His Holiness the Dalai Lama in California - Day 4

October 15th 2010

Palo Alto, California, USA, 14 October 2010 - The community of Stanford University gave a very positive and warm reception to His Holiness the Dalai Lama as he began his engagements in the University town of Palo Alto on October 14, 2010.  In the morning he shared his thoughts on “The Centrality of Compassion in Human Life and Society at a public talk while in the afternoon he talked about a Meaningful Life as part of Harry’s Last Lecture series. His Holiness concluded his engagement for the day by meeting with Chinese and Tibetan students and scholars.

In the morning, as His Holiness entered the Maples Pavilion, the arena where over 6,500 university students, faculty and staff, as well as other people had gathered to hear the public talk, he was given a standing ovation.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with James Doty at Maples Pavilion on October 14th, 2010. Photo/Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service
In his welcome address, Stanford University President John L Hennessy talked about the personality of His Holiness saying that when he is asked to name the one single world personality that he admired, it was him.

His Holiness began by saying he always found interactions like this very educative. In addition to sharing his views, the questions posed by the people were helpful to him in pondering on issues.

His Holiness said basically we are all same human being with everyone having the right to achieve a happy life. Historically, he said that in ancient time people had a strong sense of us and they and the feeling of independence. Subsequently, new reality emerged and the concept of independence changed to one of interdependence.
He said genuine friendship on the basis of trust is a necessity now. Trust, he said, comes from transparency and honesty, and that the fundamental basis of survival was a compassionate motivation.

His Holiness outlined three ways in which the promotion of fundamental human values can be approached.  These were theistic, non-theistic, andsecular ethics way.

Those people who follow theistic religions have belief in God the creator who is infinite love.  These individuals submit themselves totally to God and through this process promote human values.

For those individuals who follow non-theistic religions, they are moved by the law of causality where your action determines the outcome. In order to attain a happy life they are encouraged to proceed on the path of promoting human values.

Some of the audience of 6,500 who came to Maples Pavilion to listen to His Holiness the Dalai Lama on October 14th, 2010. Photo/OHHDL
The third approach is for those individuals who are non-believers. His Holiness said that there are some religious leaders who believe that moral ethics must be based on religious faith. He said this is a narrow outlook.

His Holiness felt that the community of non-believers has the same desire for happiness as believers. He therefore, His Holiness then explained the importance of developing secular ethics to promote inner peace saying his definition of secularism is not rejection of religion but something that India promotes, namely equal respect to all religions.

His Holiness explained three main reasons for the need to promote secular ethics.  He said first is Common Experience. He said when a child is born the mother provides the maximum affection to it. Similarly, he said that the child at that age is not aware what its relation is with the mother but nevertheless relies on her.  His Holiness said even animals have this common experience. His Holiness also recalled the kindness of his mother enabling him to appreciate the value of a compassionate attitude.  He said the seed of compassion, in him, had been sown by his mother and that as he grew up Buddhist practice had enabled him to build it further.

His Holiness said the second reason for promoting secular ethics is Common Sense. His Holiness also said that it is common sense that money brings about only temporary or superficial happiness. Material values, he said, cannot bring about inner peace, which can only be attained through warm heartedness.

His Holiness said the third reason for the need to promote secular ethics is scientific evidence about its positive impact.  He said scientific research has shown that constant fear and hatred are eating away our immune system while individuals who are calm and compassionate sometimes even show an increase in their positive body elements.

His Holiness recalled attending a conference at which a paper was presented in which it was stated that people who continued to stress on “I”, “me” or “my” had greater risk of heart attack.

His Holiness then emphasized the importance of inner mental development saying in the past, people first depended on prayers to find solutions to their needs. Subsequently, scientific and technological development enabled people to fulfill many of their needs. Now people are seeing that there is the limit to the solution that such external developments can provide.  Attention is being paid to the importance of mental health.

