His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion Thursday afternoon as part of a two-week tour of the East Coast promoting the teaching of compassion within education systems. He spoke of how spiritualism can survive in an increasingly secular world.
The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhism sect exiled by the Chinese communist government in 1959. His Holiness fled to India and has not returned to the Tibetan region since. His exile has served as a perpetual symbol of the tensions between China’s central government and the Tibetan people.
Religious Studies Prof. Jeffrey Hopkins introduced the Dalai Lama with a statement about His Holiness’s global appeal, generated by his very position.
The greatest example of the Dalai Lama’s message, Hopkins said, is the self-immolation of more than 50 Tibetans in protest of the Chinese government’s actions against the Tibetan nation. These Tibetans chose “to try to burn themselves out of compassion rather than to kill someone else,” Hopkins said.
The Dalai Lama, speaking haltingly but mostly fluently, highlighted the emotional similarities between all human beings regardless of material status. He said humanity had developed an increased focus on materialism in the last two centuries, shifting away from prayer and spiritualism.
“This imitation of materiality, material value will not bring inner peace,” he said. “[It] creates more inner greed … frustration, and then violence also.”
His address at times became political, with indirect criticisms of the teachings of some contemporary religious figures. He said agnostics and atheists, too, could cultivate values of love and compassion preached by older religions.
“Jesus Christ, Buddha, Muhammad, all these great leaders, what they tell us [is to] be a compassionate person,” His Holiness said.
A compassionate mind, he said, produces peaceful emotions rather than hatred.
His Holiness’ message ended on a positive note, as he expressed hope for a 21st century less troubled than the 20th. “At the beginning of [the] 21st century, think properly and make proper effort consistently and tirelessly,” the Dalai Lama said. “I think this century can be [a] more happier century, [a] more peaceful century.”