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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

'All of our hopes are now on you'

July 15, 2008

Dalai Lama urges audience at Lehigh to change the world.

By Michael Duck and Genevieve Marshall
Of The Morning Call
July 14, 2008

The Dalai Lama, speaking to a sellout crowd Sunday at Lehigh University,
urged young people to break free from their elders' mistakes and embrace
compassion as a way of achieving everything from better sleep to world
peace.

The Tibetan spiritual leader largely sidestepped political issues during
his talk on ''Generating a Good Heart,'' focusing instead on how
compassion can lead to less stress, greater understanding of other
religions and even solutions to the global problems his generation will
leave behind.

''My generation, I think, create[d] a lot of problems, left a lot of
mess,'' he said, speaking without notes and through a thick accent to
roughly 5,100 people at the university's Stabler Arena.

''Now your generation has to handle all of this in order to achieve a
happier world -- peaceful world, compassionate world. Â… All of our
hopes [are] now on you.''

Near the end of his talk, which was interrupted often by laughter and
applause, he added during a question-and-answer session that reaching
out to other religions is the best way to combat violent religious
extremism.

''Sometimes in the West, [there is] some impression that Islam is
something militant. Totally wrong,'' he said.

''Since [the] Sept. 11 event, I try to reach out to Muslim brothers and
sisters. Â…They are wonderful -- Islamic people. Very warm-hearted. Very
sensible,'' he said, adding that some Christians, Buddhists and Hindus
are also extremists.

''These few mischievous people cannot represent whole traditions,'' said
the Dalai Lama, who will continue lecturing at Lehigh through Tuesday on
a 600-year-old Tibetan Buddhist text.

In his public talk Sunday, the Dalai Lama referred only in passing to
the conflict between his Tibetan people and their Chinese rulers -- a
struggle that has triggered worldwide protests in advance of the Beijing
Olympics, which begin Aug. 8.

Demonstrations at Stabler so far have centered on the Western Shugden
Society, which arrived Saturday and continued its protest Sunday.
Instead of focusing on the conflict with China, that group protests the
Dalai Lama's rejection of a traditional Tibetan Buddhist deity.

The Dalai Lama didn't mention the upcoming Beijing Olympics during his
remarks and downplayed his role as head of Tibet's government-in-exile.
He said his own cultivation of compassion and peace were the only reason
he could sleep during the violent Tibetan protests and Chinese military
crackdown in March that left 80 people dead.

''Since 2001, we already achieved elected political leadership,'' he
said, referring to the democratic election of a Tibetan prime minister
to run the government-in-exile.

Jokingly describing his position as ''semi-retired,'' he added, ''Now
I'm looking forward to complete retirement.''

Despite his theme of passing responsibility to young people, most of his
listeners were well into their adult years -- a fact the Dalai Lama
jokingly observed while trying to find any young people in the front row.

The 73-year-old Tibetan leader often acted like the youngest person in
the room, smiling broadly and frequently laughing at his own jokes.

''I feel like he's held onto his inner child his whole life. He has
fun,'' said Kerri Mullen, a biology lab coordinator at Moravian College
in Bethlehem.

The respected Tibetan Buddhist monk and scholar even cracked jokes as
Lehigh President Alice P. Gast awarded him an honorary doctorate of
humane letters.

''I appreciate [the opportunity to] receive this higher degree without
much study,'' he said. ''Sometimes some university makes me a professor,
[and] usually I say I am a hopeless professor. First, my knowledge is
limited. And secondly I'm lazy.''

Many of the Lehigh students who attended Sunday's talk were members the
Lehigh Choral Arts group, which performed a Tibetan song after the Dalai
Lama's speech.

''It was this huge honor,'' said Alyssa Stein, a 19-year-old rising
junior from Pennington, N.J. ''I really liked what he said about how he
smiles at strangers -- because sometimes I do that too,'' she said.

Down-to-earth suggestions like those also resonated with Will Frece, a
21-year-old rising senior from Annapolis, Md., and another of the 60
student singers.

''He said a lot of things that we all think but we need to hear to
realize how important they are,'' said Frece, who's taking home a lesson
about compassion and how it's his generation's duty to bring peace to
the world.

Making that a reality will take some work, though. Several rows behind
Frece, 16-year-old Sean Napier of Buckingham Township, Bucks County, sat
with his father, Lehigh math professor Terry Napier. As they waited for
the crowds in the parking lot to thin out, the teenager pondered the
Dalai Lama's teachings about compassion and nonviolence.

Asked how he hopes to apply that to his own life, Sean answered frankly:
''I don't know. It'll take some time.''

michael.duck@mcall.com

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