Progressive Revival

Progressive Revival

The Dalai Lama connects with Obama and McCain while at the Aspen Institute

I just had the huge pleasure of spending three days with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Aspen Institute in Aspen, Colorado, with old friends and luminaries in the Tibet world. A sand mandala (sacred celestial mansion diagram) of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of universal compassion, was created and dissolved. Juniper incense offerings were made, Tibetan music was played, and lively discussions were conducted both about the current
DL_RT_WTDLM_photo.jpgcrisis in Tibet and about the long-term prospects for the survival of Tibetan culture and identity.


His Holiness was his usual jolly and insightful self, though at moments one could sense the deep stress he feels due to the covert “cultural revolution” still being waged by the Chinese government against the Tibetan identity, which is so deeply rooted in Tibetan Buddhist culture. Tibetans are still being beaten, arrested, tortured, and killed for having voiced their wish for freedom and unimpeded spiritual reunion with their Lama teachers.

In the midst of it all last Friday, Senator and candidate John McCain met with the Dalai Lama and expressed his sympathy for the Tibetan people and solidarity with the nonviolent and moderate offer the Dalai Lama continues to make to the Chinese government. Later in the day, a letter came from Senator Barack Obama, expressing regret that his travel schedule prevented him from meeting and honoring His Holiness and pledging his support for the Tibetan cause in terms of regaining their human rights and religious freedom.


These good will gestures are heartening to all who desire peace and justice for Tibetans. Why did both candidates want to meet with the Dalai Lama? I find myself wishing that the candidates would read my new book, Why the Dalai Lama Matters, so that they can better understand the incredibly high stakes in this Tibetan liberation struggle.  The China-West (especially US, EU, Russia, India, and Japan) relationship is the most important relationship for the entire 21rst century. China is one of the most ascendant nations of the coming era. We must all welcome its rightful importance. But the world will never tolerate another conquering superpower. The European and Japanese empires have declined. The Russian and American “superpower” hegemonies are demonstrating their un-viability. The UN is still crippled by the five WW II victors’ wielding their vetoes. So China, India, Brazil, the Muslim world, and the main African powers will inevitably emerge. For global survival, they must not repeat the mistakes of previous empires and superpowers, but  turn to a new concept of power, the power of interconnectedness, peacefulness, dialogue, a global meshing of mutual enlightened self-interests.

Robert Thurman
Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Buddhist Studies, Columbia University
President, Tibet House US
Author of Why the Dalai Lama Matters

Comments read comments(23)
post a comment
Reaganite in NYC

posted July 30, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Gosh, what a way for a “liberal” or “progressive” religious blog to debut on beliefnet by using this deceptive if not dishonest headline to this blog entry:
“The Dalai Lama connects with Obama and McCain while at the Aspen Institute”
It’s hard to see how His Holiness managed to “connect” with Obama, unless you want to count the polite letter drafted by some Obama staffer expressing the candidate’s obligatory regrets for being a no-show.
At least Senator McCain took the time to actually visit with the Dalai Lama. Give McCain credit for “connecting” the old-fashioned way: face-to-face.
And, by the way, in the future, please dispense with the writing of dishonest headlines to your blog entries. It’s a real turn-off.

report abuse

Jawed Iqbal

posted July 31, 2008 at 3:51 am

All this juvenile excitement from the Muslim community reminds me of the election days of 2000 when Muslims were supporting Bush against Al Gore, just because his running mate was jewish and would be a problem for the so-called palestinian cause. Well time proved us stupid and our boasting that Bush “won” florida because of the Muslim vote, came back to haunt us.
I believe it’s absurd that Muslims – of all people – would support obama who is a liberal and is in favor of things like abortion and same sex rights which go against our moral values. Also, let us not forget, that it is obama who has declared to attack within Pakistan (in essence, attack Pakistan) which is a Muslim nation.
I only agree with one thing that he says, that he is not a Muslim, and there is NO way, that he would be any benefit to the millions of Muslim americans who think of him as a saviour.
Write-in your votes Muslims, with your religion on your ballots. That would be enough to send a signal to the establishment in this country as to whom the future belongs to.

report abuse


posted July 31, 2008 at 9:23 am

I agree with Reaganite.
In fairness the headline should read: “The Dalai Lama connects with McCain at the Aspen Institute.”
Obama wasn’t even there, for crying out loud.
Professor Thurman, if you wrote this headline, I wonder what it says about your fidelity to factual accuracy as a scholar and Columbia University professor.

report abuse


posted August 1, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Couldn’t you have said “McCain and Obama both, for political purposes, try to connect with the Dalai Lama in Aspen.” You could even have skipped the phrase “for political purposes” if you wished.

report abuse

Reaganite in NYC

posted August 2, 2008 at 6:40 am

I’m afraid the headline you suggested wouldn’t be accurate, either.
McCain did not “try” to connect with the Dalai Lama. Rather, he “succeeded” in “connecting” with His Holiness by investing the time and effort in traveling to Colorado and meeting with him.
Obama merely sent a staff-written note — can you honestly call that “trying” on his part?
As for motives (“for political purposes”), what are the Dalai Lama’s motives? Isn’t his desire to meet with politicians also, partly at least, “for political purposes?” This is NOT to diminish the man’s true goodness or the worthiness of his cause (freedom for his people); it is meant merely to be clear and honest as to at least one of his motives.

