Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dalai Lama's Familiar Message Still Delights

Spiritual leader brings words of peace and tolerance to Maryland students.

The Dalai Lama urges peace, compassion and dialogue — all of which seem in short supply in Tibet, the land he fled in 1959 and now is roiled by tensions between its Chinese rulers and nationalists yearning for their spiritual leader's return.

He never mentioned Tibet's troubles Tuesday in a lecture at the University of Maryland. But he decried violence to solve political problems. "The worst thing about it, it is always unpredictable," he said. "It may create unexpected consequences."

The 14th Dalai Lama's American visit follows by two weeks the deaths of three more Tibetans by self-immolation. Since 2011, more than 100 Tibetans have died after setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese policies and call for the Dalai Lama's return from exile.

For the past half-century, he has been based in northern India, site of Tibet's government in exile. He retired as head of it two years ago.

In his unscripted talk to about 15,000 people at the university basketball arena, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner did mention other disputes — between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the Middle East and between Muslims and Buddhists in India.

He called on people to "respect even your enemy — talk, shake hands, make clear your differences."

There wasn't much new in his remarks. As he admitted, "Wherever I go, I always talk about this. … My brain becomes almost like a machine."

Few in the audience seemed to mind. It was less a lecture than a love fest, starting with the standing ovation when he walked on stage. "He's got such an awesome spirit. You want to listen to him," said Jamal Scott, 18, of Baltimore.

The Dalai Lama opposes self-immolation as a political tactic, saying it offends the sacredness of life. But the Chinese government says the campaign is inspired by him or his followers to create a separate Tibetan state.

Dressed in maroon monk's robes and sporting a buzz cut, the 77-year-old alternately challenged and charmed his audience.

He told its younger members that this is their century and "you have the opportunity and the responsibility to create a new world, a happier world ... on the basis of the oneness of humanity."