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A Celebration of Tibetan Culture

July 27, 2008

Susan Sawyers
The Huffington Post
July 25, 2008

Positive thinking and a bit of luck got me to Aspen Thursday
afternoon for a three-day Celebration of Tibetan Culture presented by
the Aspen Institute in collaboration with the Conservancy for Tibetan
Art and Culture. A dizzying number of scholars, (okay, maybe it's the
altitude or more likely it's the heady subject matter...)
practitioners and tradition-bearers are in the mountain town to share
their wisdom on the historical and philosophical significance of
Tibet and its impact on current and future global issues.

His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is scheduled to
speak Friday and Saturday. In the meanwhile, conversations have
touched on mandalas, meditation, the science of happiness,
enlightenment, climate change, the Olympics, and a concern over
whether the U.S. can do more harm than good by pushing the Chinese
into a corner.

The symposium opened with a prayer chanted by Drepung Loseling Monks
dressed in their deep reddish rose-colored robes and bright ochre
helmet-like headdresses with crescent shaped peaks. Symposium
Co-chair Margot Pritzker offered a 100 percent guarantee that
symposium participants would leave transformed. Immediately
thereafter, the first group of conversants began to transform us.

Sogyal Rinpoche, world-renowned Buddhist teacher and author from
Tibet, and Robert Thurman, Columbia University Professor of
Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies and author of Why the Dalai Lama
Matters spoke about Tibet's unique Buddhist heritage.

Ambassador Jeffrey A. Bader, the director of the John L. Thornton
China Center and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution,
moderated the evening session. An effort to focus on the future of
Tibet, "rather than argue about the past," suggested Ambassador Bader
set the diplomatic tone for the plenary session with Shi Yinhong,
Professor of International Relations and director of Center for
American Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing, Lodi
Gyaltsen Gyari, Special Envoy of the Dalai Lama to China and Chairman
of the Conservancy for Tibetan Art and Culture, Orville Schell,
professor and dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the
University of California, Berkeley and author of 14 books -- nine
about China, and symposium co-chair, Richard Blum.

It was important to have someone from China on the podium to shed
light on the opposition to the Dalai Lama. His unpopular stance was
met two times by hissing from one of the 200 people in the audience.
The takeaway from stage said that Professor Shi's presence was a
positive step toward negotiating Tibet's future and that his
commentary in Aspen was much less harsh than what they'd heard in
China. Blum was a bit less optimistic but hoped that after the
Olympics there will be improvements. "It has to do with human rights
and decency," said Blum.
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