The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. Proverbs 9:10
In general terms, Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama, is said to be the 14th rebirth in a long line of spiritual masters, each of whom is believed to be a human emanation of the bodhisattva (enlightened being, or "wisdom-being") Avalokiteśvara (a bodhisattva embodying the compassion of all Buddhas--those awakened to the natural law, or dharma). As I've said before, I’m sick and tired of hearing about and from the Dalai Lama and his alleged wisdom. According to the Scriptures cited above, he doesn’t have even the beginning of wisdom, since he doesn’t fear the Lord.
On July 17, 2011, "His Holiness" was in Chicago, charging people $75-$125 per ticket to hear him speak on the topic Bridging the Faith Divide: Compassion in Action, inspired by his recent book Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World's Religions Can Come Together. It seems the occasion was indeed being used to further the agenda of uniting the world's religions. As reported by Manya A. Brachear in the Chicago Tribune, July 16, 2011:
...This weekend, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th dalai lama and spiritual leader of troubled Tibet, will bring tidings to Chicago that address religious tensions head on and prescribe what it takes to ease them.
The anticipation of his arrival inspired a dozen religious communities to undertake an unusual artistic endeavor that will provide the backdrop to the Dalai Lama's appearance Sunday on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Framing the Dalai Lama on stage will be a dozen towering religious icons created by artists of other traditions. Roman Catholics decorated a star and crescent of Islam. Native Americans created the nine-pointed star of the Baha'i faith. An African-American Protestant congregation on the South Side incorporated the design of the 4,000-year-old symbol of Zoroastrianism, a tradition some didn't know existed before the project.
"It's an amazing show of support and unity that different people of different faiths actually came together," said Nina Norris, a member of St. Matthias Catholic Church in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood. "The fact that it's guided under the Dalai Lama is maybe the only way it could happen."
Invited by the Theosophical Society in America, the group that hosted the monk's first visit to the Chicago area in 1981, the Dalai Lama will present a public talk Sunday at the UIC Pavilion.
On Monday morning at downtown's Harris Theater for Music and Dance, he will join a rabbi, a pastor and a Muslim scholar for a panel discussion titled "Building Bridges: Religious Leaders in Conversation with the Dalai Lama." The panel will be moderated by Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core.
Tim Boyd, president of the Theosophical Society in America, which is based in Wheaton, said the Dalai Lama thought for three seconds before he accepted his invitation during a private audience last year. After all, it was his introduction to the Theosophical Society in India 55 years ago that opened his eyes to the plethora of world religions beyond his own, Boyd said.
"It was the first time he had met people who believed there was value in the religions of the world and there was a certain essence they all shared," Boyd said. "At that time, he was a 21-year-old monk. To him, Buddhism was all that he knew and all that he thought was appropriate. After that meeting, he left there a changed man."
While the Dalai Lama since has championed common ground, compassion and conversation among people of different religious traditions, he has sharpened that focus in recent years on easing religious tensions. He released a book last year titled "Toward a True Kinship of Faiths," in which he explores how to avoid viewing religious differences as sources of conflict...
...Dirk Ficca, executive director of the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions, said it's the Dalai Lama's example of balancing a contemplative Buddhist discipline with his rock star persona that has inspired such a broad fan base. Since he appeared at the first modern-day Parliament of the World's Religions in 1993 in Chicago, the Dalai Lama has become a mainstay at the international interfaith gatherings, held every five to six years since. In fact, Ficca said, once a location is chosen for each parliament, the next question is, "Can the Dalai Lama be there?"
"For billions of people who might not be interested in organized religion, nevertheless the Dalai Lama is a symbol that spirituality is important," Ficca said. "He carries enormous weight, and he's a source of energy and inspiration for folks in that camp."
He has no interest in converting everyone to Buddhism, Ficca said. On the contrary, he prefers to see everyone acting out their respective faiths. His message goes beyond Buddhism to a much broader audience.
"He stands on the juncture between the inner life and engagement in the world," Ficca said. "He calls anyone of good will to be engaged in the world and make a difference..."
...Organizers reached out to a dozen faith communities including Jains, Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims to add their own creative flourishes to blank slates in the shape of religious symbols built to occupy the stage with the Dalai Lama.
