His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Florida - Day Two

October 27th 2010

Miami, Florida, USA, 26 October 2010 - On October 26, 2010, His Holiness the Dalai Lama began his last day of programs for this current tour of the United States and Canada by giving an interview to CNN International’s Hala Gorani.  The questions include highlight of the visit, his views on China and Liu Xiaobo, and how to practice compassion.  His Holiness mentioned his “serious discussions” with scientists at Stanford and Emory universities as being the main purpose of this current visit. On the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo from China, His Holiness said that when he received the award in 1989 he said he took it as recognition of his work on the promotion of compassion. Similarly, he felt that Liu has dedicated himself for a better China and freedom of the individual. He is among those Chinese who are calling for a more open China. His Holiness said the Nobel Prize is recognition of his good work.

Thereafter, His Holiness left for Temple Emanu-El in Miami Beach, the venue of his talk on “The Significance of World Religions.”  The event was sponsored by Temple Emanu-El, Florida International University (FIU), Florida Memorial University and University of Miami and was attended by around 1500 invited guests.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama  is greeted by Prof. Nathan Katz of Florida International University’s Department of Religious Studies at his arrival at Temple Emanu-El in Miami Beach, Florida on October 26th, 2010. Photo/AP
His Holiness was introduced to representatives of the Jewish faith, the Catholic and Protestant churches, Islam, Hinduism, Jainism and Taoism prior to his talk.  Prof. Nathan Katz of Florida International University’s Department of Religious Studies gave the welcome remark.

Latin Grammy Award Winning flautist Nestor Torres performed a short musical interlude, which the organizers say was dedicated to the His Holiness.

His Holiness addressed the gathering thereafter by greeting his “spiritual brothers and sisters.” He appreciated the flute recital, particularly praising the musician’s gesture as he performed.

His Holiness said promotion of religious harmony was one of his two commitments.  He talked of the need for different religions to exist in order to satisfy the different spiritual and mental dispositions of people.  He said if we look at the philosophical level, there are big differences between different religions. But, all religions have the same messages of love and compassion, and they all have the potential to help humanity, he added.

His Holiness outlined four possible ways in which religious harmony could be promoted.  He said firstly, scholars on religion could meet and discuss different aspects of religions and the commonality in them.  Secondly, he said religious practitioners could come together to discuss similar issues.  Here he recalled his discussions with the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. Thirdly, he said, meetings of religious leaders could be convened to promote the common message. He talked about such a summit that was convened by Pope John Paul II in Assisi in 1986.  Fourthly, he suggested that religious leaders and practitioners could undertake group pilgrimages to the sacred sites of the different religions.  He talked about his own positive personal experience when he undertook such pilgrimages in Varanasi in India as well as in Jerusalem.  He also recalled his experience having to teach the Gospel in England at one time.

During the Question & Answer, His Holiness was asked that if an intelligent person makes a bad decision, what would have gone wrong. He replied that basically it would be on account of the lack of knowledge of the reality.  His Holiness said that without full knowledge, people will tend to adopt unrealistic approach.  When making decisions, he said emotion should not be involved and there was the need to be objective.  People should also look at a problem not just from one dimension but from three or four dimensions.  He said it would not be a question of right or wrong decisions, but one of realistic or unrealistic decisions.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking  during the interfaith lecture at Temple Emanu-El in Miami Beach Florida on October 26th, 2010. Photo/Reuters
When asked what was the toughest and the most difficult thing he had gone through, His Holiness said the period when he lost his individual freedom at the age of 16 and when he lost his country at the age of 24 was a difficult one.  He said when he had to leave Tibet in 1959 it was very sad.

Another questioner wanted to know how to feel joyful in the face of a tragedy. His Holiness said basically it boils down to being realistic and quoted the eighth century Indian Master Shantideva about analyzing a problem and not worrying if it has a solution but learning that it will be useless to worry if there is no solution.  He said this message is very realistic.  He also suggested that something that one perceives as a problem may also have a positive angle.

