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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Dalai Lama Shares His Wisdom, Humor in Kresge Auditorium

May 3, 2009

By Elijah Jordan Turner, Associate News Editor
The Tech (MIT)
Volume 129 >> Issue 23
May 1, 2009

For the second time in six years, the Dalai Lama
spoke at MIT. But while last time he was a
visiting guest, yesterday he was speaking to
inaugurate a new center at MIT, the Dalai Lama
Center for Ethics and Transformative Values.

As the Dalai Lama walked onto the stage in a
sold-out Kresge Auditorium, the crowd fell silent.

He met the audience with a distinctive anjali
greeting, pressing his hands together and bowing
repeatedly. Then, after a brief introduction, he began to speak.

First he spoke to the global economy and the
confounding nature of free markets: "Something’s
human-created, but it’s beyond human control?"

The rest of his talk focused on the role of
ethics in secular education. Secularism does not
mean rejecting religion, he said; it means
"respect for all religions." Ethics can exist
without depending on a particular religion, he said.

Honesty is important in every line of work, from
politics to science to finance, he said. Greed
was a source of the economic crisis, he said.

He praised countries like the United States for
their commitment to human rights, contrasting
them with China, whose government’s 1950 takeover
of Tibet has been a source of tension within and
outside the Buddhist community for more than half a century.

The current Dalai Lama -- whose full title is His
Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso -- is
the fourteenth in a line of leaders chosen to
lead Tibet and its form of Buddhism. He grew up
in Tibet at a time when China began mounting
pressure against the Tibetan regime to its west.
He fled to India after leading a failed uprising against China fifty years ago.

Although the Dalai Lama did make oblique
references to his half century of exile from
Tibet, the leader, when asked to compare the
plight of Tibetans to that of Native Americans,
said he did not see the need to hold a grudge.

"There’s no point in keeping such grievance,"
said the Dalai Lama. "That’s all in the past."

The 73-year-old Dalai Lama was clearly not a
native English speaker -- he struggled, once, to
find the word "hacking" -- but his message over
an hour and a half was clear and his jokes never fell flat.

The Dalai Lama invented outlandish technological
concepts, such as bullets that go around
innocents and only hit decision-makers, to convey
his concepts. He also drew laughter and surprise
when he unveiled and put on a red visor and later
removed it as he noted that some detractors call him evil.

"Can’t you see my horns?" he joked.

The Center for Ethics and Transformative Values
will confront pressing modern ethical issues,
including questions related to sustainability,
conflict resolution, and holistic education. The
center will be housed under the Office of Religious Life at MIT.

The organization will consider both secular and
theological perspectives and will collaborate
with other groups at MIT and in other countries,
such as the Center for Human Development in New Delhi, India.

After his speech, the Dalai Lama answered
questions, including one about model leaders. He
singled out President George W. Bush for his
straightforwardness, but stopped short on complimenting him for much else.

"I love him," said the Dalai Lama of President
Bush, "but as far as his policies are concerned, I have reservations."

Even as the Dalai Lama’s on-stage acquaintances
gave signals indicating that time was running
out, the Dalai Lama kept taking questions. But
when a lengthy question about some of the new
center’s major concepts was posed, the Dalai Lama concluded the talk.

"I think that’s for my next speech," he said.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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