"What's amazing is a group of Jains (followers of an Indian faith that espouses pacifism) got together and thought about the Buddhist icon and … blessed that faith with their own labor and contemplation," Lasko said. "It's come to pass in this incredible way. A project like this is amazing in that it exposes you to a whole lot of good will in the world."
April Tsosie, 34, a member of the Navajo tribe, said the project not only allowed them to bridge the faith divide, but also a generational divide in her own community. Youth and senior citizens from the American Indian Center ventured from their Uptown facility to the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette, where symbols from many traditions adorn the architecture and now adorn the icon.
"The best thing about the journey was having people realize similarities between tribal beliefs and Baha'i. That was really enlightening," Tsosie said.
Elder Rita Rupert-Hester of Progressive Community Center the People's Church in Bronzeville said members of her group researched the depiction of a winged guardian spirit representing the human soul, which Zoroastrians call the Faravahar.
Church members learned that the three layers of feathers on the wings, represent the core of Zoroastrian ethics: good thoughts, good words and good deeds.
As associate minister of the South Side church, Rupert-Hester said she plans to incorporate that ethic into a future sermon.
She also hopes to invite the Zoroastrians to break bread with her congregation and see the cross in their church designed by their pastor. She hopes the Zoroastrian community recognizes that they depicted the Faravahar with just as much care as they would have given that cross.
"When they see it, we want it to represent the spirit of how they feel about their symbol as we feel about ours — that it's beautiful and that it ought to be represented beautifully and spiritually."
And what did this spiritual master say when he addressed the audience at UIC Pavilion? According to Ms. Brachear on July 17, 2011:
The Dalai Lama was in a jolly-good mood on Sunday, and so was his audience.
More than 8,000 spectators lined up in the heat and patiently waited to pack the pavilion at the University of Illinois in Chicago. The Tibetan spiritual leader had come to give a lesson about overcoming religious strife.
But for many in the crowd, it was much more than a lecture by His Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso, the world-renowned Buddhist monk and 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. It was an intimate conversation with an avuncular old friend who doesn't take himself too seriously, but came to share a few wise words about overcoming the conflicts that keep us from enjoying life.
“If you're not in a hurry, I'm quite free,” he said checking his watch when the master of ceremonies suggested time was running out.
But his message was short and sweet: it all comes down to happiness.
“More and more people are showing spiritual interest in what I call inner values,” said the Dalai Lama, 76, who in March gave up political authority over the Tibetan government-in-exile to focus on his spiritual role. “We all come from a mother's womb … everyone wants (a) happy life … everyone has a right to further that desire.”
Happiness begins with honesty, which creates trust, which leads to friendship, which means happiness, he said.
Religion has nothing to do with it, he said, adding that moral principles are not rooted in religious doctrine, but the pursuit of happiness. Even people who identify as secular share that goal with people of faith, he said.
“When I say secular, I don't mean negative feelings toward religion,” he said.
The Dalai Lama also explained that science and faith can co-exist and, in fact, work in concert to teach the world about interdependence.
“Faith and reason must go together,” he said. “You must investigate reality. Nobody can say I know everything.”
Matt MacGregor, 29, of Indianapolis appreciated the Dalai Lama's point that respect extends to non-believers.
“That's a word that's incredibly inclusive,” said MacGregor who runs a global health care foundation.
Phillip Sylvester, 45, who splits his time between Chicago's Gold Coast and Miami, said he suspected the Dalai Lama would have an open mind about religion, but still wanted to hear it firsthand.
“We are all bound by the same things. The truth is all religions are instilled with the same meaning,” said Sylvester, a self-acclaimed globetrotter. “You can travel around the world and learn that or come here...”
...After his remarks, the Dalai Lama and event organizers watered a dozen Aspen saplings on stage that later will be planted near Foster Beach. While the saplings will be planted individually, their roots will become intertwined, symbolizing the Dalai Lama's belief that the world's religions can co-exist.
And as reported in the same newspaper by Michael Tarm on July 17, 2011:
The only politics the 76-year-old touched on was the decision earlier this year by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to sign legislation banning capital punishment. He praised Quinn, who briefly joined the Dalai Lama on stage.
"This state abolished the death sentence," the Tibetan Buddhist monk said. "When I heard that, I immediately shook hands with the governor (before the event started) and said congratulations. ... I really appreciated it."
