Berkeley Welcomes Dalai Lama

The 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso Visited UC Berkeley to Speak About Human Values

Victoria Chow/Staff

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Photo: The Dalai Lama shook hands with UC Regent Richard C. Blum at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley on Saturday. Blum and the Dalai Lama have been friends for over 30 years.   

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Sitting cross-legged in an armchair in the middle of the stage, the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso imparted his views on the importance of human values to an audience of more than 6,000 at the Greek Theatre Saturday.

The Tibetan government's exiled leader, who had visited Berkeley twice before in 1994 and 1997, said the way for people to achieve peace is by being compassionate and genuinely caring for others' well being.

"Humans have great potential for peace. Compassion, firstly, brings inner peace. In turn, inner peace genuinely can accomplish world peace," he said.

Students said his message was well-conveyed, but that it was not always easy to understand the Tibetan leader, who occasionally conferred with an interpreter during his speech.

"I'm getting older-my English also getting older," he joked.

The Dalai Lama has been friends with UC Regent Richard C. Blum, founder of the Blum Center for Developing Economies and the American Himalayan Foundation, for more than 30 years, according to Tracy Mills, marketing director for the foundation.

Both the center and the foundation, established on campus to address global poverty, sponsored the event.

In his address, the Dalai Lama said compassion can be achieved either through a biological connection, such as the bond between a child and its mother, or through meditation.

"A compassionate mind is more balanced and calm. All negative perception is 90 percent mental, not reality," he said. "When our mind becomes too agitated, our mental balance (becomes) disturbed, so (we) cannot perceive reality."

Blum and several others also spoke at the event, including Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who presented Blum with a Berkeley Medal, and actress and activist Sharon Stone.

During the prepared question and answer segment, the Dalai Lama provided advice to graduating students.

"You probably find jobs, have to find your partner, so a lot of problems there," he said, making the crowd laugh. "A realistic suggestion (is) do not take for granted when life (is) difficult or easy. Hope for best, prepare for worst."

Campus spokesperson Marie Felde said hearing the Dalai Lama speak is just one of the many opportunities available to students.

"One of the reasons you come to Berkeley is to experience the depth of the world around you. So getting to see the Dalai Lama is one of those great experiences that you get as a Berkeley student," she said.

The speech ended with applause. Afterwards, the Dalai Lama left immediately to speak to the Tibetan, Himalayan and Mongolian community at the Berkeley Community Theater next to Berkeley High School.

Some said they were surprised by the Dalai Lama's candor and relatable sense of humor.

"His laugh was contagious and his speech was very simple-simplicity at its best," said junior Casondra Koufos. "You expect holy people to be more timid, but he didn't seem like it."

While protests by Chinese student groups were anticipated, none took place before the event, according to UC police.

Tenzin Seldon, a Berkeley resident and regional coordinator for the organization Students For a Free Tibet, sold buttons outside the event to raise money for the Tibetan cause.

"I'm here to support His Holiness," she said. "Helping to spread the message of non-violence and peace. I think that just his presence and his essence is felt in Berkeley and that sheds light in Berkeley to compassion and peace."


Contact Elizabeth Chang at [email protected]

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