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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?"

Opinion: A contrasting perspective: An alternative account of the Tibetan monk's visit

October 27, 2008

Peter Zysk
gonzagabulletin.com
October 25, 2008

Last week's Gonzaga Bulletin coverage of Geshe Thupten Phelgye's
speech at Gonzaga ("Tibetan monk visits Spokane, speaks at law
school") was, to say the least, disappointing. The Bulletin ran a
story that was a biography of Phelgye masquerading as coverage of the
speech event. It was obvious to me that the writer of the story did
not even attend the event and the magic of Phelgye's presence and
power of his message did not make it into print.

Phelgye, a member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, spoke about
Buddhist teachings for transforming hatred into love on Oct. 15.
Phelgye's eloquence, sincerity, and humor captivated a full house at
the Moot Court Room of the Gonzaga Law School that evening.

Phelgye's message was that anger, greed, jealousy, hatred and other
"negative emotions" are caused by ignorance. Ignorance blinds people
from seeing what is right and what is wrong, Phelgye said. When this
happens, "negative emotions" take over and people act in unjust ways.

An analogy helped Phelgye teach this lesson. He said that if someone
were to hit you with a stick, then you should get mad at the stick.
The stick was what directly caused you the pain and the person who
hit you with the stick only indirectly caused you the pain.

He said that the same logic should be applied to a person who acts
out of hate. Ignorance is blinding the person who is acting out of
hate and is directly causing their hatred, so it is the ignorance
that one should be mad at. But Phelgye believes that getting mad at
the ignorance solves nothing, and what should be done is to help cure
a person of their ignorance. A person who is acting out of hate would
not be acting in that way if they were in their normal state, Phelgye
said, and they deserve compassion from those whom their hate is
directed at to cure them of their ignorance.

Phelgye said that practicing compassion and learning to analyze the
causes of hatred are what people should do to defeat hate. He cited a
Buddhist teaching that everything and everyone in the world is
interconnected. Since everything is interconnected, everything must
have a cause and condition, he said, and if it has a cause and
condition then it must have an end. Phelgye said that we must look at
what the end of a problem is to see what the solution could be.

Phelgye's lessons were taught through stories from his own life and
his own struggles with hatred. As a young boy, the elders in his
village told him that he was a member of an "unlucky generation"
because when his generation was born, Tibet lost its independence. He
remembers being hidden in a closet by his father out of fear caused
by a rumor that the incoming Chinese army would take all of the young
boys away so that they would not grow up to be Tibetan. His family
tried to flee Tibet to go to India, but they were caught by Chinese
authorities and were put into concentration camps. After three years
of escape attempts, Phelgye's family finally made it to India.

Once in India, Phelgye was consumed with anger toward the Chinese. He
wanted nothing more than to fight the Chinese, even if it meant his
death. At age 13, Phelgye went to the Indian military headquarters
and tried to sign up for the military, but was turned away because of
his age. The monk giggled as he recalled Indian soldiers feeding him
candy for a week before sending him home.

Phelgye said that his life was changed forever when the Dalai Lama
came to his school in 1972. The Dalai Lama's teachings touched
Phelgye and he decided to dedicate his life to following the Dalai
Lama. Phelgye joined the monastery in 1973 and gave up his hatred for
the Chinese and instead devoted his life to love for the Dalai Lama

At one point during the lecture, Phelgye's cell phone started ringing
and the monk burst into laughter. He told the audience that even in
sessions of the Tibetan Parliament that delegates' phones will
sometime ring and everyone will laugh, breaking the serious tone of
their meetings. For those in attendance, Phelgye's ringing phone was
a reminder that, despite living half a world away, he is not that
much different from us.

Phelgye's message was powerful and his story was moving, but one
would not have gathered that from reading the Bulletin last week.

Peter Zysk is a senior at Gonzaga.
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