Once on stage, dressed in crimson-red and gold robes, he gave Quinn a traditional blessing by placing a simple white silk scarf around the governor's neck. In response, Quinn bowed slightly and tapped his hand on his heart.
A law ending the death penalty took effect July 1. Quinn signed it after years of stories of men sentenced to die for crimes they didn't commit. Illinois had executed 12 men since 1977, but none since 1999.
Sitting in a chair at the edge of a stage, the Dalai Lama, who fled Chinese-occupied Tibet in 1959, focused his talk on bridging the divide between religions. A giant cross, a crescent moon, a menorah and other religious symbols were set around him -- a large red and blue Tibetan flag off to one side.
"When I was in Tibet, I thought our religion was best and other religions were -- so so," he said with his trademark giggle, the large crowd laughing in response.
But after settling in India as an exile and becoming familiar with those of other faiths in that country, including Hindus and Muslims, he said he it quickly struck home that they all had similarities at their core.
"All religious traditions carry the same message ... of love, tolerance, compassion ... self-discipline, justice, truth," he said.
He implored people not to become so closely attached to their own religions that they block out all they could learn from other faiths.
I don't know about you, but from someone who's the 14th rebirth of a long line of spiritual masters supposedly possessing centuries of wisdom that the rest of us don't have, I expect something more profound than "everyone wants a happy life...faith and reason must go together...all religious traditions carry the same message..." He says nothing that any other New Ager or religious syncretist hasn't said--and people pay $75-$125 to hear this!? His pronouncements remind me of those of Chauncey Gardner in Being There, the simple-minded character whose aphorisms on gardening, and comments such as "China--full of Chinese!" were taken as great pearls of wisdom by political and cultural leaders. Compare the bland utterances of the Dalai Lama with some of the statements from the Lord Jesus Christ (for which He charged no price):
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. Matthew 10:33-36
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Matthew 23:27-33
I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins...
...And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him...
...I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.
Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.
Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. John 8:24, 29, 37-45
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6
His audiences reacted with comments such as:
And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Matthew 7:28-29
The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. John 7:46
On July 18 the Dalai Lama furthered the agenda of religious syncretism when he shared a platform with a liberal female "pastor," a rabbi, and a Muslim scholar. The female "pastor" is president of the National Council of Churches, which, of course, represents apostate mainline Protestant churches. If the name Michael Lerner sounds familiar, he's been credited as a "guru" for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
As reported by Manya A. Brachear of the Chicago Tribune, July 19, 2011:
Three religious scholars reflected upon oneness, humanity and compassion with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on Monday, capping the Tibetan spiritual leader's fifth visit to Chicago.
The rabbi, pastor and Muslim scholar shared their thoughts with the Dalai Lama before a sold-out crowd at Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park. Eboo Patel, who founded the Interfaith Youth Core after an encounter with the Dalai Lama 13 years ago, moderated the panel.
Each religious leader shared how values of other religious traditions, namely Buddhism, had enriched their own spiritual journey. For example, Rabbi Michael Lerner, activist and editor of Tikkun magazine, talked about not letting attachment to reality discourage him from seeking ideals.
Ingrid Mattson, professor of Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, and the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, president of the National Council of Churches, shared similar experiences.
"This is how people from different religions ought to talk to one another," Patel said after the event. "You ought to focus on what you're committed to, what you admire about other people's religions and how to apply that value in the world in a way that serves other people."
During the course of the conversation, the Dalai Lama issued a call to action for individuals to build bridges in their communities, families and nations.
"These different philosophies (are) simply a different way to approach, but same goal," the Dalai Lama said of the world's religions. "I've found more and more friends."
The Dalai Lama arrived in the U.S. this month to perform an ancient Tibetan Buddhist rite called a Kalachakra — 11 days of prayers, blessings, teachings and meditation in Washington.
He also delivered a public talk on the National Mall and met with President Barack Obama before flying to Chicago for a lecture Sunday at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the event at Harris Theater...
...Patel said one doesn't have to meditate or be a monk to host productive conversations.
"Everybody can choose to focus conversations between different religions on matters of shared values rather than matters of deep disagreement," he said.
Members of the audience said they felt empowered to follow his example.