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Dalai Lama expresses support for LGBT human rights

Participants at XXIII World Conference welcome message


David Mariner | April 19, 2006

The Dalai Lama
NEW YORK, NY — Participants at the World Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association received a special message of support from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The statement expresses the Dalai Lama's concern at "reports of violence and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people" and "urges respect, tolerance and the full recognition of human rights for all."

"We are deeply grateful for the support expressed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama for human rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity", said Rosanna Flamer-Caldera and Philip Braun, Co-Secretaries-General of ILGA.

"In a world where the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are regularly violated, His Holiness' message of support is a beacon of hope and respect. We urge other world religious leaders to join with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in opposing violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and demonstrate a similar commitment to respect for the human rights."

The statement is welcome news for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Buddhists in the United States. It does not however, represent the views of all Buddhists. Roger Corless, a scholar of Buddhism and Professor of Religion Emeritus at Duke University, stated "I think it's important to understand that whatever His Holiness the Dalai Lama has to say carries great weight and is to be treated with respect but it is not to be understand as the exclusive Buddhist position or necessarily reflect the belief of the majority of Buddhists."

Corless cites many Buddhist traditions, including some that have been welcoming to LGBT Buddhists for many years. Buddhist texts do not specifically address the matter of same-sex relationships, and beliefs vary among the various schools and sects.

Tibetan Buddhism is the best known school in the United States however, and the Dalai Lama their best known leader. Tibetan Buddhists believe the Dalai Lama to be the present incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.

The announcement from the Dalai Lama is a departure from earlier statements. In a 1997 press conference the Dalia Lama stated “from a Buddhist point of view [lesbian and gay sex] is generally considered sexual misconduct.” This prompted a meeting with representatives of the LGBT community, in which the Dalai Lama is said to have expressed an interest in the current research and clinical understanding of sexual orientation.

The Dalai Lama's position appears to have changed and evolved over time, which Corless states is an essential aspect of Buddhism: "There is no single Buddhist creed with a list of doctrines to which one must adhere, Buddhism is more like a set of tools that can be used and adapted over time in many different cultures and communities. Embracing change is an essential aspect of Buddhist thought."

Statement From the Tibet Burea, Office of the Representative of H.H. the Dalai Lama Geneva, March 30th, 2006

"I am pleased to bring you greetings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the occasion of the XXIII World Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

His Holiness welcomes the special attention given at this conference to religious tolerance and respect for diversity.

His Holiness is greatly concerned by reports of violence and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

His Holiness opposes violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and urges respect, tolerance, and the full recognition of human rights for all.

Finally, he expresses his best wishes for a successful conference.

TemenosIssued by Gay Link Content


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