The spiritual leader of Tibet recognizes and blesses the crowd. (Staff Photo: Jim Zachary).
DULUTH — A diverse gathering at the Gwinnett Center heard a message of compassion, kindness and the importance of education from the spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, Tuesday.
Metro Atlanta has an emerging Buddhist population with Hwa Duk SA Buddhist Temple and the Gum-Gang-Gyon-Dok-Song-Haw in Jonesboro, the Laotian BuddhistCommunity Temple in Riverdale and the very visible Wat Loa Budda Phothisaram in Conley just north of Henry and Clayton counties.
However, Christians, Jews, Muslims and individuals from various faiths and denominations came together for what was called “The Visit” from the Dalai Lama.
The Visit 2013 was hosted by Emory University as part of the Emory-Tibet partnership that dates back to 1987.
Since that time Emory University has sent hundreds of students and faculty to Tibet and hosted Tibetan monks for a fusion of modern science and what the Dalai Lama has called “an ancient science of the mind.”
After leaving the stage and going for an impromptu walk into the crowd to greet a man he described as his “hero” because of the non-violent ways he reacted to being wounded and blinded in conflict in Northern Ireland as a young man, the 14th Dalai Lama began his public address decrying world violence.
He said in his lifetime he has seen WW II, the Korean War, Vietnam and “some violence even today like Syria.”
Despite what he described as the destruction and violence of the 20th Century, his message was one of hope for the 21st Century.
He lamented, “The 20th century — a wonderful century with a lot of innovations finding many useful things — however it has also brought violence.”
In contrast, he said, “There is a possibility to create a peaceful century. We must realistically face problems and potential conflict in order to create peace. We must develop talk, [and] solve problems by creating a century of dialogue and reduce extreme self-centered attitudes,” he said.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner told the crowd that peace and nonviolence come from a sense of compassion.
“We must make this century a century of compassion,” he said.
Compassion, he suggested, must begin on a personal level. “Our happy life depends on community,” he taught, urging what he called “a sense of the oneness of humanity.”
Delivering his version of the adage “actions speak louder than words,” the Dalai Lama said, “It is not enough just to complain. We have intelligence to try to find the way to solve this problem … pray to God maybe God will do something. I don’t know … I believe that action is more important than faith and prayer.”
Born Tenzin Gyatso, and titled His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he describes himself as “a simple Buddhist monk,” and told the large crowd, “We need vision. We need enthusiasm.”
With a message that was simple, sometimes intentionally repetitive, he was also notably personable and often humorous, drawing both laughter and applause throughout the presentation.
Many of his themes and truism could have just as easily been spoken in a Catholic or Protestant church, and his words obviously resonated with a very diverse group of people who paid large sums of money to hear him speak.
“Faith and reason must go together,” he said, explaining that while some people might rely on what they call faith, “The real purpose of faith is the practice of love.”
Regarding world peace, he said nations must find “common interests, use common sense and based on common sense” focus on their “common experiences.”
“Common interest is more important than individual nation’s interests,” he said
The highly-respected spiritual leader said small children have a sense of right and wrong, but added “Even dogs and cats, if you teach them sincerely they respond very sincerely” as he expressed the importance of parents raising their children with a sense of compassion.
“Dogs and cats, if you show them compassion, they appreciate that,” he said.
While talking about how even animals respond to compassion, he did admit that he is not so sure the same principle could be applied to mosquitoes, saying their brains might just be “too small.”
Contrasting what he called “a sense of compassion for fellowman” with being self-centered, he said that often, “Our way of thinking (is) based on extreme self-centered attitudes” — what he called “the basis of violence.”
When asked if helping others and living a compassionate lifestyle is in fact selfish behavior because being kind to others make us feel good about ourselves, he responded it is “Wise-selfish, not foolish-selfish.”