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The Dalai Lama's Final Day in Minnesota
Part of MPR's special report, Ocean of Wisdom: The Dalai Lama's Visit
By Art Hughes
Minnesota Public Radio
May 10, 2001
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Politics, celebration and a determined plea for human compassion marked the Dalai Lama's final day in Minnesota. After addressing the Legislature and meeting privately with the governor Wednesday, the Tibetan Buddhist leader lectured at the University of Minnesota and participated in a roundtable discussion on religion with representatives of selected faiths.

Well-wishers greet the Dalai Lama after his appearance at the state Capitol Wednesday. The Dalai Lama's touch is considered a blessing, and His Holiness' blessings are generous. Throughout his visit people lined his path, hoping to shake hands or just see him, and he often goes out of his way to greet people.
(Photo/Richard Sennott, courtesy of Star Tribune)
THE DALAI LAMA ADVISED MEMBERS OF THE AUDIENCE at the University of Minnesota's Northrup Auditorium to hone their intellect, but at the same time develop a warm heart. The popular exiled Tibetan leader says many of the world's most ruthless and destructive dictators were smart, but lacked moral conviction. He says this applies most urgently to young people.

"Your life is something very precious for humanity. So realize that accordingly. You must prepare for that."

He says Americans in particular have a role in positive changes on a global scale, because the United States is so dominant in world affairs.

"A superpower in the sense of military forces, including nuclear weapons. I don't think that much is important - that much of a great thing. I think the greatness is your tradition of democracy, liberty."

The Dalai Lama maintains a consistently simple message of peace through self-examination and attention to compassionate feelings. But the team of state security guards and bomb-sniffing dogs at all his public appearances are reminders of what a threat he is to some individuals and some governments.

The Dalai Lama is considered by Tibetan believers to be the 14th reincarnation of the Buddha of compassion. He fled his homeland in 1959 in advance of invading Chinese forces. He now lives in India. But while he fully condemns the Chinese occupation of his homeland, he told reporters at his legislative address at the Capitol he supports trade with China as a way to bring the communist country closer to mainstream political beliefs.

"Make good friend. In the meantime, you should take firm position regarding principle matters such as human rights, democracy, religious freedom."

The Dalai Lama was joined by five religious leaders in his final public appearance for a panel discussion at Northrop. They touched on some of the most weighty concerns and contradictions that often lead to clashes between faiths.

The Dalai Lama's first visit to Minnesota has helped amplify the voices of the 900 or so Tibetan immigrants living here. Those immigrants also hope any money left over from ticket sales and donations can go toward building a Tibetan community center, where they can meet to practice certain traditional customs together.

His presence has also no doubt left an impression on many non-Tibetans. Nicolle Nelson is the press contact for the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota which helped organize the Dalai Lama's visit.

"I don't think the smile has left my white face once for these past two days. It's been so much fun for me to be a part of everything. I'll be sad to see him go, but I'll just be happy that he was here and was able to spread his message of peace and compassion to everybody here," said Nelson.

Tim Edmund of Eden Prairie attended two of the Dalai Lama's public events. He says the Midwest has plenty of room for what he's heard.

"Very common sense, very powerful things that people in this world need to hear about. People probably know about it, people probably hear about it. But he brought up the point that a lot of people don't practice these things, whatever religion they espouse. If you practice what you are taught, the world is a better place. It's as simple as that," Edmund said.

The Dalai Lama's touch is considered a blessing, and His Holiness' blessings are generous. Throughout his visit here people lined his path, hoping to shake hands or just see him, and he often goes out of his way to greet people. As he passes, people inexplicably smile and wipe away tears - a moving reminder of how far this simple monk's reach goes.