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The Dalai Lama to visit MIT Oct. 14-16

Will participate in programs hosted by the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values
The Dalai Lama during a visit to MIT in 2009
The Dalai Lama during a visit to MIT in 2009
Photo: Donna Coveney

His Holiness the Dalai Lama will visit MIT on Oct. 14-16 to participate in programs hosted by the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT, marking the third year of the Center’s work as a think tank on fostering far-sighted ethical responsibility and enlightened leadership through education and interdisciplinary collaboration in science, engineering, business and governance. The Center, which is a secular entity, operates under the auspices of the MIT Office of Religious Life.

The highlight of the three-day visit is a forum on Oct. 15 titled "Global Systems 2.0." The Dalai Lama will engage with environmentalists, economists and technocrats, as well as political and religious leaders, with the aim of catalyzing fresh approaches in systems thinking for practical solutions to complex global challenges. The morning panel, "Ethics, Economy and Environment," focuses on the driving forces of the global system, refreshing a dialogue that the Center initiated in its 2009 conference on Ethics and the Environment. The afternoon panel, "Peace, Governance and Diminishing Resources," examines the complex web of human impacts as nations compete for limited resources. Speakers include: James Orbinski (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with Médecins Sans Frontières), John Sterman (director of MIT’s System Dynamics Group), Jonathan Foley (director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota), Edward DeLong (professor of civil and environmental engineering and biological engineering at MIT), and Penny Chisholm (professor of environmental studies at MIT).

To engage a general audience more broadly on the subject of ethics, the Dalai Lama will give a talk on Oct. 14, "Beyond Religion: Ethics, Values and Well-being." Tenzin Priyadarshi, director of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT and MIT’s Buddhist Chaplain, said the talk “explores how we can move beyond narrow religious perspectives and the polarized debates on hot topics that dominate the discourse on ethics today, to a more embracing nonsectarian view of human responsibilities and values.” Theologians Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Catholic Benedictine monk, and Father Thomas Keating, founder of a Centering Prayer movement, will respond.

“This is an historic convocation of elders who represent the highest contemplative wisdom of their faiths,” added Priyadarshi, “while transcending their separate traditions as moral authorities of world standing.”

Additionally, in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Prajnopaya at MIT, MIT’s Buddhist community under the auspices of the Office of Religious Life, Prajnopaya (Sanskrit for wisdom and compassion) will host the Dalai Lama in a teaching, "Stages of Meditation, Buddhism for the 21st Century," on Oct. 16. Based on a commentary on Kamalasila’s 8th century text, the teaching offers an in-depth introduction to contemplative practice, its integration with day-to-day life, and its contemporary relevance. For more information visit

Robert M. Randolph, Chaplain to the Institute said, “The visit of the Dalai Lama to MIT is a highlight of the fall. His wide interests in the realms of science challenge those of us in religious life to be equally curious about the ethical implications of our work together. We look forward to hosting His Holiness.”

Registration and ticketing information

Enrolled MIT students will qualify for a limited number of complimentary tickets to "Beyond Religion: Ethics, Values and Well-being" and "Global Systems 2.0." Students will be selected through a lottery, which will open on Sept. 15.

For more details and to enter the lottery, MIT students should visit

Additional events

Beginning Oct. 11, the Center will host a series of auxiliary talks to explore themes complementary to the main events. Speakers include Meng-Chade Tan, Google’s Jolly Good Fellow, and Center Fellow Kentaro Toyama, co-founder of Microsoft Research, whose experience in the developing world challenges the conventional reliance on technology in global development.

For further information on locations, speakers, schedules, and registration, please visit The Center’s website.

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