His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Cedar Falls, IA - May 18, 2010

May 18th 2010

Cedar Falls, IA, USA, 18 May 2010 - His Holiness gave an hour-long interview to the Chinese language media outlet, Duowei. The interview was conducted by its chairman, Mr. Yu Pinhai, who had flown to Cedar Falls from Hong Kong, for the purpose.

His Holiness responded to questions on the nature of the Tibetan issue and what would it take for the dialogue process with the Chinese leadership to move forward. His Holiness said the Tibetans had a very rich spiritual heritage and a culture that was the way of life for all Tibetans, whether Buddhists, Muslims or Christians. He said he called this as the Tibetan Buddhist culture and it was a culture of non-violence and of compassion. His Holiness said there was a moral crisis in the world, including in China, and that the Tibetan Buddhist culture could be beneficial in making a positive contribution.

Participants in the panel discussion “Educating for a Non-violent world" at McLeod Center of the University of Northern Iowa. Photo/Carolyn Dorr/UNI

His Holiness said that his main concern was the preservation of the Tibetan culture. However, he said the problem was that some narrow minded Chinese leaders only saw the Tibetan identity as a source of separation. His Holiness repeated his assertion that whether intentional or unintentional some sort of cultural genocide was taking place. His Holiness referred to the former Tibetan Autonomous Region Party Secretary Chen Kuiyuan who had issued directives for Tibet University in Lhasa not to teach any classical Tibetan spiritual texts. His Holiness said he was informed of this by some teachers of Tibet University. Similarly, His Holiness said he has received reports that some officials are recommending that Tibetan monasteries be converted from centers of Buddhist studies to mere temples with a few monks.

His Holiness said the Tibetans very much love their cultural heritage and said the negative attitude of the people in authority towards this heritage was having negative impact on the people. His Holiness said Tibetan Buddhist leaders in Tibet like Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok faced great difficulties in pursuing purely spiritual activities.

His Holiness also clarified that he had never asked all the Chinese to move out of Tibet, but that Tibetans be the majority as that was essential for the survival of the Tibetan identity. He referred to the development in Inner Mongolia where there were only three to four million Mongolians compared to around 20 million Chinese. His Holiness said in the past there were Chinese in his birth place and they had no problems with the Tibetans.  Similarly there were some Chinese in Lhasa area, too. His Holiness talked about a situation something like for six million Tibetans around one million Chinese being there would not be a problem.

When asked what steps he could take on moving the Tibetan dialogue process forward, His Holiness said that from his side he had done everything possible and reminded the interviewer about Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s commitment that except for the issue of Tibetan independence everything else can be discussed and resolved. His Holiness said that some Chinese United Front officials have said that there is no Tibetan issue, but only the issue of the Dalai Lama. He said that the whole world knows that he is not asking for Tibetan independence while the Chinese Government continues to claim he is a separatist. He said that was the problem. Therefore, His Holiness said that the Chinese leadership needs to acknowledge that there is a Tibetan problem and begin serious discussions. He said once serious discussions start it should be the Tibetans in Tibet who should be taking active part in it. Currently, he said Tibetans in Tibet are afraid to speak their minds as they would be accused of being separatists. His Holiness said he had always said that the majority of Tibetans who are in Tibet are his boss. He said the previous Panchen Lama supported his approach as does Phuntsok Wangyal and Yangling Dorjee, former Tibetan officials in the Chinese Government. His Holiness said he had never asked the Chinese Government for any position for himself in the past and that he would not ask for such a thing even in the future.

To a question whether His Holiness was concerned about the future after him, he responded that as early as 1969 he had made clear that the Tibetan people should decide whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. He said in exile since 2001 there is an elected political leadership and also young and qualified spiritual masters in all Tibetan Buddhist lineages are growing up. His Holiness therefore said he was not concerned.

His Holiness also clarified that although the media was using the term “Tibetan Government in Exile” he said we formally use the term “Central Tibetan Administration.”

