By Esther Daniela Castillejo
His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet spoke Thursday afternoon before a packed Gentile Arena at Loyola University Chicago. During his lecture on Interfaith Collaboration for Loyola students, faculty, staff and special guests, the Dalai Lama focused on the ultimate source of happiness, the centrality of compassion and understanding, how ethics transcends religious beliefs and the importance of promoting discussion among people from different religious backgrounds.
“I am very happy to have the opportunity to talk in a Catholic university,” said the XIV Dalai Lama to a crowd of almost 4,000.
Before the lecture, many of Loyola’s religious organizations, such as the Catholic Student Organization, Hillel, the Hindu Student Organization, the Muslim Student Association and students of Buddhism, performed traditional chants, prayers and dances in order to promote an interfaith environment for the expecting audience.
The Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., Loyola’s president and CEO, introduced the XIV Dalai Lama at 1:30 p.m. and, along with Frank Fernell, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, conferred his Holiness an Honorary Degree from Loyola University Chicago for his extensive work in the field of ethics and peacemaking, values that the university holds in high esteem.
In addition, Garanzini handed the Dalai Lama a visor with Loyola’s logo, which his Holiness received joyfully.
During his 40-minute speech, the Dalai Lama stressed the necessity of promoting respect and understanding among peoples with different faiths and also with unbelievers.
“Although we have different faiths, we all express the same practice: compassion, we can have different approaches but we have the same goal,” his Holiness said. “Once we understand these things, we can develop great respect toward other methods and other traditions.”
In addition to his lecture, the XIV Dalai Lama answered questions from several pre-selected Loyola students, although due to time restrictions, not all students got to ask the Dalai Lama.
The questions ranged from topics such as religious collaboration to his views on globalization, which he believed was a phenomenon bound to happen.
“Peace must be done through action, you must be active,” the Dalai Lama answered to Nicole Cotto, a senior anthropology major who asked him for advice to those students who want to advocate peace. “Repeating world peace as a slogan is useless, we should do more active things to educate other people,” he expressed.
His Holiness also underlined the crucial role discussion among scholars from different religious backgrounds, along with the exchange of deep experiences among practitioners, has in advancing interfaith collaboration in the world.
“We have to close some barriers and promote discussion. We need to reduce the feeling of distance, then it becomes really easy.”
The XIV Dalai Lama also declared that the relationship between Buddhism and the Roman Catholic Church are in good shape.
“We have quite healthy relations,” he said.
Many students who attended the event were thrilled to have the opportunity to see and hear the Dalai Lama and were very sympathetic with his message.
“I thought he offered a good perspective on topics of coming together as people and humanity,” said Mark Krzeczowski, 18, a freshman international business and information systems major. “His advice was really valuable.”
Some other students thought His Holiness’ visit was very appropriate at this time of the year, especially with graduation just around the corner.
“It was amazing, as graduation is approaching and is time to take the next step into the world…learn how to combine work with spirituality and make the world a better place” said Kate Mccauluy, 22, a senior nursing student.
Overall, the audience was satisfied with the event and many were honored that such an important figure came to Loyola.
“I thought it was a really good event, his message was good and it is always nice for someone to remind us that we are all living in one world and that the only way to live is in harmony with each other,” said Jonathan Lewchenko, 21, a junior business management major. “Although we all have different views, we are all the same people…it was really good, especially for a university like ours, to have someone like that come through.