His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Atlanta - Day Two

October 18th 2010

Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 17 October 2010 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama began his first of a three-day program at Emory University this morning by addressing a press meet together with University President James Wagner.

President Wagner first detailed Emory University’s relationship with the Tibetan people and gave an update on the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative. He presented His Holiness with new science textbooks translated into Tibetan as an initial outcome of a three-year-old partnership.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Emory University President James Wagner at a press conference on October 17th, 2010. Photo/Ann Borden/Emory
His Holiness in his initial remarks gave a background to this interaction with Emory University saying for the past 30 years or so he had been in dialogue with scientists in the four fields: cosmology, neurobiology, quantum physics, and psychology.  He said he had chosen these four fields because they were also subjects that are found in Buddhist scriptures.  He said this dialogue process has been very useful. Buddhists have benefited in getting an understanding of external matters from scientific findings. Scientists on their part have started showing interest in the mind, where Buddhism had something to say.

His Holiness said as part of this dialogue the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative has been very helpful in introducing modern science to Tibetan monks and nuns. His Holiness said this is an historic project that has introduced a new subject of study to Buddhists.

His Holiness referred to the four text books in science that have been translated into Tibetan as a concrete outcome of this initiative and said that the introduction of modern science in the curriculum of Tibetan monastic education was already under consideration.

Press conference with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Emory University on October 17th, 2010.  Photo/Ann Borden/Emory
To a question on whether capitalism can transform China to a democracy, His Holiness said he did not think it could do that.  His Holiness, however, said that the world trend was towards more freedom and democracy. His Holiness talked about the necessity of individual creativity (without which the society would be stagnant), which was only possible when the citizens have individual freedom. China has to go along this world trend, he said.

His Holiness said China is a great nation and is becoming an important economic power and had the responsibility to play a constructive role in the world. Trust and respect is very much essential to do this and the same can only be there when there is transparency. His Holiness felt that the current attitude of considering everything a state secret was a problem in China being able to contribute positive towards a better world. He said the 1.3 billion Chinese people have every right to know reality and the ability to see what is right and what is wrong. Thus, His Holiness said censorship is immoral. An open society is very essential, he said.

His Holiness referred to some positive trends in China, including the recent statements by Premier Wen Jiabao for political liberalization.

In response to a question on his views on the future of the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, His Holiness said that he believed that projects like the one in Emory and the two other universities of Wisconsin in Madison and Stanford are seeds that have the potential to grow. He said new forms of academic knowledge will come out of the collaboration.

His Holiness then went to the Woodruff Physical Education Center of the University, the venue of his talk on “The Nature and Practice of Compassion,” where around 4000 people gave him a warm welcome. His Holiness first greeted Ganden Tripa Kyabje Rizong Rinpoche and Choje Khamba Lama from Mongolia who were present on the stage.

Emory University President Wagner gave a brief introduction. He said it was auspicious that we were having this program today, which is the third anniversary of the award of the Congressional Gold Medal to His Holiness.  Talking about the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, President Wagner recognized Prof. Robert Paul and Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi as the intellectual and spiritual
wellspring of the project.

His Holiness bows to the audience before his talk on "The Nature and Practice of Compassion" at Emory University on October 17th, 2010. Photo/Kay Hinton/Emory
In his talk, His Holiness explained the nature of compassion and the practices for cultivating it as understood in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He explained the essential role of compassion in the flourishing of human life and how this needs to be incorporated in daily life.

His Holiness began by looking at the historical development.  In ancient times faith began after people needed a way out of difficulties they confronted.  At that people could only pray and hope. Thereafter, there was scientific and technological development that showed concrete results. People thus began to place their trust in science. The 20th century saw much scientific and technological development (seeing achievement in nuclear physics) but also was a most violent century, he said. Scientific achievement thus led to destruction. His Holiness said this also showed the limitation of material development.

His Holiness said the problem was not with the development in science and technology but lay with the users.  His Holiness therefore said human intelligence needed to be guided in a constructive manner to develop a sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of others.

He said in the ancient times when people led a simple lifestyle and they had less desire, a balance in life was maintained through reliance on religious faith. In modern times, population increase, a competitive society and more desire are leading to problems for which intelligence is help but not a direct counter force.  Loving kindness was the counterforce, His Holiness said, adding that the seed of compassion was already in the people.  He talked about the two types of compassion; one that is biased and limited and the other unbiased. He said the training of the mind enables the unbiased compassion to grow.

Woodruff Arena, venue for His Holiness the Dalai Lama's public talk at Emory University on October 17th, 2010.  Photo/Kay Hinton/Emory
His Holiness said the practice of this type of compassion can mainly be through education in secular ethics. He said that secular ethics needs to be practiced based on three reasoning. He said first is Common Experience. He said when a child is born the mother provides the maximum affection to it.  He said children who receive affection when they were young grow up having a calm mind whereas those who did notreceive affection may see abuse and a sense of insecurity.

His Holiness said the second reason for promoting secular ethics is Common Sense. He said in towns and villages, homes where there is affection are happier. Similarly, he said scientists have found that even among monkeys young ones who receive mother’s care are much happier than those that did not receive such affection.

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.

Even though a question and answer session was not scheduled, His Holiness invited members of the audience to pose some questions. The questions include how to practice compassion to whether there was any hope of healing for those who may not have seen affection when they were young. A Ladakhi asked guidance on how to deal with his situation as a researcher who has to kill many mice in the course of his work. His Holiness responded that asking for the stopping of such research was impractical. He said where killing was on the only alternative people need to do that with care and a sense of feeling. He said sometimes animals are merely being treated as objects in the course of research. He suggested that the researcher, since he is a Buddhist, could recite the Mani while undertaking his work citing the recitation of prayers that Tibetan nomads would do when they needed to depend on animals for their food. The talk was co-presented by the Drepung Loseling Monastery, Inc.

Following the talk, His Holiness met with participants of the Annual meeting of University Chaplains and members of the Religion, Conflict and Peace-Building Initiative.  He discussed with them briefly about his two commitments to promote human values and religious harmony. He suggested that religious leaders take more active role in these.

In the afternoon, His Holiness went back to the Woodruff PE Center to participate in a Summit on Happiness with The Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church; Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth (from the United Kingdom); and George Washington University Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a world-renowned scholar on Islam. Journalist and radio host Krista Tippett, producer of the award-winning public radio program "Being" (formerly titled "Speaking of Faith"), served as the moderator.

The "Summit on Happiness" held at Emory University on October 17th, 2010. Photo/Kay Hinton/Emory
President Wagner made brief introductory remarks. Thereafter Prof. John Witte Jr., director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion Center at Emory University, made some remarks calling His Holiness the Dalai Lama as possibly the world’s happiest Nobel laureates.

His Holiness was then invited to make some initial remarks. He talked about happiness being in two levels, at the physical experience level and at the mental experience level.  He said the nature of happiness has changed with the change in human intelligence.

Thereafter, each of the other panelists gave their views. They then discussed the concept of happiness from the perspective of their respective religious traditions. In the course of the discussion they felt that the different religious traditions may use different terminology but had the common view on how happiness needed to incorporate not just external material happiness but also internal mental peace.

This summit was co-presented by Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion.

On October 18, 2010, His Holiness will participate in an all-day conference with scientists and educators titled, “Compassion Meditation: Mapping Current Research and Charting Future Directions.”

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