His Holiness talked about the atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust that was currently prevalent among the Chinese leadership on the Tibetan issue and hoped that this interview would help clarify the issue.

Following the interview, His Holiness left for the McLeod Center of the University of Northern Iowa to participate in a panel discussion on “Educating for a Non-violent world.” His Holiness began by apologizing for his delay as he said he was giving an interview to a Chinese journalist.

Gloria J. Gibson, executive vice president and provost at the University of Northern Iowa, moderated the session. The other panelists were Art Erickson, founder and CEO of Urban Ventures Leadership Foundation (UVLF), who has been working with young people, facilitating community development, and forming collaborations and networks; Judy Jeffrey, former director of Iowa Department of Education; Jackson Katz Founder and director of Mentors in Violence Prevention; and Lee Rainey, president of C-Level Consulting who has been involved with rehabilitation work in Minneapolis for many years.

The panelists discussed violence in schools, communities, and the workplace. They talked about ways in which we, as individuals and as a society, can address issues of violence, promote civility and enhance understanding through education. The panelists first made presentations about their personal involvement in efforts to educate the youth and less privileged members of the society. They then posed questions to His Holiness on his perception, including on the incorporation of the value of compassion in outreach to the community.

His Holiness said it was his first time in Iowa and he was glad to be participating in a serious discussion. He greatly appreciated the personal experiences of the panelists. He said it was his basic belief that it was only a minority of the people in the world who were involved in violence or similar action.

His Holiness talked about the need of education of the heart in addition to the education of the brain. He said there was need to incorporate the study of moral ethics in the education system. His Holiness concluded that a compassionate and warm hearted individual invariably would be a healthy individual, which would lead to a healthy family, which would in turn lead to a healthy community.

Since His Holiness was wearing a visor with the symbol of Indiana University on the stage (which is his custom to shade his eyes from the bright light), the moderator suggested that he should have one of Northern Iowa University. When such a visor was brought and His Holiness wore it on his head, there was general applause.

After lunch, some members of the Theosophical Society called on His Holiness and briefed him about their projects within the Tibetan community. Thereafter, the Tibetan students studying in the University of Northern Iowa had an audience with him during which he advised them on their study and briefed them on the importance of reaching out to the Chinese community.

His Holiness then gave an interview to Ms. Mary Wald of community.com, who has launched a two year campaign to raise awareness on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  That interview was a part of the campaign of 30 video spots with Nobel Peace Prize winners and internationally recognized artists on the articles of the UDHR. Others who have been interviewed include actors Morgan Freeman and Anne Archer and fellow Nobel laureates Archbishop Tutu and Jose Ramos-Horta. His Holiness responded to questions about his feelings on the significance of the Universal Declaration and how it has evolved.

The afternoon public talk program was at the same McLeod Center and began before His Holiness came on the stage with performances by the Northern Iowa Wind Symphony and young members of the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota, who had been especially invited to perform for the event.

University Executive Vice President and Provost Gloria J. Gibson joined President Allen in conferring His Holiness with an honorary degree. Photo/Molly Wade/UNI

Thereafter, His Holiness came on the stage with University President Benjamin Allen. In his introductory remarks, President Allen recognized former Iowa Lt. Governor Joy Cole Corning whose support had enabled the University to establish the Joy Cole Corning Distinguished Leadership Lecture. His Holiness’ public talk was a part of this lecture program.

Referring to His Holiness, President Allen said, “As an institution strongly committed to the education of future teachers, today we are honored to host one of the world’s most revered teachers, thinkers and philosophers.”

He also announced a scholarship for Tibetan students from money set aside from ticket sales and other funds raised for the visit. President Allen said that University will continue to partner with The Tibet Fund that has a program under which Tibetan students come to study at the University of Northern Iowa. He recognized Tibet Fund President Rinchen Dharlo who was present at the talk saying, “Thank you for providing our campus with outstanding students.”

