Thursday, October 11, 2012

Randolph students listen to Dalai Lama

When he heard the Dalai Lama speak on Wednesday, Paul Rush ’16 had a pleasant surprise. During the first few minutes that the Tibetan Buddhist monk was on stage, he laughed and smiled, and he said several things that made the audience laugh as well.

“Seeing him in person, getting to actually hear his voice, and experiencing his sense of humor struck me a little,” said Rush, one of several Randolph College students who traveled to hear the religious leader speak. “I had guessed he would be very serious. Instead, I saw this humble monk from Tibet.”

Rush, a Buddhist, said seeing the Dalai Lama was an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience for him. “I learned through his anecdotes that all peoples are basically the same, and it is a great tragedy we live as if our world is separated when we are all one people,” he said.

Suzanne Bessenger, a professor of religious studies, took her first-year seminar class on
Buddhism to hear the Dalai Lama speak at the College of William and Mary Wednesday.
The Dalai Lama came to The College of William and Mary, just a few hours from Randolph, as part of his current lecture tour through the United States. In his speech Wednesday, he emphasized the importance of human compassion and religious tolerance. Haylee Reynolds ’16 was impressed that he did not single out Buddhism as something better than other religions, and he said that good people are found in all faiths. “Although the philosophies of the major world religions differ, he said, they all revolve around the basis of compassion,” Reynolds said.

Suzanne Bessenger, a religious studies professor at Randolph, organized the trip for her class, Sons and Daughters of the Buddha, a seminar course for first-year students. The experience added a unique element for students.

“The course explores the world views and introductory philosophies of Buddhism by examining the life stories of some of its more iconic adherents,” Bessenger said. “Having the chance to see the Dalai Lama, arguably one of the most famous Buddhists alive today, was a great opportunity for my students to see the course material in action.

“Not only did they get to hear a world-renowned scholar-practitioner of Buddhism discuss the very same Buddhist concepts we studied in class, but they also had the opportunity to witness first hand a 20th-21st century life and life story intimately shaped by that tradition,” Bessenger added. “It was a tremendous opportunity.”

Here is a video of the Dalai Lama’s speech on Wednesday.


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