Photos courtesy of Emory Photo/Video.