The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi participates in Peacemaker lecture series
By Pat Shea
Sun associate editor
The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi Rinpoche, a Buddhist monk and a 1991 graduate of Le Moyne College, discussed the subject of peace April 9 at the Panasci Family Chapel on Le Moyne’s campus. Rinpoche was chosen as this year’s guest speaker for Le Moyne’s International House Father Daniel Berrigan, SJ, Peacemaker lecture series.
The Peacemaker lecture series began in 2004 to honor Father Berrigan, considered by Le Moyne and others to be one of the great Catholic social activists of the 20th century. Each year a different peacemaker is selected to speak and serve as a catalyst for reflection and action.
“I had the privilege of meeting Father Dan Berrigan,” stated Rinpoche to lecture attendees. “He is a wonderful individual, a contemporary poet and the kind of man the world needs more of these days.”
Rinpoche entered a Buddhist monastery at the age of ten in the Indian State of Bihar. After completing his religious studies, he was ordained by his spiritual mentor, the Dalai Lama.
“He [Rinpoche] exemplifies that youth should not be an impediment to changing the world,” stated Father David C. McCallum, SJ, the Interim Dean of the Madden School of Business and the Director of Mission and Identity at
In 1991, Rinpoche earned a bachelor’s degree with a triple major in philosophy, physics and religious studies from Le Moyne College and completed his graduate studies in comparative philosophy of religion at Harvard University. He was later appointed the first-ever Buddhist chaplain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is currently the founding director of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values.
“Peace is within all of us,” said Rinpoche to the crowd assembled at Le Moyne’s chapel. “We all have what it takes to become peacemakers within our own world.”
Rinpoche challenged attendees at the lecture to clear their minds before progressing on a journey to understand peace.
“If we understand the contents of our minds, we can understand ourselves better and then understand better how our society works,” explained Rinpoche. “We don’t plan to be a violent world and a violent society. We, as humans, want to always improve our circumstances. We think if we get a big house or if the right spouse comes along, then we’ll be happy. We believe it is easy to change these external components and in doing so, they are responsible for the inner peace inside us.”
Rinpoche asked attendees to determine what metrics they personally use to determine if they are a better person now than compared to a year ago.
“How long can happiness be sustained by the metrics we measure it by? If we measure happiness by laughing, how long can we laugh? An hour? Two hours? The idea that you can be happy all the time is a myth and trying to live that myth will leave you tired and fatigued,” warned Rinpoche.
Rinpoche believes a person can experience a peaceful state of happiness day after day, but the brain is the key to the process.
“The human brain is trainable and has a trainable sense of qualities,” explained Rinpoche. “There have been many studies of the brain and we still know only less than one percent of how it operates. We can, however, train the brain to be less reactive and less prone to triggers of toxicity.”
Following the lecture, audience members were given a chance to ask Rinpoche questions on a variety of topics including his own thoughts on religion.
“Religion is transformation,” explained Rinpoche. “It provides a history with a means to always look at a body of knowledge and learn the technical aptitude for transformation.”
Rinpoche was also asked to explain the difference between “wanting” and “needing” in terms of happiness.
“We believe the pursuit of happiness is want,” explained Rinpoche. “We believe if we set out a certain set of prerequisites for happiness then it will eventually come to us. Happiness is [not made] of prerequisites: it is a mental state of being, a process of living day to day and it is time to dismantle the myth.”
A student asked Rinpoche how consciousness can be raised for the future, if the world is continually battling violence, including creating “robotic killing machines.”
Rinpoche paused and looked out over the crowd. “It begins with individual peacemakers,” stated Rinpoche. “You can be a peacemaker. It is easy to blame government, but what is a government without its people? At the heart are individuals. When these individuals change their thinking to using robotics only for useful purposes instead of killing, then the system itself will change. There is no ‘privileged person’ who perpetuates the system: you are the system. If I want to eradicate violence, I must become a peaceful presence. I can only become a peaceful presence by transforming toxic thoughts and emotions. If every household had a peacemaker, we would be doing a good job of educating and preparing the next generation for the future.”
Following the question and answer period of the lecture, attendees crowded forward to speak personally with Rinpoche.
Student Laura Mack was glad she attended the lecture. “It was interesting. I really like the concept of being my own peacemaker,” stated Mack. “And I like the idea of transforming my own thinking.”
Jerry Berrigan, an honored guest at the event and brother to Father Dan Berrigan, smiled over at Rinpoche as the crowd around the monk continued to grow.
“I’m glad I had the chance to see him,” stated Berrigan. “He was a very thought-provoking man and certainly had a lot of interesting things to say.”