By Charles Honey
Press Religion Editor
The Dalai Lama addresses the media in Ann Arbor, Mich., Friday, April 18, 2008. The Dalai Lama says he fully understands the sentiments of those protesting the upcoming Olympics in China to draw attention to the country's human rights record. But the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader told reporters Friday he has been sorry to see some of those demonstrations turned violent.
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
ANN ARBOR - The Dalai Lama entered the room smiling, with palms pressed together prayerfully, and saying "sorry, sorry" for being nearly 40 minutes late to his press conference.
He left imparting a message of hope through faith and compassion, personal peace through right living -- and apologizing once again.
Addressing about 50 media members Friday to launch his lectures here this weekend, the global spiritual leader spoke humbly but hopefully about the power of faith and mutual respect to foster happiness and harmony.
On the same day Pope Benedict XVI addressed the United Nations, the Tibetan Buddhist leader said he and the pope bring similar messages to America.
"All traditions carry the same message -- a message of love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, self-discipline," the Dalai Lama said. Despite philosophical differences, he added, "at a practical level, all carry the same teaching and the same potential to help humanity."
And while stressing his talks here are nonpolitical, the exiled leader of Tibet repeated his call for the protection of human rights, culture and religion from Chinese domination in his homeland. Buddhism is being eradicated from the education of Tibetan youth, he said.
"Intentionally or unintentionally, some type of cultural genocide is taking place," he said in his 40-minute appearance at the University of Michigan's Rackham Auditorium.
The popular spiritual teacher is slated to give four lectures today and Sunday at Crisler Arena, including a talk on environmental sustainability named after Grand Rapids philanthropist Peter Wege. All the talks are sold out.
His visit comes amid a swirl of protests alleging Chinese oppression of Tibet in the runup to the China Olympics. The Dalai Lama has called for greater autonomy for Tibet but has urged protesters to reject violence.
Attended by heavy security Friday, he repeated his support for China to hold the Olympics, adding the Chinese "should feel very proud." But he added, "I fully understand why (protesters) express that kind of frustration."
Asked what young adults and students can do to fight oppression, the Dalai Lama said his generation's struggles soon will be theirs.
"We are the people who are saying 'bye bye,'" he told a young reporter. "You are the people who are really shaping a new century."