The Dalai Lama Calls for a New Era of Ethics


Buddhism: Addressing Pasadena audience, the Tibetan spiritual leader
urges social service, tolerance and 'inner disarmament.'

By TERESA WATANABE, Times Religion Writer
Thursday, October 14, 1999

Calling the gap between rich and poor "one of America's weaknesses," His
Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet on Wednesday urged corporate executives
to donate part of their profits to education, health care and other
social services.

In a keynote lecture at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on "Ethics for a
New Millennium," he also called for a greater commitment to nonviolence,
religious tolerance and "inner disarmament of anger and jealousy."

"Let's make the next century a century of dialogue," he said. "This
century, whether we like it or not, has been one of violence."

Earlier on the fourth day of his Los Angeles-area visit, the Dalai Lama
held a news conference in San Marino at which reporters solicited his
views on everything from relations with China and the conflict in East
Timor to corruption in Mexico and the meaning of spiritual emptiness.

At the conference, the Dalai Lama criticized missionary efforts to
propagate religion, saying that they are outdated and could lead to
sectarian clashes at a time of growing interfaith relations.

"Conversion, I believe, is something like imposing your faith on
others," he said. Noting reports that some missionaries in places such
as Mongolia are paying people who convert, he said: "This is wrong."

He also bemoaned current consumer trends that exploit religion for
profit, such as "power beads" fashioned after the Tibetan rosary known
as the mala. And he called for schools and Hollywood to promote the
ethics of compassion.

The Dalai Lama's public appearances on his sixth visit to Southern
California conclude today with a religious initiation ceremony in
Pasadena.

In a packed schedule of events, the 64-year-old Buddhist monk has moved
people to laugh and cry, and to wish for blessings and healing from
afflictions ranging from terminal cancer to chronic fatigue.

At one venue, Allison Zamora, a Roman Catholic who described herself as
Buddhist "in my heart," tearfully hailed the simplicity of his
teachings. At another site, retired business manager Nikki Grant, a Jew,
gleefully declared: "Marvelous, marvelous! The man radiates an
unbelievable energy. He will convert me! He stands a good chance!"

The Dalai Lama's reception has amazed longtime supporters such as Tseten
Phanucharas, a hospital administrator in Santa Monica. She remembers the
days when politicians would not meet with him; today, the Clinton
administration has a special coordinator for Tibetan affairs charged
with bringing about negotiations with the Chinese.

Two decades ago, Phanucharas recalled, the Dalai Lama was largely
unrecognized when he visited Los Angeles; he met with only two dozen
Tibetan exiles in a rundown center off Vermont Avenue. Now Tibet support
groups have proliferated around the world. Membership in the
Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, for instance, has
grown to 50,000 from 7,000 in 1994. And two of the Dalai Lama's books
are national best-sellers.

During this Los Angeles visit, the Dalai Lama displayed his mastery of
myriad roles as social commentator, moral philosopher, religious teacher
and political leader.

At a star-studded gala sponsored by the International Campaign for Tibet
on Monday night, the Dalai Lama was a gentle statesman. He urged Chinese
leaders to recognize that freeing Tibet from its nearly 50-year
occupation was the surest path to national stability and unity. Power
derived from justice is long-lasting, he said, while rule at the point
of a gun is temporary--"but very decisive!"

That quip drew laughs from the standing-room-only crowd of more than
1,500--which included actress Sharon Stone, former Vice President Walter
Mondale, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and former French First Lady
Danielle Mitterrand.

At his sold-out Buddhist teach-in in Pasadena, the Dalai Lama was a
religious teacher, the 14th incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion.
Atop a throne draped with brocades of red and gold, he spoke to 3,200
students on such matters as the destructive impact of negative emotions.

The Dalai Lama, in the most obviously religious of his public events,
taught the "Path of Liberation Teachings" by Tibetan master Lama Tsong
Khapa. He explained concepts such as the renunciation of desire.

On Monday, before a diverse audience at Sinai Temple, he had whittled
down his 2,500-year tradition to its bare essence when asked to explain
Buddhism in one sentence--or "standing on one foot," as a Jewish sage
was asked to do with his faith two millenniums ago.

"Hmmm," the Dalai Lama said, drawing laughs. Then he turned serious.

"The essence is: If you can, help others. If not, then at least refrain
from hurting others."