His Holiness concluded by suggesting that while promoting the commonality among religions, it is important for people to be aware about the fundamental differences, too, so that they have a complete perspective.  If the differences were not mentioned and the commonality is highlighted at a superficial level, then it will not mean much and will be hypocritical, he added.

“In hosting this interfaith event, His Holiness reminds us of the key role of tolerance and understanding in navigating the complicated times we live,” FIU Professor of Religious Studies Nathan Katz is quoted as saying in a statement. “His message is one of unity and peace in the global community,” Prof. Katz has added.

His Holiness then left for the University of Miami where he had his lunch.  In the afternoon, His Holiness gave a public talk on “The Quest for Happiness in Challenging Times,” at the University’s BankUnited Center to more than 7000 students and other guests.

In a statement announcing the talk, University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala said, “We are honored once again to host His Holiness the Dalai Lama on our campus.”  “His Holiness teaches us all an important lesson in hope, compassion, and humility,” she added.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama's talk "The Quest for Happiness in Challenging Times" at the University of Miami on October 26th, 2010. Photo/University of Miami
His Holiness was introduced to the gathering by University of Miami’s Executive Vice President and Provost, Thomas LeBlanc.

His Holiness began by explaining the nature of his current tour of North America.  He said this was his last engagement and that the main purpose was to meet with scientists at Stanford and Emory universities.  He said he would be departing from Miami after the talk and returning to his home in India tomorrow morning.

His Holiness said he and some of the people in the audience belong to the 20th century and that a majority of the people here, the students, belong to the 21st century.  He asked the students to be prepared for the 21st century by not only taking care of their education,  but also their heart and inner values.

He talked about the scientific and technological development in the past two centuries and added that in the 20th century the development was quite amazing. He talked about the development of the nuclear bomb and neutron bomb and their negative impact. He said the 20th century also turned out to be a century of bloodshed. His Holiness thus said that technological development itself was not a guarantee for world peace.

His Holiness talked about today’s world being heavily interdependent.  He said he learned that the University of Miami has students from around 100 countries and added that we are all same as human beings.  He said that differences will always be there and urged the people to learn to be respectful of each other and to find nonviolent path to resolution of conflicts.  We need to promote this century as a century of dialogue, he added.

Members of the audience listening enjoying His Holiness the Dalai Lama's talk at the University of Miami on October 26th, 2010. Photo/University of Miami
His Holiness expanded on the need to cultivate inner peace and affection for a more peaceful society.  He said we should not consider the promotion of compassion and love as mere religious matters.  They are very much a part of our life, he added.

His Holiness then talked about the promotion of compassion through three different ways.  Those believers who subscribe to Theistic religions regard all human beings as created by the supreme God and so from that perspective develop compassion towards all.  Secondly, those who follow the non-theistic religious traditions, like Buddhism and Jainism, believe in the Law of Causality and therefore should cultivate compassion that will be in the interest of all. 

He said there needs to be a third way to promote compassion, which should apply to even those who do not subscribe to any religion.  His Holiness called this the promotion of secular ethics.  He said that some of his Christian and Muslim friends have reservation of his use of the term “secular” as they feel it means being against religion. He, however, clarified that the term should be understood in the same spirit as it is found in the Indian Constitution, namely being respectful of all religious traditions.  His Holiness said this third way simply uses common sense and common experience as well as scientific findings, without touching religion to promote inner values.

His Holiness then answered some questions during which he talked about optimism that mankind was basically becoming more positive.  He referred to the increase in environmental awareness during the latter part of the 20th century, the growing voices against war and the closer relationship between science and spirituality as indicators of this.

His Holiness was given a resounding applause at the conclusion of his talk.  The Florida media carried reactions from the audience. "He advocates for human freedom. He is a man who has been denied and oppressed, but he has never allowed that to let him hurt others," said Imam Nasir Ahmad of Masjid Al-Ansar mosque in Miami, who waited outside Temple Emanu-El with members of his congregation, is quoted by the Miami Herald as saying.

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