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22october20104Dharamshala: Tibet's spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama Thursday (20th October) held a debate about peace and nonviolent struggle with thousands of students from Miami University, Ohio. He was presented with an honorary doctorate of laws from the University.

Dr Hodge awarded His Holiness with the degree in “recognition of your persistent nonviolent struggle to preserve the cultural rights of the people of Tibet; to explain the basic tenets of Buddhism to the world; to promote a greater understanding of our collective obligations to one another”.

Later in the day, around 10,500 people, mostly students, filled Millett Hall to hear His Holiness speak. He talked about compassion and understanding, and impressed those gathered with his sense of humour, and by speaking without notes for over an hour.

He said that respecting all peoples and religions is the first step to achieving understanding; that “Each of you and myself, we are the same”, and drew similarities between the values of Buddhism and other religions.

He urged the students to make the 21st century a time of peace. “Ten years past, 90 years left to come”, he said, “You have the responsibility to create this century [to] be a peaceful century”. Having delivered the lecture, His Holiness was given a standing ovation.

During the question and answer session that followed, His Holiness was addressed by a Chinese student, who challenged his opinions on conditions within Tibet. 21-year old Yue said that she had visited the country recently, and had seen no evidence of oppression, but noted that “Tibet is peaceful” and that people there seemed to be benefiting from the relative lack of economic insecurity.

His Holiness responded by drawing Yue’s attention to the current protests by Tibetan students, sparked by fears that Chinese will become the exclusive language of education establishments there. He said, “These do not come from happiness…Something is lacking…some grievance there”.

Miami University had been creating an electronic database of Tibetan documents and linguistic resources to contribute to the preservation to Tibetan culture and heritage. His Holiness experienced a 3-D virtual mandala, an aid to meditation, created by students at the college, and expressed his appreciation of these efforts.

Miami University works in partnership with the University of Buddhist Dialectics, the Tibetan University, in Dharamshala, of which His Holiness is a patron. Together, they organised summer workshops in Tibet from 2004-2008, and Miami University now offers a Tibetan Studies programme.

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