Monday, June 15, 2015

His Holiness the Dalai Lama Visits Uluru

Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia, 13 June 2015 - Many other visitors to Uluru were happy to have the chance to greet, shake hands and take photographs with His Holiness the Dalai Lama this morning as he walked through the grounds of his hotel.

After a cool night, the sun was bright and beginning to warm the land as he drove out to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. He was met and welcomed by the Chairman of the Traditional Owners’ Board, Sammy, an interpreter, Kathryn Tozer, and Park Staff. They began to walk together towards the Mutitjulu Waterhole, answering his questions on the way. The great red sandstone Uluru rock foundation towering over the surrounding flat desert dominates the place. His Holiness wanted to know about the vegetation, the local wildlife and, once a pair of binoculars was found, spent some time examining the rock-face from below.

Halfway to the Waterhole, the party stopped to rest. His Holiness sat on a bench and was joined by other Traditional Owners, women and children. Sammy took the opportunity to summarize for him the creation story of the region, telling of serpent beings that waged many wars around Uluru, scarring the rock. Walking further up the red sandy path they reached the Mutitjulu Waterhole. The Traditional Owners said they had discussed among themselves how best to welcome His Holiness and decided this would be the place to do so properly. He briefly responded:

“I always express my respect for indigenous peoples whenever I have the opportunity to meet them. I have great admiration for the way they preserve their culture and language. When we Tibetans had to break our isolation it gave us the opportunity to meet and learn from other people. Now, we try to preserve or traditions without that protection.

“On an earlier occasion when I met an indigenous Australian, I remember telling him that I think it’s important for indigenous people to retain and use their own original names. Then when you introduce yourself it presents your identity. I also want to tell you that the colonial dominance that characterised the 18th and 19th centuries is over. Now, the world supports you and your right to keep your culture and identity alive.”

A park buggy drove His Holiness and one of the Traditional Owners back to the parking place. Speaking to waiting journalists he said that as a Buddhist monk he’s trained to take a curious, investigative view of things and that he would also be interested to hear what scientist have discovered about Uluru. He spoke about different indigenous peoples he has met around the world whose values and heritage have been shaped by local environmental conditions. Some prefer to keep their isolation; others like the Sami of Lapland have maintained their heritage while embracing modern education and some technology.

Visiting the Mutitjulu community, which numbers about 300 people, Sammy introduced His Holiness, saying:

“This gentleman travels the world and saw our place from the air. He wanted to see it for himself, and that’s why he’s come here now.”

Another of the Traditional Owners added:

“We’ve been waiting for this visit with anticipation and we’d like to welcome you and the other visitors who’ve come with you.”

His Holiness sat among them and several offered him gifts. He said:

“For many years I’ve had an interest in the indigenous people of different continents, the indigenous Australians and this famous sacred rock. Now, today, I’ve had the opportunity to see it close up for myself and even to touch it. And I’ve heard the stories you tell about it, all of which makes me very happy.

“I’ve met many indigenous peoples in different places, all of them trying to preserve the language and traditions. To succeed, I think you have to be realistic. Some of them like those in South America prefer to maintain their isolation. Others like the Sami of Lapland, your neighbours the Maoris in New Zealand and people of Canada’s First Nation, try to combine their efforts to preserve their heritage with modern knowledge. I think that education is important and that it is necessary to accept some modern facilities and to learn English.”

He wondered if there might be benefit in planting more trees and experimenting with raising crops. If farming were successful, they might later introduce some small scale industry too. He thanked them for receiving him so warmly.

Interviewed by Karla Grant, presenter of Living Black for SBS after lunch, His Holiness told her how happy he was to have come to visit the place and meet the local people. He reported to her what he had told them about the importance of preserving traditions. He mentioned how soon after arriving in India in 1960 Tibetans had set about setting up schools where children could receive a modern education while still being taught their own traditions and values. He said:

“A lot of problems we face in the world today are our own creation. They are not due to a lack of money or education, but to a lack of values. Because modern education is inadequate on this score, I believe we need to find ways of incorporating what I call secular ethics, an approach to values that is respectful of religious and indigenous traditions.”

Ms Grant remarked that indigenous Australian culture is thought to be one of the oldest in the world. His Holiness agreed, commenting that spirituality with a philosophical view really only emerged about 5000 years ago. Before that in many parts of the world were beliefs in spirits and so forth. In Tibet, prior to the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century, every mountain top was believed to be the abode of some spirit or other.

When she asked him his views about potential changes in government policy that may affect indigenous people, he told her it was a matter for experts and he wasn’t sufficiently informed to comment. A question about Tibet prompted him to refer to recent research based on Chinese documents that confirms the historical existence of Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian empires more than one thousand years ago. Nevertheless, he said that since Tibet is a landlocked country and is materially backward it may be in Tibetans’ interest to remain within the People’s Republic of China. However, that should not limit their right to preserve their culture, language and rich traditions of Buddhism.

Ms Grant wanted to know how he responded to the protests that have been taking place in connection with his visit. He told her:

“Now this is becoming routine, wherever I go they turn up. In Norway recently about 1000 Norwegians came to welcome me to Oslo and I thanked them, while also expressing my appreciation that these other people could exercise their freedom of speech. However, when it comes to understanding the history of this controversial, nearly four centuries’ old, spirit, I think I know more about it than they do. I propitiated it too until the ‘70s, but when I discovered how critical the 5th and 13th Dalai Lamas had been about it, the 5th referring to it as harmful, evil spirit, I gave it up. It’s my duty to advise people about it.”

His Holiness made a brief visit to the National Indigenous Training Academy on the way to the Yulara Oval where he was to address a crowd of more than 3000. There was enthusiastic applause as he took the stage. Shortly afterwards members of the Matitjulu community welcomed him onto the land. Firstly a group of women danced while a group sitting on the ground played and sang. They were followed by one man decorated with body paint dancing alone. It was explained that this was an expression of part of their creation stories.

Beginning his talk, His Holiness said again how happy he was to have come to visit this sacred place and meet the local people. However, he confessed how uncomfortable he’d felt in the morning when he was offered two witchetty grubs or moth larvae. He explained that while he’s unaffected by insects like scorpions that scare other people, since childhood, wriggling creatures like caterpillars and these grubs have made him very uneasy. The already chuckling crowd laughed out loud when he exclaimed that Sammy, his guide, just ate one raw.

He commented on indigenous peoples’ right to preserve their culture and traditions.

“Indigenous people also tend to be very close to nature, which is something modern people can learn from. They seem to think they can control nature, but nature is our mother and deserves our protection. After all, this planet is our only home.

“We are all the same as human beings. We are born the same way, and we die the same way. But many of us living in the modern world have materialistic attitudes. They pervade our education systems too. We too often seek happiness outside ourselves and don’t look within. And yet when we are very young we bask in our mother’s affection. It sets our mind at ease and even provides for our physical well-being. Such warm-heartedness is a real source of happiness. It leads to trust, and trust becomes grounds for friendship.”

Several times during this talk, His Holiness appealed to his listeners to pay more attention to inner values, humane values, like warm-heartedness. Indeed, when he was asked what gift he would like for his imminent 80th birthday, he replied:

“Nothing. Although if you think about and find something useful in what I have been saying, that would be the greatest gift to me. Thank you.”

Following his exceptional stay in Uluru, His Holiness will tomorrow travel early on to Perth where he has several engagements that will conclude this year’s Ocean of Wisdom visit to Australia.

Original link with photos http://dalailama.com/news/post/1283-his-holiness-the-dalai-lama-visits-uluru

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