The Dalai Lama is at Lehigh for a week-long teaching. I was a volunteer at today’s public lecture on “Generating a Good Heart”. Since tickets for the public lecture is sold out, being a volunteer is the only way I get to hear his talk.
I took copious notes. It’s not easy to understand him. Aside from his accent, he forms his sentences differently, which is quite typical of non-native English speakers. He also had his own translator beside him helping him out. After the public lecture, there was a Question and Answer session with preselected questions.
I tried to keep to his words but sometimes that may not make any sense, so I edited some parts of it.
Question 1: If you were not the Dalai Lama, what life would you pursue?
DL: That question no interest (laughter, pause). Most probably engineer, engineering.
Question 2: Why do you think there’s so many people suffering from anxiety and depression in the U.S.?
DL: Wrong person to ask, should ask American (laughter).
People always want something new and something more. People have big mission (DL makes a circle with his hands), life becomes boring but still have to go that way (gestures round and round the circle).
Excessive consumerism (DL gave example of Japan 20 years ago).
Your economy, your lifestyle, you’re the richest nation. Material values, there’s limitation because you want more. Without content, too much competition, ambition, self-centered, everything blame others.
Gap between rich and poor (DL gave example of pockets of poor people in Washington DC). This is morally wrong. Practically, this also cause many problems.
All external problems can never be solved. Change our attitude, we get more peace. (DL gave example of an old Tibetan story about covering the earth with leather in order to cover every thorn that pricks us. It is easier to cover our own small soul instead of covering the whole earth).
Unrealistic expectation. If there’s no way to overcome, no use to worry.
If Buddhist, blame on karma (laughter).
If believe a creator, then blame God (laughter).
Question 3: Is it possible to exist as a sovereign nation with a policy of non-violence?
DL: That one quite complicated.
Sovereignty, complete independence, not relying on others…that reality gone. For example, US economy depend on others.
I always admire European Union, small countries that used to fight each other, now working together as one entity.
This question very complicated, I don’t know.
Question 4: What do you think is needed to help all the children of the world?
DL: Mother’s care
Education. Secular not separate from religion, but secular equals to religion.
Question 5: What is your advice in the world of rising religious fundamentalism?
DL: Religious harmony. 4 ways
1. Meeting with scholars
To discuss similarities and differences. Investigate the differences. They’ll find that the differences is different method with same goal.
2. Meeting with practitioner
Exchange to understand other practices. [DL talked about meeting with Lady Thomas Burton (I think I got this name wrong) and a monk who stayed many months as a hermit in the mountains. DL asked the hermit what he did during those months. Hermit said that he meditated on love. DL summarized that theistic follower also meditate on love like a Buddhist.]
3. Group to group visits
Go to different Holy places (DL talked about his pilgrimage to Jerusalem).
Buddha is teacher, not God. (DL said that sometimes he is required to teach Christians about God and it is very difficult because he is a believer of a non-theistic religion).
4. Leaders of different religion come together speak with one voice…peace.
Mischievous people among the different religion: Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism. These people (terrorist) cannot represent their religion.
Since September 11, I’m trying to reach out to Muslims. The 15th DL provided to the Muslims in Tibet….(the translator corrected DL that it is the 13th not 15th) (DL chuckled) 15th DL not yet come, when come? I don’t know.