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Dalai Lama looking to a century of hope (PPG)
World Tibet Network News
Friday, November 20, 1998
3. Dalai Lama looking to a century of hope (PPG)
November 12, 1998
By Ann Rodgers-Melnick, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
GREENSBURG -- Surrounded by tight security to protect a "simple Buddhist
monk" against those who would silence his message of compassion and peace,
his Holiness the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso told a Greensburg audience he has
great hope for the next century.
The world has pulled back from what once seemed the brink of nuclear
destruction and groups that once were hostile have embraced each other, he
"At the end of the last century, science and spirituality seemed
incompatible. Now, they have moved closer together," said the exiled
Tibetan leader, whose followers consider him a living Buddha.
The People's Republic of China invaded his remote Himalayan nation in 1950.
In 1959, he fled for his life to India.
His two public appearances as a guest of Seton Hill College yesterday were
filled with humor as he joked about his self-described "broken English."
"I began studying English in 1947. Still, no progress," he said during his
talk at the Palace Theater, where every one of 1,289 seats was filled.
He will give three sold-out lectures in Pittsburgh today at Heinz Hall, the
Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh and Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall.
His message was that compassion, when practiced with determination, leads
to world peace.
"All human activities, if carried by human affection, become constructive,"
he said. These same activities "if isolated from human affection, become
mechanized and can really bring disaster. ... even religion becomes dirty
Later, however, he risked igniting some international ill will by saying
his favorite aspect of American culture is "the sense of ease with which
you interact with people -- not like Englishmen or Germans."
In the lobby of the ornate theater, before his appearances, volunteers sold
T-shirts with the Dalai Lama's likeness set against landmarks on the Seton
Hill campus, a drawing done by Greensburg art teacher, Raphael Pantalone.
The morning's presentation was delayed 25 minutes because of a long backup
at security checkpoints. No one was exempt. When the Rev. Roger Statnick,
vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg, entered through a side
door after taking Bishop Anthony Bosco backstage, he was interrogated by
plainclothes officers and ordered into the lobby for a weapons search.
Two large, friendly, bomb-sniffing dogs had front-row seats before the talk
began -- and were apparently not disturbed by the incense that wafted up
from behind the podium.
That program was an interfaith prayer service dedicated to peace. The Dalai
Lama entered to the sound of Seton Hill students playing the Tibetan
national anthem on handbells. He took a seat between Fred Rogers of "Mr.
Rogers' Neighborhood," who introduced him, and Rabbi James Rudin, director
of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee.
Before he spoke, other participants read prayers and scriptures about peace
from their own faith traditions. Rudin read Psalm 107, which thanks God for
delivering the exiled and downtrodden from their oppressors. Abdul Mawjoud,
president of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, chanted an Arabic prayer
asking for God's peace and blessing on the entire world.
Sister Marlene Mondalek, vice president of the Sisters of Charity of Seton
Hill, read the beatitudes which say: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they
will be called children of God."
When the Dalai Lama's turn came, he chanted Tibetan scriptures in a deep
voice, asking to be able to cherish all sentient beings as much as he does
his own life. In his talk, he said that material success and prosperity do
not bring happiness, that wealthy people may find themselves dissatisfied
and without true friends.
"This clearly shows that even today, spiritual values are very much
needed," he said.
Although the world's major religions have different theologies and
traditions, they share a common goal of compassion and peace, he said. To
prevent religions from becoming barriers between communities, people of
different faiths must build relationships with each other and practice
their own faiths more diligently. For if someone does not practice
religious virtues when times are good, they will be unable to do so when
adversity comes and faith is more urgently needed, he said.
"Once you really make the effort to practice ... then you really get the
value of religious faith. ... Once you get the value of your own tradition,
then you can see the value of other traditions more easily," he said.
This generation must work now to build a society based on compassion or it
will not happen later, he said. "The future depends on the present."
He closed by asking everyone to pray silently for the late Chamu
Namasivayam, a Hindu professor of philosophy at Seton Hill who worked for
five years to arrange his visit but died in July of cancer. As the Dalai
Lama prayed for her, he bowed his head and stood with his hands folded just
below his chin.
JoAnne Boyle, president of Seton Hill, presented him with two large, framed
photos of Tibet taken from a NASA space shuttle and provided by former
astronaut Jay Apt, now director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
The Dalai Lama also received an honorary doctorate from Seton Hill.
He told the students in the audience: "To get a degree like this, you will
have to work very hard. All I did was say a few words and talk too much."
He was given repeated standing ovations. Ann Hanushoski, 77, of Greensburg,
came to see him because she thought it would be an enlightening experience.
She was not disappointed.
"I thought it was absolutely beautiful," she said. "I think it really
filled everyone with a feeling of peace."
Backstage, Bosco was impressed with the Dalai Lama's good humor and
serenity despite this week's disappointments regarding a hoped-for dialogue
with Chinese leaders about Tibet.
"He is obviously a man at peace in his soul," the bishop said.
Articles in this Issue:
- A peaceful plea for his homeland (PPG)
- The living symbol - Editorial (PPG)
- Dalai Lama looking to a century of hope (PPG)
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