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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Dalai Lama's message clear, understandable

June 16, 2010

The State Journal, Kentucky
June 15, 2010

I just returned from Indianapolis -- or so it seems.

Instead of going to the 500, I went two weeks
early to be with a world famous spiritual leader for two days.

And when His Holiness the Dalai Lama and I meet
in Indiana, I always lose sleep. But it’s worth it.

There are no expectations of one-on-one
interviews. Just the excitement of being in his presence is overwhelming.

And if he read this, he would laugh and say,
"Why? I am just a simple Buddhist monk " no more, no less."

He says he has no special healing powers and
offers proof by saying he doesn’t think his gall
bladder surgery would have been necessary if he
did. And it’s the same story with his eyeglasses, he says, laughing.

Being near the Dalai Lama requires getting up
before daylight. That’s no problem. I never use
an alarm clock, and I’m always awake by 4:30 a.m.

Franklin County friend Angela Mitchell
accompanied me to a May 13 teaching and press
conference in Bloomington and a public speaking the next day in Indianapolis.

The two-hour teaching began at 9:15 a.m., and we
had to be at the Indiana University Auditorium
media entrance no later than 7 a.m.

All rooms were booked in Bloomington so we stayed
in a Martinsville motel 22 miles away. I tried to
fall asleep meditating but don’t ever remember dropping off.

At 6:15 in Bloomington, one reporter was in front
of us at the locked media door -- Ronald Hawkins,
a Louisville native and University of Kentucky graduate.

Shortly after 7, the line was long when the door
opened for the first-round of security scanning,
and we felt we’d known Ronald forever.

He writes for The Reporter-Times in Martinsville
and was eager to see the Dalai Lama.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, 74, is the
head of state and spiritual leader of the Tibetan
people. The Dalai Lama honorary title means
“Teacher Whose Wisdom Is As Great As the Ocean.”

In 1959 he fled his homeland after China’s
takeover of Tibet and now lives in Dharamsala,
India, where he established the Tibetan government-in-exile.

He’s a tireless worker for peace, and every year
travels throughout the world giving talks about wisdom and compassion.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and
in 2007 was presented the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.

We gathered on a stairway and were told if we
wanted to attend an afternoon press conference at
the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center –
several miles from the auditorium – we must leave
the teaching early to go through security again
two hours before the Dalai Lama arrived.

Before the teaching began, one reporter fainted
on the stairs and had to be taken to a hospital
for treatment. Later we all had to line up
cameras and recording gear in a hallway for canine inspections.

The dog inspections were repeated at the cultural
center. The Dalai Lama called the afternoon
session "Meet the Press." We lined up as he
walked into the Great Hall and shook his hand as he walked to the front table.

The room was adorned with paintings of Buddhas
and Tibetan wax-butter sculptures.

He seemed to make eye contact with everyone in the room.

"Media people have a responsibility to inform
people," he said. "You should have long noses, as
long as elephant noses -- People have a right to
know” – the good news and the bad, in unbiased reporting.

The visit to the cultural center was the Dalai
Lama’s first since the 2008 death of his brother,
Thubten Norbu, who founded the 108-acre center in 1979.

Norbu was a retired professor of Tibetan studies at IU.

I met him in March 2003 on a weekend walk for
Tibet’s independence from Bloomington to
Indianapolis. My niece, Kimberly Pearl, a member
of the International Tibet Independence Movement in Indianapolis, recruited me.

The last time I saw Norbu was Sept. 7, 2003, the
first time I had been in the presence of his famous brother.

The Dalai Lama and Louisville native Muhammad Ali
were in Bloomington to dedicate the interfaith
Chamtse Ling Temple on the grounds of the cultural center.

The temple "will be a place where people of all
faiths and all cultures can gather to plan deeds
of compassion and wisdom rather than acts of violence and war,” Norbu said.

"It will be a safe haven for all those who wish
to conduct workshops, seminars, and perform
religious services and rituals to promote world peace and harmony.

"All persons of all beliefs are welcome here. We
open our hearts and arms to all."

Leaders of 16 religious denominations
participated in the outdoor dedication along with 3,000 others.

This time, on his sixth visit to Indiana, the
Dalai Lama said in the Great Hall, "My late
brother’s spirit very much still exists here.”

The rain began as we left the cultural center in
late afternoon and was pouring by the time we
reached our car. Although we knew 4 a.m. tomorrow
would arrive too soon and we’d go through
security checks again, we were energized.

Hawkins, the Martinsville reporter, summarized it
well in his newspaper column the next day.

He wrote: "It’s not every day a journalist can
say after he was drenched by a torrential
downpour, scanned multiple times for security,
forced to wait hours for scheduled events, and
got his car stuck in mud, that he’d had an exhilarating day.

