05/12/05 — Goldsboro doctor meets Dalai Lama on India trip

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Goldsboro doctor meets Dalai Lama on India trip

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on May 12, 2005 1:55 PM

When Dr. Bryson Bateman arrived in India to learn more about the culture of that country, he never dreamed he would be meeting the Dalai Lama.

But not only did he meet the famed religious leader, he even had the opportunity to listen to him impart some of his wisdom while conducting the business of the Interfaith Forum.

Bateman, 54, of Goldsboro, was part of a recent Rotary group study exchange program. He was the leader of a five-person team of people from eastern North Carolina that spent a month touring northeast India.

They spent a month visiting the states of Jharkhand and Bihar, an area where few tourists go.

Bateman met the Dalai Lama in Bhud Gaya, near a holy site where the Buddha Tree stands.

Later, Bateman was invited to the Interfaith Forum, a gathering of about 50 to 60 people inside a small temple. Bateman said only a few feet from the revered leader.

"I spent over an hour with him, listening to him conduct the business of the Interfaith Forum," Bateman said. "Then he wandered into telling us his wisdom and it was amazing. At the very beginning I was so nervous and at the end I was so relaxed with him. I came away with an understanding that I've been in the presence of a very, very wonderful person.

"He calls himself a simple Buddhist monk," Bateman said. "And he is, but he's also so much more than that. If you have any doubt about spiritualism in the world, spend some time with the Dalai Lama and the things you doubt will be removed.

"He is a very enlightened person. I'm not a Buddhist. I'm a Christian. But I could still feel his wisdom. The thing that really stuck with me was when he said that all religions preach the same thing and that is that all people have worth and value. And we should respect that. That's really what the world is about."

Bateman and his team visited six cities in India and interacted with several host families with whom they stayed during their month-long trip.

"We became friendly enough so we could talk frankly about our cultures -- differences, similarities," he said. "I came away with this great appreciation for them as people, the friendliest people I've ever met. At the same time different from us, but like us."

Bateman also got to see the Taj Mahal, which he said is an "absolutely perfect, beautiful building." He visited a rehabilitation center where he saw children with polio who are trying to get back some function in their legs. He said Rotary International has been the driving force behind trying to eradicate polio in the world for the past 15 years. Rotarians from all over the world go to India to help with polio immunizations.

He also visited a Yoga center, the Indian Institute of Coal Management, a Rotary-sponsored cardiac care unit, a referral hospital and a center for disadvantaged women that trains them in useful skills -- also a Rotary project.

Bateman and his group also visited several Hindu and Sikh temples and attended a graduation ceremony at a military base, a rare honor. Bateman's team also went to the archeological site of Nalanda, which was a Buddhist university more than 800 years ago.

Bateman said the purpose of the trip was to promote international good will and peace.

"It is a good way for one culture to get to know another culture by immersing yourself into that culture," he said. "You come away from that experience realizing that human beings are all quite similar. And the differences we create in the world are artificial. Once you strip those away, the relationships form and it's a way to make for a better planet."

He said Indians are "extraordinarily intelligent and hard-working people. They have a very good education system. They produce so many doctors that they are basically exporting them all over the world."

Bateman said the trip has changed the way he thinks about many things.

"I realize the world is even smaller than I thought it was, and that basically people are people everywhere," Bateman said. "If we can learn how to diminish those artificial differences, the world will be a safer place.

"It's been one of the greatest experiences of my life," Bateman said.