Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dalai Lama urges understanding across religious traditions

The Dalai Lama taught about wisdom, compassion, and the nature of the self, but not politics in two, two-hour Dharma talks Saturday at the University of Michigan. Speaking to a reverent crowd of thousands, he urged people to adhere to their own traditions, saying that a multiplicity of traditions and religions serves the diversity of human beings. He said that while some people find different religions threatening to the point of embracing fundamentalism, "genuine harmony on the basis of mutual respect is essential." The spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet said that as he learns about Islam, Christianity and Judaism through personal experience "my genuine admiration and respect to those traditions grows."

Hours before the first lecture, some of that diversity gathered outside.

Chinese students from University of Michigan prepared for non-violent protest before Dalai Lama's presentation. About 50 students gathered at the peak of the protest. Liang Zhang, a University of Michigan graduate student in electrical engineering and president of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association said, “The theme of this rally is to support the Beijing Olympics and to protest the violent behavior that’s been taking place during the Olympic Torch run. Also to protest political interference in the Olympics." He added, “I think we have to listen to voices from different sides and different perspectives -- not only from Dalai Lama and not only from Chinese government, but from more vast points of view."

Arjia Rinpoche heads the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, IN. During the Cultural Revolution he was required to work in a labor camp. After release from the camp, he served as Abbot of Kumbum Monastery, one of Tibet's six great monastic universities and held high positions in the Chinese government. One of the eight high lamas of Tibet, he escaped Tibet in 1998. Referring to the presence of demonstrators at Crisler Arena he said, "This is a free country so you can have demonstration or protest without any fear of gunshot. In Tibet, unfortunately we cannot do that.” He continued, “My concern is that only through genuine dialog and negotiation can solve the problem, either violence or crack down with guns doesn’t work."