AUSTIN, Texas—The Dalai Lama, who on the previous day spoke to about 12,000 people at The University of Texas at Austin’s Frank Erwin Center, returned to campus Wednesday, Sept. 21, for a private talk with the university’s president and students, and to offer a blessing at a bodhi tree placed in the atrium of the Texas Union in honor of his visit.
The Austin visit of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, the leader of the Tibetan people and winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, was sponsored by the university’s Texas Union Lectureship, which invited the world figure to speak to members of the university community and the public. His two-hour public talk Tuesday was about “Individual Responsibility in the Global Community.”
The Dalai Lama’s return to campus Wednesday included a visit with Dr. Larry R. Faulkner, president of the university, in the Main Building, followed by a stroll with his entourage out onto the building’s South Plaza and across the West Mall to the Texas Union. There he greeted the families of donors who established the Dalai Lama Buddhist Studies Endowment, which will be administered by the College of Liberal Arts and which will fund programs related to the cultural and religious aspects of Buddhist studies.
The Dalai Lama offered a blessing at the tree afterward and met with about 50 student leaders in the Texas Union’s Santa Rita Room for a question-and-answer period.
The bodhi tree is considered an important symbol because it was under such a tree, a large Pipal Tree ficus religiosa, that Shakyamuni Buddha, then known as Gautama, attained Enlightenment some 2,500 years ago, said Dr. Vijay Mahajan, the John P. Harbin Centennial Chair in Business, Red McCombs School of Business. He initially proposed the idea of planting such a tree on campus and also to provide funds supporting activities on campus related to Buddhism.
“Since Buddha was enlightened under a bodhi tree, it has become a symbol of enlightenment,” said Mahajan. “The tree is more than religion, it is a symbol of peace, meditation, oneness with yourself, finding harmony with the world. Whenever there is chaos going on, people can use this to find themselves and a oneness with themselves and the world we live in.”
Mahajan said he also sees the tree as a symbol representative of the Asian community at the university, “consistent with President Faulkner’s vision of bringing diversity to this campus.” He said the Asian community also is represented through various programs at the university.
Dr. J. P. Olivelle, the Alma Cowden Madden Centennial Professor and Marlene and Morton Meyerson Centennial Fellow, chair of the Department of Asian Studies, said there are several experts on Buddhism in the department, which includes about 30 faculty members.
Dr. James Brow, a professor of anthropology, is director of the South Asia Institute, which this fall semester is offering a series of eight free lectures called, “Perspectives on Buddhist Traditions in South Asia.” Information about the lectures is available online at the South Asia Institute Web site.
For more information contact: Patricia Teed, Texas Union, 512-475-6604, or Robert D. Meckel, Office of Public Affairs, 512-475-7847.