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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."

Dalai Lama Extols Virtue of Compassion

May 3, 2009

Calls on schools to teach kindness
By Michael Paulson and James F. Smith, Globe Staff
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
May 1, 2009

CAMBRIDGE - Arrayed before him were deans and
doctors, professors and pupils, and the full
range of scholars who populate the hallowed halls of Harvard.

After the Dalai Lama slipped off his shoes,
crammed his crossed legs into a too-narrow chair,
and unceremoniously blew his nose, the world's
most revered and honored Buddhist monk offered a
bit of wisdom for the sages: Being smart doesn't make you happy.

During a day of high-minded events at Harvard and
MIT, the 73-year-old spiritual leader repeatedly
showed that he was not interested in the pomp of his surroundings.

When the crowd rose, in complete silence, as he
entered Memorial Church, he said, abruptly and simply, "Sit down."

At a tree-planting in his honor in Harvard Yard,
he made it clear this would not just be for show.
He chastised the president of Harvard, Drew
Gilpin Faust, for shoveling too little dirt on
the birch sapling's roots, and once the
dignitaries had done their thing, he grabbed his
shovel and smoothed out the ground, and then took
a plastic water bottle and liberally sprinkled
its contents over the sun-drenched green leaves.

At Harvard, he flipped through a program while a
group of Tibetan girls performed a dance for him;
at MIT, as the Buddhist chaplain delivered
closing remarks, the Dalai Lama busied himself putting on his slippers.

His day had two major events - a talk at Harvard
about the importance of educating people to be
compassionate, as well as intelligent, and a
fund-raising event for a new institute in his
name, the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values, at MIT.

At Memorial Church, after being welcomed by
Tibetan dancers and musicians, the Dalai Lama
posed a rhetorical question, "whether education,
intelligence, can bring inner peace," and
proceeded to conclude that it cannot. He joked
about Harvard's reputation, saying: "Some of my
friends in the East once told me Harvard is so
famous, even just to walk in that place is
something sacred. That is too much, I think.
Foolish people, or silly people, can walk [through] easily."

At another point, he observed: "There are very
smart scholars, professors . . . full of feelings
of competition, full of jealousy, full of anger.
. . . I don't mean disrespect."

He said, as he often does, that compassionate
feelings appear to be a biological component of
human beings - he cited the early connection
between children and their mothers - and said
those feelings need to be cultivated, not only by
families, but also by schools.

He noted that Buddhist monks have weathered
imprisonment in Chinese prisons with less
apparent psychological damage than that
experienced by veterans of the Iraq war, and
said, "More compassionate persons, in spite of
traumatic experiences, their mental state is
still calm." And he attributed some youth
violence to a lack of "compassion, or affection, in family, or society."

But he suggested that "Warm-heartedness" is difficult to teach.

"How to teach, I don't know," he said. "I often
express these things. But how to implement, it's up to you."

At MIT, the Dalai Lama offered a mix of
provocative ideas about promoting ethics in a
secular society with banter and jokes that he chortled at himself.

After entering the nearly full Kresge Auditorium,
where some guests had donated $1,250 or more for
a pair of tickets, he kidded a Catholic monk in
the front row that his head was less than
perfectly shaved, unlike the Buddhist monks in
the hall. Sitting cross-legged on a sofa, he
recalled that he had visited a homeless shelter
in San Francisco recently and told a man there
that he, too, had suffered the same fate after
going into exile in 1959. "I said, 'Me too, homeless.' "

His talk centered on how to achieve genuine
compassion - not the kind that people easily
muster for friends who share their views, but
compassion for those they don't agree with.

The Dalai Lama also said the new ethics center
should search for ways to help secular people
build ethical values, arguing that most of the
world's 6 billion people are nonbelievers who
won't get ethics through religion.

He asked the Catholic monk whether secularism
means rejection of religion, to which the monk
replied, "that depends on your experience of secularism."

"Very wise answer," the Dalai Lama told him to
laughter. "We need to promote secular ethics through education."

The Dalai Lama had some imaginative ideas for MIT scientists to work for peace.

"You could invent an injection for compassion," he said. "I would want that."

And maybe commerce could contribute: "You could
have shops selling compassion. In a supermarket, you could buy compassion."

A student asked about ethics and the weapons
industry. The Dalai Lama, who was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his nonviolent
campaign for Tibetan rights, said he hoped this
would be the century for global demilitarization.

But a good start, he said, would be for
institutions like MIT to invent a bullet "that
misses ordinary people but hits the decision
makers," waving his arm in the path of a wiggling
bullet to laughter and applause. "That kind of
bullet needs to be developed. Wonderful."

Michael Paulson can be reached at mpaulson@globe.com.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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