When UCI student Rajiv Ramdeo learned he was going to meet His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, the kind of peace espoused by the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet eluded him.

“I was anxious. I kept wondering what I was going to say to him,” he says. Then Ramdeo, a daily practitioner of meditation, regained his center.

“I just figured that being there in his presence would be enough.”

Ramdeo and another UCI senior, Aswathi Sreedharan, had a private audience with the Dalai Lama Sept. 12 in Pasadena as recipients of the university’s inaugural XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship. At first, Ramdeo simply listened while Chancellor Michael Drake and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Manuel N. Gómez, who accompanied the students, talked with the Dalai Lama about spiritual life at UCI.

“Meeting the Dalai Lama had a profound effect on me. Afterwards I had a clear, peaceful state of mind,” Ramdeo says. “I was totally captivated.”

Captivated, but not tongue-tied. Both he and Sreedharan told the Dalai Lama about their efforts to bring His Holiness’ ideals to campus. Each student was awarded a $7,500 scholarship and $2,500 funding to pursue projects related to ethics and leadership.

Ramdeo, a biological sciences major with a minor in African American studies, will use the funds to expand a meditation club he started on campus last year. He plans to bring a variety of leaders to campus to discuss meditation, humanitarian work and ethical leadership.

Sreedharan, a biomedical engineering and international studies major, plans to organize a camp where student leaders from colleges around the state will gather for activities that encourage unity among students and support world peace.

“When I entered the room to meet the Dalai Lama, I could feel the positive flow of energy in everyone,” Sreedharan says. “Each one of us offered a scarf to the Dalai Lama, who then wrapped it around our necks like a shawl. Being with him meant experiencing pure love and warmth.”

A group of private citizens created the annual scholarship after seeing the Dalai Lama speak at UCI in April 2004. Ramdeo also was in the audience that day, and the Dalai Lama inspired him to start the meditation club.

His mother taught him how to meditate when he was a child; two years ago, he began meditating every morning.

“I do it to structure my priorities,” he says. “All of my decisions have benefited from meditation. It reminds me of what’s important.”