McLeod Center of the University of Northern Iowa, venue of the afternoon public talk "The Power of Education". Photo/Carolyn Dorr/UNI

President Allen then introduced an original musical piece entitled “Follow” that was composed by University’s Professor of Theory and Composition, Jonathan Schwabe. Prof. Schwabe was inspired by the verse on “Joy” in the Buddhist scripture, Dhammapada. The combined ensembles of the University’s Concert Chorale, singers, Children’s Choir, Varsity Men’s Glee Club and the Wind Symphony performed the composition under the direction of conductor Ronald Johnson. His Holiness called the performance “touching” and suggested that the meaning of the lyrics should be put into practice in our daily life.

Prof. Schwabe presented the original score of “Follow” to His Holiness thereafter.

University Executive Vice President and Provost Gloria J. Gibson then joined President Allen in conferring His Holiness the Dalai Lama with an honorary degree “for his life of commitment to teaching and embodiment of universal human values such as compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and love.”

President Allen said, “Since leaving his Tibetan homeland, the Dalai Lama has been embodied symbol of the Tibetan people and culture. His efforts earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.”

“A belief in education and a commitment to teaching is a consistent element in the life of the Dalai Lama,” the President said. “As an educator and religious scholar His Holiness consistently blends his work as a world and spiritual leader with his commitment to teaching,” he added.

After the honorary degree was conferred, President Allen invited His Holiness to address the gathering saying, “Ladies and Gentleman, I am honored to present His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.”

His Holiness began by saying that at the basic level all human beings were the same, from the President to a beggar, from a king or a queen to an Aids patient or a prisoner. He said the difference regarding color, gender, income, education, etc. were secondary to this basic oneness of humanity.

He cautioned the audience, who numbered more than 5000 people, not to have high expectations from his speech saying he had only come as a fellow human being and to find new ideas for a happier life. He also said he did not have any magical or healing power saying his gall bladder surgery in 2008 was a scientific proof of this. He said he was generally skeptical of anyone who claimed healing power.

His Holiness explained his two commitments of promoting human values and promoting religious harmony. Talking about religious harmony, His Holiness referred to his meeting with the late Trappist Christian monk, Thomas Merton, from whom he had learnt the real value of Christianity.

Referring to the topic of the public talk, His Holiness in the early period of human life education did not play a role. As there was technological advancement education began to play a role. His Holiness then quoted a Buddhist scripture to convey the importance of education. It said learning is like a lamp that dispels the darkness, a reliable friend that will not waver, and a friend that will show you the path.

His Holiness, however, cautioned that education alone is not a guarantee for bringing happiness to oneself or the community. He said for education to be constructive there needs to be a sense of responsibility based on a sense of concern for the wellbeing of others, which in turn is based on the oneness of all human beings.

His Holiness then explained the importance of developing moral ethics to promote inner peace. He said in this there were two options, one based on faith, in which case the complication arose as to which religion to choose. The other is a non-religion path, in which moral ethics are promoted on the basis of common experience, common sense and through scientific findings. His Holiness called this the promotion of secular ethics. His Holiness said his definition of secularism is not rejection of religion but something that India promotes namely equal respect to all religions.

During the question and answer session, in a response to a question on whether all religions were the same, His Holiness said they were not. He said that while all religions had the same message; that of compassion, love, forgiveness, tolerance, etc., at the philosophical level they were different. He said even within one religion like Buddhism there were different philosophical viewpoints. He said such variety was needed to meet the need of different dispositions of the individuals.

His Holiness received a standing ovation as he finished his program and as President Allen thanked him for taking the time to be here.

The Cedar Falls TV stations covered His Holiness’s events in great details with some TV even posing trivia questions on the life of His Holiness to entice the interest and to test the knowledge of the viewers. TV news reports carried reactions of the public to His Holiness’s talk and they were greatly impacted by the simplicity and the practicality of his message.

His Holiness leaves Cedar Falls for New York City on May 19, 2010 on the last leg of his current tour of the United States.


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