Friday, May 28, 2010

The Dalai Lama in Iowa [Guest Post]

This guest post is brought to you today by my dear friend Darcy AKA @darcybl, who works for the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA), founder of the community building Create Your Own Reality event and an all-around awesome lady.

It is in childhood that our intelligence blossoms and our minds overflow with questions. This intense desire for knowledge is the basis of personal growth. The more we are curious about the world and want to know how and why things are the way they are, the clearer our minds become and the more we develop a spirit of initiative.
— His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

On Tuesday May 18th I got to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak up in Cedar Falls, Iowa. It was the chance of a lifetime (or several). I enjoyed hearing his views first hand at the the McLeod Center of the University of Northern Iowa. His Holiness participated in a panel discussion on “Educating for a Non-violent World.”

One of the other panelist was Jackson Katz Founder and director of Mentors in Violence Prevention., who is an anti-sexist male activist that I often quote in my grant writing at MOCSA. It was such a great moment to see two leaders I admire discuss topics I am passionate about. The panelists discussed violence in schools, communities, and the workplace. They talked about ways in which we, as individuals and as a society, can address issues of violence, promote civility and enhance understanding through education. The panelists first made presentations about their personal involvement in efforts to educate the youth and less privileged members of the society. They then posed questions to His Holiness on his perception, including on the incorporation of the value of compassion in outreach to the community.

Darcy with a friend

His Holiness said it was his first time in Iowa and he was glad to be participating in a serious discussion. For a good smile watch the clip for his giggle about how to say Iowa. His Holiness talked about the need of education of the heart in addition to the education of the brain. He said there was need to incorporate the study of moral ethics in the education system. His Holiness concluded that a compassionate and warm-hearted individual invariably would be a healthy individual, which would lead to a healthy family, which would in turn lead to a healthy community. He also explored the importance of receiving love and nurturing from a mother early in your life. He stressed the importance of a person who has received that kind of love as they use their life to grow that love.

The kicker of this entire experience was that I was interviewed by the local TV station and they used clips and part of my interview in several stories. I was so happy I drew that experience to myself. To be picked from a crowd of 5,400 to talk about my passion and admiration for His Holiness was an honor. Moreover, I got to remind the entire viewing audience that these qualities of compassion, kindness, wisdom all dwell inside of us as well. His Holiness is but a simple monk, but WOW what a teacher!

Here is a longer interview of just the crowd:

This one is my favorite that has parts of the interview in this longer feature:

And another shorter one:

Another amazing aspect was that there was a scholarship set aside for Tibetan students from money from ticket sales and other funds raised for the visit. His afternoon session addressed the basic oneness of humanity. He encouraged us to look beyond our labels and see each other as human. It was during this time that His Holiness then quoted a Buddhist scripture to convey the importance of education. It said learning is like a lamp that dispels the darkness, a reliable friend that will not waver, and a friend that will show you the path. His Holiness, however, cautioned that education alone is not a guarantee for bringing happiness to oneself or the community. He said for education to be constructive there needs to be a sense of responsibility based on a sense of concern for the wellbeing of others, which in turn is based on the oneness of all human beings.

His Holiness then explained the importance of developing moral ethics to promote inner peace. He said in this there were two options, one based on faith, in which case the complication arose as to which religion to choose. The other is a non-religion path, in which moral ethics are promoted on the basis of common experience, common sense and through scientific findings. His Holiness called this the promotion of secular ethics. His Holiness said his definition of secularism is not rejection of religion but, something that India promotes, namely equal respect to all religions.

During the question and answer session, in a response to a question on whether all religions were the same, His Holiness said they were not. He said that while all religions had the same message; that of compassion, love, forgiveness, tolerance, etc., at the philosophical level they were different. He said even within one religion like Buddhism there were different philosophical viewpoints. He said such variety was needed to meet the need of different dispositions of the individuals.

In the morning session (where I was in the 8th row on the floor!) I struck up a conversation with the gal next to me. I asked her if she had traveled far to get there and she said about 8 blocks! She was with her husband, a professor of philosophy for the university. She gave me her card so I could email my many photos to her. I was touched by what she wrote back, she said "I'm still pondering many of the things said that day...I'm sure that is as it should be. But it was balm to the soul to hear a global leader to have such faith in human nature and our ability to change...and also to recognize the power of women." I think she really hit the nail on the head. One of the things I enjoyed about seeing His Holiness in a rural area of Iowa was that this was the kind of place that earned to be exposed to his ideas and his blinding light. This was no "Buddha-fest" it was an exploration of a broader way of thinking with a mixed audience of people not always exposed to these wider views.

Many thanks to May for the forum to share this experience. You'll find I gathered factual info from HHDL's news section.

Related posts:
Create Your Own Reality
Sex, Lies and Buddha
Gunning for the Buddha

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Darcy said...

May - Thank you for the generous opportunity to write a guest post! I am an avid reader and I'm so glad your range of blog posts drew me in and developed our friendship over the years. Love ya!!

May said...

You are so very welcome. I'm glad we met!! Love ya back :)