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Dalai Lama, in Rhode Island, calls for ‘century of compassion’

PROVIDENCE — The Dalai Lama called for a ‘‘century of compassion’’ and peace Wednesday in which the gap between the rich and poor narrows and environmental stewardship is a priority.

The exiled Tibetan leader told a crowd of about 5,600 at the Rhode Island Convention Center that peace stems from happiness and that happiness stems from looking beyond yourself.

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‘‘We are part of humanity,’’ he said, adding of fellow global citizens: ‘‘Their problem is my problem. Their happiness is my happiness. We have to look to the interests of others.’’

The Dalai Lama drew cheers at the start of his 50-minute speech, part of Brown University’s annual Ogden lecture series on international affairs, when he donned a Brown baseball cap. And his trademark giggle, offered from time to time in otherwise weighty remarks, ­inspired laughs itself.

Brown’s president, Christina Paxson, hosted a private lunch for the Dalai Lama on campus before the afternoon speech; Governor Lincoln Chafee ­attended both. Paxson called his remarks inspirational.

The Dalai Lama won the ­Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his nonviolent struggle in protest of Chinese rule of Tibet. He has been on a speaking tour in New England, making several appearances in Massachusetts before the stop in Rhode Island. He next travels to Connecticut.

The Dalai Lamaa, 77, said in his remarks that he has long lived in a violent world, from the time of World War II and the dropping of the atomic bombs by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the Iraq war.

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He called for more global ­dialogue and for young people, including those in the audience, to open their mind to new ways of thinking. He said that people must look beyond their families, their community, their city, and even their nation.

‘‘You must look beyond,’’ he said. ‘‘You must look at the ­entire world.’’

He said that people can lead good, moral lives without religion, but stressed that secularism should also mean respecting others’ religious beliefs. He referred to closing the gap ­between the rich and poor as a moral issue and said that taking care of the planet is important. If he ever joined a political party, he joked, it would be the Green Party.

Jean Rodriguez, 16, a junior at Hope High School in Providence who attended the speech, said the Dalai Lama’s message of peace and selflessness ‘‘blew my mind.’’ He had never even heard of the Dalai Lama before being selected to attend, but said afterward he thinks that if more people carry his message, peace is attainable.

Deborah Petrarca, head of the history department at Hope High, said she planned to bring the highlights of the speech and the experience back to the classroom. ‘‘For me, I’ve always tried to imbue students with the idea that peace and freedom and good will eventually win out,’’ she said, noting that she teaches Gandhi in class. ‘‘I think of him as a Gandhi-esque character.’’

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