We’ve seen a wave of reactions to Osama bin Laden’s death from various religious groups, with everything from jubilation to condemnation.
It’s natural for reporters to look for reaction from the Dalai Lama because of Buddhism’s pacifist tendencies, but the Los Angles Times does a disservice to its readers when it only partially quotes the religious leader.
As the leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the 14th Dalai Lama says he practices compassion to such an extent that he tries to avoid swatting mosquitoes “when my mood is good and there is no danger of malaria,” sometimes watching with interest as they swell with his blood.
Yet, in an appearance Tuesday at USC, he appeared to suggest that the United States was justified in killing Osama bin Laden.
As a human being, Bin Laden may have deserved compassion and even forgiveness, the Dalai Lama said in answer to a question about the assassination of the Al Qaeda leader. But, he said, “Forgiveness doesn’t mean forget what happened. … If something is serious and it is necessary to take counter-measures, you have to take counter-measures.”
If you’re like me, you’re expecting more explanation, more context, hopefully a full quote further down in the story. The story instead goes into the Dalai Lama’s health, the rest of his speech and students’ reactions.
Aides said he was forced to cancel appearances in Long Beach on Sunday and at UCLA on Monday because doctors had advised him not to attempt the long flight from Tokyo until he felt better. He had been in Japan offering condolences and support after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
He showed no ill effects when he took the stage at USC’s Galen Center on Tuesday morning. Appearing robust and in good humor, he told the audience that he had suffered first from a sore throat, then from side effects of medication that made him “very faint.”
“Today, I feel terrific,” he said before putting on a red and gold USC baseball cap that fortuitously matched the colors of his traditional robes.
I don’t know about you, but I would be fine without reading details about his throat–perhaps a mention at the end would be appropriate. It’s unclear why The Times devoted the entire headline and deck to the comments about Bin Laden when the reporter hardly explains what was said. For instance, what was the question? Also, sure the Dalai Lama might not want to swat a mosquito, but what has he said in the past about people like Bin Laden? Does this surprise other Buddhists?
The audience, which included some 3,000 USC students, responded to his message respectfully, even adoringly. Afterward, however, some complained that they had trouble understanding him; the Dalai Lama often speaks about thorny concepts in accented English, sometimes relying on a translator to fill in gaps.
How do you measure “respectfully, even adoringly”? I don’t even know what that might look like? They were clapping? Smiling? What are “thorny concepts”? A lot of the reaction bits could be better spent on context for why the Dalai Lama’s comments might be newsworthy. Then the comments about forgiveness and and counter-measures might be more fully explained.