Friday, November 04, 2005

THE DALAI LAMA at Stanford University

• Watch the free webcast of the November 4th events, offered in Windows and Real media format by Stanford University.
• Download the free podcasts of the November 4th events, offered by Stanford University and iTunes.
• For more information about the events at Stanford with the Dalai Lama, visit the Stanford University web site.
Click here to read the Stanford Report online article about this event.
Click here to read the San Jose Mercury News article (free registration required)
• A second San Jose Mercury News article includes six photos (no registration required).
• Our article (below) is also posted at the DALAI LAMA blog.
• Dalai Lama at Stanford photo by L.A. Cicero


His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama spoke at Stanford University Maples Pavilion this morning. I arrived at the facility at about 7:25am and, in the next half hour, was moved very efficiently through the massive queue (Disneyland, take note!) and into the Pavilion. I had a general admission ticket for the upper section, and found some seats in the first row of the Upper 5 section.

The stage consisted of a large, raised area at the same end of what is normally the Stanford basketball court as my seat. An ornate rug covered a portion of the black platforms, and three chairs sat in a semi-circular shape in the center. The seat I had found was about 50 feet or so stage left of the platform - while there were many people between where I was an the stage, the rake was steep enough that I felt quite close.

I think, for anyone who has seen or spoken with His Holiness, or read any of his writings, that the depth of his understanding of humanity is evident immediately. With deference to the actor Owen Wilson (see, "And, on a different note altogether..." (June 8, 2005), I can understand how the cynic might come away unimpressed and feeling like nothing new was learned. As I look over the quotes I wrote down during the talk it is evident that his remarks are sometimes simplistic or perhaps even cliche'. But in considering that, I am struck by the fact that he returns to these perceptually simplistic views after years and years of study and contemplation, which adds a tremendous amount of weight to each utterance. He has stripped away the layers of complexity and detached from any illusory perceptions, and arrived full circle with the answer we may have suspected was there all along. Sometimes the process to get to that answer involves extremely complex series of thoughts and concepts, and sometimes it is as simple sounding as the "basic goal of life is happiness". I think, by any standard, the measure of intellect must include some aspect of taking that which is complex beyond reason and breaking it down into manageable, accessible bits. In this regard, His Holiness is a giant.

By 8:10 am the facility was about half full and, at 8:32, a loud, low horn blow signaled the beginning of a Didjeridoo performance by Stephen Kent, which lasted until a few minutes before 9:30. By the time Mr. Kent left the court very few seats remained empty.

Without any fanfare at all, the Dalai Lama moved onto the court through a curtain off to the right of the stage, and the about 7,000 people stood simultaneously to applaud this magnificent man. He was accompanied by William L. McLennan, Jr., the Dean for Religious Life at Stanford, John Hennessy, the 10th President of the University, and Thupten Jinpa, the interpreter for His Holiness. Both Mr. McLennan and Mr. Hennessy addressed the audience, and then left the platform. For a moment, the Dalai Lama sat there at center stage, alone save for his interpreter.

From this point on I will include random comments from His Holiness. It is worth noting that these appear, generally, out of context, and are often drawn from much longer remarks. When quoted, these are the exact words His Holiness spoke. Without quotes, these are my memory, or a paraphrase, of what was said.

His Holiness started the talk by removing his shoes. He said he disliked formality, and would be comfortable in order to speak more comfortably. He sat cross-legged, without shoes, for the remainder of the event. He said he would speak to us informally. That the very purpose of meeting is to connect person to person. "So (I will) talk to you like I am meeting with long time friend."

"Basic goal, or aim, of life is happiness."

"We all have certain intelligence and, because of this intelligence, we all have certain potential." He spoke for a bit about this as it related to the differences between man and animal.

"Meditation is like restful of the mind."

His Holiness would occasionally begin a remark in somewhat fractured English, and complete the thought in his native language. He moved back and forth so freely that I wondered whether he might even recognize this every time it happened. After completing a statement in the Tibetan language, his interpreter would translate and interpret in perfect English.

"... not only is there a sense of joy for an individual ... but also a sense of warmth.."

"Not only look for external things, look inward - combine."

He spent a few minutes speaking about how Buddhism views other religions, and said that we should have faith in our own religion, but also appreciate all religions.

"What is important is effective service to humanity."

The Good Heart ....
His Holiness recounted an experience he had when invited to speak at the John Main seminar in London in 1994, where he was asked to talk about the Gospels. He said that, from a Christian perspective, he would be considered an unbeliever. But that as a Buddhist, he held respect for Christian religion and felt he needed to do a good job at the lecture. While he was not entirely happy with the results, he said some of those attending approached him after and told him that their faith had been strengthened by his discussion. That talk is available on VHS or PAPERBACK, and is called THE GOOD HEART.

"Now, about the meditation..."
The program called for a teaching and a meditation, so His Holiness lead 7,000 people in a silent, five minute meditation at 10:39am. Explaining that there are two types of meditation, the Dalai Lama talked about using a single point of the mind, or visualizing victims of the earthquake or the people starving in Africa. For a Buddhist, they might think about Buddha, a Christian might think about Jesus Christ or Mary.

[To be continued]

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