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Dalai Lama speaks on environmental responsibility at U of M

Associated Press Writer

ANN ARBOR, April 20, 2008 (AP): The 14th Dalai Lama says the need for environmental responsibility dovetails with Buddhist, Christian, and the majority of religious teachings on: valuing human life—whether it’s one person or the world’s entire population.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader offered his trademark humor and humility before crowds of more than 7,000 at the University of Michigan that gathered for a Sunday afternoon lecture on sustainability and a morning teaching session.

“Taking care of our planet, environment, is something like taking care of our own home,” he told the audience at Crisler Arena, as he sat cross-legged on a chair on the main stage in his traditional saffron robes. “This blue planet is our only home.”

Earth Day is celebrated on April 22.

The Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959 in Tibet, arrived in the United States on April 10, a day after demonstrators disrupted the Olympic torch run in San Francisco in a protest of China’s treatment of Tibetans.

During “Earth Day Reflections,” the sustainability lecture sponsored by the university’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, he said U.S.-Americans in particular should be more content with what they have because of anticipated shortages of natural resources.

“It is better to know the limitations of material value,” he said. “We always want more and more and more. I think some lifestyle ... has to change.”

During applause from the audience, he added: “But this is not my business.”

In his introduction, the Dalai Lama informed the audience—“My Brothers and Sisters”—that his English language skills were limited, that he knew “100 things in bits and pieces” (an ancient Tibetan saying) but “not to expect anything profound.”

The Dalai Lama said that the environment was important and should become part of our ‘every present moment’ lives. Conservation of the Earth’s resources was extremely important.

The Dalai Lama also stressed that dialogue among the Earth’s citizens was important—dialogue, mixed with wisdom and compassion.

‘While religion and the secular domains have different traditions, they have the same important message—there is no reason to fight,’ concluded the Dalai Lama.

“I’m a Christian,…I am a Buddhist,” he told the gathering. “Both have the same message.”  

The three teaching sessions were sponsored by the Jewel Heart Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center, The Tibet Fund, and the Garrison Institute.

At the end of Sunday morning’s session, the Dalai Lama presented a $10,000 check to Jewel Heart, and it was announced that the teaching sessions netted $52,132 after expenses such as security and advertising.

Three University of Michigan graduate students— Julie Maslowsky, Danielle Bober, and Arie Jongejan—were awarded $5,000 for their community-service involvement; they received personal congratulations on-stage from the Dalai Lama, who also presented each with a kata, a white silk scarf that honors the work of the recipient and signals the good intentions of those offering it.

The trio were selected for “Compassion In Action Awards” bestowed by Jewel Heart.
The three were chosen from students nominated by their U-M deans. Maslowsky was honored in the area of public health, Bober for poverty, and Jongejan for the environment.

Ann Arbor area high school/elementary students were honored for their work on a booklet of poems submitted the Dalai Lama, including: Shane Mendez (Bedford High School), Josh Perry (Temperance Bedford High School), Aiyana Emerson (Dexter High School), Sam Ellison (Abbott Elementary in Ann Arbor), and Tara Dorje (Wines Elementary in Ann Arbor).

Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford was in the audience for Sunday afternoon’s lecture, and actor Richard Gere attended the teaching sessions.

During the morning teaching session, the Dalai Lama revisited the Buddhist teachings of wisdom and compassion he had begun the day before. His answers didn't contain the quick fixes that modern culture has come to expect from Dr. Phil and other tough-love-dispensing talk show hosts.

“We have to deal with the causes and conditions of that anger,” he said in response to a question about living with someone who is angry and argumentative. He elicited large laughs for his long, contemplative pause before answering.

“The best thing—try to remain a bit (of) distance. If it’s a husband and wife, then I don't know. Worst case? Divorce? I don't know.”

On Saturday, he encouraged people to preserve their own religious traditions while respecting others with differing beliefs. He expanded on that theme Sunday in a response to a question about whether someone should convert to Buddhism.

“Among Tibetans, some are Muslim as far as religion is concerned, not Buddhism, but they live a life that is very much in the spirit of Buddhist culture. And maybe there is an individual Buddhist in the Christian culture,” he said. “That’s OK, isn't it?”

Still, he said, there is a freedom and right to choose for those who have practiced their faith and do not find it effective.

Rico de La Prensa contributed to this report. On the Net: Jewel Heart: http://www.jewelheart.org/ University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems: http://css.snre.umich.edu/facts

Editor’s Note: Gelek Rimpoche, founder and spiritual leader of Ann Arbor’s Jewel Heart, will visit numerous Midwest cities as part of a multi-city lecture tour following the teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Visit La Prensa at:   https://laprensatoledo.com/Stories/2008/032108/Lama.htm

Speaking on Engaging Wisdom and Compassion, Rimpoche will elaborate how we can apply these teachings to our daily lives, providing follow-up for those who attended in April as well as serving as an excellent introduction for those who were not able to attend the Ann Arbor event.

These talks are open to all and free of charge. The current schedule includes the following venues:


ANN ARBOR, MI – Sunday, April 27, 2008, 10am, at Jewel Heart, 1129 Oak Valley Drive.

KALAMAZOO, MI - Saturday, May 3, 2 pm, at People’s Church   1758 North Tenth Street, Kalamazoo, Mi 49009. 

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Sunday afternoon, May  4, 2pm, at Grand Valley State University, Loosemoore Auditorium, 301 W. Fulton St., EC 210, Grand Rapids, MI 49504 

CHICAGO, IL AREA - Wednesday, May 7 , 7pm, at Theosophical Society 1926 N Main St, Wheaton, IL 60187

TOLEDO, OHIO - Saturday, May 10, 7pm, at Toledo Botanical Gardens, 5403 Elmer Drive Toledo, OH 43615

WINSOR, ONTARIO, CANADA – Monday, May 12, 7pm, at Hospice of Windsor, 6038 Empress Street.

CLEVELAND, OHIO - Wednesday evening, May 14, 7pm, at Jewel Heart Cleveland, 2670 W14th Street, Cleveland, OH 44113

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI - Sunday, June 1, 3 – 5pm, at Birmingham Unitarian Church, 38651 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills, MI 48103

SAGINAW, MI - Friday June 13  evening, at Rhea Miller Recital Hall in Curtis Hall in Groening Commons, Saginaw Valley State University, 7400 Bay Road, University Center, MI  48710

WARREN, MI - Wednesday, June 18,  7pm, at Renaissance Unity – 11200 E. 11 Mile, Warren, MI 48089.





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