The message was simple: love, compassion, respect, appreciation, a sense of community. Those are the things that bring humans closer. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, spoke to 6,000 people from the University of Miami community in September on “A Human Approach to World Peace.”
“We welcome him as a man of vision and compassion. We welcome him as a vision of peace,” UM President Donna E. Shalala said.
Before he began, the Dalai Lama received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from the University.
“Your teachings inspire us to examine our own lives,” Dr. Shalala said before turning to the audience. “Please welcome UM’s newest alumnus, the 14th Dalai Lama.”
“I don’t know if I will do anything great, but I assure you that I will not disgrace the University,” he said as he accepted his degree.
Many students felt that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people that it’s a life changing experience. I wanted to experience it for myself,” Chris Wong, second-year medical student, said. “It will be cool to tell my kids I saw the Dalai Lama in person.”
The Dalai Lama’s speech was positive, emphasizing inner values and advocating non-violence.
“War is actually a concept of ancient times,” he said. “Use of force to resolve conflict is out of date.”
He said he believes that the world is more connected today than it was a century ago.
“The whole world is just like one entity,” he said. “Destruction of your neighbor is like destruction of yourself.”
Today, the Dalai Lama said, people desire peace. Environmental movements, knowledge of science and the importance of human emotions have resulted in positive changes in the past century.
“Proudly speaking, I think the world is improving, so your future is brighter,” he said. “Humanity is becoming more mature.”
After his speech, the Dalai Lama answered questions submitted by students at an earlier date. The questions ranged from the importance of religion to gender equality.
Jackie Hechtman, junior, had her question about terrorism answered.
“It was definitely an honor because a leader of world peace addressed my question,” Hechtman said.
In response, the Dalai Lama said that he wrote President George W. Bush a letter after the tragedy of Sept. 11.
“The best way to counter terrorism is a non-violent way,” he said. “Change achieved through force or fear is only temporary-in the long run it is counterproductive.”
He said the war in Iraq may be helping for now, but he is not sure about the long run. “Only history will show if violence will bring something good,” he said.
At the end of his talk, the Dalai Lama spoke directly to the students in the audience
“While you are developing your brains, there is no point to ignore inner values,” His Holiness said. “Knowledge alone does not guarantee a happy life.”
The Dalai Lama’s final words centered on realizing one’s goals. To him, the only failure in life is losing hope.
“Eventually, you will achieve what you want.”
Reeva Oza contributed to this article.
Megha Garg can be contacted at