Dalai Lama talks about recent feelings of helplessness

By Matt Russell, Post-Bulletin, April 16, 2008

Rochester MN (USA) -- As pro-China demonstrators waved signs in downtown Rochester on Wednesday, the Dalai Lama admitted to having feelings of helplessness in recent weeks.

"Since March, last month, my mind is much disturbed," the exiled Tibetan leader told a gathering of Mayo Clinic employees.

The Dalai Lama didn't directly talk about the recent Chinese crackdown on protests in Tibet, but he described struggling to compose his thoughts during a series of teachings last month in New Delhi, India.

"This time was very different," he said, noting that he usually has a clear plan for his teachings but didn't in New Delhi. The struggle he described happened shortly after the Chinese crackdown on the largest protests in Tibet in 20 years.

The Dalai Lama's comments came during a day-long conference at Mayo Clinic's Siebens Building titled "Investigating the Mind-Body Connection: The Science and Clinical Applications of Meditation."

Outside, 30 to 35 demonstrators stood in front of the Mayo Building on Second Street Southwest.

Made up of mostly Chinese students studying at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, the group denounced riots in China in support of the "Free Tibet" cause.

The Dalai Lama gave a talk titled "Compassion in Medicine" before answering questions from the audience of around 300 Mayo Clinic employees.

When asked about how he keeps his composure amid recent troubles, the Dalai Lama said he never loses compassion for people, choosing instead to focus on the negative emotions that cause their actions.

"I take their afflictions to task," he said.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate added that he has coped with recent difficulties by practicing tonglen, a meditation technique in which a meditator mentally takes on the suffering of other people and sends out warm feelings in an effort to alleviate that suffering.

When facing disturbances in life, the Dalai Lama said, it's important to keep a basic mental attitude of calm and inner strength.

"The last two weeks, despite disturbances, there was no disturbance of my sleep," he said.

Rochester is the 72-year-old Dalai Lama's second stop during a U.S. tour that started last week in Seattle. His other scheduled stops include the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor on April 19 and 20 and Colgate College in Hamilton, N.Y., on April 22.