More people are realizing that real peace comes from calm mind, not through tranquilizers, drugs or alcohols. Inner peace is a kind of mental state and must be developed through a mental process.

His Holiness talked about the increasing scientific interest in this field and said that research was already being done in Stanford University, University of Wisconsin in Madison, and Emory University in Atlanta.

During the reflections and Question and Answer session, Dr. James Doty, Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and education (CCARE) and clinical professor of neurosurgery in Stanford University, began by acknowledging the support and encouragement of His Holiness to their research initiative. He said the donation that His Holiness made to the Center is the largest donation that has been made to a non-Tibetan project.

Thereafter, His Holiness answered questions in the course of which he explained how compassion can be practiced, how the education system needs to incorporate the promotion of inner development, how the 21st century needs to be better than the 20th century, which was a century of violence and how the young people of today like the students gathered at the talk had the responsibility to make it happen.

His Holiness concluded by calling upon the young people to think of making the 21st century more compassionate and peaceful. He added that they should develop the conviction that the only solution to all the problems is through dialogue.

In the afternoon, His Holiness first addressed a group of supporters of CCARE before going to the Memorial Church to deliver the Harry’s Last Lecture on a Meaningful Life as the 2010 Rathbun Visiting Fellow.

His Holiness waves to the audience at Memorial Church in Palo Alto on October 14th, 2010. Photo/Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service
Harry Rathbun was a Stanford professor from the 1930s to the 1950s whose last lecture devoted to the meaning of life became the inspiration for this lecture series.  Around 1300 people had secured seats for this lecture.

The Rev. Scotty McLennan, Dean for Religious Life of Stanford University, gave the welcome remarks. Mr. Richard Rathbun, Chairman and CEO of Foundation for Global Community, introduced His Holiness saying there is no one more appropriate than him to the speaking about the meaning and purpose of life.

In his address, His Holiness the explanation of a meaningful life would differ from one tradition to another, but at the basic level we were all the same human being.

He highlighted the importance of a compassionate mind for a meaningful life saying that money and power are of secondary importance in this. He stressed on the need to practice simplicity and contentment and having self-discipline in a spiritual sense.

He talked about the need to respect all religious tradition and gave the example of India, a country in which all major religious traditions flourish together.

Memorial Church in Palo Alto where His Holiness the Dalai Lama took part in the Rathbun Lectures on October 14th, 2010. Photo/Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service
His Holiness then referred to his two commitments of the promotion of human values and the promotion of religious harmony and how these impacted a meaningful life.

His Holiness then answered questions, both previously compiled as well as from those among the audience. They ranged from how decision could be made to drawing a distinction between caring for one’s own interest and sacrificing them for others.

In answer to a question on death penalty, His Holiness said the argument for it was mainly two; deterrence and retribution. He said if we analyze from the developments in countries like China, where death penalty is practiced, it is clear that both these justification did not hold. He said there is no reduction in crime or corruption because of having the death penalty.  Similarly, countries that have done away with the death penalty have not seen any increase in crime or corruption, he said.  His Holiness said he would think life imprisonment during which the individuals would be provided with education to become positive was a more effective deterrence. His Holiness said he was among the signatories of the campaign against death penalty launched by Amnesty International some years back.

Following the lecture, His Holiness returned to his hotel where he interacted with over 130 students, professors and scholars, a majority of whom were Chinese. They were all from Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and San Francisco Academy of Arts.

His Holiness interacting with students and faculty from Stanford University on October 14th, 2010. Photo/OHHDL
Ms. Tenzin Seldon, a Tibetan student at Stanford University and one of the organizers of the dialogue, made introductory remarks.  She said, “His Holiness the Dalai Lama has worked tirelessly to promote meaningful dialogue as the key to fostering the trust and mutual respect we urgently need as we seek a unified solution in the case of Tibet.  I hope today that, with His Holiness’ encouragement, we can frankly exchange our thoughts, and seek some common ground as we explore each other’s viewpoints.”

