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.
“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. earlier this month to perform an ancient Tibetan Buddhist rite called a Kalachakra -- 11 days of prayers, blessings, teachings and meditation in Washington, D.C.
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 in Chicago and the event at Harris Theatre.
About a dozen Chinese protesters stood outside the theater Monday morning holding signs calling the Dalai Lama a political monk and a liar and pointing out his predecessors owned serfs in historic Tibet before the Chinese invasion and the Dalai Lama's exile in 1959.
The Dalai Lama stepped down from his political role in March to focus on being a simple Buddhist monk.
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.
Member of the audience said they felt empowered to follow his example.
Mary Sanders came with four friends from Lake Forest because her two children helped plan the Dalai Lama's visit in Washington. She wept when he stepped out on stage both Sunday and Monday.
“What resonates with me is if a human being like that, given his history, can still practice compassion, it's possible for me,” Sanders said.
Cathie Sanchez, 51, a nurse from Woodstock, said she only learned about the Dalai Lama's teachings a year ago. She acknowledged that she has a lot of catching up to do, but she is grateful to find a spiritual leader who resonates with her.
“It's so simple what he has to say,” Sanchez said. “We all have the same needs -- peace, respect … He can't go everywhere. If he can just plant a seed in each and every one of the people he touches, that's how it's going to spread.”
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