posted 2012-11-21 22:39:41

The 14th Dalai Lama Visits Hunter College

President Raab awarded His Holiness with an honorary degree    

Michele Tram

Contributing Writer

Alexandra Heidler

Associate Arts Editor

Sporting a Hunter baseball cap, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso the 14th Dalai Lama sat on stage in the Hunter North Assembly Hall and humbly bowed before a packed audience full of faculty members, students and guests. His Holiness was set to receive an esteemed recognition for his lifelong commitment to promoting nonviolence and compassion in the world. On Oct. 19th, President Raab honored Tenzin Gyatso with a doctoral degree of Humane Letters.

The event was scheduled to begin at 3:45 p.m., shortly after a two-hour-long panel discussion on “Finding Common Ground: Ethics in China” held at the Kaye Playhouse. The first session was an invite-only event, where the Dalai Lama spoke mainly of Tibetan and Chinese communities and their political stance. This event was strongly correlated with the Dalai Lama’s May 2010 visit where he spoke on Chinese–Tibetan relations hosted by the Bridge Conference at Hunter, as well as a lecture at Roosevelt House for a talk entitled, “Education, Religion, and Happiness.”
The Dalai Lama was greeted with a standing ovation when he walked across the stage with his trusty translator. President Raab addressed the crowd, describing the Dalai Lama as a “revered figure.” She expressed her awe of all that he has done for the world. She described his influence, citing a recent example when roughly 300,000 people in Northern India waited overnight to hear his speech. She mentioned that his philosophies are “near and dear to [those] at Hunter College,” in accordance with the university’s motto: The Care of the Future is Mine.

When the introduction was over, three Hunter College students were selected to exemplify the diverse student body: David Ma, Rigzen Condu and Bianca Maholtra. The students presented the Dalai Lama with a cap, a gown, a hood

and an honorary degree, after all bowing respectfully. The Dalai Lama’s light- hearted mood was obvious as he playfully patted Ma on the head when he kneeled to adjust the robe to fit over the monk’s robes. The smile was evident on his lips when he responded warmly to the honorary degree in his hands. The Dalai Lama humbly accepted the items, but made sure to quickly note that he would always be the same person, and that such an honor would neither elevate nor lower his status.
Even after being bestowed a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, His Holiness seems unfazed by the tremendous recognitions he has received, saying that they only serve as additional encouragement in his humanitarian pursuits. He said that, at the end of the day, he was “simply a monk, no more no less.” He is somewhat known for his reproach regarding formality, made obvious when he took the podium and began his speech with a very light- hearted and informal command of the audience. His manner made him seem like a close friend rather than an esteemed reincarnation as he joked his way through very fundamental but powerful concepts of keeping a healthy body, healthy speech and a healthy mind.

The Dalai Lama expressed his deep gratitude for the honorary degree and used the opportunity to reaffirm his commitment to promoting peace, happiness, friendship and love. Although occasionally he delved into more serious topics like his stance on the Chinese government and censorship, he was able to reveal a more humourous, charismatic side to his personality beyond his fame as a spiritual and religious leader. At one point, the monk gestured with his hands and teased that he’ll still say, “Blah, blah, blah, blah,” when he’s older and perhaps comes to visit Hunter in a wheelchair ten years from now.
His speech continued to emphasize the importance of transparency and happiness. The idea is that by being truthful and honest, only then will your transparency bring trust, and bring friends. This message was reiterated when His Holiness answered three questions put forth by the student body []

The third question was “How can we remain compassionate people in such an aggressive, competitive society [like

the US]?” The Dalai Lama explained that there were two kinds of competition. The first was wanting to be first, which is acceptable. The Dalai Lama then went on to praise US for encouraging ingenuity and competition in order to create first-class innovative ideas. What particular field this is aimed at, we’re unsure, but it seems the Dalai Lama was regarding the culture as a whole. The second sense of competition, however, was the negative kind, the kind that survives by forcefully beating out, cheating and manipulating other systems. When you survive competition by having a strong sense of self, you can be successful. But methods which use bullying and cheating are, in the Dalai Lama’s eyes, doomed to failure.