Law conference explores ethics, social equality

by JUNGMIN KIM, Spectrum Online, Sept 22, 2006

Buffalo, NY (USA) -- As part of the academic conference "Law and Buddhism" on Wednesday, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama ended his three-day-long visit to UB discussing his outlook on both long-standing tenets and modern law.

Taking a seat in the O'Brian Hall Law Library with 15 other lawyers and professors from various universities, the Dalai Lama discussed ethics and social order in the context of Buddhism. The event was organized by UB Law School Professor Rebecca French and is part of an ongoing effort to create a "Law and Buddhism" project at UB.

His Holiness' consistent message throughout the conference was that laws should be administered and enforced with consideration and respect for others, and that actions should be inspired out of love instead of hatred.

"We should be objective, compassionate and sincere," He said. "Compassion ultimately is the best and normal watch (against corruption)."

His Holiness explored topics of Tibetan law and Buddhist tenets, how to prevent corruption, how to enact reforms and democracy's impact on Buddhism, speaking with the same earnestness, humility and characteristic sense of humor that earned him thunderous applause at his Tuesday lecture.

The Dalai Lama also answered a wide range of questions, from inquiries about punishment and rehabilitation to topics of economic development and poverty. He also reexamined the issue of the growing gap between the rich and the poor, a focal point of his keynote speech.

Lauren Schroeder, a third year law graduate student, enjoyed listening to His Holiness.

"I thought it was wonderful," she said. "There's just something about the Dalai Lama, about the way he presents. He's such a warm person, there's no pretension to him at all."

Keon Weigold, a third year graduate law student, appreciated the conference but thought it could have been coordinated better.

"It was kind of a little hard for (people) to hear everything that was going on," he said. "And I don't think the questions were simple enough to get answered in a good way."

Law students found His Holiness's words concerning the importance of integrity particularly moving.

"He (stressed) that you have to have good motivations for what you do and think of the other person when you're carrying out any kind of legal principles," Schroeder said. "You have to remember that there are other people in the world and what you do affects them."

Kenneth M. Ehrenberg, assistant professor of philosophy, appreciated the discussion pertaining to the possible strain of incompatibility between Buddhist and constitutional ideals.

"The most important point to me was the recognition that law is not an ideal form," he said. "In an ideal society, we would not need law."

Ehrenberg also said that the conflicting models of law and Buddhism were a central focus.

"Buddhism is encouraging people to move towards an ideal, so I think that there's a certain tension that's inherent between the idea of law and the ideals of Buddhism," he said. "They're both trying to guide people's actions and behaviors in different ways, hopefully they'll be able to harmonize the two."

The conference was simulcast in O'Brian 102, 104 and 106, and all three rooms had a packed attendance, despite an early start for the conference - almost an hour earlier than originally scheduled - in order to accommodate a change in the Dalai Lama's schedule.