The Dalai Lama Speaks At Harvard

April 30th 2009

Cambridge, MA, USA, 30 April 2009 (By Colleen Walsh, Harvard University Gazette) - It was a simple message delivered by a self-described 'simple Buddhist monk': Compassion reigns supreme.

The Dalai Lama addressed a capacity crowd at the Memorial Church on Thursday (April 30). With his trademark affable, down-to-earth style the religious leader counseled the audience about the important things in life in a talk titled 'Educating the Heart.'

The event was hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and the Harvard Divinity School (HDS).

The spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, has lived in exile since the Chinese suppressed a Tibetan uprising in 1959. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his efforts on behalf of the Tibetan people for autonomy from China and his support of peace and tolerance.

After introductions from HGSE Dean Kathleen McCartney, the Gerald S. Lesser Professor in Early Childhood Development, and HDS Dean William A. Graham, the John Lord O'Brian Professor of Divinity and Murray A. Albertson Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, the 73-year-old Dalai Lama unlaced his brown shoes and slid them off, folding his feet up under his dark red robes to 'get comfortable' before beginning his talk.

He offered his perspective on religion and education, and stressed the importance of both in developing compassion.

The comparative study of religions is critical, he said, to foster broader understanding and appreciation among people of different faiths and traditions and to help them comprehend that principles like love, compassion, and tolerance are at the heart of every religion.

'All traditions,' he said 'consider these important values.'

The Dalai Lama noted that some people consider Islam to be more militant than other religions because of the actions of radical factions, but he said that at the core of Islam is a loving god. 'Praise Allah,' he said, 'means infinite love, compassion.'

Education has an important role to play in enlightening the spirit, said the Dalai Lama. But he warned that people with intelligent minds but lacking a compassionate heart can succumb to competition, anger, and jealousy.

Educating the heart on compassion, and giving love and kindness to others, he offered, will lead to true inner peace. It's critical, he added, 'to educate [people] to be good social members.'

In response to a question from McCartney about how to seek peace as individuals and cultures, the Dalai Lama answered emphatically that nonviolence was the only approach.

'I always tell people we must avoid all violence.


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