Dalai Lama calls for peaceful solutions to conflict and a less “material” education system at Global Scholars Symposium in Cambridge

Gwen Jing – News Editor 20 April 2013

In his second day in Cambridge, the Dalai Lama spoke as the keynote speaker at the Global Scholars Symposium at the Cambridge Union this morning, urging for non-violent methods and better education as solutions to the world’s biggest problems.

With a theme of “the next 30 years, bringing ideas into action”, the Symposium, which has taken place annually since 2008, invites global leaders and scholars to address the world’s most crucial problems. The Dalai Lama, who obtained the highest form of scholarly achievement in Tibet, delivered his speech today on ‘Using Non-Violence for Conflict Resolution’.

The Dalai Lama entered the Union making jokes, muttering good mornings and personably shaking hands and making conversation with members of the audience, who collectively rose to their feet upon his entrance.

Addressing the audience as “brothers and sisters”, he opened his speech by saying: “I’m extremely happy to be meeting with you young and bright brothers and sisters. You are truly the 21st century; you are able to change the world.”

His central argument was for peaceful means to address global conflicts. As an example, he referred to the Iraq war: “I know President Bush’s motivations were good”, pointing to his “good goals of democracy” and “giving freedom to the Iraqi people”. “But method? Wrong method. You force.” He concluded that “many problems are due to self-centred attitude” and not “dealt with” in the right way.

“We must solve the problems through peaceful means, not violence.”

“To have non-violence”, he continued, “you must have confidence. To have confidence, you need truth… Then, you have the full confidence to meet with the other person and talk”

Throughout the talk, the Dalai Lama emphasised his criticisms of the 21st century education system. “The current education system mainly oriented on material values”, yet “we must use our intelligence properly to obtain mental health, mental comfort”. He claimed there needs to be more focus on “moral ethics” in education.

“No supermarket can sell peace of mind”, he urged.

Touching on the subject of the Boston bombings, the Dalai Lama offered: “Every event which faces some difficulties, we must look holistically. Look from a different angle. Then a very bad situation – there could be some positive things.”

Having sought asylum in India since 1959, the Dalai Lama referred to his personal experience: “I lost my entire country. But look at different angle; as a refugee, I had new opportunities to meet different people. For me, personally, to become a refugee was very fortunate.”

He eased the serious issues that were addressed with some light-hearted remarks, suggesting the solutions to some problems to be “More monks!” He drew laughter from the audience when he mocked that “sometimes, politicians and leaders…are too formal.”

“I never think of myself as a leader – I consider myself as a simple Buddhist monk”. He said his favourite prayer is: “So long as sentient beings remain, may I remain as long to dispel their sufferings.”

As a Symposium Chair attempted to draw the talk to a close at 10.30am and the audience rose to applaud the speaker, the Dalai Lama waved off their applause and urged the audience to “sit down, sit down. I’ve got another 10-15 minutes I want to spend with you.” That extra time he spent posing a question back to the audience on the issue of poverty, and discussing economic systems.

“To spend time with young people – that moment, I always feel I’m younger”, he joked.

Brianne Kent, Gates Cambridge Scholar and executive director of the Global Scholars Symposium, said in a statement: “We are absolutely delighted to host the Dalai Lama in Cambridge. We hope that his talk will provide a platform to motivate scholars to use their careers to help reduce violence and promote peace around the world.”

The Dalai Lama, who is staying at St John’s Master’s Lodge in Cambridge this weekend, is due to speak again at St John’s College this afternoon.

Gwen Jing – News Editor