Dalai Lama in Irvine: Compassion as an answer to global problems

A view of the stage at the niversity of California Irvine's Bren Center, venue for the final session of the Global Compassion Summit in Irvine, California, USA on July 7, 2015. (Photo courtesy/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL)
A view of the stage at the niversity of California Irvine’s Bren Center, venue for the final session of the Global Compassion Summit in Irvine, California, USA on July 7, 2015. (Photo courtesy/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL)

(TibetanReview.net, Jul09, 2015) – After the first of the three-day Global Compassion Summit held Jul 5 in the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, the Dalai Lama moved to the Bren Events Center in the University of California Irvine where Chancellor Howard Gillman introduced the panel to an audience of 5,500. The 97-year-old panelist Walter Munk, an oceanographer, said how impressed he had been at the previous day’s discussions that when it comes to climate change, “compassion is the answer to whether anything can be done.”

The Dalai Lama responded by saying the important thing was to make the effort, so that even if we fail we have no regret. “Ultimately this is a matter of our survival. I remember friends telling me about the river that runs through Stockholm and that at one point there were no fish in it. However, after steps were taken to reduce the pollution of the river, fish reappeared. Taking care of the planet is taking care of our home.”

Panelist Dr Veerabhadran Ramanathan said that the effects of climate change over the next 30 years would be so far-reaching that everyone would feel them. Prof Isabella Velicogna spoke about the melting of glaciers and said we should worry about the huge changes in climate that were likely to take place. Miya Yoshitani, a community organizer fighting for climate justice, said employing compassion was to fight for dignity.

However, Congresswomen Loretta Sanchez pointed out that while 97% of concerned scientists were clear about climate change findings, the majority of members of the US Congress did not believe the science.

When the moderator Ann Curry asked the Dalai Lama what needed to be done to influence political leaders over the issue of climate change, the latter said nations needed do put the global interest first. For this purpose he said a more holistic education was needed, incorporating inner values, such as a compassionate concern for others’ well-being.

At the end of the morning session, Dr Ramanathan and Dr Munk presented to the Dalai Lama a framed picture of a newly discovered species of marine life that they had named Sirsoe dalailamai in tribute to him on his 80th birthday. The key point was that it was one of those unusual species that gives back more to the environment than it takes.

At the afternoon session, panelist Paul Ekman spoke appreciatively about the ethical framework the Dalai Lama had proposed for us to live by. Dolores Huerta, 85, spoke of seeing farm workers being not adequately paid. Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi said a loss can be a part of victory, just as you step back to jump a hurdle. She spoke of her regret at losing her job as a judge because she was a woman, but pointed to all that she had achieved since then which she would otherwise not have done. Singer Gloria Estafan, who at one point suffered a severe back injury in an accident, spoke of the effect of receiving a huge outpouring of support and positive energy from people around the world that helped her recover.

Jody Williams, an anti-war activist from her youth, challenged everyone to reflect that to remain silent when one needed to speak out is to be complicit in wrongdoing. She affirmed her urge to take action to fight militarism. Actor Julia Ormond spoke movingly of her work to free people from enslavement, including in the garment industry. Anthony Melikhov talked of rebuilding his life after leaving Byelarus and the turning point being when he realised the importance of doing something for someone else.

Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman appealed to everyone present, as a gift to the Dalai Lama on his 80th birthday, to pledge to do something to benefit Tibetans, even if it’s just a matter of creating greater awareness. The audience responded with warm applause.

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On the third day of the Global Compassion Summit, Rajiv Mehrotra spoke on the Dalai Lama’s engagement with the practice of compassion. Prof Robert Thurman elaborated on this theme, highlighting the Dalai Lama’s stress on the importance of a broad and balanced education that develops the brain as well as cultivates a warm heart.

Ann Curry then introduced the other members of the panel who had joined the Dalai Lama on the stage: Dalai Lama Fellow involved with the Leap of Faith initiative, Armaan Rowther; Director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen; actress Zendaya; director of UCI’s Dalai Lama Scholars’ Program, Karina Hamilton; film producer Justin Nappi; Teen Ambassador STOMP Out Bullying, Danielle Nisim; and co-founder of Kids EcoClub, Max Guinn; actress Regina King; founder of Interfaith Youth Core, Eboo Patel; and Native Hawaiian Navigator, Nainoa Thompson.

At the session’s end, Nainoa Thompson offered a leaf garland to the Dalai Lama and called on a colleague in the audience to sing a traditional tribute. The latter left the stage to steady chants of “Long life to the Dalai Lama” from the audience.

At Lunch, Senator Janet Nguyen announced that at her instigation the California Senate had declared July as Kindness Month. Mayor Steven Choi of Irvine, the City of Innovation, arrived to offer the Dalai Lama a gift and certificate of recognition in the form of a Proclamation of Appreciation.

After lunch, more than 1000 Tibetans, Mongolians and Bhutanese gathered at the Bren Events Center to celebrate with the Dalai Lama his 80th birthday.


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