Dalai Lama Enlightens Bren

Diane Jong/New University

His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama addressed a crowd of over 5,000 at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center on Wednesday, May 4.

The 75-year-old spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan government in exile and 1989 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Tenzin Gyatso, spoke to a sold-out crowd for just over an hour about compassion, happiness and tolerance. The event was the capstone of the 2010-2011 Living Peace Series, a collaboration between UC Irvine and the Center for Living Peace. After a performance by Tibetan singer Yungchen Lhamo, and a traditional horn greeting from the Gaden Shartse monks, UCI Chancellor Michael Drake welcomed the Dalai Lama to the stage.

“It’s my privilege to welcome you today,” Drake said. “He [the Dalai Lama] is a person who speaks to us all around the world. All of us are challenged to reach the breadth and depth of compassion he teaches us.”

“Thank you,” the Dalai Lama said as he assumed the stage. “Sit.” As the audience obeyed, His Holiness took his own seat on stage, adding, “Good,” while putting on a UCI-emblazoned visor. “Chancellor, professors, teachers, students, I am very happy to come here once more. And I also feel very honored, so indeed I am very, very happy.”

After briefly joking about his gall bladder, referring to his 2008 surgery, he began his talk on compassion, happiness, respect and religious tolerance.

“People get impression that compassion something good for own’s self,” the Dalai Lama said in broken English. “That is also mistake. Now we are in 21st century. Education problem [is] our creation … Look objectively, not hurriedly decide. The calm mind related with self-confidence, inward strength. We are social animals. In order to develop cooperation, need friendship, patience, trust, honesty. I think the best explanation come from scientists, very objective.”

The Dalai Lama spoke broadly on the economy and attributed problems to people’s inability or unwillingness to make informed and objective decisions. Greed and speculation, he said, are results of the lack of information and honesty.

“I ask some of my friend … what the main cause of this,” he said. “Some told me too much greed and speculation and some told me due to ignorance. Too much stress and greed.”

The Dalai Lama’s scheduled tour of Southern California was to last four days but was shortened to two. His flight from Japan was pushed back due to illness, and a scheduled lecture at UCLA on Buddhism and neuroscience on May 2 was canceled. Tickets for the sold-out event at UCI ranged from $9 to $90 for students and community members.

On the topics of religion and tolerance, the Dalai Lama briefly commented on the waning influence of religious values. He then gave his definition of secularism and proposed respect for people of all faiths and non-believers.

“What is God, love compassion, forgiveness … more devotion, faith,” the Dalai Lama said. “Since ancient time, according to Indian history, since faith develop among humans, non-believers always there. Seriousness of faith promote inner values. Secularism doesn’t mean the disrespect of religion, but rather means respect of all religions and non-believers. This is not a new idea. This doesn’t come from my mind.”

May 4 marked his second visit to UCI, after his momentous visit seven years ago in April 2004. That visit inspired the beginning of the XIV Dalai Lama Scholarship at UCI, awarding students with a commitment to compassion, peace-making, and positive international relations. The scholarship is awarded to juniors and seniors who demonstrate knowledge of and dedication to peace-making and positive international relations.

The XIV Dalai Lama Scholarship recipients of past and present attended the event, including the 2010-2011 recipients Bethel Mesgana and Doug Cheng. Dalai Lama Scholars have been chosen every year at UCI since 2006 and receive the opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama, along with funding for UCI fees and a proposed project. The Living Peace Series has partnered with UCI to host the event series featuring international speakers, including Charlize Theron in December 2010 and Sir Richard Branson in January 2011.

“Twenty-first century, we may become more peaceful, compassionate. It is possible. Leadership comes from society,” the Dalai Lama said. “Society doesn’t much care about compassion. Cheating, lies, selfish. Too much emphasis about money and in order to get money, whatever method is utilized. If we make some effort now, we can later produce a compassionate leader. We need long-sight vision, warm-heartedness.”