The Aspen Institute and the Conservancy for Tibetan Art and Culture Kick Off Symposium, His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Aspen: A Celebration of Tibetan Culture
Aspen, Colorado (July 25, 2008) — The Aspen Institute and co-chairs Margot Pritzker and Richard Blum, in collaboration with the Conservancy for Tibetan Art and Culture, welcomed dozens of ordained Tibetan Buddhist monks and spiritual leaders, scholars, thought leaders, and attendees to the Institute’s Aspen, Colorado, campus for the opening day of a substantive symposium on Tibetan and Himalayan art, culture, science, medicine, spiritual practice, and history.
The three-day program — featuring His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the keynote speaker — brings together an extraordinary number of eminent scholars, teachers, practitioners, and tradition-bearers from around the globe to shed light on the rich historical and philosophical significance of Tibet and its impact on global issues today.
On the first day, attendees partook in panel discussions, presentations, and breakout sessions on Tibet’s unique Buddhist heritage, happiness and Buddhist meditation, the meaning and significance of the mandala in Tibetan culture, life and death as viewed through the Tibetan lens, and the riches of Tibetan poetry.
Participants witnessed monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery constructing an elaborate sand mandala on campus and Tibetan artist Sonam Dhargye sculpting, in ancient Tibetan Buddhist method and tradition, vibrant and stunning works made out of colorful yak butter.
Traditional Tibetan prayer flags decorate the campus, and throughout the week, interactive demonstrations of ancient Tibetan and Himalayan arts will continue to provide opportunities for tradition-bearers and program participants to meet in an intimate environment.
FESTIVAL QUOTES FROM THURSDAY, JULY 24:
- “Buddhist tradition is based on the belief that it is possible for a human being to come to a complete understanding of the nature of the world.” — Robert Thurman, Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies, Department of Religion, Columbia University; President, Tibet House U.S.
- “Enlightenment is not the light bulb in your head. Enlightenment is the experience of the freedom of the feeling of bliss.” — Robert Thurman, Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies, Department of Religion, Columbia University; President, Tibet House U.S.
- “While the Western world mastered science and technology, the laboratories in the Tibetan Himalayas mastered the science of the mind, perfecting the methodology as those who worked on the methodology of the science of the body.” — Sogyal Rinpoche, Buddhist leader and author, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
- “Tibet has a unique cultural heritage that is part of the cultural heritage of the world… We will all be immeasurably impoverished if it is lost.” — Sogyal Rinpoche, Buddhist leader and author, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
- “At the end our state of mind can eclipse and override the outer circumstances. Not that we should neglect to improve the outer world, but certainly we should not neglect the inner experience. How much time do we spend … dealing with that spoiled brat of the mind?” — Matthieu Ricard, author and Buddhist monk
- “The way we see things can eclipse the outer condition, just like when the sun shines, we cannot see the stars anymore.” — Matthieu Ricard, author and Buddhist monk
- “It is important to understand what China thinks about it. We can’t be dismissive… But unfortunately, I think the Chinese government and also some of our Chinese brothers and sisters are looking back to the past for solutions.” — Lodi Gyari, Special Envoy to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Chief Interlocutor to the Chinese Government
- “If I look back to my own personal experience, and this is not about Tibetan and Chinese history, this is about myself as a human being, there is nothing I will remember that won’t resurface this tragedy. There is not a single Tibetan who has not suffered from the tragedy. I have lost two of my brothers, not in a natural death, and grandparents. And I grew up as a monk — this is what happened in my own monastery. Looking back will not give us answers we are looking for.” — Lodi Gyari, Special Envoy to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Chief Interlocutor to the Chinese Government
- “I’m just a climber. Climbing is wonderful but it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. You climb a mountain, and stick a feather in your cap, and probably had a very enriching and rewarding experience, but it doesn’t do anything … So I started making films about human rights and melting glaciers in Tibet.” — David Breashears, IMAX filmmaker and mountaineer
- “The Chinese just can’t seem to break the will of these Tibetan people, and it’s magnificent … For the Tibetan people — Buddhism isn’t just a little piece of life, it’s their will and their spirit.” — David Breashears, IMAX filmmaker and mountaineer
SYMPOSIUM HIGHLIGHTS FROM THURSDAY, JULY 24:
- Sogyal Rinpoche, world renowned Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader and author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, led the audience in a meditative exercise, drawing on the following ancient Tibetan phrase, translated into English: “Water, if you don’t stir it, will become clear,” and explaining: “The mind, left unaltered, will find peace,” he said.
- Buddhist monk and author Matthieu Ricard spoke about the scientific findings of studies on what creates happiness — and what does not. “Can marriage create happiness?” he says. “There is a peak in happiness the year you get married, and then five years later, you come back to where you were five years before the marriage.”
- IMAX filmmaker and mountaineer David Breashears presented a photography show that exhibited and documented the rise of modernity in Tibet and the shrinking of glaciers there.
- In a keynote conversation of the symposium, His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks candidly with journalist and author Pico Iyer and Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson; he is also presented with the Institute’s Global Leadership Award.
- Eminent Tibetan musician, composer, and Grammy nominee Nawang Kechog performs the wood flute (prior to the conversation with His Holiness).
- Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi begins the morning of programming with a guided group meditation session in an idyllic meadow on campus.
- Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche advises on how to transform difficulty into happiness using 20th century Tibetan texts, Buddhist psychology, and practical wisdom.
- A panel of expert scholars discusses China and Mongolia’s surprising patronage of Tibetan Buddhism — and the historical legacy that precedes it.
- Dr. Pratapaditya Pal, one of the world’s foremost experts on Tibetan, Himalayan, and South Asian art, explains the intrinsic connection between art and religion in Tibet, and how art is critical to enlightenment, showing key pieces from the Pritzker collection.
- A distinguished panel, moderated by acclaimed author and psychologist Daniel Goleman, explores what Buddhist theory and practice have to offer to scientific understanding in psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience.
- History’s closest observers of the 14th Dalai Lama — author and journalist Pico Iyer, Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile Samdhong Rinpoche, special envoy to the Dalai Lama and chief interlocutor with the Chinese government Lodi Gyari — explain and comment on the mind, the personality, the leadership, and the decisions of this man, the world’s most famous refugee.
- The sand mandala created by Tibetan Buddhist monks is completed and open for viewing before its ceremonial dissolution on Saturday.
For video highlights and clips from sessions, visit www.aspeninstitute.org/tibet.
LIVE WEBCAST OF THE DALAI LAMA’S TALK:
This event is sold out. For those who cannot attend, the Dalai Lama’s talk on July 26 at 11:00am MDT (1:00pm EDT) will be made available via satellite feed and will be webcast live at www.aspeninstitute.org.
The Conservancy for Tibetan Art & Culture is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1997 under the patronage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. CTAC supports activities dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Tibetan culture through teachings, exhibitions, symposia, and cultural research. Collaborating with Tibet Fund, Tibet House, and other experts and scholars, CTAC aims to increase awareness of Tibet’s living cultural heritage among the Tibetan communities and the general public.
The Aspen Institute, founded in 1950, is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Through seminars, policy programs, conferences and leadership development initiatives, the Institute and its international partners seek to promote nonpartisan inquiry and an appreciation for timeless values. The Institute is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has campuses in Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River near the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Its international network includes partner Aspen Institutes in Berlin, Rome, Lyon, Tokyo, New Delhi, and Bucharest, and leadership initiatives in Africa, Central America, and India.