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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Pico Iyer's Lecture Captivates at CSULB

April 27, 2009

BY A  STAFF  REPORTER
India Journal (California, U.S.)
April 23, 2009

LONG BEACH, CA - Deviating from the topic "Our
Global Centry and Its New Possibilities"  that he
had been requested to speak on , renowned author
and travel writer Pico Iyer  chose to take his
audience  with him on the remarkable journey of
the Dalai Lama, with rare and intimate look at
the religious leader’s personality and his
mission. Iyer’s talk at the Seventh Annual Uka
and Nalini Solanki Foundation Lecture at the
Yadunandan Center for India Studies at California
State University , Long Beach on April 12 was a
vision of the public and personal  life of the
religious head available to only those who have
close access to his holiness, a privilege which
Iyer has had for several decades.

Reflecting back  on the events which
ultimately  led to his writing his latest venture
-- The Open Road: The global Journey of the
Fourteenth Dalai Lama." Iyer’s fascination with
the holy man started at the age of two when he
remembers the story that  was told to him  of the
story of  a prince fleeing his kingdom with the
enemy close at his heels and after a tense
fortnight escaping into India. It was at the age
of 17 that he made his first trip to Dharamsala
to meet the Dalai Lama which motivated him to
visit Tibet to get a first hand look at the
leader’s people.He fell in love with the people
of Tibet on his first visit  , deeply moved by
their kindness, their resilience and their fierce loyalty to the Dalai Lama.

Iyer describes the Dalai Lama as a religious
leader who holds a unique position in that not
only is he a religious head but also a head of
state , a monk and a ‘regular’ guy. What holds
him awe of the Dalai Lama is the fact that he
plays all the roles so effortlessly with what he
describes as his remarkable  capability
of  befriending any person of any generation in a
few moments, making the other feel they had known for a long long time.

While a devout Buddhist, the Dalai Lama does not
attempt to thrust its philosophies down anyone’s
throat but instructs his admirers to look deeply
into their own religions and learn from the lessons it provides.

The Dalai Lama, according to Iyer, believes that
in the modern world Science comes first
and  trumps Religion. He strongly  advises all
humans to accept the reality  and do what can be
and needs to be done  in the immediate
environment rather that dwell on the past  or
dream of  changes the future might bring. He also
holds no fascination for the innumerable
international political treaties that are being
signed and points out that they are not worth the
paper they are written on unless the spirit of
the agreed ideas are adhered to and followed.
Similarly he believes that the war on terrorism
is not one that can be won  entirely by force – a
solution can only be found if the very root cause
of it all is changed and the attitudes of the
perpetrators are radically amended.

Apart from his humanity and humility
another   remarkable feature Iyer has observed in
the Dalai Lama is his capacity to see the better
side of  any situation. Even in the fact of being
driven out of his country , he looks upon it as a
new kind of  freedom with several  opportunities
to create a better Tibet through the study of
modern science and to remove it from the
centuries of isolation which had prevented
it  from progress along with the rest of the
modern  world. He even goes to the extent of
telling his people to benefit from the material
benefits that the Chinese have brought to Tibet
and learn from the technologies and improvements they have introduced.

In response to several questions raised by the
audience Iyer responded that every Tibetan thanks
India for the shelter it has provided for its
people but that the refugees have also in turn
exposed the nation to a different and new
rich  cultural. Speaking about recent remarks
made by that holy man that he had ‘failed his
people’ the author suggests that the Dalai Lama
perhaps admits he would have done some things
differently from what he had  in his early
life  , but Iyer added  that one should not lose
sight of the fact that he had been  pitch forked
into the responsibility of being head of state
and religion while still in his teens when he was
naïve and unaware of  the workings  of the world.

Earlier in the evening ,  Dr Gerry Riposa, Dean
of  the college of Liberal Arts made the welcome
address to an impressive group  of  interested
listeners and a large number of  students which
filled the reception hall. Dr Bipasha Baruah ,
Interim Director of Center for India Studies
welcomed Pico Iyer to the event and reeled off
many of his achievements. His string of  laurels
was further elaborated on by  the author’s friend
since college days, Dr Frederick Wegener ,
Professor of English, who added that even in
their academic years his  classmates had arrived
at the conclusion that it would be Iyer would
make a big splash on the international scene.

Following the lecture Pico Iyer obliged many of
his admirers, well wishers and an enthusiastic
collection of students by signing copies of the
book they had purchased or the flyer of the event
which they wished to keep as a memento.
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