Dalai Lama Speaks On Environmental Responsibility in Ann Arbor

April 22nd 2008

Ann Arbor, MI, USA, 20 April 2008 (The Ann Arbor News) - The Dalai Lama on Sunday said the need for environmental responsibility dovetails with Buddhist teachings on valuing human life, whether that is one person or the world's entire population.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader offered his trademark humor and humility before crowds of more than 7,000 at the University of Michigan that gathered for an afternoon lecture on sustainability and a morning teaching session.

"Taking care of our planet, environment, is something like taking care of our own home," he told the crowd at Crisler Arena. "This blue planet is our only home."

Outside of the basketball arena where the Dalai Lama spoke, hundreds of pro-Chinese demonstrators held signs and waved Chinese flags.

During his lecture, dubbed "Earth Day Reflections," the Dalai Lama said it would be a mistake if people came to hear his vast knowledge on the topic. But if people came out of simple curiosity, "that's no problem."

He said he has learned about the need for environmental responsibility from meetings with scientists and other experts.

Diane Brown, public safety spokeswoman for the university, said the crowd of demonstrators was estimated at about 600 to 700 people. Many wore T-shirts that read "Support Beijing 2008," a reference to the upcoming summer Olympics.

As they rallied, a small airplane flew overhead pulling a banner that read: "Dalai Lama Please Stop Attacking Olympic Flame."

The Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959 in Tibet, arrived in the U.S. on April 10, a day after demonstrators disrupted the Olympic torch run in San Francisco in a protest of China's treatment of his people.

The Dalai Lama has denied Chinese claims that he and his followers have used the run-up to the Olympics to foment unrest.

The protest led to heated verbal exchanges between pro-Chinese and pro-Tibetan demonstrators. They traded shouts of "One China" with "Open the door! Let's see what's happening inside Tibet."

Jianbo Han, a 36-year-old accountant from Ann Arbor, said the Dalai Lama should use his influence to quell the rioting in Tibet and restrain demonstrations during the Olympic torch run.

"For the majority of Chinese, the Olympics is their dream -- for centuries," he said while holding a Chinese flag. "We don't want anybody to interrupt this festival. It's not only for China, but for the whole world."

Lobsang Jimpa, 40, who lives in Ann Arbor but was born in Tibet, said for him the debate isn't personal, but political.

"I love Chinese people. ... We are not against the Chinese people at all," he said. "We oppose Chinese policy, that's all."

During the morning teaching session, the Dalai Lama continued to build on the Buddhist teachings of wisdom and compassion he had begun the day before. In his answers, he didn't propose the quick fixes that modern culture has come to expect from Dr. Phil and other tough-love dispensing talk show hosts.

"We have to deal with the causes and conditions of that anger," he said in response to a question about living with someone who is angry and argumentative. He elicited large laughs for his long, contemplative pause before answering.

"The best thing -- try to remain a bit (of) distance. If it's a husband and wife, then I don't know. Worst case? Divorce? I don't know."

On Saturday, he encouraged people to preserve their own religious traditions while respecting others with differing beliefs. He expanded on that theme on Sunday in a response to question about whether someone should convert to Buddhism.

"Among Tibetans, some are Muslim as far as religion is concerned, not Buddhism, but they live a life that is very much in the spirit of Buddhist culture. And maybe there is an individual Buddhist in the Christian culture," he said. "That's OK, isn't it?

Still, he said, there is a freedom and right to choose for those who have practiced their faith and do not find it effective.

During the sustainability lecture, sponsored by the university's School of Natural Resources and Environment, he said Americans in particular should be more content with what they have because of the anticipated shortage of natural resources.

"It is better to know the limitations of material value," he said. "We always want more and more and more. I think some lifestyle ... has to change."

During applause from the audience, he added: "But this is not my business."

The three teaching sessions were sponsored by the Jewel Heart Tibetan Buddhist learning center, The Tibet Fund and the Garrison Institute.

At the end of Sunday morning's session, the Dalai Lama presented a $10,000 check to Jewel Heart, and it was announced that the teaching sessions netted $52,132 after expenses such as security and advertising.

That money likely will go to pay for bills yet to come and additional programming, said Jonathan Rose, board co-chairman of Garrison Institute, a New York-based nonprofit.

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to talk with Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky on Monday in Michigan and speak at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., on Tuesday.

 

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