October 5, 2011
Deepak in the News

Promoting Peace, Nobel Laureates Square Off, Politely.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

NEWARK — Of the many rare scenes provided here on Friday by renowned advocates of enlightenment and nonviolence, the rarest may have been a pair of Nobel Peace Prize winners getting about as close as such people ever get to actual confrontation.
Enlarge This Image

Tom White for The New York Times

The Dalai Lama greeted the audience at a panel discussion titled “Peace Within” at the Newark Peace Education Summit on Friday.
Enlarge This Image

Tom White for The New York Times
Mayor Cory A. Booker delivered the opening address at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on Friday.
On a stage during the opening session of the Newark Peace Education Summit, the Dalai Lama and Jody Williams, a world-famous anti-land-mine activist, disagreed — sometimes obliquely, always politely — about the importance of inner tranquillity, the role of anger and the moral character of the United States. (More on that later.)

The three-day conclave mixes celebrities, community organizers and people who grapple with a range of problems, from the personal to the global. On Friday, another Nobel laureate, Shirin Ebadi, spoke on the rule of law and the rights of women in Iran, and the author Deepak Chopra spoke about the neuroscience of happiness. The hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons talked about recruiting young men for neighborhood safety patrols, and Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, led the audience in singing “Down by the Riverside.”

Organizers said the contrast evoked by holding such an idealistic event inside the elegant New Jersey Performing Arts Center, while the surrounding city is better known for poverty and crime than for peace, was not lost on them.

“Newark is the perfect place for the event because of its challenging history with violence,” said Drew A. Katz, an advertising executive who is one of the chief sponsors.

Mr. Katz said that two years ago he met Robert A. F. Thurman, a professor of Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia University and a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. Professor Thurman, who is close to the Dalai Lama, wanted to organize a peace conference in New York City. Mr. Katz said he suggested going to Newark, where expenses were lower, he knew other philanthropists and the mayor, Cory A. Booker, was a friend of his.

Mr. Booker, who delivered the welcoming address, later said, “Peace will not descend on the city and state, and our problems disappear” because of the conference. But he said he hoped it would inspire people. Several speakers offered their messages with generous doses of liberal politics and Eastern philosophy, for an audience that could afford tickets that started at more than $100, but also included local activists and students, who were admitted at no cost.

For most of those listening, the main draw was obvious.

“I like all the speakers and the workshops, but the opportunity to hear the Dalai Lama was the big thing for me,” said Dana Longstreet, 52, who is working on a master’s degree in social work at Rutgers University.

Speakers this weekend will include Goldie Hawn, Martin Luther King III and the economist Jeffrey Sachs.

In the main panel on Friday morning, the Dalai Lama, wearing a deep red robe that hung to his ankles, and others said that people must attain inner peace in order to learn, and promote peace in the world. “Too much emotion, attachment, anger or fear, that kind of mental state, you can’t investigate objectively,” he said.

That did not sit well with Ms. Williams, an American, who is, as the Dalai Lama put it, “quite blunt.”

“I thought it was strange to be asked to be on this panel on inner peace, because I don’t have much,” she said. “It’s anger at injustice which fires many of us.”

She went on to criticize aspects of American policy that favor corporations and the wealthy, and, without naming a particular conflict, said there was no such thing as a “just war.”

The Dalai Lama then came to the defense of the United States, the country that helped him escape Tibet in 1959, after the Chinese Communists took over. “America, of course, a lot of drawbacks there, but I always feel, champion of democracy,” he said. “Now we get argument.”

Both panelists drew laughter and applause, but the biggest laugh of the day came in the afternoon, when the Dalai Lama was asked to open a discussion on peace in the family.

As a celibate monk, he said, “I have no experience.”

Write Your Comment

How AI Can Elevate Spiritual Intelligence and Personal Well-Being
September 17, 2024
Scroll Up