Dalai Lama to help launch MIT's spiritual center

By James F. Smith, Boston Globe, March 11, 2009

Cambridge, MA (USA) -- MIT is creating a center to promote ethical behavior and leadership inspired by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who will speak at its inaugural conference April 30, Tenzin Priyadarshi, the center's director, said yesterday.

Priyadarshi, MIT's Buddhist chaplain since 2001, will head the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values.

The Dalai Lama's address at Kresge Auditorium is titled "Ethics and Enlightened Leadership."

Later that day, composer Philip Glass will give a benefit concert on behalf of the new center. The Dalai Lama's talk and Glass's performance in the auditorium, both ticketed events, will culminate 10 days of public talks by prominent scientists, ethicists, and psychologists on personal ethics and responsibility.

The Dalai Lama will be in the Boston area for four days. Tibetan community activists in the area have organized two public events for him on May 2 at Gillette Stadium.

Priyadarshi discussed the center's launch on the same day that the Dalai Lama, speaking in India, criticized Chinese rule over Tibet on the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising that drove him into exile.

In an address to supporters in Dharmsala, the Nobel Peace laureate called Chinese rule "hell on earth" for Tibetans. He complained of a harsh crackdown since Tibetan demonstrations were suppressed last year.

In a previous visit to MIT in 2003, the Dalai Lama, 73, took part in a forum with 22 scientists, in which panels considered both Buddhist and scientific approaches to understanding the human mind.

Priyadarshi said the new center is being established in the spirit of that "mind and life" meeting and will study issues of ethics and leadership in ways that are relevant for the secular and business worlds in an era of economic crisis.

"In the last 100 years, we have developed a more myopic vision of life." Priyadarshi said. "The business world sees things in terms of three to five years. We are losing sight of what we pass on to the next generation. People need to recognize that the so-called recession was preceded by a recession in ethics and human values."

Among the themes the center will consider, he said, are the nature of philanthropy: "What prompts people to become more generous or more fearful of things?" Priyadarshi said. "We want to look into whether a person can be trained to be generous or happy or more compassionate."

He said the center would offer a range of short courses and public programs, designed to engage the Boston community, as well as MIT.