Tuesday, 26 October 2010

His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s Visit to the University of Miami

We were honoured to have the Dalai Lama visit the University of Miami (UM) today where he gave a vivid and frank discussion on 'The Quest for Happiness in Challenging Times'. The Bank United Center at UM was packed with students, faculty and invited guests who all came to listen to the Nobel Peace Laureate.

The Dalai Lama spoke about peace emerging in one’s life only when inner peace is cultivated in connection to love and trust. He spoke about how those who have been denied ongoing love from their Mothers are often showing signs of discontent in their own lives and those around them. The Dalai Lama spoke about inner happiness not being connected to wealth or status, for the poorest child could have had a more priceless childhood with love from his/her parents in ways that rich children may not, he mentioned the love of a Mother in particular. It was a sobering lecture in which the glitz and glamour that seems to enamor most about Buddhism was placed in a context of war, bloodshed and religious differences.

Interestingly His Holiness did not shy away from the political issues of the day in his lecture and talked about the importance of secularism as a way of detaching oneself from religious affiliation in order to have a pluralist and open mind, for e.g. he mentioned that even though he is a Buddhist, he was not 'attached' to the term for such attachment to religious affiliation has caused much harm to world peace. An interesting question was posed to the Dalai Lama on whether he believed that science/medicine was more important in illnesses, such as HIV/Aids, or prayer. The Dalai Lama was quick to answer that prayer was important but he placed more hope in science and medicine on this one. On a more politically laden note he mentioned how he found the former US President George Bush to be a very personable man who had helped him select the best cookies at a table on one occasion. But on a separate occasion after the Iraq crisis the Dalai Lama had not been afraid to tell him that he disagreed on his policy in Iraq.

In the morning, The Dalai Lama spoke at the Jewish Temple Emanu-El on Miami Beach on the subject of ‘The Significance of World Religions’ – he was joined on stage by leaders of several religious communities. The lecture opened with two musical acts. One was a Prelude Concert from a Tabla player and a flutist and then a performance by the Latin Grammy award-winning flautist Nestor Torres. In his lecture, The Dalai Lama, spoke about the different philosophies that religions present to us but what joined them together was their pursuit of the same ends, of establishing peace and love. I was honoured to have been asked to help select questions from the audience directed to the Dalai Lama and his answers were just superb, and of course his humour was delightful!

In preparation of His Holiness’ visit I took students from my Introduction to Asian Religions Class on Monday 25th October 2010 to the University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum for a special talk by Brian Dursum on ‘The Changing Face of Buddhist Art in Asia’. Students can be seen viewing different objects of interest.

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