Talk in Tokyo - Making the Best of Our Lives

November 25th 2013

Tokyo, Japan, 25 November 2013 - Having remained fine for the entire duration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s stay in Japan, today, as the visit draws to a close, the weather turned sombre and grey. It rained as he drove to Kyoto station to board the Shinkansen bullet train to Tokyo. Passing back through Shizuoka, where last week the sun shone and the sky was clear, today, the crest of Mt Fuji was hidden in cloud.

The venue for His Holiness’s afternoon talk was the Ryogoku Kokugikan Hall, an indoor sports arena that often hosts Sumo wrestling tournaments. Large photographs of past champions gaze down from the upper reaches of the hall, reminiscent of the guardians who traditionally protect temple gateways. 

As is his wont, His Holiness addressed the 2500 people gathered to hear him as his brothers and sisters and told them how happy he was to be with them.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during his public talk at Ryogoku Kokugikan Hall in Tokyo, Japan on November 25, 2013. Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan
“We’re all part of the great human family,” he said, “if we paid more serious attention to the oneness of humanity, there’d be less room for conflict between us. Many of the problems we face come about because we place too much emphasis on secondary differences such us nationality, religious denomination and so forth. In fact, within these divisions there are further differences of colour, wealth or poverty, and educational standards. There can be differences between the members of the same family. Indeed, differences may even occur within one individual between the beginning of the day and its end. Focussing on difference stokes distinctions of ‘us’ and ‘them’, prompting us to become more self-centred. And when we are only concerned about our own short-term interest, we neglect the rights of others, which leads to bullying and exploitation.”

He observed that none of us wants problems, that from the moment we wake in the morning, we hope our problems will ease. The key, if we want to face fewer problems, is to let go of our self-centred attitude.

“Self-centredness creates a distance from others, leading to dishonesty, fear and anger. This is how disturbing emotions work. While fear, hatred and anger, are bad for our health, concern for others leads to self-confidence and inner strength, helping to reduce anger. Key to this is developing peace of mind.”

His Holiness attributed his good health at the age of 78 at least partly to his ability to keep a calm mind. He admitted to the occasional burst of anger, but explained that they are soon over. He referred to experiments that are currently under way in the USA at Emory, Stanford and and the University of Wisconsin to measure the beneficial results of cultivating thoughts of compassion. Results already suggest that blood pressure and stress are reduced.

Warm-heartedness, concern for others’ well-being and basic human affection, not only have physical benefits, they also derive from biological roots. Well-known and reputed scientists have done experiments on young children that support the idea that basic human nature is gentle. The attitude of the mother has an effect even when the baby is in the womb. Later, scientists say, the mother’s touch is crucial to the proper development of the brain.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during his public talk at Ryogoku Kokugikan Hall in Tokyo, Japan on November 25, 2013. Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan
As social animals we depend on others for our survival. If we use our common sense and observe our neighbours we’ll see that when they are filled with jealousy and distrust, they may be rich, but they are unhappy. When affection is lacking, happiness goes missing. Inner peace, however, is rooted in basic warm-heartedness.

Historically, theistic religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism believe in a creator; non-theistic traditions like one branch of the Samkhyas, Jainism and Buddhism follow the law of causality. The principal message of all these traditions is love. Tolerance and forgiveness function to protect its practic. And because greed can be an obstacle, religions teach contentment and self-discipline. Thus, tolerance, patience and contentment serve to protect our practice of love.

“These are the main teachings, although philosophical positions differ due to differences of time and place. Their purpose is to create a better, more compassionate, sensible human being. If you choose to practise, you should do so sincerely. The main point being to cultivate warm-heartedness.

“Concern for the rest of humanity is in our own interest. The best way to help ourselves is to help others, which accords with the law of causality and the Buddhist principle of interdependence. Over the last 30 years.” His Holiness explained, “I have had serious conversations with scientists about neurobiology, cosmology, quantum physics, ecology and psychology. Many have become interested in interdependence. I remember once asking scientists if they had such a concept and being told, ‘No, but it’s an idea that is trying to enter the scientific realm and seems to have found a comfortable chair.’”

The first of the questions His Holiness invited the audience to ask concerned the value of competition. He said there are two kinds: the simple drive to reach the top, which is positive, and the wish to obstruct others so you can win, which is negative.

A woman asked about the discrimination people face when released from prison. His Holiness replied:


An audience member asking His Holiness the Dalai Lama a question during his talk at Ryogoku Kokugikan Hall in Tokyo, Japan on November 25, 2013. Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan
“Released prisoners are still human beings. They may have done something wrong, but have served the punishment. They should be received back into society. Continuing to stigmatize them is wrong; whatever the action, the person deserves patience and forgiveness.”

Someone else wanted to know how to do good without being misled by mischievous forces and was told that ethical education takes place step by step.

“Practise patience and keep up your courage and self-confidence. No matter what your positive goal may be, analyse it, seek others’ suggestions, and consult your friends. But once you decide on what you need to do, follow it through.”

A member of a group of Buddhists from Korea told His Holiness she’d heard that Stephen Hawking had remarked that in a thousand years we’ll have to find another planet on which to live. His Holiness laughed and responded that making predictions about the future isn’t easy.

“I think we’ll still be here for a few thousand years more. Of course, logically everything that has a beginning must come to an end. But frankly speaking, I wouldn’t worry about a thousand years from now. Instead we should be thinking about this life and this century. Let’s pay attention to making this a century of peace.”
 

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