Monday, July 13, 2015

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is Given a Warm Welcome in Wiesbaden, Germany

Wiesbaden, Hessen, Germany, 12 July 2015 - Arriving early this morning in Frankfurt at the end of a long flight from New York, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was welcomed at the airport by representatives of the Indian Consulate and Frank Auth on behalf of Friends for a Friend. The drive through the fertile countryside to Wiesbaden was fast. In fields on either side of the expressway stood an array of golden wheat.

After some rest during the morning, His Holiness joined old friends, including former Prime Minister Roland Koch and his wife, for lunch. During a short meeting with sponsors of the afternoon's public talk he paid tribute to his long friendship with the German people, reaching back to his first visit to Europe in 1973, and the people of Hessen in particular.

At a meeting with the Press immediately afterwards he outlined his commitments to sharing with others the idea that cultivating humane inner values is the real source of human happiness. He also mentioned his commitments to promoting inter-religious harmony and preserving the culture and language, as well as the fragile natural environment, of Tibet.

He was asked to begin with what he felt about the pro-Shugden demonstrators and their noisy protest in the street outside. He replied simply:

"I'm happy to see they enjoy freedom of expression. The practice and the spirit they are referring to has been controversial for nearly 400 years. Over the last 80 years or so it was the source of severe and divisive sectarianism. This is something that needs to be carefully investigated."

Asked about the celebrations of his 80th birthday His Holiness said that it was more important to do something meaningful with your life, to dedicate your actions of body, speech and mind to the well-being of others. This, he said, is how he'd lived. About the conflict between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma, he said it is really sad. He mentioned that he had appealed to these Burmese Buddhists, when their feelings of anger are aroused, to remember the face of the Buddha, who he is convinced would offer the Muslims his protection if he were there.

It was a short drive to the Wiesbaden Kurpark where a small pavilion and stage had been erected and 12,000 people had assembled to welcome His Holiness and hear what he had to say. Frank Auth of Friends for a Friend warmly welcomed the public, the Mayor of Wiesbaden, Roland Koch, Claudia Roth and that longstanding friend of the people of Hessen, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Before any further speeches were made, Auth invited Tibetan singer, Dechen and her band to perform. To the band's mellow accompaniment she sang a song focused on the mantra of compassion Om mani padme hum, which paid respect to the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig.

The Mayor of Wiesbaden remarked that the people of the city were proud to have His Holiness among them once again and noted the long friendship that has existed between them. Claudia Roth, a Green Party politician who is one of the leaders of the German Parliament, the Bundestag said:

"We are happy to have this exemplary man here. Thank you for all the work you've done for freedom in the face of difficulty. We thank you too for your efforts to achieve a world without war. You bring a light to our hearts; we support you and hope you live long and in good health."

Roland Koch told His Holiness that the gift they could offer him on his 80th birthday was continued solidarity.

"We keep up with what's happening in Tibet and we stand with you. The Dalai Lama is always welcome here. While most of us want to be friends with China, we also want to see human rights upheld in Tibet."

He recalled attending celebrations of His Holiness's 60th birthday in Delhi and looking forward to marking his 70th birthday in Lhasa. In retrospect he realises it wasn't realistic and he acknowledged that one of the things he's learned from His Holiness is to think more of the long term. He too ended with wishes for His Holiness's good health and long life.

His Holiness began his address in his customary way:

"Dear brothers and sisters, once more we are gathered together here. This place, the city of Wiesbaden and the state of Hessen is close to my heart because of the generous, warm feeling the people here have consistently shown me. I'd like to thank all the organizers and volunteers who have made this meeting possible.

"I've known Claudia Roth and Roland Koch a long time. We have a steady friendship that will last as long as I live. I don't know which of us will go first, but I think this is the kind of friendship that will continue into our future lives as well.

"Whenever I meet people, I always think that we are first of all human beings and that all of us are mentally, physically and emotionally the same. We all want to live a happy life, and we all have a right to do so. I believe that to live a happy life we depend on the rest of the community. This is one of the reasons I admire the European Union because it is based on putting the common interest ahead of narrow national interests. I look forward to when we might have a similar African Union, an Arab Union and even an Asian Union."

He explained again that whenever he speaks in public he thinks of himself as just another human being the same as everyone else. He said that if he thinks of himself as a Buddhist, as someone from Asia or as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama it only serves to create a distance between him and the people he's talking to. He stressed that it is on the basis of what they have in common that every individual has a responsibility to think of the well-being of all 7 billion human beings alive today. It's in this context, he said, that he regrets that the existing education system is oriented towards materialism with little place for inner values.

"If we want to create a more peaceful world, we need to find a new approach to introducing human values into education from KG up to university."

He mentioned his commitment to promoting inter-religious understanding, something he'd learned from encounters with wonderful practitioners of the world's other great religions; people like the Catholic monk Thomas Merton. He ended his talk with the suggestion that the best birthday gift he could hope for would be if other people responded more warm-heartedly to each other.

Answering questions from the audience he told them he had no regrets in life, that whatever he'd done had been done with a sincere motivation. When a young boy asked if there was one god or many, he replied it was difficult to know but that he was young enough to have the time to investigate this for himself.

He stressed the need to use our human intelligence, based on our common experience, common sense and scientific findings. We may learn that thinking of others happens to be good for us both. He mentioned the need to know more about how the mind works:

"Compared to what we can learn from ancient Indian traditions, modern psychology is quite rudimentary. We can all study these things, the mind and our emotions. At the age of 80, I'm still studying and I recommend you to do so too."

When a man from China told His Holiness in English that he and his wife had come to see him, wanting to learn from him, wanting to hear how to be a good person, and wanting to know when he would come to China, His Holiness replied:

"You should ask the Chinese government. If they give a positive signal, I'm ready to come."

As the afternoon came to an end, His Holiness waved to the audience saying:

"Last night I was flying here from New York. Now I'm looking forward to a good, sound sleep. I hope you all sleep well too."

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