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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."

'One among 6 Billion' -- Dalai Lama's Visit To Lehigh Valley

July 12, 2008

Tibetan spiritual leader arrives in Bethlehem for six days of talks
By Michael Duck
The Morning Call
July 11, 2008

Drawing thousands of the curious and the faithful from as far as
India, the Dalai Lama began his first-ever Lehigh Valley visit
Thursday with a call for greater understanding around the world.

The Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner arrived at
Lehigh University's Stabler Arena in Bethlehem for six days of talks
about a 600-year-old Tibetan Buddhist text.

The 73-year-old Dalai Lama, wearing the same burgundy and saffron
robes as dozens of monks at the arena, was welcomed by university
President Alice P. Gast and other officials at Stabler's back door
around 1 p.m.

He bowed to the throng of cheering followers outside, with his hands
clasped and a wide smile, before slipping inside.

When he re-emerged around 2 p.m. on the stage of the 5,100-seat
arena, which appeared to be about three-quarters full, the crowd
stood and welcomed him in reverent silence.

Introducing himself as "just one human being among 6 billion," he

emphasized that his own Tibetan Buddhist teachings aren't the only
legitimate spiritual path.

"Listen to these ideas. If you feel something [is] useful, take it!"
he said, speaking in heavily accented English. "If you feel it's
nonsense, forget it!" he added, laughing along with the crowd.

He called for greater understanding of the bonds between all people.
When facing problems like economic crises and threats to the
environment, "we simply become one community, one entity," he said.
"We all survive under one sun."

The same is true in religious conflicts, he said. "Some innocent,
genuine, faithful people sometimes suffer. So therefore, [there is]
the effort of promotion of religious harmony -- with mutual respect."

American Christians and others in this country must be more open to
Muslims, he said. "Since the Sept. 11 event, [there has been]
sometimes some negative sort of impressions, and that's totally wrong."

Outside, the crowds seemed to reflect the Dalai Lama's peaceful
ideals, though many were stuck standing in the hot sun for at least
an hour, as the line to get through security stretched around the
arena and into the parking lot.

Hundreds of demonstrators are expected outside the arena by this
weekend, but almost none had arrived Thursday.

The crowd outside Stabler included monks from India and people -- lay
and religious -- from across the country.

Rob Johanson said he drove six hours from Springfield, Mass., to
achieve one of his Top 10 lifetime goals: seeing the Dalai Lama. "I
never thought it was an achievable goal," he said.

Lehigh's Gast presented the Dalai Lama a white scarf, known as a
kata, as part of a traditional greeting to a respected teacher. He
blessed it by pressing it to his forehead, then placed it on her shoulders.

Gast said she was deeply touched by the gesture. "It was wonderful,"
she said. "In person he exudes such warmth and friendliness."

Much of the Dalai Lama's nearly two-and-a-half hour talk was devoted
to the text known as "The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to
Enlightenment."

He noted he was using his own copy, which he had carried with him
when he fled Tibet on March 17, 1959, to escape Chinese officials.

China has ruled Tibet since 1950, while the Dalai Lama heads its
government-in-exile and has tried to negotiate for greater Tibetan autonomy.

he Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center of Washington, N.J., is
coordinating the lectures on ''The Great Treatise.'' Its leaders
completed the first English translation of the work in 2004.

After opening his talk in English, the Dalai Lama shifted to Tibetan,
delving into the treatise's historical and spiritual significance and
going sentence-by-sentence through parts of the text as a scholar translated.

John Acklen of Albuquerque, N.M., said the experience was surreal and
overwhelming. "There's just so much to take in," he said. "It's like
drinking from a fire hose."

But the Tibetan leader refused to take himself too seriously. When
followers and assistants fumbled a bit through some opening rituals,
he laughed and helped them along.

During frequent pauses while translator Thupten Jinpa labored to keep
up with the teachings, the Dalai Lama joked quietly with other monks
onstage, scratched the back of his head and once even yawned.

As he ended the talk, he noted he hadn't yet recovered from his long
flights from India and then London.

"Now," he chuckled, "I am looking forward to a long sleep tonight."

michael.duck@mcall.com
610-861-3637

Reporters Veronica Torrejón and Genevieve Marshall contributed to this story.

"Listen to these ideas.
If you feel something [is] useful, take it!"
  -- THE DALAI LAMA
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