Marietta attorney Patti Pearlberg was awed by Tibet’s spiritual leader.
“He presents such a sense of joy,” said Pearlberg, wife of former Marietta City Councilman Van Pearlberg. “He absolutely is a happy guy. I just wish we could all bring more joy and compassion into everybody’s lives. I think everything would be a lot better, especially politics.”
Smyrna attorney David Triviño and his brother, Wilson, said they attended the lecture because they too wanted to hear the message of compassion given by a man who has led his people longer than England’s Queen Elizabeth II.
“The Dalai Lama is such a spiritual person and has such a calming effect,” Triviño said. “He discusses wisdom and truths that have been around for a long time, but hearing directly from him and being in an environment like this, you really kind of center yourself and realize what’s important in life.”
On the Lion Throne in the 1,000-chambered palace
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, writes in his autobiography how the words Dalai Lama mean different things to different people. Dalai is a Mongolian word meaning ocean, while lama means teacher or guru. Some believe he is a living Buddha or god king while others call him a counterrevolutionary. But for him, the title simply signifies the office he holds.
“I myself am just a human being and incidentally a Tibetan who chooses to be a Buddhist monk,” he writes in “Freedom in Exile.”
Tibet, which is called the roof of the world as the highest region on earth, is northeast of the Himalayas.
From the capital of Lhasa in the 1,000-chambered Potola Palace on the jewel-encrusted Lion Throne, the Dalai Lama was the ruler of 6 million people.
China’s People’s Liberation Army invaded his country in 1949 when he was a boy. During the Tibetan national uprising in 1959, the Dalai Lama disguised himself as a soldier and fled into exile.
He has lived in Dharamsala, in northern India, the seat of the Tibetan political administration in exile, ever since.
The Dalai Lama writes about how the Chinese communists turned Tibet into a police state. More than 1.2 million Tibetans died from starvation, execution, torture and suicide; thousands of Buddhist monasteries were destroyed, and China embarked on a population transfer resulting in Tibetans becoming a minority in their own country.
Human Rights Watch released a report in June detailing how the Chinese government is subjecting millions of Tibetans to a policy of mass rehousing and relocation, which China director Sophie Richardson called “unprecedented in the post-Mao era.”
“Tibetans have no say in the design of policies that are radically altering their way of life, and — in an already highly repressive context — no ways to challenge them,” Richardson said.
An advocate of democracy
Yet the Dalai Lama, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for advocating non-violence in the liberation of Tibet, remains hopeful.
“Chairman Mao once said that political power comes from the barrel of a gun,” the Dalai Lama writes. “He was only partly right: Power that comes from the barrel of a gun can be effective only for a short time. In the end, people’s love for truth, justice, freedom and democracy will triumph. No matter what governments do, the human spirit will always prevail.”
Speaking to an audience of several hundred at Emory University’s Glenn Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday, the Tibetan leader said democracy is the best system of government for the world’s 7 billion people.
In a democratic country, even the nation’s president can be removed through impeachment, he said, mentioning Richard Nixon.
“Everyone is treated the same under the law,” he said.
The Dalai Lama laughed as he related how Emory made him an honorary professor, describing himself as “a hopeless professor” who does not do homework.
The monk, whose day begins at 3 a.m. with morning prayers and meditation, prompted laughter from the audience as he called himself lazy.
Cultivating love and compassion
He then struck a serious note.
“Humanity is in a moral crisis,” he said.
To think that a single religion such as Buddhism is capable of solving humanity’s crisis in a world with so many different religious traditions as well as a growing population of nonbelievers is unrealistic, he said.
What is universally accepted is education, which is why the Dalai Lama called for a system of secular ethics that can be used to cultivate such inner values as love, compassion, justice and forgiveness.
New laws and regulations imposed on people from above will not change the problems facing the world, the Dalai Lama said, yet cultivating inner values at the individual level will bring about a change for the better.
“We’re all the same human beings,” Triviño said after the talk. “The main connection is that love and that spirit, and I think that’s just a world truth that we need to encompass and every day remind ourselves of that to be a little bit more compassionate … and I think if we approach life with that it makes things go easier.”
The Dalai Lama’s visit to Atlanta was part of the Emory-Tibet Partnership, which was founded to bring together Western and Tibetan Buddhist intellectual traditions.