"That’s what this reporter experienced Thursday,
from his early arrival on the Indiana University
campus until he drove his mud-splattered car home.

"The cause for the exhilaration was the
first-hand experience of shaking the hand and
speaking briefly to the Dalai Lama, listening to his wit and wisdom.”

What I remember most about being with the Dalai
Lama in 2003 and again this year is the positive
energy I feel for weeks afterward. The kind
Tibetan people – and those working to help them
gain their independence – have become my friends, my family.

I asked several what draws them to the Dalai Lama.

Valerie Purvin, a clinical professor at IU
Medical Center who grew up in a Jewish family in
New York, says, "The thing I appreciate most
about him is his lack of religious chauvinism. So
many religious leaders, whatever their message
is, have a position that this is the one and only path with capital letters.

"He does not do that. Often when he speaks, there
is a pause and he will say, ‘In any case, that is
what I think. If you find that useful, fine. And
if you don’t, then never mind, just drop it.’”

Purvin says she loves his intellectual curiosity.

"I’m appreciating as I get older how hard it is
to hold onto that kind of curiosity over time, to
not want early closure," she says. “I don’t want
to keep wondering. I just want to learn it and act on it.

"The fact that he is still exploring and open to
Western science and neurology with Tibetan
Eastern philosophy is very appealing.

"I think he gets more pleasure out of doing his job than anybody I know."

Lexington’s Richard Farkas, the official
photographer for the Dalai Lama’s visit, says
he’s met His Holiness four times, and has visited
Tibet twice and Dharamsala, India, once.

"I feel good whenever I see the Dalai Lama’s
picture, and especially when I’m near him," he
says. "He’s very genuine, very open. He’s got a
good sense of humor. He’s serious, funny, gentle and compassionate.”

Lynn Jackson was among 10,000 who gathered at the
Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis to hear the Tibetan leader speak May 14.

Persons of all faiths attended including 500 school children.

"I feel the Dalai Lama is a message for the
world," Jackson said, after his 90-minute talk
titled "Facing Challenges with Compassion and Wisdom.”

"He’s a prophet. He transcends any specific religion."

Jackson says the Dalai Lama’s message is always
so clear and understandable "you can put it in your heart."

She says she belongs to a "spiritual oneness
group" at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in
Indianapolis, made up of a Baha’i, Hindu, Tibetan
Buddhist nun, Muslim, Jew, Unitarian
Universalist, Christian Scientist, Wicca and American Indian.

"We invite people who might have a different
spiritual approach and see if we can find our
sameness, our difference and see if we can
develop programs for the entire community."

At Conseco, the Dalai Lama talked about the
importance of establishing a compassionate
approach to living, and assisting those in need
regardless of their religious, economic,
political, ethnic or social background.

The event began with an "Invocation for World
Peace" cello performance by Michael Fitzpatrick,
formerly of Louisville now living in California.

I interviewed Fitzpatrick in 2001, not long after
he produced his "Compassion" CD in honor of the
Dalai Lama’s visit to the Abbey of Gethsemani
near Bardstown, where the late Christian monk,
Thomas Merton -- a peace activist, writer and poet -- lived.

Merton and the Dalai Lama met in India in 1968 in
hopes of working together to bring world peace.

It was the most significant interfaith meeting of
the 20th century, Fitzpatrick says.

Five weeks later Merton was accidentally electrocuted in Bangkok, Thailand.

That’s when the Dalai Lama pledged to commit the
rest of his life to fulfilling Merton’s wish to
bring East and West together in peace, harmony and compassion.

Now Fitzpatrick has a "Compassion Rising" film,
which debuted in Bloomington just before the Dalai Lama’s teachings.

Frankfort’s Mary West says she heard about the
Dalai Lama coming to Indianapolis after she
"flippantly put on Facebook" that the Dalai Lama was her boyfriend.

"I figured he was the only good boy breathing on
the planet," West said. "And one of my
girlfriends sent a message back saying, ‘Your
boyfriend is going to be in my town if you would like to come see him.’"

West said she had met Nobel Peace Prize winners
Mother Teresa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Al Gore
and Jimmy Carter, "and the Dalai Lama would be
the crowd jewel of any Nobel collection, so I jumped at the opportunity."

West says she admires him for "his pursuit of
peace in a very hostile world, and how he has
approached adversity without hostility or animosity.

"Being there I was greatly encouraged by seeing
the broad mix, the ecumenical community. It gave
me a great sense of hope -- especially as
polarized as our country has become -- that
people are out there striving to unite us, not drive us apart."
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