report abuse

maryanne Stahl

posted August 3, 2008 at 10:45 am

While I agree that the headline was misleading and unfortunate, I don’t necessarily see McCain as more in tune with the ideology of the Dalai Lama. His schedule allowed him to be there, and I give him credit for that. However, if one examines each candidates views, it’s pretty clear that McCain’s war-mongering is not at all attuned to Buddhist principles. Not to say that Obama is a pacifist–he isn’t. But his broad-minded thinking, openness and desire for change seem a better bet.

report abuse


posted August 3, 2008 at 10:48 am

I agree with the misleading headline. But in all fairness, how do we know for sure that Obama did not personally write the letter to the Dalai Lama?

report abuse


posted August 3, 2008 at 12:03 pm

Rather than being motivated by FEAR. A fear that clouds one’s clarity and truthfullness. I hope to see more positive comments on this article. Most comments are angry comments writen by bitter and angry poeple that would greatly benefit from taking a deep breath before being reactive. Judging both candidates for their actions is rather diminishing his Holiness’s peaceful efforts. Perception based on emotions can be disapointing. Your title was appropriate and described the fact that they both reached out the best they could.

report abuse


posted August 3, 2008 at 12:50 pm

My only comment is it is too bad that Senator Obama did not have time in his schedule to meet with His Holiness. I do hope he will be able to find the time in his schedule for a meeting in the very near future.

report abuse

Dave R

posted August 3, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Perhaps some day, I too, will be able to “know” the intentions of others. In the mean time, I will observe Noble Silence.

report abuse

Mitch GOld

posted August 3, 2008 at 1:20 pm

The Daqlai Lama and John Mcain in the same breath . I think not
THe Dalai Lama and Barack Obama – my spirit resonates with the compatability of the two.
How can a website that proposes to bring forth light do something so unfortunate – Just because he was there? hardly an excuse.
I look for more integrity coming from this site and expect those that write for this site to apologize to its readers – gently if you have to – but an apology is called for.
We who carry light ask humbly for an explanation as to how Mcain might be seen as a light carrier. He hangs out with Bush. Lives under a rock, and is over the hill.
Light is present here, and now and we welcome the opportunity to share it.
Mitch Gold

report abuse


posted August 3, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if each of our candidates spent an entire month studying and conversing with him? It would, perhaps, be life changing and give us all more hope for our collective future.

report abuse

Kevin Chavis

posted August 3, 2008 at 4:41 pm

If America wants to elect a leader truly committed to a future of nonviolence, a meeting with the His Holiness the Dalai Lama is an excellent litmus test. Supporters of Obama should take note that he could not spare a moment to meet with him while John McCain could.
The Dalai Lama has already expressed that he supports the Green Party of the United States. Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party endorsed candidate for President, the best choice out of any candidate this year.

report abuse

s. wickham

posted August 3, 2008 at 5:55 pm

The Dalai Lama for President in 2008!! That’d fix it!!!

report abuse


posted August 3, 2008 at 7:33 pm

I’m very surprised Obama couldn’t meet with His Holiness. I hope a meeting can happen soon.

report abuse

Daniel McCoy

posted August 3, 2008 at 8:14 pm

I feel that the few minutes our president spent with His Holiness may have made a difference. The reactions are three. Tears, laughter, joy.I can only hope that these men that have the fate of the world, literally, in their hands can find some peace in His Holiness’s presence.

report abuse


posted August 3, 2008 at 10:46 pm

I find it amusing, in an ironic way, that when I visited this page an ad from John McCain was in the banner at the top of the page.
It asked if it was OK to unconditionally meet with anti-American foreign leaders. If you click on the ad, you are taken to a link where you are encouraged to support a candidate with “good judgment.”
It isn’t clear whether it is more naive to assume that through dialog lies peace, or that dialog will never work. Perhaps talking to anti-American leaders won’t bring about peace, but it just seems more likely to do so than trying to bomb them back into the stone age.
It also isn’t clear why such partisan political ads are being run here. Yeah, money is needed to run this site, but there have to be better sources. And, yes, I would have been as upset by an Obama ad, a Libertarian ad, a Green party ad, or any other political ad.

report abuse


posted August 4, 2008 at 9:55 am

It too is astounding to me that Obama neglected to make time in his “busy” schedule for his holiness, I know, no matter HOW stressed and or “busy” I am, I sure would make time for the Dalai Lama, and have on more than one occasion. Some of our current world’s greatest minds traveled all the way to Dharamsala to visit with his holiness, and as shown in the film “Dalai Lama Renaissance”, and ended up with the Dalai Lama lecturing these great thinkers on compassion, and peace. I think that someone who can not meet with the Dalai Lama because they are “too busy” lacks the courage of their convictions, if a group of great minds had to travel from all over the world to see the Dalai Lama, it is a gross injustice that, without having to travel far, Obama coldly CHOSE to decline. Do you want someone leading your country that declines to meet with a nobel PEACE prize winner, as well as a holder of the congressional gold medal of honor?? I sure don’t. McCain has set the bar with his displays of integrety, and compassion, and I am hard pressed to see, with this one thoughtless act, that Obama will rise to the occasion.

