I had the privilege of spending the day getting to hear His Holiness The Dalai Lama speak. He was at the University of Arkansas today as part of a set of visits around the US.
The morning session was a panel discussion on non-violence with Sister Helen Prejean and Vincent Harding. One moment that stuck with me was when Sister Prejean brought up the fact that as people watch more television, they develop more fear. His Holiness expanded on the thought by saying there are two types of fear. One fear is real, such as when a mad dog is charging you. In his humorous style, the Dalai Lama said meditating about compassion won't help you here; the dog will still bite you. The other kind of fear comes from within but it isn't based on fact.
If a problem has a solution, there is no need to be overwhelmed and if there's no solution there's no point to be overwhelmed - The Dalai Lama
The other speakers had some amazing stories as well. Sister Prejean told about the first time she met with the parents of the victim of a murder after the murderer had been executed on death row. While there is a lot of pressure for the family of victims to help support the death penalty, they don't necessarily feel this way.
Vincent Harding had a story about when a church in Alabama was bombed in 1963, killing four girls and injuring many others. He remembers people close to the event who's first reaction was to get even, people that stood for non-violence. However, they turned this feeling around and what eventually came out was the march from Selma to Montgomery.
My favorite sound bite was when the Dalai Lama said "your enemy is your best teacher." He went on to explain that we won't learn how to practice compassions from our friends. We will only truly learn how to practice compassion and forgiveness by engaging our enemies.
The afternoon session started with the University conferring an honorary degree on the Dalai Lama and a short lecture by him. This was followed by a question and answer session, with topics from the recent events in Egypt, censorship, and even the first time the Dalai Lama drove a car (it didn't end well). The real message throughout both sessions was a call to action. In order to stop violence, we can't go meditate about it. We have to go out and do something.