It was one of those few perfect sunshine days when you can smell the summer, flowers, trees and grass, and feel the warm touch of sunlight on your skin with temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius as you expect in India, when His Holiness The XIV Dalai Lama met friends and Tibetans in the park of the Villa Goetzfried in Wiesbaden in Germany.
The introduction was a moving performance by a charming Tibetan woman named Dechen Shak-Dagsay, who is a famous mantra-vocalist from Tibet. Her songs and graceful appearance in original Tibetan dress moved the hearts of the visitors and transported their emotions from Germany to far away Tibet.
Afterwards he arrives. The Dalai Lama welcomes everybody and sits down on a small podium in front of us. There is no distance or aloofness between the Holy Man and the people. You feel his warmth and friendliness directly.
He starts his speech by underlining our own responsibility for our world: “We are the same human beings and share this small blue planet.” Therefore he demands that we forget all differences between religions and nations, find the roots of violence and also decrease the gulf between the poor and the rich. “There is no me and they,” the Dalai Lama said, “the whole world is me.”
In connection with his speech I got the chance for a unique interview with the Dalai Lama about his main ideas: to promote tolerance, learn from different religions and establish close contacts. As The Human Codes of Tolerance and Respect is the most important project of the World Security Network Foundation, I asked him about his experience and proposals.
How can we promote tolerance and respect towards other religions and ethnic minorities, Your Holiness?
I always mention that the concept of one single truth and one religion is itself a contradiction.
But on the level of the individual it is very relevant and can be very helpful. You should keep a single-pointed faith for yourself.
In the reality of different communities and religions with so many people the concept of only one religion is irrelevant.
In reality we have different religions and a concept of one truth seems irrelevant to me.
From the personal point of view everything is relative and one truth for a single person is relevant.
But when you have many people with different values and backgrounds this concept is not convincing as there are many truths and religions – and this is good so.
What can we all as simple human beings do?
We must develop close contacts with others and their traditions.
In India for over 1000 years – besides the home-grown religions – all major religions were established there as well and lived together. Generally they lived together in harmony and friendship for a long time.
One researcher found a Muslim village with a population of 2,000 with only three Hindu families there. But the Hindus had no fear and everybody was very friendly. That is India. Sometimes there are problems as in all populations. That can happen and is understandable.
Basically a spiritual sense of brothers and sisters existed. India kept 1,000 years of religious harmony – why not in other areas in the word?
What can we learn from others?
The more close contacts we have on the personal level the deeper is the understanding and mutual respect. You need close contacts to learn about the values of other religions from each other like Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindu or Buddhists.
The deep understanding of their values develops a basis of mutual respect.
We Buddhists are eager to learn more about mutual respect and the practice of tolerance and compassion.
Some Christian friends have implemented these things already in their religion.
Thus we develop a spiritual brother-and-sisterhood.
When will the situation in Tibet change for the better?
When Mahatma Gandhi and other great leaders started their work nobody gave them any guarantee of success. But they were very determined and full of will-power whatever the obstacles were.
When my Indian friends started their freedom-fight no one knew when freedom would come – they were determined as well and advised me to follow it.
Nobody knows when things will change but you must keep your determination – that is important.
What impressed me most is that you cannot find intensive missionary thoughts in the Dalai Lama’s speech to conquer people for his Buddhist belief. He is a general missionary for humanity and the good cause of peaceful coexistence, integrating all major religions into global codes of tolerance. For him there is no right or wrong religion.
He stated: “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message: that is love, compassion and forgiveness; the important thing is that they should be part of our daily lives. We can’t say that all religions are the same, different religions have different views and fundamental differences. But it does not matter, as all religions are meant to help in bringing about a better world with better and happier human beings. On this level, I think that through different philosophical explanations and approaches, all religions have the same goal and the same potential.”
For him moral action means not to interfere in the people’s desire for happiness and joy. Everybody must also consider the interests of others. Sensitivity is needed to take care of other people.
He teaches that: “Good fortune arises from spiritual qualities like love or tolerance which make us more happy.”
Also, I like The Dalai Lama’s other ideas:
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”
“If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”
“It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them.”
“It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.”
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness and my philosophy is kindness. This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple.”
“Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of universal responsibility, not only nation-to-nation and human-to-human, but also human to other forms of life.”
“With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”
The Dalai Lama grounds humanity in all of us, in our kindness and responsibility as human beings.
Photo and interview by Anne Stiens, October 10, 2011