The Heart of Nonviolence:
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Reverend Scotty McLennan

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Reverend Scotty McLennan

Friday, November 4, 2005 | 2:30 – 4:30 | Memorial Church | Free and Ticketed

Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free. True peace with ourselves and with the world around us can only be achieved through the development of mental peace.

--Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, 1989
The Dalai Lama, who has become known worldwide for his advocacy of peace, tolerance and compassion, lives in exile in Dharamsala, India, where he serves as Tibet's religious and political leader. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and was praised by the Nobel Committee for his opposition to the use of violence in the struggle to liberate Tibet.

In conjunction with the Office for Religious Life, Stanford Continuing Studies is honored to present The Aurora Forum at the Heyns Lecture, The Heart of Nonviolence: A Conversation with the Dalai Lama. This event is part of the Dalai Lama's visit to Stanford on November 4 and 5.

While each of the world's faith traditions offers a range of perspectives on ways to understand and possibly improve our human condition, each also converges on teachings that urge human beings to cultivate virtues and skills that enable more cooperative and compassionate living. Today we have the good fortune to hear a Christian minister and a Buddhist monk discuss ways to overcome patterns of violence that influence our lives on both personal and planetary levels. As people all over the globe wake up to the fact that violence begets only more violence, we turn to examples of better ways to confront and solve the many difficulties we face as individuals and as a species.

Mohandas K. Gandhi—who thought of himself as a human being capable of learning from anyone, be they Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Jew—was a twentieth-century pioneer in the necessary experiment of responding to violence with what Martin Luther King, Jr. called nonviolent direct action. Our refusal to cooperate with violence, says Dr. King, will not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally, it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality.

In his Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, His Holiness the Dalai Lama noted that his prize was also a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi's pathbreaking work. He refers to Gandhi as a mentor...whose example is an inspiration to many of us. The Dalai Lama's example of urging nonviolent direct action in response to daily human rights violations in Tibet extends Gandhi and King's experiment and calls upon each of us to recognize and resist those powers that work against our common humanity and a truly sustainable future.


Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was born in 1935 in northeastern Tibet. At the age of two, he was recognized as the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, and formally installed at the capital of Lhasa at the age of four. In 1950, he assumed political leadership of his country, and struggled to peacefully resist the threat of 80,000 Chinese troops who invaded his mountain kingdom. In 1959, the year he earned his geshe degree (a doctorate in Buddhist metaphysics), he and thousands of others were forced to flee Tibet as the Chinese crushed a popular uprising, killing more than 87,000 people. Since then, His Holiness has lived in exile in Dharamsala, a small town in northern India, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile. In 1989, he was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for what the Nobel Committee called his “constructive and forward-looking proposals for the solution of international conflicts, human rights issues, and global environmental problems.” He advocates peaceful solutions to personal and large-scale conflicts based upon knowledge, tolerance, and mutual respect. With this in mind, he works tirelessly to further the Tibetan freedom struggle and preserve for humanity the cultural heritage of Tibet.

The Reverend Scotty McLennan was born in 1948 in Chicago, Illinois. He received his undergraduate degree from Yale (B.A.) in 1970 and his professional degrees from Harvard Divinity and Law Schools (M.Div. and J.D.) in 1975. He is now a licensed attorney and a Unitarian Universalist minister. For nine years he provided a church-sponsored “legal ministry” in a low-income neighborhood in Boston. In 1984 he was appointed the University Chaplain at Tufts, where he served until coming to Stanford as the Dean for Religious Life in 2001. He has been involved in a number of social movements from a religious perspective over the last four decades, including opposition to United States’ involvement in Vietnam, the sanctuary movement for Central American refugees, divestment from holdings in South Africa, and opposition to the United States-led invasion of Iraq. He became engaged in nonviolence personally and politically in the late 1960’s and remains a committed pacifist. With the Senior Associate Dean for Religious Life, Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann, and the Associate Dean for Religious Life, the Reverend Joanne Sanders, he teaches a winter quarter course cross-listed in the Stanford Urban Studies and Religious Studies Departments, entitled “Spirituality and Nonviolent Social Transformation.”

Geshe Thupten Jinpa has been the Dalai Lama’s principal translator on philosophy, religion, and science since 1986. During that time he has also earned advanced degrees with high honors at Ganden Monastic University, India, and at Cambridge University, England. From 1996 to 1999, he was the Margaret Smith Research Fellow in Eastern Religion at Girton College, Cambridge. At present he is the president of the Institute of Tibetan Classics in Montréal, Canada, and the editor-in-chief of The Library of Tibetan Classics.

JOHN ETCHEMENDY (introducer) is a professor of philosophy and provost of Stanford University.

MARK GONNERMAN (moderator) is director of the Aurora Forum.

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