Dalai Lama at UW Convocation

My soon-to-expire UW student ID came in handy on Monday – it got me a coveted ticket to see the Dalai Lama bestowed with an honorary degree at UW’s convocation. 

Pro-China protestors in Seattle at Dalai Lama ConvocationIt was raining and there were several hundred pro-China demonstrators outside which was pretty wild.  Amazing how powerful Chinese propaganda can be (their signs said outrageous things like "Dalai Lama is biggest slave owner in history" and "Say no to serf-owner").  Last week I saw a Chinese government spokesperson on the news say that the Dalai Lama was a diabolical dictator who incited riots and violence in Tibet.  And ironic these protestors wanted to "Stop media distortion."

UW ConvocationOnce inside, we sat for an hour (many, including myself, were studying) and listened to the UW Woodwind Ensemble.  Then a large group of academics from the UW and other area institutions paraded in and after several laudatory introductions, they gave the Dalai Lama his honorary degree, complete with academic robes and a giant framed degree.

The Dalai Lama spoke for about 30 minutes and then took carefully prepared questions from students.  I took notes on my cell phone:

Dalai Lama UW ConvocationInner disarmament is the goal.  You can condemn but not hate. Pay more attention to your inner world.

If your neighbor harms you and you have hate and anger, the hate will fester and keep you up at night, harm your appetite, and you will overall suffer bad physiological effects.  Your neighbor, he will be very happy about this!  It doesn’t hurt him!

Demilitarize the world. The fall of the Berlin Wall was the +beginning.  Now it’s up to our generation, the academics behind him won’t be around (laughter).

A more compassionate world can be achieved through education, especially now that religion and family are less influential.

We must address the gap between the rich and poor. Give education, skills, equipment, confidence. 

He told a story of visiting a South African family just after apartheid and he said the family couldn’t understand that they had freedom because they said they had inferior minds.  That made him very sad.  It took several hours for him to explain to them that they had the same brain and same opportunity.

Dalai Lama UW ConvocationThe way to be compassionate towards someone who is harming you is to have knowledge of the consequences of the long term effects of hate and anger.  The person is harming because of negative emotion and there will be consequences for that so you should be concerned for him.  In the long term, someone who is harming will accumulate negative karma and will have to face consequences.

Someone asked whether the green trend was a luxury for the rich and he didn’t understand the question (I’m not sure I did either) and said environmentalism is only a new understanding to him.  "There is no polluted water in Tibet".  Then after meeting with a scientist he understood.  "The moon looks nice in a dark night /7(laughter)" but if we lost our home it would be hopeless.   You see bloodshed on TV but the environment is not visible. Environmental practice must be a part of our daily life.  His one silly contribution to the cause is that for the last few decades he has only taken a shower, not baths.

Dalai Lama UW ConvocationYou must love oneself first.  You must give maximum care for ones self, and only then can you care for others.

Someone asked about how to improve the world’s understanding of the HIV crisis.  He said he understood that HIV is mostly sexually transmitted, but sometimes it’s transmitted through blood transfusions, but mostly sex.  "Should make available rubber" (wild laughter).  The women behind me remarked, "It’s the Dalai Lama Unplugged."

You must love prisoners as part of society.

At birth we are all the same.  To cultivate compassion, you must have maximum affection from the mother.  And have mother’s milk.  From good to bad easy, from bad to good take more time and more patience and effort.  An expert may know what to do after that but he may lose patience.  He told a funny story about a crying child on an airplane on the way to Seattle and how the child’s mother was tending to it for hours and he wouldn’t have that much patience.

Motorcade of cops on Harleys to escortA woman said she was a three-year survivor of domestic violence and wanted to know how to be compassionate.  His answer was roundabout but right on.  He said the long term solution to violence is education about values, and in the short term there are laws.  You can impose values through laws though.  He told a story about going to Northern Ireland to an institution for survivors of violence.  The first time he went the victims were full of hate, no smiles, ready to fight.  He sat down and listened.  He created a calm atmosphere, told some jokes, and they loosened up.  The next time he went it was different.  People were warmer. He met a man that was his hero.  He had been hit by a rubber bullet right between the eyes at age 13 and was blinded.  He only remembers coming to in the hospital and not feeling sorry for himself that he was blind but only sad that he would not see his mother’s face again.  He always had a big smile and a positive mental attitude and has a beautiful wife and two kids.  Mental attitude makes a big difference.  Some keep anger and hatred. 

A definition of compassion that everyone can understand is civic responsibility.  A sense of concern for others’ suffering is the same in all religions.


2 thoughts on “Dalai Lama at UW Convocation

  1. I love this "If your neighbor harms you and you have hate and anger, the hate will fester and keep you up at night, harm your appetite, and you will overall suffer bad physiological effects.  Your neighbor, he will be very happy about this!  It doesn’t hurt him!"  I have to say I wasn’t sure how I felt about this compassion for your enemy stuff, but reading this I somewhat agree.   I do think sometimes hating and being angry at your neighbors is important, however :-)
    I don’t agree that at birth we are all the same.  We’re all born with different genes, and we’ve already experienced quite a bit of development before we are even born.  That said, I loved everything he had to say about how important it is to foster emotional development in kids.  On saturday he actually said it was more important than book learning, which I somewhat agree with!
    I have to say, he was one of the most inspiring people I have ever heard.  What a humbling experience to get to be in his presence!

  2. Thanks for capturing the thoughts so well! I really agree that today religion & family have less influence and so there is a chance that compassion can be taught to men. The various wars, battles, fights, tortures that we have seen since the beginning of mankind hopefully will come to an end someday in the future…

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