Doing Right by the Law

September 24th 2006

Buffalo, USA 21 Sept 06 (Jay Rey / The Buffalo News) - Dalai Lama provides law school with a moral framework. A day after addressing a packed football stadium, the 14th Dalai Lama concluded his three-day stay at the University at Buffalo with a more personal exchange - contemplating ethics and compassion with lawyers.

The Buddhist spiritual leader participated Wednesday in a question-and-answer gathering on how Buddhism can influence law and bring about social change. The event was attended by 160 participants in a UB Law School conference.
The exiled Tibetan leader did not pretend to be an attorney, but just as in his address to 30,000 the previous day, he stressed to the legal community the need for compassion in its work.
But what do attorneys do when compassion conflicts with their responsibility to defend a client? asked Buffalo lawyer James L. Magavern.
The Dalai Lama thought for a moment.
'This is probably a question experts in the legal field can answer,' the Dalai Lama said, half-joking.
Still, he advised considering each case on its own while trying to take into account the wider welfare of others. 'Look at the broader implications,' he told the lawyers.
The conference, 'Law, Buddhism and Social Change,' was organized by UB law professor Rebecca R. French, an authority on Tibetan law, and held in the law library on the North Campus. It was one of the first times the Dalai Lama has taken questions on legal subject matter, French said.
'How many chances do you get in life to have a discussion with a great spiritual leader in the world?' Magavern said.
A panel of 15 scholars on law and Buddhism posed questions to him on a wide range of theoretical and practical topics, including an emphasis in the legal field on making money.
'That's also important. In daily life, you need money,' the Dalai Lama told them. 'It's really a matter of balance.'
The Dalai Lama spent about an hour and a half answering questions before boarding a plane bound for the other end of the state, where he will relax for a day at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Woodstock.
He will spend about a week in the United States, making stops at the United Nations, Washington, D.C., and the West Coast before returning to India, said Stephen C. Dunnett, vice provost for international education at UB.
While UB will pay the expenses for his visit, the Dalai Lama will not receive a fee, and his agreement stipulates that UB cannot make a profit from the visit.
Costs to host the three-day event still are being tallied, Dunnett said, but any profit will go to support scholarships for Tibetan students, as well as others pursuing Asian studies.
Landing the Dalai Lama for a campus visit should pay off by giving a boost to UB's reputation, specifically overseas.
What remains to be seen is whether the visit will have any impact on UB's quarter-century relationship with China.
'It's very difficult to answer,' said UB President John B. Simpson, who will be traveling next month to visit UB's program in China.
The Chinese government, which considers Tibet part of China, has a frosty relationship with the Dalai Lama, who advocates greater cultural and religious autonomy for Tibet.
During his visit, the Dalai Lama saw little of Western New York, other than the campus and his hotel room at the Buffalo Niagara Marriott on Millersport Highway in Amherst.
But he was touched by Monday's interfaith service, and overwhelmed that thousands of UB freshman were assigned to read his autobiography in conjunction with his visit, Dunnett said.
The Dalai Lama also praised UB for how well organized the three days were, according to Dunnett, who said, 'He told me he's coming back.'

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