Faculty of Education Welcomes Dalai Lama To McGill

October 9th 2009

Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 6 October 2009 (By Adam Scotti, The McGill Tribune) - Addressing a crowd of 500 education students and faculty in Pollack Hall, the Dalai Lama brought his message of religious tolerance and compassion for others to McGill this past Saturday.

After visits to Vancouver and Calgary, the 74-year-old exiled spiritual leader of Tibet chose Montreal as his third and final stop in Canada. McGill was first approached a year ago by the office of the Dalai Lama to host a talk between his Holiness and education students from six French and English Quebec universities.

The Quebec Ministry of Education's controversial introduction of a compulsory ethics and religions course sparked the Dalai Lama's interest in holding an event in Quebec. He applauded the province's efforts to teach tolerance in a secular setting, saying that "compassion, ethics and ecology should be a part of education."

Throughout his speech, the Dalai Lama covered topics such as compassion, religious tolerance, and society's obsession with money. When Principal Heather Monroe-Blum asked a question on behalf of a Laval student on the definition of religion, the Dalai Lama responded that "religion means individualism," and that individualism has a place in a greater religious community.

Martina Bols, a U4 education student, saw this insight as an important point for future teachers who will face the challenge of balancing ethics education and secularism in the classroom.

"As individuals we have to exemplify compassion and understanding and in order to extend that to our students and to teach them about ethics and about how to make the world a better place," said Bols.

While the talk focussed on the importance of teaching religious tolerance and morality to today's youth, there was no mention of the ongoing political tension between the Dalai Lama's exiled Tibetan government and the People's Republic of China.

"The talk was about religion, ethics, and education," said Mitchell Miller, U3 education and president of the Education Undergraduate Society. "There was no political agenda."

Instead, the talk remained lighthearted and stimulating. When addressing the issues of marriage and divorce, the Dalai Lama emphasized the importance of inner peace and understanding in tough times, but finally conceded with a big smile on his face, "I am a monk, it is none of my business."

McGill University's Ombudsperson Spencer Boudreau, the event organizer, highlighted the Dalai Lama's visit as an enlightening experience for both students and faculty.

"[We all] need a community, [we] need some spirituality, [we] need direction, [we] need guidance, [we] need discipline, and someone like his Holiness helps with that direction," said Boudreau, who compared the atmosphere around the room before meeting the Dalai Lama to that of meeting a celebrity.

"You know you used to say 'Elvis is in the building' - this was bigger than Elvis," said Boudreau.

The Dalai Lama showed a keen interest in the crowd, taking out a visor to reflect the stage lights so he could better see the next generation of teachers in attendance. At the end of the talk, Oph

 

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