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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Dalai Lama ends D.C. visit

October 13, 2009

American University speech caps meetings-packed trip
By Julia Duin
The Washington Times
October 11, 2009

The Dalai Lama capped off a five-day visit to
Washington on Saturday by offering a 75-minute
lecture on the basics of Buddhism to 4,300 people
at American University, then dropping by a
prominent synagogue for the last day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

As the unofficial leader of the world's 376
million Buddhists, the Dalai Lama lectured on
"Finding Wisdom in the Modern World" in the
university's Bender Arena. The hall was draped
with Tibetan prayer flags and women's volleyball banners.

The practice of Buddhism is a years-long effort,
he said, in cultivating the mental qualities of
"mindfulness, heedfulness and introspection. ...
One has to constantly cultivate the right view
and internalize it so it will manifest in right action."

After a speech filled with references to Buddhist
metaphysics, he encouraged the audience to
"imagine making a prostration to the Buddha." He
then cut his translator short to encourage
Christians and Muslims in the audience to
visualize "Jesus Christ, the Trinity or ...
Muhammad" in following the dictates of their own faith.

He also let slip that on Tuesday he had visited
the grave of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy at Arlington
National Cemetery, an experience that he called
"very moving." Several Kennedy family members
were present Saturday, according to Kate Saunders
of the International Campaign for Tibet.

His week here, which was packed with visits with
Chinese-Americans, congressional aides, a closed
meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
and with the State Department's special
coordinator for Tibetan issues, ended with a
lunch Saturday at the home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat.

 From there he went to Adas Israel, a synagogue
in Northwest Washington, which had constructed a
"sukkah" or tent-like dwelling just outside the
temple in honor of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Its rabbi, Gil Steinlauf, told the Buddhist
leader about the sukkah, while children sang
Hebrew welcoming songs. About 350 members of the
congregation were there, according to Steve
Rabinowitz, a congregant who helped manage press
relations for the Dalai Lama's Washington visit.

The Dalai Lama told the crowd he had "a lot to
learn from the Jews" and their ability to survive
in a diaspora. For the past 50 years, the Dalai
Lama has been based outside of Tibet because of
the Chinese invasion of his country. Once inside
the synagogue, he spoke to a private meeting of about 400 local Tibetan exiles.

Although President Obama declined to meet with
the Dalai Lama because of his upcoming visit to
China next month, the Buddhist leader sent him a
letter of congratulations Friday for winning the
Nobel Peace Prize. The Dalai Lama was awarded the same prize in 1989.

Ms. Saunders said plans are to have the Dalai
Lama return to Washington in December to meet with President Obama.

The bulk of the Dalai Lama's speech was a lecture
on the Buddhist concept of self, interspersed
with prayers chanted by one of about 60 red,
orange and brown-robed monks seated with him on a large stage.

"Buddhism denies the existence of a soul, or
atman," he began, speaking partly in English and
partly in Tibetan with translations furnished by
his longtime interpreter Geshe Thupten Jinpa.
"The notion of a self is not only false but a form of distortion."

At one point, evoking laughter from the audience
by putting a red eye-shade on his head, he said
the nonexistence of an independent, unchanging
and eternal identity at the core of an individual
was central to Buddhism and to those wish to practice it.

He compared this to the God of Christianity and
the Brahman of Hinduism, who bring into existence
individuals who gain a "self" upon creation. But
it is human selfishness that causes all manner of
evil, he said, thus Buddhists do not believe in a created soul.

"The Buddhist answer," he added, "is there is no
beginning, no end," he said. "The Buddhist idea
of no soul is 'the antidote to reducing self-centeredness.' "
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