MIDDLEBURY -- The Dalai Lama brought his message of peace to Vermont on Friday, telling a crowd of 2,800 at Middlebury College that they should devote their lives to a blend of material and internal values.
"Education should be equally material values, external values, external comfort and internal values. I think that’s important," said the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and former political leader of their government in exile.
In a 90-minute appearance peppered with humor, the Dalai Lama teased his audience a bit when asked a question about climate change, saying that one day, "our crisis" might crash into another crisis.
"This is out of our control," said the winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, laughing. "Don’t worry, billions of years. After billions of years. Don’t worry. These are nature’s trends." He cited recent findings that Mars appears once to have had water on its surface. "Now it is completely dry. So (eventually) this planet may also become like that."
The 77-year-old made his third visit to Middlebury College -- the earlier two were in 1984 and 1990 -- during a two-week tour of the U.S. mainly filled with talks delivered in college towns. He had appeared a day earlier in Charlottesville, Va., home of the University of Virginia, and was scheduled to make another, sold-out, appearance at Middlebury on Saturday.
The Dalai Lama drew numerous laughs from the crowd, pointing fun at the fact that he had lost some hair since his last Middlebury appearance 22 years ago and promising to return in another 22 years, when he would be 99. He spoke in candid detail about gall bladder surgery he said he had had three years ago.
He poked at religious hypocrisy, saying one could have compassion without faith and that compassion often was more important than any religious expression. "Once you love ... there is no possibility to tell lies or exploit or bully," he said.
"Some people look very faithful when they are in church or temple," he said, but their work does not square with the teachings of their faith. "So it looks as if they pray to God, ‘Please, bless my (in) all my mischievous activities," he said. "So sometimes religion remains superficial, and also a cause of conflict."
He urged open-mindedness, even about one’s own belief system, and spoke of meeting with a scientist who said he was trying not to develop too much of an attachment to his own field.
"That’s a wonderful statement," the Dalai Lama said. "For example, my own case: I am a Buddhist, but I should not develop attachment toward Buddhism, because ... emotional attachment is bias." If biased, "you cannot see others objectively," which can lead to religious strife, he said.