University News

Dalai Lama calls on youth to spread peace

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Donning a Brown baseball cap, clasping his hands and inclining with a slight bow, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet took the stage before an audience of thousands of students, faculty members and Providence residents yesterday afternoon, delivering a speech titled “A Global Challenge: Creating a Culture of Peace.”

“Firstly, I want to show you my real face,” he opened, taking off the hat and continuing with a series of jokes about his balding head and white hair.

Despite his initial humor, his speech quickly turned to the serious matter of peace and its relation to cultural identity, scientific developments and the environment.

“We are the same human being, mentally, emotionally, physically,” he said, explaining that when he meets new people, he feels like he already knows them. Kinship is intrinsically linked to a happy life – a theme he returned to throughout his lecture – while violence only perpetuates a cycle of fear, stress and frustration, he said.

To illustrate this, he pointed to the bloody history of the 20th century, which featured Nazi aggression and wars in Korea and Vietnam, as well as the use of scientific innovation to bring about immense violence in the case of the atom bomb. 

“This 21st century should be a century of dialogue,” he said. His Holiness stressed respectful dialogue as the most constructive foundation for peace. He called on audience members below 30, 20 and 15 years of age to raise their hands and then appealed to them as the future of this century.

Above all, he emphasized the importance of cooperation. “If you are being swept away by an immense wave, one individual cannot rise above that tide,” his translator filled in for him.

The Dalai Lama then turned to science and the environment, which he described as moral and practical issues because life “depends on this blue planet,” he said. “If I join any political party, I will join (the) Green Party,” he added, laughing. 

He also spoke about incorporating religious ideals such as compassion, love and forgiveness into secular thought, refuting the idea that secularism represents a disdain for religion. He added that even religious figures such as Mahatma Gandhi incorporated secular thought, in particular when Gandhi proposed a new Indian constitution.

After his lecture, the Dalai Lama addressed pre-recorded questions from audience members, including professors and students from Brown and local high schools.

A recurring theme in his responses was the importance of education and of remaining connected to other people and societies. Assistant Professor of American Studies Elizabeth Hoover asked for advice regarding native peoples working to recover from forced cultural change. The Dalai Lama responded by noting modern culture’s appreciation of individual cultures.

“Isolate, almost like suicide. No use,” he said. He described how Scandinavian cultures have embraced modern education while maintaining a measure of traditional dress and their own language. This modern education, in conjunction with traditional linguistic and spiritual practices, are central to cultural autonomy, he said.

Traditions remind us who we are, he said, adding that writing systems are a particularly beneficial long-term method to preserve cultures.

“He emanated a feeling of true happiness, which was really refreshing to see,” said David Chodakewitz ’15 after the event. He said it was inspirational to be in the presence of such a major figurehead whose message is as powerful as it is simple.

Though a closed-captioning mistake left viewers with “just fuck it” as His Holiness’ transcribed final words, the Dalai Lama actually turned to humor again in his conclusion, urging the audience to spend their time thinking and discussing – or, if they had been unaffected by his words, “just forget.”

To stay up-to-date, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

  1. A great reception for an extraordinary man. What a contrast to the snub by our chief executive last year. We wouldn’t want to offend China, of course!

  2. an extraordinary man? Don’t think so. He lives in luxury with never a want by claiming he is divine. Meanwhile the majority of his people are living in near poverty. He calls for equal distribution of wealth and praises communism. He states that while capitalism has improved the lives of millions of Chinese, it has harmed their moral lives. Of course while he believes in sharing wealth, he doesn’t mean his millions of dollars.

    When so many Tibetians were setting themselves on fire, he refused to speak out against such actions. He refused to even suggest that maybe immolating oneself might not be the best action.

  3. Thanks for setting us straight. And thank you, President Obama, for having the integrity to treat this horrible human being like the ogre he is.

  4. Rudi Affolter says:

    Why the anonymous comments? Why will you not have the courage of your convictons to say who you are? The Dalai Lama isfar from being perfect, who is? But it is easy to criticise someone who does not appear to practice what they preach. I am not happy that he lives in luxury whilst attacking materialism. Ye he is surrounded by ostentatious wealth but even if he gave it all away it would not make a scratch on the surface of the poverty 99% of the world live in. I live in luxury compared to most of India and Africa and Asia. I am comfortable in the UK but earn less than the average income. I am poverty-stricken compared to a fair number of people in Britain. But I give 10% of my income to charity and spend more of it campaigning. Almost all my non-working time is spent on campaigning. He is a bloody sight better than most world leaders.

Comments are closed. If you have corrections to submit, you can email The Herald at