Dalai Lama, at Famed Mayo, Touts Compassion's Role in Health

April 18th 2006

 
ROCHESTER , Minn. , USA, 18 April 2006 (By Gregg Aamot, AP) - Sudip Kundu said he was suffering under the stress of a cluttered life when a book by the Dalai Lama, 'The Art of Happiness,' gave him fresh perspective.
 
So he wasn't about to miss a rare Minnesota appearance by the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists.
 
'It's a very emotional moment for me because I really look up to His Holiness,' said Kundu, a computer software technician for the Mayo Clinic. 'He is a very rare person among most of us - someone who is enlightened. And it is very difficult to achieve that state.'

The Dalai Lama, as part of a visit to Minnesota and its Tibetan refugee community, spoke to about 300 clinic employees Monday after a routine medical examination.

After praising the doctors and nurses for their care, he jumped to the crux of his message: the importance of mental or emotional well-being in living a healthy life.
 
Emotions like hate, anger and jealousy can contribute to physical ailments while love, forgiveness and tolerance can aid the body in healing and maintaining health, he said.
 
'If the mind is dominated by negative emotions,' he said, 'then there is no possibility to develop compassion, kindness, forgiveness and tolerance' and the resulting peace of mind those virtues bring.
 
The speech was titled, 'Compassion in the Face of Suffering.' Dressed in a deep red robe, the Dalai Lama walked into the Mayo meeting hall to silence, greeting people in the front row with clasped hands and bows.
 
The day before, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke in Minneapolis to many of the 1,500 Tibetan refugees in Minnesota . Minnesota has the largest Tibetan refugee community in the country outside of New York .
 
The Dalai Lama has lived in exile since 1959, when Chinese communist forces invaded Tibet . Recently, he has said he wants to make a pilgrimage to China , which has long rejected his demands for Tibetan independence.

On Monday, he mostly avoided politics, answering a handful of questions from a moderator after his speech. He did not field questions from the audience or reporters.

Besides drawing attention to Tibet , the Dalai Lama said he was committed to two other tenets: secular ethics, by which he means a tolerance of all religions, and religious harmony.
 
Before visiting Minnesota , he met with Muslim leaders in California , mentioning that visit as a way of offering a prediction: While the 20th century was marked by war, he said, the 21st century may be marked by dialogue between people of different religions and creeds.
 
In a visit to Minnesota five years ago, the Dalai Lama, who is 70, promoted the virtues of democracy, religious pluralism and scientific advances. He is an advocate of nonviolent resistance to the Chinese occupation of Tibet .
 
Debra Haugstad, a clinical assistant at Mayo, said the Dalai Lama has a lot to offer people of all religious backgrounds - including her, a Lutheran. Dealing with suffering is a part of daily life at the clinic, she said.
 
'He just lives each day as a day and just doesn't really appear to let things bother him,' she said.
 
The Dalai Lama - whose name is Tenzin Gyatso - looked at the ground and scratched his nearly shaven head as he prepared to answer questions. He often poked fun at himself, for instance declaring that he was too lazy to look up English words that he didn't understand.
 
He drew laughter after a long answer to a question about his view on medical research when he quipped, 'Besides that, I don't know!'
 
Summing up his thoughts about emotional health, he offered an old Buddhist saying: 'You are your own master.'

Gregg Aamot can be reached at gaamot@ap.org

 

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