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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Dalai Lama speaks at U-M, urges religious tolerance

April 21, 2008

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Saturday, April 19, 2008

ANN ARBOR -- The Dalai Lama issued a ringing call for religious
tolerance Saturday, on the second day of his visit to the University of
Michigan, saying the Buddhist emphasis on compassion and mindfulness
would help people of all faiths.

"I've always believed that all different traditions have the same
potential to bring inner peace and inner value," the Dalai Lama told
7,300 people at Crisler Arena. "Therefore, it is important to keep one's
own tradition. Even the Buddha himself taught different views and
concepts to his own followers.

"In my case, I learn more about Islam, about Christianity, about Judaism
mainly through personal contact," he said. "My admiration, my genuine
respect for those traditions grows. So, similarly the non-Buddhist
people know more about Buddhism, mentally and emotionally you will feel
something familiar. So it is useful."

He asserted this broad-based spirituality at the beginning of three,
two-hour instructions that began Saturday and continue Sunday, on the
basic tenets of Tibetan Buddhism, which the Dalai Lama entitled,
"Engaging Wisdom and Compassion." The lectures set out what is called
the Buddha dharma, the path of practice, behavior and discipline of
one's mind that Buddhists believe leads to enlightenment. About 7,300
people attended the morning session, but by the time the afternoon
session started, it appeared the crowd was about a third smaller.

The Dalai Lama was in a light-hearted mood as he delivered his lesson,
often poking fun at his own comments -- "I was to do homework, but too
lazy!" Engendering laughter from the throng that had gathered to hear him.

Monks in traditional saffron and crimson robes were arrayed on the stage
in front of him, sitting in the meditative, legs-folded position on
prayer cushions. The monks recited and chanted Sutras, sayings
considered sacred by Buddhists.

Interest in the Dalai Lama's visit is intense. Buddhist leaders and
others in Ann Arbor had extended the invitation to His Holiness 15 years
ago, and worked feverishly in recent years to secure and organize his
appearance.

The events, three lessons and a lecture Sunday on the environment that
will tackle sustainability were sold out weeks ago. Tickets were
available on the Internet and reached as much as $450.

"I'm here to see the Dalai Lama because I am interested to learn more
about compassion and wisdom," said Sharon Havis of Farmington Hills. "I
know to me, that is what I need to work on: to be more compassionate to
myself and others. And that's what I want to learn today."

"I think he's got a lot to say that really speaks to me personally as a
Buddhist and just living in general," said Michael Canella of Berkley.
"Buddhism is to me about spiritual awareness and to me the Dalai Lama is
a great man and I appreciate him coming out to speak to people. It can
be difficult sometimes to keep my own personal momentum, and the purpose
of the community in Buddhism is to help me push through that."

As the Dalai Lama spoke, a group of about 15 Chinese students stood
outside of Crisler Arena, a far smaller number than the hundreds who are
expected to attend Sunday. They said they were demonstrating for peace
in Tibet, where violent protests against Chinese rule sparked last month
and Chinese troops were sent to crack down on the Tibetans in the most
vigorous flaring of tensions in the area since 1959.

The demonstrators displayed signs saying, 'Stop ethnic hatred, we want
unity' and 'Stop anti-China, we want friendship. Tibet was, is, always
will be part of China.' "

"We're having this rally mainly to support the Beijing Olympics and to
protest the violent behavior that has occurred in the last few days
against the Olympic torch relay and the political interference against
the Olympics," said Lian Zhang, 26, a doctoral candidate in electrical
engineering at the University of Michigan.

Zhang and other demonstrators said they did not consider their
appearance a protest against the Dalai Lama, and that they share many of
his views about compassion, love and the autonomy of Tibet. But they
decried Tibetan separatists and the violence.

Later the number of protesters grew to 50.

On Friday, at a news conference, the Dalai Lama reiterated that Buddhism
does not foster violence. But, he said, he "understands the frustration"
of the Tibetans.

"No, I don't blame the Dalai Lama for this," Zhang said of the violence.
"We hope our rally can be a bridge of understanding between East and West."

Inside the arena, the Dalai Lama lectured on the nature of suffering and
the constant change in life, which Buddhists and other Eastern thinkers
call "impermanence" and how a mind disciplined through practices like
meditation is able to better cope with both phenomena.

Signifying the serenity and bliss that are among the goals of Buddhist
practice, the Dalai Lama began speaking by saying, "Indeed, I am very
happy."

After greeting his audience in English, the Dalai Lama switched to
Tibetan to provide what is essentially the catechism of his faith. He
spoke in five-to-10 minute sequences before a translator then delivered
the remarks.

The three lectures on compassion and wisdom are sequential and intended
to provide increasingly intensive instruction on Buddhism, over the two
days.

In an era where fundamentalism in different faiths is stressing a
confining view of spiritual pursuits, the Dalai Lama said, a true
knowledge of the Buddhist traditions is essential.

"Under such circumstances, the effort to produce harmony among different
understandings is essential, and therefore it is helpful to know what is
Buddhism and what is available in this approach," he said.
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