Yesterday, the USC Student Interfaith Council worked with the Dalai Lama foundation to bring the world-renowned Buddhist leader to campus. His holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, hosted two events, a morning talk on “Secular Ethics, Human Values and Society” at the Galen Center (which was the event I attended) and later was part of a panel speaking on “Secular Ethics: Origins, Elements, and Their Function in Society” at Bovard Auditorium.
There were about 3,000 people that attended the morning talk, and although most were students, there were many USC faculty and staff as well, along with just as many community members. Going into this talk, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m not too familiar with the Dalai Lama’s teachings, but I wanted to attend the event because I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Going to the talk ended up being one of the coolest things I’ve done here at USC (along with watching President Obama speak, attending USC Football games, etc.). Instead of preaching religious ideas, his holiness instead called for the necessity of secular ethics, where individuals can think for themselves while having serious concerns for themselves and others.
After about 45 minutes of his talk, he took questions from the audience. My favorite was the last question, which asked, “As the Dalai Lama, you are still human. Have you ever acted unethically?” To which the Dalai Lama responded “I like to speak about my relationship with mosquitoes”. For a religious leader as well known as him, the Dalai Lama sure has a sense of humor. Not only would he make the audience chuckle sporadically throughout the event, but he would also crack himself up! Instead of being really serious, he could really connect with the audience and have an impact on those attending the event.
And to go back to the title of this post, the first thing that the Dalai Lama did after coming on-stage was pull out a USC baseball cap from his bag. While putting it on, he said he was given the cap by the organizers and realized that on stage it gets bright sometimes, so it would be useful. And he didn’t only keep the USC cap on for a few minutes, it was on the entire talk! Now that’s what I call Trojan spirit!