Huskies welcome His Holiness to the pack


His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama spoke to an audience at the UW yesterday. The event was part of the Dalai Lama's five-day visit to Seattle to promote compassion.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a pre-eminent spiritual leader, is now a Dawg. The exiled leader of Tibet was given an honorary doctorate in a convocation ceremony at Hec Edmundson Pavilion yesterday that was attended by more than 7,000 people, most of whom were students.

During the ceremony, the Dalai Lama was buttoned into purple and gold velvet robes.

“He looks very good in purple and gold,” UW President Mark Emmert said, eliciting whoops and hollers from the crowd.

After introductions, the Dalai Lama stepped up to the lecturn, speaking in Tibetan with English translations from his interpreter, Thupten Jinpa, and thanking everyone for the honor. He eventually joked about receiving a degree without ever having to study.

“Young people, you are the basis of our hope,” he said. “I observed the last century, many great achievements, but that century also became a century of war and violence. … You, the generation of the 21st century, you are our hope.”

Students from the University of Washington and other schools around the region had the chance to ask pre-approved questions of the Dalai Lama.

The afternoon was full of laughter, with the Dalai Lama often responding to questions with a humble “I don’t know.” At one point he said, “I feel shy to speak in front of these big scholars.”

One question concerned how compassion can impact the AIDS epidemic. The Dalai Lama responded that funding of medical research should continue, as should education.

He clarified through his interpreter that AIDS is often spread through sexual contact, and then suggested that people use “rubbers.”

Serious discussion was present as well.

“The concept of war is outdated,” he said. “Destruction of your enemy, your neighbor, is actually destruction of yourself. In reality, he’s part of yourself.”

The Dalai Lama focused on one path to compassion — communication — that resonated with students from the UW School of Social Work, which is facilitating dialogues about race, gender and other issues on campus in a program called IDEA (Intergroup Dialogue, Education and Action).

“It strengthened my commitment to the work,” senior Joshua Johnson said outside the pavilion.

IDEA Director Ratnesh Nagda added that he now thinks of the program as “intergroup disarmarment,” which was a reference to the Dalai Lama’s earlier statement about an “internal disarmament” of an individual’s fear and hate.

More than 100 protestors gathered in front of the venue with megaphones and banners displaying text such as “Tibet part of China” and “No violence, no riots, stop media distortion.”

“The Dalai Lama is looking for independence; they’re (Tibetans are) starting violence,” protestor Benson Zhang said. “So many Chinese are angry with Western media. … The media is anti-Chinese.”

Adam Claessens of the UW’s pharmacy department attributed the protests to the Chinese government’s practice of censorship.

“I’m frankly shocked that there are this many people here organized against the Dalai Lama’s visit,” he said.

[Reach reporters Erinn Unger and Andrew Doughman at news@thedaily.washington.edu.]

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