By Rita Payne, CJA President
The Dalai Lama was characteristically humble when accepting the prestigious Templeton Prize at a special ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. “I always say I am nothing special,” he said, “Simply one of the seven billion human beings.”
The 76-year-old exiled Tibetan spiritual leader promptly announced that he would be donating all of the £1.1 million prize money to charity – the single largest annual monetary award to an individual. The bulk of the money – more than £900,000 – will go to Save the Children in India where the Dalai Lama leads a government in exile. The remainder will be split between the Mind and Life Institute – a body which promotes collaboration between science and spirituality – and a fund to educate Tibetan monks in science. “My pocket is now empty,” the Dalai Lama joked, “but no problem.”
The Templeton Prize was created forty years ago by Sir John Templeton, a global investor and philanthropist to honor those who use the tools of science and philosophy to undertake spiritually relevant research.
Introducing the Dalai Lama, The Right Reverend Michael Colclough, Canon Pastor of St. Paul’s Cathedral, described him as an icon and peace and integrity. The fact that the award ceremony was held in St. Paul’s Cathedral, a symbol of Christian faith in the UK and around the world, is a recognition of the Dalai Lama’s core philosophy. “To generate a sense of caring,” he said, “to foster genuine concern for others’ difficulties and pain and to develop close, warm-hearted feelings for others. Not only for my family and close friends but for all others. Enemies also.”
The press had been asked by the award organizers to refrain from asking political questions. This ruled out direct references to the ongoing unrest in Tibetan areas where monks have set themselves alight and citizens have staged protests against Chinese rule.
There were unique scenes inside St.Paul’s as Tibetan monks chanted Buddhist prayers, followed by singing by the cathedral choir and the internationally-renowned Jessye Norman, whose powerful voice resonated across the vast building.
Mother Teresa was the first recipient of the Templeton Prize in 1973. Like her the Dalai Lama has become a global voice for nonviolence and harmony among world religions.