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Dalai Lama visits MIT

The Dalai Lama today visits MIT to dedicate a new center aimed at promoting ethical behavior and leadership.

The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values will be housed under MIT's Office of Religious Life. Like other parts of that community, the center will partner with members of the MIT community to explore spiritual, ethical, and religious questions.

Institute Chaplain Robert Randolph, who leads the Office of Religious Life, said he sees the new center working in ways similar to The Technology and Culture Forum at MIT, which is also housed under the Office of Religious Life and has been part of the mosaic of campus spiritual life for decades.

"The Technology and Culture Forum has been raising issues of value and meaning at MIT for more than 40 years, and the Dalai Lama Center will complement that by also looking at the ethical issues that confound and confront us in the 21st century," Randolph said.

MIT is home to 15 chaplains of different faiths, who, while independent of the Institute, are housed under the auspices of the Office of Religious Life. The organizations in the religious community are separate nonprofit organizations.

"They are in MIT but they are not of MIT -- and that's the great value," Randolph said of the chaplains. "They are sometimes critics of prevailing views who are willing to raise countervailing notions."

The Rev. Amy McCreath, MIT's Episcopal chaplain, coordinates The Technology and Culture Forum. Created in 1964 by faculty members, the forum sponsors programs that explore the role of science and technology in promoting positive social, environmental and economic changes.

The forum relies extensively on alumni contributions to fund its expenses. The Dalai Lama Center will not receive MIT funding but will depend upon the support of individuals who recognize its potential to contribute to the development of an ethical perspective in tomorrow's leaders.

The center emerged as an idea more than a year ago and has evolved in its vision. For some, the center is strictly religious. For others, the center promises to be a home for dialogue on ethical questions. "The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values is not an academic center per se, but it will partner with others at MIT to stimulate future generations of enlightened leaders to embrace ethics in their life and work," said the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi, MIT's Buddhist chaplain and the director of the Dalai Lama Center.

Priyadarshi noted that the center will sponsor dialogue, programs and deliberations on ethics as part of its mission. The first of these, a conference called "The Human Impact," has taken place this month and features remarks by Richard Davidson, Carol Gilligan and Daniel Goleman, among others.

The conference culminates today with a talk by the Dalai Lama on "Ethics and Enlightened Leadership." The event is open to ticketholders only; a limited number of tickets were made available to the MIT community via a lottery.

The Dalai Lama is speaking at MIT as part of a wider visit to New England. He is scheduled to deliver a public address on Saturday, May 2, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

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