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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Dalai Lama in Indianapolis talks about challenges, compassion

May 19, 2010

By Jaclyn Goldsborough


Published: Monday, May 17, 2010

Updated: Monday, May 17, 2010

He teaches the world about compassion, tolerance, kindness and happiness, and over his many lifetimes — according to Tibetan Buddhists — Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, has reached secular and non-secular people alike with his gentle words. 

Almost 10,000 people filled the seats Friday at Conseco Fieldhouse to hear those words in the Dalai Lama’s sixth visit to Indianapolis since 1987. “Facing Today’s Challenges with Wisdom and Compassion” was held because of the combined efforts of the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center (TMBCC) in Bloomington, Ind., the Interfaith Hunger Initiative (IHI) and the Indiana Buddhist Center, both based in Indianapolis. 

The Beginning of a Holy Life

Gyatso was born to a peasant family on July 6, 1935, in a small village in northeastern Tibet. By the age of two, he was found to be the reincarnation of his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama, and therefore the reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion. 

The title of Dalai Lama, meaning “teacher whose wisdom is as great as the ocean,” holds Gyatso as a spiritual and political leader for the people of Tibet. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his tireless work toward peace and his achievements as a spiritual leader. 

From India to Indiana

The Dali Lama’s last public talk in Indianapolis was in 1999.  After a trip to Bloomington on May 12 and 13, where his late brother, former Indiana University Professor Thubten J. Norbu, taught, he returned to Indianapolis. 

“I feel I have a duty for different philosophies to enter the same place and bring compassion,” he said. 

During the talk, he stressed the importance of peace, tolerance and forgiveness, three common ideals of all religions. While he highlighted the difference in religions, such as history, tradition and philosophy, he also spoke of finding the similarities in differences while promoting the idea that everyone has a right to achieve happiness. 

“We are the same human beings physically, mentally, emotionally,” he said. “Everyone has same desire: to achieve a happy life, family and community.”

More than talking

While audience members may have left enlightened, the talk was also an opportunity to help the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington and the Indianapolis Interfaith Hunger Initiative. The net proceeds from the speech — $123,000— will be shared between the two organizations.

Larry Gerstein, a member of the Indiana Buddhist Center and professor of psychology at Ball State University, said the Dalai Lama’s talk was philosophical, academic and emotional all wrapped into one package.

Gerstein, who was president of the International Tibet Independence Movement at one point, is now the director of the Ball State’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies and a member of the Doctoral Program in Counseling Psychology. As one of the leading faces behind the push to bring the Dalai Lama to Indianapolis and Indianapolis’s involvement with the cause of Tibet, Gerstein hopes that one day Muncie will be able to receive a visit from His Holiness. 

He said that Ball State invited the Dalai Lama twice before and was turned down on the first attempt. On the second try, the invitation was accepted. Unfortunately, the Dalai Lama was not able to visit during the academic school year, significantly lowering the chance of filling Worthen Arena, so it was decided to pass on the chance for him to speak in Muncie. 

“With graduation over and summer school not yet started, we decided not enough people would benefit from the visit,” Gerstein said. 

Since then, Ball State has sent another invitation to His Holiness, and Gerstein hopes that it will be accepted and the students, faculty and community would be able to benefit from his visit. 

Meeting Again

The visit from the Dalai Lama was surprising to Tamding Wanggak, a Ball State student from Tibet majoring in school counseling. 

Wanggak said that when he came to Ball State, he expected to see many teachers here, but not his teacher, the Dalai Lama. 

He said at home in India, where the Dalai Lama resides as well, he gives many teachings, some of which Wanggak has attended. Wanggak said that to have an opportunity to see him an hour away from Ball State was a very happy moment.

“It was knowledgeable, and for to me to see him right in front of me, I was very fortunate,” he said. 

During the public talk, a women asked the Dalai Lama how to forgive people that have wronged her, in this case an ex-husband. He answered, ““I lost my whole country. There’s no use to worry,” he said. “Maybe after divorce, you have more freedom.”

Wanggak said the topic of encountering difficulties was very interesting to him. 

“The Dalai Lama’s message said even if you see a problem, you need to focus on the positive so that we can move ahead and have meaning to life,” he said.

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