- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2003

The 14th Dalai Lama told a packed audience at the National Cathedral yesterday that even the worst tragedies in life can be used for “spiritual growth.”

During an interfaith prayer service to honor those who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Dalai Lama said there’s no point getting demoralized over past events.

“Use them for personal, spiritual growth and most of all, forgiveness,” he told an audience of 7,000, half of whom were seated in the cathedral and half of whom listened to loudspeakers outside.

Surrounded by a bank of red, orange and yellow floral bouquets, the Dalai Lama said he had already noticed a change in American attitudes during the recent blackout that shut down large portions of the Northeast and Midwest for several days. New Yorkers especially, he said, “showed much more peace.”



“People were behaving better,” he said.

Cautioning his listeners not to blame one religion for the September 11 events, he said “there are always mischievous people” in all religious traditions who wreak havoc.

To truly change the world, one’s religion must not be treated “like an ornament,” he said, but instead be internalized. Once religious belief becomes an integral part of the believer, “then you can’t throw it away.”

People of all religions should practice contentment, he said, especially “when you go shopping. Or maybe [when] your neighbor has a new car or unlimited credit cards.” Even he has to remind himself of his own boundaries, he joked, saying that he sometimes dreams of a “sexual attachment,” but then “I remember I am a Buddhist monk.”

The 25-minute message was proceeded by sonorous chants by Tibetan monks and the Dalai Lama himself alternated between Tibetan and English.

The service, which was pegged as a “public teaching on generating compassion as an antidote to hatred,” is part of a weeklong tour by the Dalai Lama throughout the United States. On Wednesday, he met with President Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and delivered an address on Capitol Hill.

In an interview with the Associated Press, he said it’s too early to judge whether the Iraq war was warranted. But he says the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan may have been justified to win a larger peace.

“In principle, I always believe nonviolence is the right thing, and nonviolent method is in the long run more effective,” he said.

The 68-year-old religious leader also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and is recognized as a leader of world Buddhism. At the age of 2, he was recognized as the incarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama.

There are roughly 3 million to 4 million Buddhists in the United States, most of them immigrants who arrived after U.S. immigration laws were eased in 1965.

Tibetan Buddhism known as Tantrism or Vajrayana (“the Diamond Vehicle,” denoting clarity of experience) is one of Buddhism’s three main branches. The others are Theravada (“the Way of the Elders”) and Mahayana (“the Greater Vehicle,” which includes Zen).

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