Smith College and Hampshire College
His Holiness The Dalai Lama
WIsdom, Compassion, Peace. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at Hampshire and Smith Colleges

Q & A WITH JAY GARFIELD AND THONDUP TSERING

Buddhism expert Jay Garfield and local Tibetan community leader Thondup Tsering provide context for the May 9 visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Pioneer Valley. Garfield is the Doris Silbert Professor of Philosophy at Smith and director of the Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program; Tsering is president of the Tibetan Association of Western Massachusetts.

Q: Why is HHDL coming to Smith and Hampshire Colleges?

A: His Holiness is coming to visit the Western Massachusetts Tibetan community and to acknowledge 15 years of successful academic exchange between the Five Colleges and the Tibetan academic community in India, principally involving Smith and Hampshire Colleges in the United States and the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (Deemed University) and the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics in India. This comprehensive academic exchange, involving teaching programs, collaborative research and the exchange of library materials, was initiated at His Holiness' request, and has benefited from his guidance.

The Five College community is also one of the leading centers of Buddhist Studies in North America. The combined faculty of the five higher ed institutions comprises scholars from anthropology, art history, literary and language studies, philosophy and religious studies, who together study the Buddhist traditions of India, Tibet, China, Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Q: Can you describe the significance of the 14th Dalai Lama’s visit? In what ways might his presence affect the college community?

A: His Holiness the Dalai Lama is one of the most significant religious leaders and public theoreticians of and spokespersons for compassion, peace and nonviolence in the world today. As the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace, and this year the Congressional Gold Medal, his moral leadership is widely recognized. His Holiness is also a very important scholar of Buddhist philosophy and is very committed to education and research in Buddhist Studies. And of course he is Head of State of the Tibetan government in exile. He is an inspiring teacher and speaker as well.

Smith and Hampshire are hence hosting a major political, religious and scholarly figure who has brought great intellectual acuity and moral force to advocacy for peace and non-violence. While he is most closely associated with Buddhism, his moral and political vision is truly universal. We hope that he will raise awareness of the possibility of the development of greater compassion and commitment to nonviolence and to peace, greater understanding of the interdependence of all beings, and of the interdependence of the welfare and happiness of all on the planet, and that he will inspire personal commitment to working toward these ends.

Q: How does Tenzin Gyatso’s service as Dalai Lama compare with those of his 13 predecessors?

A: Unlike his predecessors, the current Dalai Lama has been forced to spend most of his life in exile from Tibet, and has hence had to shoulder the challenge of leading the Tibetan people in the preservation of their culture and heritage in the face of occupation, repression and exile. He has done that masterfully. But more than that, he has transformed the disaster of the occupation of Tibet and the exile of many of its citizens, including its leading scholars and religious figures, into an opportunity. Unlike any of his predecessors, he has taught, written, and acted on a truly global stage, forging connections between Buddhism and modern science, between Buddhist and Western philosophy, entering inter-faith dialogue, encouraging the modernization and development of Tibetan Buddhist institutions, developing the secular Tibetan education system, writing dozens of books on philosophical and religious subjects, and traveling and working ceaselessly on behalf of the promotion of compassion and peace.

Among his greatest contributions to the Tibetan people and to the world is the institution of democracy and a democratic constitution, relinquishing all temporal political power without any conflict or struggle. This is one of the few examples in human history of an absolute monarch establishing such institutions, even against the will of his people, because of his conviction that democracy is in their best interest.

Q: What are the 14th Dalai Lama’s most significant accomplishments?

A: The re-establishment, preservation and enhancement of Tibetan culture in exile, including the establishment of institutes of the performing arts, fine arts, medicine, monastic universities, and universities dedicated to research in Buddhist Studies; the promulgation of a non-violent approach in Tibet; the democratization of the Tibetan government; and, through his extensive writings and teaching, bringing the central message of Buddhism to people around the world.

Q: What are the most important lessons we can learn from His Holiness the Dalai Lama?

A: Nothing is more important than maintaining a compassionate attitude. Our welfare is completely bound up with the welfare of others, and narrow self-interest is irrational and self-defeating. It is possible to live happily and to contribute enormously to the welfare of others even in the most challenging circumstances. When a cause is truly important, one must never give up.

Q: What is the significance of the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the community of Tibetans in Western Massachusetts?

A: His Holiness has not visited Western Massachusetts since 1988. In 1990, the Tibetan resettlement program was initiated and the Northampton-Amherst area designated a resettlement area. Today more than 100 Tibetans live in this area. All regard His Holiness as their spiritual and political leader. His visit is a great blessing to them, and the opportunity to visit this successful Tibetan resettlement is one of the principal purposes of His Holiness' visit.

About the Visit

For Smith and Hampshire
Community Members

For the Local Tibetan Community

For Local Residents

For the News Media

Biography

Events

Reading List

Five College Tibetan Studies

Tibetan Studies
Faculty

Planning Committee

 

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