Meeting Polish Parliamentarians, Tibetans and Tibet Support Groups

October 24th 2013

Warsaw, Poland, 24 October 2013 - The sky was overcast and a light rain fell as His Holiness the Dalai Lama stepped out of his hotel this morning to take the short drive to the University of Warsaw, where the Rector was waiting to receive him. His first meeting was with a group of Polish Members of Parliament. His Holiness spotted and fondly embraced his old friend Heinrich Wujec. Members of the group were introduced to him by Hon. Beata Bublewicz. Introductions over, the parliamentarians gathered around His Holiness to hear what he had to say, many sitting in a circle at his feet on the floor.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to Polish parliamentarians in Warsaw, Poland on October 24, 2013.
Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL

His Holiness began by joking that Poles were as familiar as Tibetans with the drawbacks of Communist domination. He said he usually describes the situation in Tibet as one in which an uninvited guest has arrived armed with a gun and proceeded to take to control of everything. However, in a contest between the power of truth and the power of a gun, in the long run the power of truth will prevail. He noted that the Tibetan spirit is stronger now than ever.

“Although Tibet was independent and influential throughout Central Asia in 7th, 8th and 9th centuries, the past is past and we are not seeking independence now. The Chinese constitution provides for regional, prefectural and county autonomy and Tibetans should be able to exercise those rights. Under such circumstances Tibetans would be able to preserve and maintain their language, culture and religion and protect their fragile environment.”

He said that China is the world’s most populous nation, but it needs to open up. This may be where Polish parliamentarians can wield some influence, pointing out the harmful effects of a closed society and the benefits of being open, living under the rule of law. Because the 1.3 billion Chinese people have a right to know what is going on and are quite capable of judging right from wrong, the existence of tight censorship is morally wrong and self-defeating. It amounts to fooling your own people. Freedom of the press and a judiciary functioning to international standards are important for a nation’s well-being. Perhaps, as a newly democratic country, Poland could draw on its own experience to gently point this out.

“Treating the Tibetan people with respect,” His Holiness said, “respecting their identity, language and culture is the proper way to create the much vaunted harmonious society.”

In a short interview with a lady researching a documentary about the late Pope John-Paul II, His Holiness told her that he first met the pontiff in the Vatican shortly after he became Pope. He said that when there is a new Pope, he considers it his duty to meet with him. However, he felt that the most moving occasion on which he met him was the ecumenical gathering in Assisi in 1986, which focussed on world-wide spirituality.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama being interviewed for a documentary on the late Pope John-Paul II in Warsaw, Poland on October 24, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“From our first meeting,” His Holiness recalled, “I felt very close to him. We shared a similar experience of having to grapple with a communist system. He was very concerned about the value of spirituality. He saw the problems of the materialist world, mostly on an emotional level, and that it is from spirituality that we draw inner strength.”

About Lech Walesa, His Holiness remembered first hearing about him and Solidarity on the BBC World Service when he was in the remote North Indian region of Ladakh. Later, he saw a picture of him and his famous moustache and even later came to meet him in Warsaw.

“What I admire,” His Holiness said, “is how he stuck strictly to non-violent principles. His is an example non-violent freedom fighters succeeding.”

Coming back to Pope John-Paul II, he said that although he is no longer physically with us, his spirit remains and those who admire him have a responsibility to keep that spirit alive.

Finally, some of the two dozen or so Tibetans who live in Poland and members of various Tibet Support Groups had gathered to meet His Holiness. He told them that nearly 55 years after coming into exile there is still great suffering in Tibet and yet the Tibetan spirit remains unbowed. If Tibetans in Tibet were happy there would be nothing more to say, but the situation that persists in Tibet is such that many of them prefer to give up their lives than put up with it any longer. Tibetans who live in free countries have to be the representatives of their brothers and sisters in Tibet; they too have to keep up the Tibetan spirit.

“If we look back at history, we see we have a spiritual tradition to be proud of. Our Buddhist tradition began in the 7th century with the coming of Shantarakshita and Kamalashila to Tibet, both of them great teachers of philosophy and reasoning. Padmasambhava played a role, but it was Shantarakshita who established the teaching. It’s said that despite his age, he began to learn Tibetan. He showed us how to study, translate the scriptures and debate. Consequently, we now have more than 300 volumes of the Kangyur and Tengyur to study and rely on.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama meeting with members of the Tibetan community and Tibet support groups in Warsaw, Poland on October 24, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“Some people refer to Tibetan Buddhism as ‘lamaism’, but we follow the pure tradition coming from the great Indian University of Nalanda, which was a renowned centre of learning not just a place where rituals were performed. The tradition we follow includes deep understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions. This is increasingly appreciated by modern scientists. Similarly, the Tibetan medical tradition, which has remedies for some conditions that allopathic medicine cannot help, attracts a good deal of interest.”

He told them that although it had been traditional to think that the study and practice of Buddhism was the preserve of monks and nuns, he is encouraging Tibetans, Mongolians and others to think of themselves at twenty-first century Buddhists. This means learning how to transform the mind, learning what the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are.

“What we need is faith based on understanding.”

Without further ado, he then left the University for Warsaw Airport to board a flight that would begin the journey back to India, completing a successful tour in which he spent three days in Atlanta, Georgia, six days in Mexico, four days in New York and a final day in Poland.
 

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