Story by M. Maxine George
The Dalai Lama's visit was considered to be private, as the Chinese Government requested that Israel not regard his visit as official. Although he has lived in exile for forty years, his influence amongst the Tibetan people remains strong, a fact which unfortunately continues to be a thorn in the side of the Chinese government. It appears though that the past forty years has brought both China and The Dalai Lama into more moderate positions.
Speaking at a reception in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the audience heard the saffron and red-robed monk plea with the leaders of the various religions to look to the similarity of values shared by all religions, while still savouring their own diversity. By promoting improved dialogue between those in a position of influence the Dalai Lama suggests that the world could move towards a position of greater understanding and tolerance in the Millennium. The much respected Dalai Lama began by speaking through an interpreter, but soon his enthusiasm for the topic impelled him to use his own quite fluent English to address the audience who listened in rapt attention.
The Buddhist leader spearheaded what is expected to be a movement by religious leaders to promote religious harmony and thereby world peace during the Millennium. Jews, Moslems, Christians, Hindus and Shinto took part in the conference. It is the first time a Buddhist leader has been the keynote speaker in a major inter-faith conference in Israel. As anticipated Pope John Paul visited Israel in March 2000 to mark the Millennium. President Carter is promoting another meeting to take place in Atlanta, Georgia at a later date.
"All major religions have common facets," the Dalai Lama told his audience. "They teach us the importance of justice, truth, compassion and forgiveness." He went on to state that his own personal crusade has been to speak with people from different religious traditions, on an academic level, to find out what similarities and what differences their religions encompass. He maintains that this helps understand the value of the other traditions. "There are many good people from the various religions. This just shows all religions have the same potential to produce such goodness, therefore this is common grounds and common aim," he said explaining the facets shared by all religions.
The Buddhist leader went on to tell the gathering that he came to Jerusalem once before as a pilgrim, and visited the holy places of the other religions, the Jewish Wailing Wall, the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Muslim, Dome on the Rock. He found they all bring forth "great feeling" amongst those who share the experience. He said, "I can see the inner peace received becomes the foundation for inner strength." He invited other leaders to join him when he repeated the pilgrimage the next day, hoping that there would be "brothers and sisters from five or six of the major religions following us."
The Tibetan spiritual leader spoke quietly, but with fervour as he stated that it did not matter if the results did not take place in our lifetime. "If something is really necessary and worthwhile, start!" he advised. "We will find many of the next generation will follow. They will carry on the same task. With the truth, things will change." His message was simple but profound, leaving those privileged to hear his words with hope for peace in the Twenty-first Century.
The religious leader's joint pilgrimage to the holy places took place the following day. The words of this gentle, Asian monk, the 14th Dalai Lama, left us with a feeling of renewed optimism for a world torn apart by the conflicts and tensions created by the diversity of race, creed and colour amongst its peoples.
Attending a reception for the Dalai Lama at the King David Hotel highlighted our last day in this city of contrasts and the unexpected. Crouched at his feet, we listened to the saffron-robed Buddhist leader remind those present that justice, truth, compassion and forgiveness were the common facets of all the major religions. Surrounded by clerics shrouded in stunning vestments, we watched the expressionless, diplomatic masks of the listeners. One could not help but wonder what they were thinking. Would they would take his message and spread it amongst their people? We can only hope that the world will hear what this wise man has to say.
Story by M. Maxine George
Pictures by M. Maxine George and Ursula Maxwell Lewis
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