PORTLAND – The Dalai Lama concluded his three-day Oregon trip by telling a sold-out crowd we need to focus more on the environment and less on the acquisition of material things.
“This is our home; we have to take care of it,” the Buddhist monk known as His Holiness said in a panel discussion before 10,000 people at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum.
The Dalai Lama was joined by Gov. John Kitzhaber, broadcaster and environmental activist David Suzuki and Andrea Durbin, executive director of the Oregon Environmental Council.
The governor said leaders must find a way to create an economic system that’s not based on “unlimited growth and unlimited consumption.”
The Dalai Lama took that theme to a more individual level, saying the drive to produce and consume is unhealthy.
“Just make money, make money, make money, spend it on luxuries, I think not good,” he said. “Perhaps I am socialist.”
Though “socialist” is not a bad word in Portland, the Dalai Lama added: “But freedom is very important. Without freedom, socialist countries collapse and fall.”
At an early Saturday news conference, the Dalai Lama took a handful of questions on matters such as love, nature and his daily habits.
Beforehand, he promoted the need for religious harmony and said people with different beliefs should share mutual respect.
He also told the assembled reporters they play an important role in telling people what is reality. He urged them to be honest, truthful, unbiased and, especially, to be diligent investigators.
A reporter, he joked, should have a long nose, like an elephant.
The red-and-saffron-robed spiritual leader later said he listens to BBC Radio every morning, and that the censorship practiced in China is harmful and morally wrong.
When asked how nature affects our spirituality, the Dalai Lama consulted with a translator before confessing he could not answer that question, other than to say nature is of utmost importance and must be respected. During the panel discussion, Suzuki and the Dalai Lama both touched on how the move from farming lifestyles to a city jobs has negatively impacted the relationship between humans and nature.
The Dalai Lama also spoke of education. He encourages teaching that emphasizes the interdependence of the 7 billion people who inhabit the world.
“Whether or not we like it,” he said, “that is reality. The entire population of the planet is part of me. How to build a happy society, happy human beings on this small planet?
“We have to care about others’ well-being.”