The news all seems to be bad — natural disasters, an environmental catastrophe, wars, an economic meltdown, terrorist attacks. But in a quiet voice of optimism, a small, bespectacled man in a robe and sandals struck a note that seems to be heard all too seldom nowadays.
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The future, the Dalai Lama said Thursday, is bright.
Human beings are becoming more compassionate and better, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet told TODAY’s Ann Curry in New York in his first live interview on a morning news show. “Better, no question,” he responded without hesitation when Curry asked if humans are getting worse or better.
The problems facing the world may seem overwhelming, but, the Dalai Lama said, “Basically, these problems are temporary.” Other than natural catastrophes, most are “manmade; our own creation. So, logically, we also have the ability to work on these problems.”
Signs of hope
The Dalai Lama pointed to the overwhelming outpouring of support, aid and money sent by people all over the world to victims of a series of earthquakes that have rocked many countries, including Chile, Haiti and his native Tibet.
In the early part of the 20th century, he told Curry, people didn’t leap to the aid of people halfway around the world as they do now. “These are positive signs,” he said.
In New York to give four lectures at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Buddhist monk arrived at 30 Rock in a black limousine with blacked-out windows. As a former head of state, he had a Secret Service security detail.
The Dalai Lama, dressed in a burgundy robe, greeted his hosts with hands clasped as if in prayer and bows. Smiling and serene, he stepped out of his simple sandals and sat cross-legged on a chair, as limber as a teenager at age 75.
After finishing his interview, he gave TODAY co-anchors Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer gleaming white silk scarves.
Good news is no news
Smiling throughout his interview, the Dalai Lama said that evil will always be with us, but that’s not news.
“Some mischievous people always there. Last several thousand years, always there. In future, also,” he said in his distinctive idiom.
Like so many others, he wagged a gently chiding finger at the news media for highlighting the negative.
“The news, the media highlight these negative things. Positive things take for granted; not news,” the Dalai Lama said.
In exile since the Chinese crushed an uprising by Tibet in 1959, the Dalai Lama continues to attempt to negotiate autonomy for his native land and his own return there with the Chinese, who occupy the Himalayan nation.
Named the 14th Dalai Lama at the age of 2, he took office two years later and was raised by monks in monasteries. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent efforts to resolve the conflict in Tibet. He has also become increasingly involved with environmental causes.
Spirituality and science
Before coming to New York, the Dalai Lama was in Wisconsin to help dedicate the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The center was created to study positive human qualities such as happiness and compassion, and was inspired by his teachings.
The Dalai Lama believes that there can be a connection between Buddhism and science. Among other things, Richard Davidson, the center’s founder, studies how meditation changes the human brain.
The monk has been preaching that the 20th century was the century of bloodshed, and the 21st century should be one of dialogue.
“These change not come from sky, but come through human experience. We [are] becoming more realistic,” he told Curry, who has visited him in his home in exile. “I think there’s every reason this 21st century will be much happier.”
But, he added, it will depend on our own attitudes.
“In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision,” the monk said, pointing to his head.
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