Tenzin Gyatso speaks on compassion, trust, religion, and other topics

Dalai Lama returns to UM, delivers message of hope

Wearing his iconic red and yellow robe and offering words of wisdom much like a patriarch would to his children, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, told thousands of University of Miami students that the task of creating a more peaceful and compassionate world lies with them.


“That’s your responsibility,” he said at UM’s BankUnited Center, where he spoke to an audience of nearly 8,000 people.


The speech, “The Quest for Happiness in Challenging Times,” was the second of two talks the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader gave in South Florida on Tuesday, October 26. Earlier in the day, he spoke at Temple Emanu-El in Miami Beach, calling for respect and compassion for all religions.


The Dalai Lama dons a University of Miami cap, as Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc, who introduced him, looks on.

At UM, where he last appeared six years ago, the Dalai Lama addressed a range of topics, from compassion and trust to religion, science and technology.

He hailed the great scientific and technological achievements of the past century but pointed out that some of those advancements, most notably nuclear weapons, have caused pain and suffering when used with hatred and anger.


With armed conflict taking places in many places around the world, the Dalai Lama explained that the “concept of war is outdated.”


“We’re all part of humanity,” he said, noting that spiritual dialogue can help create more peaceful times.


Thousands of people packed UM’s BankUnited Center, where the Dalai Lama last appeared in 2004.

As members of the audience listened, the Dalai Lama blamed “distrust” and “self-centeredness” for many of the world’s problems, and urged everyone to practice “compassion and inner peace.”


He also said “our survival at a young age is dependant on others’ affection” and that people who receive affection become productive members of society. He said “fear” and “hatred” weaken our immune system and that, increasingly, education is beginning to address the topic of compassion, noting some 200 teaching institutions that now offer mindfulness training



Before his speech, the Dalai Lama met privately with distinguished guests, including Gloria and Emilio Estefan.

Six UM student leaders met privately with the Dalai Lama shortly before he addressed the BankUnited Center audience.


“Amazing” is how Sarah Ritcheson, president of the Student Graduate Association, described her encounter with the Dalai Lama.


“He grabbed us by our hands and squeezed them tightly,” said Pietro Bortoletto, vice president of UM Student Government. “We never expected him to do that. We immediately felt his energy as soon as we entered the room. He looked us straight in the eye and wanted to find out as much about us as he could in the short time that we had.”


The Dalai Lama spoke on trust, compassion, religion, and other topics.

Each of the students presented the Dalai Lama with a Khata, which he blessed and placed over each of their necks. They wore the white scarves during his entire speech.


“Many people feel heads of state are untouchable and inaccessible, but the way he [the Dalai Lama] reacted to us was unexpected,” said Student Government President Christina Farmer. “We all had the opportunity to sit in the front row, and it was as if he was talking directly to us, because he pointed to us many times.”


The other three student leaders included Lindsey Lazopoules, president of the Student Bar Association; Joshua Moore, president of the Miller School of Medicine Student Council and the student trustee on the UM Board of Trustees; and Ricardo Zulueta, vice president of the Graduate Student Association.


After his address, the Dalai Lama answered questioned that had been submitted from students of John Fitzgerald, professor and chair of the UM College of Arts and Sciences’ Religious Studies Department.