The Dalai Lama addresses Colgate students of all faiths PHOTO CREDIT SUSAN KAHN.
Seated comfortably in a custom-made oversized chair, the Dalai Lama donned a Colgate baseball cap as he sat crossed legged to address a crowd of 5,000 at the upstate New York campus.
His Holiness' two-day visit to Colgate University began on April 22 when he spoke publicly as part of the university's Global Leaders Lecture Series. The follow day, the Dalai Lama met in a more intimate setting with 100 students to discuss religion as part of a program titled "The Moral and Spiritual Power of Religion and the University."
Introduced by Colgate President Rebecca S. Chopp, herself a religion scholar, and moderated by Steven Kepnes, a professor in Jewish studies and religion, Colgate's three university chaplains - representing the Jewish, Catholic and Protestant faiths - comprised the panel. Rabbi David Levy, who also serves as the advisor to the Colgate Jewish Union, was honored by the invitation to participate. He describes his initial interaction with His Holiness as "awesome."
Rabbi David Levy poses question to the Dalai Lama PHOTO CREDIT SUSAN KAHN.
"We were all seated when the Dalai Lama entered the room, as is protocol," says Levy. "When he approached me, he stood up on his toes to admire my kippah. He said, 'I know - Jew.' When the laughter died down, he wished me 'shalom.'"
In addition to answering students' questions, the Dalai Lama addressed each of the chaplains. Rabbi Levy, who was asked to prepare one question for His Holiness, spoke about the appropriate timing that the Dalai Lama visit campus during Passover.
"In this time we recall the Exodus from Egypt and its promise to people everywhere that this world is in fact, redeemable and that current oppression and strife can be overcome," Levy said. "Each day we strive to encourage students to challenge the lines that divide people everywhere and ask, why do our differences need to keep people apart? We put that hope in our students who are the leaders of tomorrow. Your Holiness, many of the students who share in this important work are here today. [We] would be honored if would share with all of us, your advice and perhaps your warnings as we try to take our message of understanding and cooperation beyond the walls of Colgate and into a world that so badly needs this message."
The Dalai Lama, who joked and laughed frequently throughout his visit to Colgate, continually returned to his central message, that religion is personal, spirituality is universal and ethical behavior is a shared responsibility.
"[The Dalai Lama] is a man of great spiritual presence and power and even just watching him speak was instructive," says Levy. "I was amazed again and again by the universality of his message. He encouraged students to look at each other as God's creations and I was taken to the book of Genesis, he spoke about everyone having something to offer and I was drawn to Pirkei Avot."
His Holiness speaks to students at Colgate University PHOTO CREDIT SUSAN KAHN.
His Holiness was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama in 1937 at the age of 2. He assumed full political power of Tibet in 1950, following China's invasion. In 1959, he was forced into exile and now resides in India. He has never returned to Tibet, but continues to appeal to the United Nations to restore freedom in his native country.
Additional stories about the Dalai Lama's visit to Colgate University:
Video of the Dalai Lama's speech
Colgate University coverage and photos
WTVH.com (CBS affiliate, Syracuse)