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Dalai Lama Talks Compassion During Emory Visit


His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama visited Emory University and delivered lectures in a series of events from October 17-19, in his capacity as Presidential Distinguished Professor, the first university appointment accepted by the 1989 Nobel Peace Laureate and leader of the Tibetan people. He spoke on the topic of compassion and science. 
He stressed repeatedly that scientists and religious practitioners can learn a lot from each other and should work together to find a productive balance between spirituality and secular research. It is especially important that scientists have "moral ethics" and compassion to avoid catastrophes, he said, citing the example of nuclear physics being used to create the nuclear bombs that were dropped on Japan at the end of World War II. "That great achievement became destructive, brought fear," he said. "Intelligence alone is dangerous."

The Dalai Lama began his three day program at Emory University with a press meet on October 17 where he outlined the Emory – Tibet Partnership, and the Emory – Tibet Science Initiative. He said, for the past 30 years or so he has been in dialogue with scientists in the four fields of cosmology, neurobiology, quantum physics, and psychology. He said he had chosen these four fields because they were also subjects that are found in Buddhist scriptures. This dialogue process has been very useful, he said, adding, “Buddhists have benefited in getting an understanding of external matters from scientific findings. Scientists on their part have started showing interest in the mind, where Buddhism had something to say.”

To a question from a press person on whether capitalism can turn China into a democracy, the Dalai Lama said he did not think that alone could help. Adding further, he said China is a great nation and is becoming an important economic power. But China should not forget that they are part of this world and have the responsibility of playing a constructive role in world affairs. Trust and respect are very essential, he added. Further he said that the world trend was towards more freedom and democracy. 

His Holiness talked about the necessity of individual creativity without which society would be stagnant, which was only possible when citizens have individual freedom. China has to go along this world trend, he said.

In response to a question on his views on the future of the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, His Holiness said that he believed that projects like the one in Emory and the two other universities of Wisconsin in Madison and Stanford are seeds that have the potential to grow. He said new forms of academic knowledge will come out of the collaboration.

Earlier, Emory University President James W. Wagner presented the Dalai Lama with four new text books on neuroscience, genetics, and other scientific research published through the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative.

Other programs where His Holiness Dalai Lama spoke were on “The Nature and Practice of Compassion,” along with Ganden Tripa Kyabje Rizong Rinpoche and Choje Khamba Lama from Mongolia. In his talk, His Holiness explained the nature of compassion and the practices for cultivating it as understood in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He explained the essential role of compassion in the flourishing of human life and how this needs to be incorporated in daily life.

Among his engagments during the three-day period was an interactive session “Office Hours” with students and faculty of Emory. A selection of the video recording of questions was played. His Holiness advised the students to have an optimistic attitude and not to take things for granted. He said they should know that there will be challenges ahead but at the same time understand that these will be the same ones that are being faced by others. He also said that people should have a realistic attitude and approach and that they should have full knowledge of their goal and method. Without these he said the effort will be unrealistic.

He suggested that students have a warm heart so that their knowledge and education become constructive. His Holiness concluded by saying that his generation belonged to the 20th century and that the students belong to the 21st century. He said the students should have responsibility to take care of this planet and that they should have a combination of a brilliant mind and a warm heart. The students thanked him through a video recording that said, “Thank You, Professor” as well as through a prolonged ovation.

In the afternoon, His Holiness participated in a conversation with artists about the role of the arts in promoting a compassionate society. The conversation titled "The Creative Journey: Artists in Conversation with the Dalai Lama on Spirituality and Creativity" with Richard Gere and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker. They started with the question whether the arts have any special responsibility to promote compassion. They also discussed what the artist and the spiritual master have to teach each other from their respective disciplines. His Holiness and the panelists agreed that the arts had much role in promoting compassion. He urged the people in general to use their creativity to uphold democracy, liberty and individual freedom. Regarding the role of the United States in promoting a better world, His Holiness said that since his childhood he had an admiration for the United States as the champion of democracy, liberty and freedom. Since the United States is the leading nation, His Holiness said no matter what happens the American people should not let down their spirits. He added that if the Americans become demoralized it would have negative impact throughout the world. 

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