Dalai Lama promotes peace through dialogue
Peter Fimrite,Matthai Kuruvila, Chronicle Staff Writers
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The Dalai Lama bows to an audience of thousands before sp... The Dalai Lama applauds for speeches being given before h... Pema Randul shields his face from the sun while waiting t... Actress Sharon Stone, a personal friend of the Dalai Lama...
The Dalai Lama told a standing room only crowd of some 7,000 at UC Berkeley's Greek Theatre on Saturday that peace and nuclear disarmament can be accomplished if only the world's leaders could talk to one another in a compassionate and understanding way.
The exiled spiritual leader of Buddhist Tibet chose the university where the Free Speech Movement began more than 40 years ago to endorse President Obama's philosophy of establishing dialogue, even with reviled world leaders.
"We must promote dialogue with full respect and consideration of others' interests," said the world's best known Buddhist as he sat cross-legged in a maroon robe on a cushy chair placed atop a platform covered by a rug, presumably Tibetan.
"We should have a very clear vision that the whole world will demilitarize," he said, near the end of his speech, which lasted close to an hour. "There should be some restrictions on selling arms."
It was the third time that the Dalai Lama has spoken at the campus. The last time was a decade ago.
But his talk Saturday wasn't all about love and war. His mostly philosophical discussion was interspersed with little cracks about his lack of proficiency in English, as he regaled the crowd with amusing stories. At one point, talking about the beauty of nature, he told the students of one of his biggest fears when he was a boy.
"In my childhood, I always afraid of caterpillar," he said. "A scorpion, I could touch. But caterpillar, never." Nonetheless, he said, he expects to be reincarnated some day as a caterpillar.
He also revealed that he never flies first class because it is "too much luxury."
At one point he told the crowd that he loves George W. Bush even though he doesn't agree with his politics.
"As a human being, very nice person," the Dalai Lama said, "but not, like, a great leader or good politician."
The visit Saturday came during a momentous time in the history of Tibet and the Dalai Lama's personal journey. It was half a century ago after a 1959 uprising - and resulting crackdown - that he was sent into exile. The anniversary has provoked a renewed focus on the plight of Tibetans, particularly exiles.
Most of the Dalai Lama's talk focused on how to make the world a better place by achieving inner peace, compassion, loving kindness and genuine affection.
"The beginning of the 21st century, not a very happy one," he said to the mostly college-age crowd. "You are the source of hope."
"Everybody, including animals, want peace. It is clear," he said. "Our long-term goal should be a more compassionate humanity."
The Dalai Lama has advocated peaceful resistance to Chinese occupation, but he has also forcefully spoken out against the Chinese government's violent suppression of Tibetan natives. He used the March 10 anniversary of the 1959 uprising to describe life in Tibet as "hell on Earth."
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups say the Chinese government has tortured Tibetan dissidents.
The Chinese government not only denies the allegations, but it has also criticized the fact that Bay Area institutions are hosting the Dalai Lama, whom they have called a terrorist.
"The words and deeds of the Dalai Lama over past decades are self-evident that he's not just a religious figure but a political exile bent on separatist activities under the disguise of religion," Yunliang Zhou, a spokesman for the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, said in a statement.
Chinese officials have accused the Western press of distorting facts about the "Dalai clique," which they claim orchestrated the violent protest in Lhasa on March 14, 2008 in an attempt to disrupt the Summer Olympics in Beijing. The Chinese crackdown set off worldwide demonstrations and disruptions of the Olympic torch relay in 19 cities, including London, Paris and San Francisco.
"The Chinese government firmly opposes the Dalai Lama and his followers' engagement in separatist activities in any country under whatever name," Zhou said.
An estimated 1,000 Tibetans live in the Bay Area, most in the East Bay.
Dechen Tsering, president of the Tibetan Association of Northern California, said the Chinese government's criticism of the Dalai Lama is only intended to ignore the human rights violations going on inside the country.
"For them to write statements that say American institutions should not make facilities available to the Dalai Lama goes against all the grains of a democratic society," Tsering said.
The Dalai Lama's biggest cheer Saturday came at the end of the talk when he donned a cap with the Cal insignia on it. As for what Cal students should do upon graduation?
"You should prepare in your mind that life is not easy," he said. "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst."
E-mail Peter Fimrite at firstname.lastname@example.org.