report abuse


posted August 4, 2008 at 10:14 am

I liked the article and the sentiments it puts before the reader to work toward a more integrated world in which the characters of each nation are interwoven, not repelled.
The headline was fine with me. His Holiness’s appreciation for contact by politicians whether in person or by letter shows his respect for the capacity of each well-intentioned person.

report abuse


posted August 4, 2008 at 11:40 am

The headline is misleading, but not for the reasons stated — The piece is mostly about Mr. Thurman’s book, how if the candidates had read it, they would both have met with His Holiness. The fact that McCain met with him shows that he is more politically astute, nothing more, nothing less.

report abuse


posted August 4, 2008 at 11:56 am

I found the title of the article quite accurate. His Holiness the Dalai Lama not only spent time with the Republican candidate, John McCain, but there was also a communication of sorts with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. The article presented a very relevant truth: With China capturing the complete attention of the world right now and in the years to come, it is vital that our next President better understand the history and the true story of what has and is transpiring in Tibet. In the same vein as former secretary of state Madeleine Albright’s book “Memo To The President Elect”, Professor Robert Thurman’s book “Whe The Dalai Lama Matters” is both an excellent and informative read as well as a profound resource for our next US President.

report abuse


posted August 6, 2008 at 2:36 am

This is an aside on the ongoing Tibetan-Chinese power struggle. I was recently involved in Asian studies with the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia. We had a guest professor from the University of Pennsylvania who lived through Mao’s Chinese Cultural Revolution. She was a female professor’s daughter raised to believe in herself (i.e. she had equal worth to her male counterparts.) In her teens she was separated from her disgraced parents and sent to work with the peasants in the countryside. She took this treatment in stride. Far from embittering her, it enlightened her as to how most of her countrymen lived. The answers to two questions I asked her both astonished me.
First, I asked if the mothers in China valued male children over female children. She said of course, they were raised with that belief, (even though that was not her belief, because she was raised by the elite educational class). Then I asked her her feelings on the Chinese occupation of Tibet. She said simply and irrefutably, ‘it is not an occupation. Tibet is ours.’
At first I was taken aback. Then it occurred to me that Britain’s King George and America’s Abraham Lincoln had similar responses when regions of “their” countries wanted to secede. Which raises the question, who has the right to choose who rules, if not the ruled? And why?

report abuse

dina christine greenway

posted August 10, 2008 at 12:38 am

barak obama had just given a moving speech in berlin. . . that, in my opinion speaks more to the truth to which the dalai lama stands than a politician who physically meets with the dalai lama for what could be construed as a photo op in a campaign which needs to represent a candidate who has not espoused peace either in his words publicly or in his actions, for example his voting record on any manner of humanitarian issues during his tenure in the senate.
i, for one, can fall behind an individual who walks the talk, and does not have to leave an important mission to meet with a this treasure we call the dalai lama.
the evidence that he is philosophically aligned and simpatico is enough for me. the fact that obama did not abandon his mission in europe and the middle east in order to return to the US to meet with his holiness does not say ANYTHING to me about declining to meet. that was not the flavor of obama’s actions in choosing to writet to rather than meet with the dalai lama summit.
no problem.
:) dina

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Progressive Revival. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Faith, Media and Culture Prayer, Plain and Simple Happy Blogging!!!   ...

posted 2:50:10pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Why Jews Around the World are Praying for the Victory of the Egyptian Uprising
Originally appeared on Tikkun Daily BlogEver since the victory over the dictator of Tunisia and the subsequent uprising in Egypt, my email has been flooded with messages from Jews around the world hoping and praying for the victory of ...

posted 1:48:39pm Feb. 01, 2011 | read full post »

When Generosity, Love, and Kindness are Public Policy, the Violence We Saw in Arizona will Dramatically Diminish
The attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords and the murder of so many others in Arizona has elicited a number of policy suggestions, from gun control to private protection for elected officials, to banning incitement to violence on ...

posted 2:44:04pm Jan. 19, 2011 | read full post »

The Spiritual Messages of Chanukah and Christmas -- and Their Downsides
Christmas and Chanukah share a spiritual message: that it is possible to bring light and hope in a world of darkness, oppression and despair. But whereas Christmas focuses on the birth of a single individual whose life and mission was itself ...

posted 12:59:53pm Dec. 02, 2010 | read full post »

Obama (and Biden) Have No Clue About What's Bothering Their Political Base
Shortly before the California Democratic primary in 2008, the San Fransisco Chronicle invited me to write a short article explaining why I, chair of the interfaithNetwork of Spiritual Progressives, was supporting Barack Obama. Like ...

posted 1:44:11pm Sep. 30, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.