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Morales questions Dalai Lama about science and religion

UUA president part of a discussion with Dalai Lama at IARF Congress in India.
By Jane Greer

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Peter Morales and the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama responds to a question posed by UUA President Peter Morales at the 33rd World Congress of the International Association for Religious Freedom, held in Kochi, India, Sept. 4–7, 2010. (Eric Cherry)

UUA President Peter Morales had an opportunity to speak with the Dalai Lama at the 33rd World Congress of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) held in Kochi, India, Sept. 4–7, 2010. Morales was one of only a handful of religious leaders picked to ask the Dalai Lama a question at an informal question-and-answer session held after the Dalai Lama’s keynote address to the congress.

The biennial congress drew more than 600 people representing nearly 30 member groups, according to the Rev. Eric Cherry, head of the UUA’s Office of International Resources, who also attended the conference. Around 200 of those attending were youth and young adults, he said. The American Unitarian Association, a forerunner of the UUA, was one of IARF’s founding members. The UUA is still a member organization.

During his keynote address, the Dalai Lama, who is the leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, spoke about the relationship between science and religion and said that if science conflicts with religion, religion will have to change. Morales followed up with a question on the same subject during the question-and-answer session.

“He takes a very modern position about the teachings we receive from our religious traditions that conflict with science,” Morales said. “We’re supposed to be aware and learning and open to new things. That’s very much a part of his version of Buddhism.”

Cherry said that it appeared that the Dalai Lama was enjoying himself during the question-and-answer session, asking people not to leave after tea was served and the moderator prepared to end the discussion. “He was not at all formal,” Cherry said. “He came across as a humble Buddhist monk—very wise and learned and deeply experienced.”

Morales’s short visit to India to attend the IARF congress came after a weeklong visit to the Philippines. (See UU World’s coverage of that visit here.) He will be returning to India at the end of February 2011, when he will meet with partners of the UU Holdeen India Program and Unitarians from congregations in the Khasi Hills of northeastern India.

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