Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Dalai Lama was here!

This past week on Wednesday and Thursday the Dalai Lama visited MIT. He blessed the Mandala in Simmons Hall, planted a tree to remind us of his visit and then spoke in Kresge Auditorium to an admiring audience. He is 73 years old, self-deprecating, thoughtful and wise. He is a symbol of the aspirations of the Tibetan people for their homeland. He seems to realize that what is desired will more likely be gained through greater freedom within China rather than through the freedom of Tibet itself.

Here at MIT, however, he focused on the establishment of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values. As the Center claims its place here at MIT it will complement other programs that give our students opportunities to ask "Why?" questions along with the "How?" questions they are so good at answering. If all goes as plans the Center will partner with others to interject into the MIT experience a clear component of moral reasoning. This has been a concern here since the Institute was founded, but it took on special significance in the aftermath of World War 2 and during the presidency of James Killian. Killian built the MIT Chapel and Kresge Auditorium, The Meetinghouse of MIT, to encourage dialogue about matters of meaning. His dream was deferred by the Cold War, but efforts like the Technology and Culture Forum have keep the flame alive. Now complemented by the Center a rising tide of concern for ethical behavior should raise all our efforts in this realm. It is appropriate that the Center resides in Religious Life for it draws on the great teachers of the religious world while speaking to all of human kind in a voice that is shaped not only by religious tradition, but also by the voices and wisdom of non-believers.

What will be accomplished? If we are true to our intent, we will be part of the effort to prepare MIT students for intentional, moral lives in a world sorely tested by greed and the lack of compassion. His Holiness reminded us of our purpose and we are grateful that he passed this way.

Robert M. Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute