“The 20th century has been the century of violence. The 21st century should be the century of dialogue.”
Speaking to a packed Events Center this past Friday, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s message was one of compassion and peace for all human beings. During his fourth visit to UCSB, the Nobel Laureate sat cross-legged before nearly 5,600 attendees for two lectures and argued for peaceful solutions to contemporary global problems.
“Today, I continue to emphasize the importance of compassion and human affection,” the Tibetan leader-in-exile said. “I consider it to be the source of our strength and self-confidence. With more self-confidence, we have less stress and fear, and that opens our mind so that we can open up to others.”
Although university officials prepared for a variety of potential crisis scenarios – including wide-scale student protests and bomb threats – the event proceeded without mishap according to UCPD Sgt. Matt Bowman. Bowman said 18 university police officers, 4 bomb dogs, 50 CSOs and 35 security personnel from ZSI private security firm were on hand to command the largest crowd yet to grace the Event Center.
At 73 years of age, the Dalai Lama is both the head of state and spiritual leader of Tibetan government-in-exile. His Holiness is also a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, winning the award in 1989 for his commitment to nonviolent methods of negotiation and his staunch defense of the historical and cultural heritage of the Tibetan people.
Throughout his lectures, His Holiness continually erupted into laughter, sporting his signature smile and speaking candidly about his revered status to the crowded stadium.
“I’m nothing special, just another human being just like you,” the spiritual leader said. “When I talk, think of me as a human being.”
When asked about his religion during an afternoon press conference, the Dalai Lama touched on what he considered a major paradox of religion.
“Some say God, some say no God. But that’s alright,” he said. “There are different views of reality, but these contradictory philosophies come from one teacher. [For example], some of my Protestant Christian friends regard me as a good Christian, and I tell them I regard you as a good Buddhist.”
In light of a question on the looming global financial crisis, the Buddhist monk admitted that economic theory is not at the top of his reading list.
“I’m not an economist, so my knowledge is very limited,” His Holiness said. “[I think the] causes of this problem are greed, greed and then speculation, hypocrisy and telling lies. I feel those people who simply feel money is the most important are affected the most.”
His Holiness delineated what he considered the most pressing challenges facing the world today during the press conference between his two lectures.
“As a human being, global warming is a big challenge for the entire 6 billion humans,” the man whom many Tibetans believe is the reincarnation of the thirteen previous Dalai Lamas said. “Also, the population increasing rapidly… not within my lifetime, but for the next generation will be a big problem.”
Carole Bird, a fourth-year film and media studies major, said the Dalai Lama exposed her to an entirely new interpretation of Buddhism.
“What surprised me is that I always thought of Buddhist religion as a passive philosophy, where you accept the circumstances and change your attitude rather then the circumstance itself,” Bird said. “He said in order to have realistic results, you have to see it from a realistic view and take a realistic action. That implies action and changing the situation. I didn’t know that was part of his philosophy.”
At the end of each lecture, His Holiness answered previously submitted questions from the audience. One question, concerning relationships and how to cope with a partner who has a negative outlook on life, provoked widespread laughter among audience members.
“You should take your wife as your teacher and your master in your own home, provided she is a good wife,” he said. “The monk is celibate and truly independent… half of your freedom is lost.”
Addressing the entire UCSB student body, His Holiness cautioned university students to avoid the mistakes of the past generations.
“College students, you are the power of the next generation,” he said. “In our human society, negative things are bound to happen. Even these corrupt people, soon they will have to go.”