The 14th Dalai Lama urged a “century of peace” Friday in a talk before an estimated 25,000 students and guests at UC San Diego, and called himself “part monk and part scientist.”
He might have added “part diplomat” as he avoided directly criticizing President Trump or even the Chinese government that exiled him from Tibet at age 23.
The 81-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate was asked what he knew about reports of human-rights abuses by the Chinese, including Falun Gong practitioners being killed for their organs.
San Diego-based Epoch Times reporter Sophia Fang wanted his view on “this crime against humanity” and what “people on the outside could do.”
His Holiness said he had heard about this but wanted more research and concrete evidence. “That’s important,” he said.
But he still had a message for the Communist regime.
“China needs a compassionate revolution,” he said, based on that culture’s tradition of respect.
Leaving a morning press conference for his 75-minute talk and Q&A under sunny skies at the baseball fields, the Nobel Peace Prize winner was asked about the U.S. leader.
“President of your country I respect,” he said. “So you (American voters) choose.”
With NBC News reporter Ann Curry beside him at indoor and outdoor venues, the Tibetan monk repeated his themes of using one’s brain and showing compassion to create a peaceful society.
He often referred to the 7 billion people on earth as his brothers and sisters, whose success he defined as happiness and joyfulness. For the students’ benefit, he urged an education that stresses psychology and teaching compassion.
A question read by Curry asked how individuals in their immediate environment can deal with America’s increased divisiveness.
He said: “We should use our intelligence. … Hard words come from narrow-mindededness. If you want to be lonely person, use harsh words. Any sensible human being doesn’t want that. In order to have joyful individuals, we need friend(s).”
Trust comes from a genuine smile, respect and love, he said, and even cited dogs — another social animal — as an example of how to treat others. If you feed them with a negative attitude, they won’t respond.
But fed with love, “They licking you,” he said in clipped English often hard for the audience to understand. (He sometimes leaned to his left for a translator’s help with a a word.)
He said he loved talking to students — at close to 150 universities so far — because “you’re the basis for our hope” and the young have a drive for the future.
He pointed to how Europe — devastated by war in the 20th century — became a beacon of peace, relying on common interest instead of national interest.
Even NATO could have a role in easing tensions between Europe and Russia, he said.
“If NATO had border for peace, millions of Russian minds might change,” he said. “I have more hope. With that hope, more effort.”
Curry conveyed a question asking about Jesus Christ, Buddha and Muhammad and their role in solving current world problems.
The Dalai Lama said: “This century should be the century of dialogue in order to create a century of peace. You have the responsibility to solve this. Not through prayer but through action.”
“We must look through all different angles,” he said. “Three, four, six dimensions. Your mind should be more holistic, more wider perspective. That way you will see the reality.”
He encouraged enthusiasm for the mission during his latest visit to UCSD (he’ll speak at Saturday’s commencement as well, which will be live-streamed). His address is titled “The Value of Education, Ethics and Compassion for the Well-Being of Self and Others.”
“We want happy world; every human being should be happy,” he said. “That’s our goal.”
So how did UC San Diego manage to land the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso?
Thank Lama Tenzin Dhonden of Lake Elsinore and what UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla calls “dumb luck.”
The Dalai Lama — who previously spoke at several local universities including UCSD in 2012 — was at home in the Indian town of Dharamsala when he hosted 20 students last summer from the La Jolla school.
Lama Tenzin Dhonden was telling Khosla about internships the UCSD students had done in India, including a few days with the Dalai Lama.
“So he was briefing me about it, and I said: You know, I’d love to have him come and be our commencement speaker,” Khosla told reporters Friday.
Dhonden — founder of the nonprofit Friends of the Dalai Lama — suggested that the Indian-born Khosla go and invite him personally.
“I was in India anyway,” Khosla said, so he took a detour to Dharmsala in October, “and he said yes. It’s all about the students. He loves the students.”
Epoch Times reporter Fang, who lives in Carmel Valley and has worked for the paper since 2010, was critical of the Dalai Lama.
“I believe this is not the first time he’s been asked this kind of question,” she said. “With his knowledge and his reach, I truly think that he knows” about Chinese killing people for organs.
Fang said organ-harvesting has been going on for a while. (Epoch Times in 2006 reported claims of three dozen Chinese concentration camps and thousands of killings to support an organ-transplant industry.)
“Because of the nature of this event, it’s complicated,” she said as fears of Chinese student protests didn’t materialize. “And a lot of people think that it’s politically sensitive.”
Epoch Times, a multilanguage anti-Communist newspaper based in New York City, was founded by John Tang and a group of Chinese-American Falun Gong practitioners.
But the paper has won many awards, especially revelations about organ-harvesting.
Fang said the Dalai Lama “has a way to answer questions in front of the public,” but declined to comment on his motive in how he addressed the human-rights issue.
“But I’m … happy that my question has been heard,” she said.