Spiritual Leader Urges Compassion, Unity
The three days of public and privateappearances could best be summarized asinclusive, solemn and cheerful. The XIV DalaiLama, Tenzin Gyatso, visited Costa Rica forthe second time in 15 years this week, sharinghis message of compassion and religious unityfrom flower-decked stages and in meetingswith political and religious leaders.The events of his three-day visit were democratic,offered to as many as possible and mostwere free of charge. The overflow crowdswatched him speak broadcasted live onto screensoutside the auditoriums.Even in this officially Catholic country, throughoutthe weeks leading to his visit, this Buddhist leader’sname was on the lips of those as diverse as taxi drivers,ex-Presidents, waitresses, tourists, Catholic bishopsand Costa Rica’s practicing Buddhists.HIS message and demeanor embraced all thosepeople, leveling differences with his quick smile andemphasis on the interconnectivity among livingbeings. He reached out even to those who are easilydespised, such as Osama Bin Laden and the Chinesetroops who invaded his native Tibet and forced himinto exile more than 40 years ago.Not only were the attendance policies inclusive, sowere the questions he took. He asked conferenceorganizers to stop screening them at his meeting withthe press soon after his arrival Sunday.“I will answer any questions, but whether I can ornot, up to me,” he said. “Similarly, any question up toyou. No need to reject like that.”He was surrounded by a contingent of polite anddiscreet security men, but the Tibetan leader madeevery effort to accommodate the press and went out of his way to greet well-wishers.THE Dalai Lamas, of whom Gyatso isthe latest, are considered the reincarnationsof the Buddha of Compassion (TT, Sept.17). Born Lhamo Dhondrub in 1935 andrenamed after he was recognized as theincarnation of the Buddha at age 2,Tibetans normally refer to Gyatso as YesheNorbu, the Wish-Fulfilling Gem, orKundun – the Presence.The Dalai Lama fled his country in1959 following a Tibetan revolt againstChinese rule and now lives in exile inIndia. He speaks and writes extensively onBuddhism and the Tibetan cause.He received the Nobel Peace Prize in1989 for his emphasis on non-violence inthe struggle against Chinese rule in Tibet,in spite of the deaths of more than 1.2million Tibetans at the hands of theChinese government and the destructionof 3,000 monasteries.ON Monday, students sprawled overthe plaza outside an auditorium at theUniversity of Costa Rica (UCR), watchinga big-screen broadcast of the speech hegave in English with a Spanish interpreterinside. When he finished the speech, theDalai Lama left the auditorium andaddressed the students outside then shuffledthrough a press of fans and photographers,taking people’s hands and smiling inspite of the crowding.His final day of public speeches wasTuesday at the Children’s Museum, wherehe met with Catholic Church leaders andthe religious leaders of nearly 30 faiths,then gave a lesson on the “Eight Verses onTransforming the Mind.”He interrupted his talks with jokes aboutair-conditioners (small nation, small air-conditioner),about the number of water glasseshis interpreter had in front of him, and oncehis interpreter, who astounded audiences byjuggling Tibetan, English and Spanish withunruffled ease, turned to him and spoke inSpanish, which provoked a laugh.AUDIENCES laughed often at hisantics. Even when his jokes were rigidlydelivered, as they sometimes were in his haltingEnglish, they dragged laughs out of hislisteners, if only for his own broad smiles.Asked about his cheerfulness, he said,“Laughter is a beautiful expression of happiness.But genuine, not artificial, laughter.Artificial laughter creates suspicion.”The Dalai Lama’s first speech, to anear-capacity crowd at the NationalTheater in downtown San José Sundayafternoon, was titled “Individual Peace,Universal Peace.” His Holiness, as he isreferred to, was introduced by fellowNobel laureate and former Costa RicanPresident Oscar Arias, who delivered anequally eloquent speech.The Dalai Lama opened his talk at theNational Theater – like his other speeches– with an expression of appreciation forCosta Rica for having demilitarized andmade a reality in one nation an ideal heholds for the entire world.“BECAUSE one country already practicesdemilitarization,” he said, it “provesit’s not just an ideal, it’s something practicalthat we can achieve.”To explain why he proposes non-violentsolutions, he clarified his philosophyof interdependence.“All people, all living things, haveevery right to exist and every right to behappy. We have equal right from birth.Everything that goes against that is notonly wrong, but is the cause of conflict.