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Buddhism: Dalai Lama, in Cambridge, Speaks of Hope

May 1, 2009

Posted by Michael Paulson
The Boston Globe
April 29, 2009

The Dalai Lama, kicking off a four-day visit to
the Boston area, today acknowledged China's
extraordinary economic and political might, but
said the world's largest nation's quest to be
considered a superpower will be stymied as long
as China continues to dodge human rights concerns.

The 73-year-old spiritual and political leader of
Tibetan Buddhism, who has led a government in
exile in India for 50 years, beamed and laughed
as he fielded questions from the Boston news
media at the Charles Hotel, sitting in a
conference room decorated with images of doodles
and notes by former President John F. Kennedy. As
he began the session, he was noticeably fatigued,
but he became increasingly animated, and as he
rose to leave, a reporter's shouted question
about whether he ever expected to set foot in
Tibet again prompted a lengthy finger-pointing
response about the meanings of home and of hope,
and he then plunged into the media scrum to bow,
shake hands, and pose for pictures.

Perhaps the most pointed moment of the news
conference came when the Dalai Lama appeared to
compare the U.S. to China, criticizing the wars
in Afghanistan and Iraq alongside his criticism
of China's repression of Tibetan demonstrators last year.

Despite the fact that some have criticized the
Obama administration, and particularly Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton, for allegedly
soft-pedalling human rights concerns when talking
with China, the Dalai Lama said he saw no change
in American policy toward Tibet with the arrival
of the new administration, and he praised Obama
as "straightforward" and for trying to improve
some of America's testier foreign relationships.

But the Dalai Lama also acknowledged that he is
not meeting with Obama during his current trip
the US, and said that he hopes, but is not
certain, that he will meet the president during
another trip to the U.S. in October. And the
Dalai Lama said, referring to former President
George W. Bush, "I love President Bush,''
acknowledging serious policy disagreements, but citing Bush's warm personality.

The Dalai Lama offered warm remarks about Harvard
University, which he first visited in 1979, and
will visit again tomorrow with a speech at The
Memorial Church and a tree-planting ceremony in
Harvard Yard. The Dalai Lama has cultivated a
relationship with Harvard because of a perception
that many the nation's future leaders study there.

During this visit to Boston -- the Dalai Lama's
sixth trip to the region -- he will also dedicate
a new ethics center, named after him, at MIT;
will discuss the relationship between meditation
and psychotherapy at a Harvard Medical School
sponsored panel discussion, and will host two
large public events, including an introductory
course in Buddhism, that are expected to be
attended by as many as 13,000 people on Saturday
at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.

While in Cambridge, the Dalai Lama was scheduled
to meet privately with a handful of elderly and
disabled Tibetan-Americans, but most of the
area's tiny Tibetan community -- estimated at
about 600 people -- is expected to arrive en masse in Foxboro on Saturday.

"I doubt there is a single Tibetan in Boston who
won't be there -- this is a huge deal for
Tibetans to see His Holiness,'' said Dhondup
Phunkhang, a spokesman for the Tibetan
Association of Boston. "Tibetans in Tibet risk
their lives to see him, so of course we who live
in a free country should go. It's a huge honor to
be able to see him and to associate with His Holiness.''

The Dalai Lama, asked whether, after 50 years
with no success in his quest to win greater
autonomy for Tibet, there is any reason for hope
for the Tibetan cause, acknowledged that
rationally there is little cause for optimism.
However, he offered a brief history of
post-revolutionary China, suggesting that the
nation has repeatedly changed course in serious
ways, and so it is possible it will change again.
He said China has essentially abandoned socialism
-- he called it a "capitalist autocratic
communist'' nation. And he said the Chinese
people have been more sympathetic to the Tibetan
cause than has the Chinese government -- he cited
as evidence what he said were articles
sympathetic to Tibet that have been written by
Chinese authors over the last year.

For more information about the Dalai Lama's
visit, and for tickets to the Gillette Stadium event, visit bostontibet.org.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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