Monday, September 21, 2015

Dalai Lama Talks on Ethics and Ahimsa [Non-Violence]

London, England, 20 September 2015 - When BBC news journalist Clive Myrie came to interview His Holiness the Dalai Lama this morning, many of his questions touched on the refugee crisis confronting Europe. He wanted to know if there was not a general lack of compassion in the indifference and hostility being expressed. His Holiness responded:

“It's about suspicion and mistrust. We have to explore how to bring peace and reconciliation to those places where violent conflict is compelling these people to seek an alternative”

When Myrie quoted former Archbishop George Carey’s advocating the use of military force, His Holiness said: “He has his own view. I don’t see things that way.”

Myrie suggested there are young Tibetans who feel that non-violence has failed their cause. His Holiness countered that they too are entitled to their opinion, but that it’s not true to say the Middle Way Approach has failed when it draws continuing support and admiration from Chinese citizens. He reported that many Chinese who come to meet him apologise for what has happened in Tibet.

When asked about the pro-Shugden demonstrations, His Holiness answered that the people concerned should do more research and not let themselves be driven by anger that clouds their judgement. He suggested they go to South India and see the monasteries in the Tibetan settlements where about 2000 monks’ practice is unconstrained.

His Holiness denied that he is disappointed not to be meeting Prime Minister David Cameron on this visit, saying that he has no political agenda. He repeated that whether or not a 15th Dalai Lama is sought and found will depend on the wishes of the Tibetan people. He concurred, as he has elsewhere, that if there is another reincarnation, it could be woman.

Next His Holiness was welcomed by the businessmen, the Hinduja brothers - Srichand, Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok - to their house at Carlton Terrace. This grand mansion was once occupied by Queen Victoria’s Prime Minister, William Gladstone. His Holiness affirmed to a small family gathering that wherever he goes he carries India’s message of ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence and inter-religious harmony. He was introduced to a gathering of about 100 Indian political and business leaders by Lady Mohini Kent Noon, who said how privileged they were to have him there. She mentioned His Holiness’s consistent dedication to non-violence, noting that while there may be hotheads, there have been no Tibetan terrorists.

His Holiness responded, remarking that Hindu, Jain and Buddhist traditions have the practice of ethics, concentration and wisdom in common, the only difference being that the Buddha taught ‘anatman’, the lack of an independently existent self. He said he considered himself to be a ‘son of India’, because his brain is filled with Nalanda thought and his body had been nourished so long by Indian rice and dal.

Asked if he thought there were evil people in the world or just that some were misguided, he replied:

“Just misguided. We can’t find evil children. It’s when people become adults that they behave badly. Human beings are social animals. It is love that brings us together. As to whether the world is getting better or not, we can say that more people are becoming aware of the importance of peace of mind.”

To a question about astrology, His Holiness replied that he didn’t know, but that the 5th Dalai Lama, who had been a qualified astrologer, had made the remark that on the auspicious day of his birth, thousands of dogs had also been born.

After a lunch hosted by Lady Mohini Kent Noon and the Hinduja Foundation, His Holiness left for the Coliseum Theatre, where he was to speak to an audience of 2300 in celebration of ‘Ahimsa - India Day’. In an introduction to the event it was explained that ‘ahimsa’ means to do no harm and that His Holiness considers it to be compassion in action.

“Brothers and sisters,” he began, “all human beings are the same. We are mentally, physically and emotionally the same. We all experience constructive and destructive emotions. Our basic human nature is compassionate, and compassion brings people together. In our daily life, we feel happy when someone smiles and treats us with affection. But if they frown we feel uncomfortable. This is a sign that we need friends. Friendship doesn’t depend on fame, money or physical strength. It’s based on trust and trust depends on love and affection. Therefore, love and affection are important if we are to live a happy life. And the purpose of life is to be joyful and happy.”

The audience responded to this last remark with warm applause. His Holiness continued:

“Many of the problems we face are of our own making. Why is that? because we tend to pay too much attention to secondary differences between us. We emphasise differences of nationality, of race, of colour and faith, whether we are rich or poor. We neglect the fact that fundamentally we are all human beings, who all want to live a happy life. And because of that what we should do is to help one another.

“In the past, when nations went to war, they looked for their own victory and the destruction of their opponent. This kind of attitude is out of date because we have now become so interdependent. In defeating our neighbour we will defeat ourselves. In our increasingly globalized world, climate change and the global economy are not limited by national boundaries, they affect us all. I often point out that the 20th century, besides its many great developments, was a period of violence and bloodshed. We need the 21st century to be an era of peace. We need to take a more human approach to conflict and seek to resolve it through dialogue instead of resorting to military force.”

His Holiness affirmed that his first commitment is to promoting human happiness. His second, he said, as a Buddhist monk is to fostering inter-religious harmony. He described religion as having three aspects: religious, philosophical and cultural. The religious aspect includes the message of love, compassion, tolerance and self-discipline that all religious traditions have in common. The philosophical aspects, belief in a creator or the law of causality, are different means to strengthen the practice of love and compassion. In this context ‘ahimsa’ relates to physical and verbal action, but the demarcation lies in the quality of our motivation, which involves our mind.

His Holiness expressed his great admiration for India’s ancient traditions of ‘ahimsa’ and inter-religious harmony, demonstrating to the world that different religious traditions can live together side by side in peace and respect. He said that the Indian community in places like the UK has a responsibility to uphold these ancient traditions and show their relevance in today’s world.

Answering questions from the audience His Holiness said that ‘ahimsa’ doesn’t fall from the sky; it comes of cultivating a warm heart within. Asked if there were even situations when ‘ahimsa’ is inappropriate, he replied that ‘ahimsa’ non-violence and non-harm are the proper solution to any human problem. When a member of the audience asked how to respond to the rape and murder of her friends, he said:

“Ask yourself if getting angry would solve the problem and make it better. Anger and feelings of revenge only disturb your own peace of mind. The 8th century Indian master Shantideva gave advice that I find practical and realistic. ‘If there is a way to solve a problem, there is no need to worry about it and if there is no way to solve a problem, worry won’t help’.

When a young woman cried out a question related to the practice of Shugden and religious freedom, His Holiness listened and suggested that people who demonstrate about this don’t know the full story. They should do more investigation. He said he feels sorry for them in their ignorance.

Finally, asked the purpose of life, His Holiness answered:

“Happiness and joy are the purpose of life.” Again the theatre was filled with applause. “If our actions bring joy to others, that’s good. Thank you.”

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