“Everything is interdependent,” which,in the global market, is evident on an economiclevel, he said. “We have witnessedthat violence is not the right method of solution.If you win a war, someone else loses.”He spoke with compassion even aboutthose who many despise, such as SaddamHussein and terrorists.“OSAMA Bin Laden is also a humanand a brother,” he said. He suggested thatsomeone “sit down and talk to him if hehas complaints.” The idea that making aneffort to talk “can’t hurt” was a recurringrefrain.On the Iraq war, he said, “Before the warthere were huge demonstrations against thewar, showing the will for peace.” However,asked what the world’s spiritual leaders cando now to ease the violence in Iraq, he said,“Nothing. It’s too late. The situation hasbecome too complicated.”He demonstrated diplomatic tact on thewar earlier that day when speaking to thepress, saying, “Like the Second WorldWar, and the Korean war, history eventuallyshowed some positive results out of theimmense violence. But then the Vietnamwar totally failed. Now the Iraq war – tooearly to say. So, therefore, my own view is,right from the beginning avoid using violence.It’s much better. Violence – veryunpredictable. Once you commit it, it easilycan get out of control.”TO help solve the world’s problemswithout violence, he proposed forming agroup of notables who could intervene involatile situations and encourage dialogue.Such a group, he said, might havebeen able to forestall the spiral of violencein Iraq.In addition to more open communicationbetween potentially violent forces, healso proposed a change in education.“From kindergarten, I think one oftheir lessons should be how to live withevery human being,” he said.He divided emotion into two categories:negative, such as anger and jealousy,which he says arise spontaneously;and positive, which he says can be cultivatedthrough training and analysis.“Analyze the benefits and consequencesof negative emotions,” he said.“You will arrive at the conviction that youdon’t want them. That conviction makesgood energy grow.“THEN there is one factor that givesus infinite conviction: it is compassion,loving kindness.”People fall into three categories, hetold the audience Monday morning on theUCR campus in his speech “Ethics for aNew Millennium.”They are the religious, of whom thereare few; atheists, where, he said, technically,Buddhists fall if atheism is consideredthe absence of a belief in a godrather than an active attack on those whodo believe; and third, those who claim areligious faith, “but 24 hours (their) mainconcern is money.”These money worshippers, as he calledthem, are the vast majority. Therefore,moral ethics should not be limited to religiousbelief, he said.“If moral ethics should have religiousbase, you can’t include those who have nobeliefs. That means most of humanity(would fall) outside principles of ethics.”A secular set of ethical principles, hesaid, would be the “promotion of humanvalue,” of which the core principles aredemilitarization, respect for the environment,decreasing the gulf between therich and the poor, and population control.Students who spoke to The Tico Times,both practicing and non-practicingCatholics, agreed with the Dalai Lama’smessage.Milena Castro, 22, a UCR statisticsstudent, said she is impressed with the“principles of not feeling pity for others,rather to struggle for equality and the well beingof everyone, not just a few.”One of the points that registered withRodolfo Li, 18, a UCR administration student,is that “ethics don’t have to be tied toa religious belief.”THROUGHOUT the morning at theChildren’s Museum on Tuesday, the DalaiLama spoke publicly with spiritual andchurch leaders from dozens of faiths andcultures around Costa Rica, includingMuslims, Jews, Catholics, Unity, HareKrishna, Baha’i, and indigenous groups,among others.The events opened with folk dancesand presentations by such groups as theMulti-Religious Youth of Costa Rica,Afro-Caribbeans, and Brahma Kumaris.Then the Dalai Lama and others lit the“Fire of the Spirit” in an opening ceremonyoutside the museum that inauguratedthe public discussion.That afternoon, seated cross-legged instocking feet on the podium and speakingforcefully, he expounded on the EightVerses, which call on their listeners to holdunpleasant people dear, to confront mentaland emotional afflictions, to take uponthemselves the pains of others and to recognizeall things as illusion and “devoid ofclinging, be released from bondage.”AFTER leaving Costa Rica Tuesday,the Dalai Lama continued his tour in otherLatin American countries. At press time,he was speaking in El Salvador and wasscheduled to visit Guatemala and Mexico.The Tibetan-Costa Rican CulturalAssociation has ongoing TibetanBuddhism-related events and can bereached at 258-0254, or on the Web atwww.tibetencostarica.com.
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