Dalai Lama highlights individual's role in preserving the environment during Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability

The Dalai Lama and Mary Sue Coleman, University of Michigan president, share a laugh after His Holiness placed a kata, a silk ceremonial scarf given as an offering, after his talk on sustainability for the Peter M. Wege Lecture Sunday.

"We have a responsibility to take care of the environment. It is our only home."

- The Dalai Lama

He takes showers rather than baths, and he turns out the lights when he leaves the room.

Those are small examples of how each of us can contribute to preserving the Earth's environment, the Dalai Lama said Sunday during a lecture on the environment at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor.

As he delivered the annual Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability, the Dalai Lama admitted he never uses the world "sustainability," but likened taking care of the planet to taking care of your own home. "We have a responsibility to take care of the environment," he said. "It is our only home."

The Wege lecture, sponsored by the University of Michigan, ended a remarkable of weekend of pageantry and talks by the Dalai Lama. Earlier Sunday morning, he conducted his final lecture on "Engaging Wisdom and Compassion," after giving two other teaching sessions on that topic Saturday. Crowds of about 8,000 attended each of Sunday's sessions, officials said, which was similar to the Saturday sessions.Outside Crisler during the talks, about 600-700 protesters, mostly Chinese college students, continued a second day of peaceful demonstrations. It was a much larger demonstration than the approximately 100 students who demonstrated Saturday, with the line stretching from Crisler along Stadium Boulevard in front of Michigan Stadium.

Although there were some animated discussions among demonstrators and passersby, there were no arrests or citations issued to any demonstrators, said Diane Brown, spokesperson for U-M's Department of Public Safety. The big crowd the dispersed around 4:15 shortly after the second talk ended.

Buddhist monk Lob Zang of Ohio takes his friend's son, Tenzin Loden, 1, for a stroll while his parents relax in the shade outside Crisler Arena between the Dalai Lama lectures Sunday.

In introducing the Dalai Lama for the lecture on the environment, U-M President Mary Sue Coleman mentioned the founding of Earth Day at the university in 1970, cited the fragility of the environment and said that the Buddhist leader is "uniquely positioned to spread this message."

As he did all weekend, the Dalai Lama mixed self-deprecating humor with anecdotes and insight, conveying his environmental message in a personal, friendly style.

Smiling, he said the notion that he has a specific healing power is "absolute nonsense."

He spoke English throughout the two-hour Wege lecture and question-and-answer session, though he frequently paused briefly to clarify points or phrases with his longtime interpreter Thupten Jinpa. "I'm getting older. My English is also getting older," he said.

He noted that such things as showering and turning out the lights become habits as one builds a way of life that contributes to our ecology. How we treat the environment can depend on how we treat others on a planet with six billion people, the Dalai Lama said.

"We are a social animal," he said. "Our survival is based on community."

Such survival can hinge on personal compassion, which creates inner peace and lessens fear, The Dalai Lama said.

Many of our problems are self-created, yet we are a heavily interdependent world, nation to nation and continent to continent. "Therefore, the concept of war is outdated," The Dalai Lama said.

Later, in response to a question on whether sustainability differed for rich and poor countries, the Dalai Lama bemoaned the gap between rich and poor, saying it can lead for frustration, anger and violence. "Both sides have a responsibility to reduce this gap," he said.

He said that religious leaders have the potential to help shift peoples' awareness of such issues as global warming. He noted that the Buddha was born under a tree, achieved enlightenment under a tree and died under a big tree 2,500 years ago. "I consider him one of the ancient ecologists," the Dalai Lama said.

The free Wege Lecture, sponsored by the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment, honors Peter Wege, former vice-chairman of the board at Steelcase in Grand Rapids and a champion of sustainability.

The China protesters outside Crisler carried signs with various messages urging the public to be informed about the issues facing Tibet and China as the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing approach. The conflict between native Tibetans and the ruling Chinese has become more violent in recent months, with the Chinese government blaming the Dalai Lama for the inciting the escalation. In Ann Arbor Friday, he repeated his recent statements that he hopes for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Some of the demonstrators' signs on Sunday called the Dalai Lama a liar, and overhead a plane pulled a banner that read: "Dalai Please Stop Attacking Olympic Flame."

Between 600 to 700 Chinese demonstrators line up outside Crisler Arena, many to support the Olympics in their homeland.

Jing Chao of Rochester Hills said she came to show both her respect for the Tibetans and her love for her native country, China. "I personally pay my respect to the Dalai Lama, but we have to see not just what he says, but what he's done," she said.

Ling Cheng, an MBA student at U-M's Ross School of Business, came with several classmates to support the Olympics and peace. "We want to demonstrate our passion and our love for our country and our pride," she said.

Windsor resident Jian Wen said the Dalai Lama verbally supports the Beijing Olympics, but secretly orders people to destroy the torch.

Sunday morning's lecture by the Dalai Lama offered a continuation of Buddhist lessons from Saturday, but was more listener-friendly, particularly to the non-Buddhist. After a full day Saturday discussing Buddhism's Four Noble Truths mostly in his native Tibetan tongue, the Dalai Lama alternated between English and Tibetan.

He answered a few written questions and discussed some passages from the writings of Arya Nagarjuna, sometimes referred to as the "second Buddha."

The teachings were satisfying to Tom Notebaert, of Roseville, who heard the Dalai Lama when he last appeared in Ann Arbor in 1994.

"I always like to listen to what he has to say," said Notebaert, a Buddhist for about 40 years. "You always learn something new because you forget unless you read it all the time."

The Dalai Lama spoke on emptiness, the awakening mind, karma, happiness and inner strength.

"Read often, and think," he said, encouraging the crowd to take seriously the study of spiritual matters. "Then weeks, months, years ... Some improvement is bound to take place."

Crisler Arena was filled to capactiy for the eighth annual Peter M. Wege Lecture, presented by the Dalai Lama on sustainability Sunday.

And that, he said, will lead to inner strength, enthusiasm and determination.

But earlier he reminded the people that head knowledge isn't everything. He recalled his mother was a very kind woman who was greater than some of the philosophers. They may have been learned persons who believed strongly in Buddhism, but he said his mother's loving kindness was better.

Referring to Nagarjuna's text, the Dalai Lama explained that excessive cherishing of one's self-interest results in bad things in the next world, but that one must cherish others as one cherishes one's own body.

Reporter Geoff Larcom can be reached at 734-994-6838 or glarcom@annarbornews.com.

He stressed the importance of altruism and friendship, noting that we are social animals and it is a pity to remain lonely. Neither money, power, nor physical strength bring about happiness in the same way friends do, he said.

At the conclusion of his morning talk, it was announced that ticket sales for the three teaching sessions had raised $561,735, and there were another $20,000 in donations. Expenses so far totaled $529,603. The Dalai Lama then presented Jewel Heart with a check for $10,000.

"It's a tremendous honor," said Jonathan Rose, co-chair of the Garrison Institute, which helped sponsor the weekend. "It's a reflection of His Holiness' respect for Gelek Rimpoche's work."

Rimpoche is the founder of Jewel Heart, the Ann Arbor Tibetan Buddhist Center mostly responsible for bringing the Dalai Lama to town.

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