STANFORD, Calif. - A mass meditation session and question-and-answer forum at Stanford University kicked off the Dalai Lama's visit to the Bay Area on Friday, as the spiritual leader spread his message of nonviolence to thousands.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, began the day by leading a morning meditation for 6,500 people at Stanford's Maples Pavilion.
In the two-hour forum titled "The Heart of Nonviolence," the exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhism praised such pacifists as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., but stopped short of condemning all violence. Actions taken out of compassion - even if lives are lost - can be justified if those actions reduce future suffering, the Dalai Lama told the audience of 1,000 at the university's Memorial Church.
"History shows the second World War protected the Western World - protected democracy," he said, speaking sometimes in English and other times through his longtime principal translator, Geshe Thupten Jinpa. "The Iraq war - it's too early to say, right or wrong."
However, the Dalai Lama cautioned, war and violence generally leads to more war and more violence, more hatred and more resentment. He pointed to the situation of Tibetan people, who he said should not react violently to oppression by the Chinese government, but should instead gather support from the Chinese people for their liberation.
"We must live with nonviolent principles, so that later we can live happily" in the same society, he said.
One question posed to the Dalai Lama asked whether the violent images in the media are so overwhelming that people should turn off their televisions, but the spiritual leader kept his principles in perspective.
"If you switch off the TV completely," he said with a smile, "then it will be quite a boring society."
Other Bay Area appearances this weekend included a dialogue on the human experience with doctors, Buddhist scholars and scientists, and a ceremony at San Francisco's Ritz-Carlton hotel honoring 48 "Unsung Heroes of Compassion."