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Religion & ethics Saturday, May 12, 2001

Dalai Lama urges tolerance, peace

By Elaine Jarvik
Deseret News staff writer

The exiled Tibeten Buddhist leader, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama greets the audience at an Interfaith Service held at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City Friday.

No one religion is right for all, he says

The Dalai Lama is not afraid to speak his mind. So on his second day in Utah he proposed what some might see as a radical premise: No one religion is right for everyone.
At an Interfaith Service at Abravanel Hall, the Tibetan Buddhist leader said the world needs a variety of religious traditions needs not just to tolerate them but in a sense embrace the pluralism of beliefs, because each has provided comfort and moral guidance to people. Not even all Buddhists have the same metaphysical beliefs, he said.
In a town that is sometimes divided on religious grounds, leaders of eight religious faiths, from Baha'i to LDS, followed the Dalai Lama's talk by each offering a prayer. Earlier, the hall had been blessed by Clifford Duncan, an elder of the Ute Tribe.
The exiled Tibetan leader spent Friday addressing both spiritual and temporal concerns. Following the Interfaith Service, he spoke to a ballroom full of people about "the plight of Tibet." In the evening he addressed 11,000 people at the Huntsman Center about ethics and world peace.
Along the way he continued to charm the state with his humility and his chuckle. "If you come here with great expectation, you are wrong," he told the audience. "Because you will be disappointed."
The Dalai Lama's hourlong talk, at once simple and profound, was greeted by applause and laughter. The audience included Tibetans from throughout the Western United States and Canada, as well as 300 participants from the Utah Council on Conflict Resolution.
"Genuine peace is not just the absence of war," the Dalai Lama said. "In order to build genuine world peace, ultimately . . . human affection is the center." Global peace, he said, "must come through inner peace." Change, he said, starts with the mind.
We can't blame individual politicians for conflict, he said. At the heart of conflict is a self-centered society. Compassion and genuine dialogue and an educational system that teaches it is the answer. War is "out of date." Disarmament is necessary and possible, step by step. The arms trade must end.
The Dalai Lama has resisted violence as a means of ending his conflict with the Chinese government that has occupied his homeland for more than four decades. The "Middle Way" is the best approach, he said; neither isolate China nor approve of its human-rights abuses. American leaders should be a friend to China and then try to change China's outlook on democracy and freedom.
Rich nations need to consume less, he said, and find contentment without affluence. Rich people, he said, have only 10 fingers, so how many diamonds do they need? "Luxury lifestyle not good. Simple life much healthier."
Earlier in the day the Dalai Lama had talked about materialism to a $150-a-plate luncheon sponsored by the World Affairs Forum. Material comfort is OK, he said (certainly his country's causes and its exiled people are benefitting from the money donated by a room full of comfortable Americans). But attachment to possessions does not lead to a happy life.
Someone once gave him a fancy, gold watch he said, holding up his wrist. "That's too luxury. Too heavy." So he switched the band to a cheaper version.
Friday morning, the Dalai Lama led the Interfaith Service with no fanfare. Standing, without a podium, in the center of the Abravanel Hall stage, he spoke without notes, moving back and forth from English to Tibetan.
"I want to stress, whether to accept religion or not is up to individual," he told the audience. "OK. No problem. But if we accept religion we should look at religion sincerely and seriously . . . . Religious teaching should be part of our daily life."
"Religious faith is like medicine," he said. Whenever we have negative emotions such as hate, jealousy, greed, or too much attachment, "that's the moment when we need faith."
The Interfaith Service was hosted by the Episcopal Diocese.

©Copyright 2001, Deseret News

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