The University Record, April 25, 1994

Dalai Lama wants ‘to build a happier world’

By John Woodford
News and Information Services

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama who is both the spiritual and secular leader of Tibet, says that the goal of humanity as it faces the 21st century is “to build a happier world.”

In the 20th century, the Dalai Lama told an audience of 9,000 attending the fourth Raoul Wallenberg Lecture in Crisler Arena last Thursday evening, humankind “experimented with many things” that profoundly changed natural, political, economic and psychological conditions.

As a result, he said, “as the 20th century draws to a close, we’re entering a new stage in human history when we are compelled to examine all assumptions underlying modern existence.”

Many people, he said “now question whether our current pattern of existence is right. It is such times that make the human mind open up and examine with courage and confidence ways to overcome these problems. Our inner strength and deep awareness may come out so the next century can be more peaceful, more harmonious, more friendly.”

But if the 21st century is to fulfill his dreams for it, the Dalai Lama said, the present generations, and especially young people, must act with the gentility, compassion and positive frame of mind that are the “basic qualities of human nature.”

Recalling his recent visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., the Dalai Lama said that the exhibits showed the full picture of humanity. The “immeasurable suffering” of those victimized by human greed, hatred and violence was negated by the “compassion and inner strength” of persons like Wallenberg, who “showed how much humanity can achieve.”

Human compassion may come from a religious tradition, he said, but it is just as available to the skeptic or atheist as to the believer. Everyone knows that from the day of birth, his or her survival “depends on the affection and support of the mother” or another nurturer, he said. Human affection, symbolized in his religious tradition by the mother’s milk, “is key from our birth to our death.”

But the great qualities of the human heart—compassion, love and forgiveness—must be conveyed to people in some fashion, they must be developed, the Dalai Lama continued. “And as society becomes more secularized, perhaps some of these moral qualities are being neglected at the same time.”

Thus it is more important than ever before, he said, that universities shoulder the responsibility of developing “good hearts” as well as able brains. “Knowledge is a kind of instrument,” he said. “It can be used positively or negatively. How it’s used depends on that human self. Human affection makes for constructive use of knowledge.”

Education can foster the self-discipline required to suppress negative impulses through exercising compassion, which he defined as “concern for others’ rights and close feeling towards others, and granting them the same rights you have to overthrow suffering.”

The Dalai Lama outlined an agenda of compassion ranging from new supranational political and military organizations, birth control and a step-by-step process of global disarmament. He opposed military research as a misuse of human brain power, and said “constructive” research should be reimbursed at double the rate of military research to attract the best minds to more compassionate purposes.

Though each individual life is precious, he said, “so is precious life in general,” and therefore he supported birth control as a means of raising the living standard of underdeveloped countries and of protecting the environment.

He also called for an international council of religious leaders who would “develop a strong inter-religious tradition” that would promote “genuine harmony” among the world’s peoples.

The Dalai Lama concluded by telling the audience that if they agreed with him, they should get involved with optimism and confidence to build a happy and peaceful 21st century. “But if you don’t agree,” he said with a smile, “well, just forget it.”

The Wallenberg lecture was established in honor of Raoul Wallenberg, a graduate of the Class of 1935. A member of a prominent Swedish family, Wallenberg worked almost single-handedly to save tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis during World War II. He was later arrested and charged with spying by the Soviet authorities, and is reported to have died in prison.