She added, “Through understanding and meaningful dialogues can we foster trust, as well as build mutual respect, and transparency with one another. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan leadership in Exile have always believed in the importance of dialogue to reach a solution to the Tibetan issue and have encouraged that between Tibetan and Chinese youth. This historic meeting was only possible because of His Holiness’s conviction in this method.”

She said that the participants in the discussion include 28 Chinese Graduate students, 60 Chinese undergraduate students, 20 Professors and scholars, 13 writers, poets, and artists, and 14 Tibetan students.

In his address His Holiness talked about the importance of individual creativity for the development of a society and that individual freedom was needed for this. He said the People’s Republic of China as the most populated nation should take a more constructive and effective path saying that the 1.3 billion people there had every right to know reality.

His Holiness said even before the Tiananmen crisis he had been trying to reach out to Chinese people but was faced with difficulty. Following the Tiananmen development, it was much easier to get responses from the Chinese.  He added that after the 2008 crisis in Tibet more and more Chinese have started paying attention to the Tibetan issue. His Holiness said that during the past two years he had been having regular discussions with Chinese people.

Talking about the Tibetan issue, His Holiness said that it was commo  knowledge that he was not seeking independence (and many Tibetan were critical of this position) but the Chinese Government continued to label him as a splittist. He said that the problems in Tibet were manmade problems and so logically they can be resolved.

His Holiness then explained the development of the dialogue process with the Chinese leadership.  He said in 1974 a decision had been taken not to seek Tibetan independence. Then in early 1979 his elder brother, who acted as his emissary, was informed by Deng Xiaoping that other than the issue of independence everything else can be discussed and resolved. His Holiness said that the two thinking went well together. He said in the early 1980s there was real hope of progress when Hu Yaobang was there but then he was displaced. In 2002 contact was re-established with the Chinese leadership but there has been no genuine progress now.

His Holiness then answered questions from the people. In response to what the people could do to help on the issue of Tibet he said they could spread the real picture to everyone. His Holiness said that he always admired the Chinese people as they were hard working. He also said as a Tibetan Buddhist, he always paid salutations to the Chinese Buddhists as they are senior but added that in terms of knowledge the junior was doing quite well. He said the problem was due to misunderstanding created by the Chinese Government and that the solution that he was striving for was of mutual benefit.

In answer to another question, His Holiness said he divided China into Four Eras. Under Mao Zedong era, ideology was prominent, under Deng Xiaoping era, becoming rich was stressed, under Jiang Zemin era, the Communist Party membership was expanded to include other sectors of the Chinese society, and under Hu Jintao era, harmonious society was stressed.  His Holiness said that for a harmonious society, individual freedom, free flow of information, etc. were essential.  He said things may be moving judging by recent comments of Premier Wen Jiabao and the petition by Chinese elders.

When asked how religion and politics played their roles, His Holiness said that he believed that religion and politics should be separate. He talked about the changes that have taken place in Tibetan political system and that political leadership was an elected one. However, he said that political leaders need to have spiritual background.

Fang Zheng, whose legs have been amputated after he was run over by a tank during the Tiananmen demonstrations, told His Holiness of his situation. He also referred to the Nobel Peace Prize for Liu Xiaobo and said if there was an opportunity for a meeting where did His Holiness think it would be.  His Holiness said he felt saddened hearing about Fang’s situation. In terms of a meeting with Liu he said that if there was a possibility then it may be in Beijing.

His Holiness then advised the young Chinese students to take more responsibility to make this century a better one for all of us. Pointing to an elderly Chinese professor, His Holiness said they were all from the previous century but that the young people had 90 years of this century to make a difference.

A representative of the Chinese students thanked His Holiness for coming to speak to them.

His Holiness concluded saying that such meetings were much appreciated as he had been advising Tibetans to continue to reach out to Chinese and to form groups with the aim to bring the two communities closer.

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