Addressing Tibetans and Koreans before Leaving Japan

November 26th 2013

Tokyo, Japan, 26 November 2013 - On the final morning of this visit to Japan, His Holiness the Dalai Lama met with a group of 300 Buddhists, who had come from Korea to meet him. He greeted them warmly:

“Brothers and sisters from Korea, I’m very happy to have this chance to meet you again. China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan have traditionally been Buddhist countries. Although in any particular country there may also be other faiths you have many Buddhist temples and monasteries, so you have an understandable interest in Buddhism.”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting members of a group of Korean Buddhists in Tokyo, Japan on November 26, 2013. Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan
He observed that in the 21st century South Korea has achieved a high degree of material development.

“But,” he asked, “does all this material development bring us peace of mind? I have wealthy American friends who have lots of money, but they haven’t been able to buy peace of mind. At this time, our religious traditions still have something to offer. The principal practices of love, compassion, patience, contentment and self-discipline remain relevant even today in the 21st century.”

His Holiness explained that while Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism all convey a message of love and compassion, they do so in the context of a benevolent creator god, which helps practitioners engender love and compassion within themselves. One branch of Samkhya, Jainism and Buddhism do not believe in such a creator god. The Buddha taught that the responsibility is in our own hands to tame our own minds.

We suffer, he said, because our minds are undisciplined, which can’t be remedied by drugs or surgery. What we need to do is create a calm mind within ourselves. The Buddha told us that the source of our undisciplined mind is ignorance. Prayer won’t surmount it, only wisdom can do that. As the defilements of the mind become thinner, Buddha nature becomes more manifest, which is why we need to develop wisdom. He stressed that as 21st century Buddhists we need to study the Buddha’s teachings; even if our larger aim is to meditate.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to a group of Korean Buddhists in Tokyo, Japan on November 26, 2013.
Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan

The group had prepared a number of questions to ask His Holiness. The first referred to the self-immolations that have been taking place in Tibet and asked if, in the light of Buddhist teachings, taking you own life isn’t an act of killing? His Holiness’s first response was to say that because this is a sensitive political topic he’d prefer not to talk very much about it. He said what’s happening is very sad.
He agreed that from a strict Buddhist point of view taking life is wrong, but it depends on what your goal and your motivation are, not just the nature of the action, to determine whether it is positive or negative.

He cited a case that occurred during the Cultural Revolution when a particularly sacred Buddhist monastery was about to be attacked by Red Guards. The Abbot, who was a good person, committed self-immolation to protect it. Clearly, if such action is motivated by a wish to benefit the Dharma, it may be positive.

One questioner wanted to know the difference between Buddhist deities and a creator god. His Holiness said that while Buddhists don’t believe in a creator god, we talk about deities belonging to the realms of formlessness, form and desire. They may not have physical bodies as we do, due to their karma. Another person suggested that attachment is harder to overcome than anger and wanted to know how to do it. His Holiness answered that ignorance is also involved. Just seeing the drawbacks of attachment doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to apply the antidotes. While the antidote to anger is love, the antidote to attachment is to consider the repulsiveness of the object.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama with a group of Korean Buddhists in Tokyo, Japan on November 26, 2013.
Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan
Asked about the status of the Mahayana, His Holiness recalled a discussion he’d attended in Delhi when this question came up. He had pointed out then that Nagarjuna, who defended the authenticity of the Mahayana, lived only 400 years after the Buddha and so was much closer to the original sources than sceptical Western scholars today. What’s more, he was very intelligent and wrote extensively about the Buddha’s teachings on the basis of reasoning. What is clear is that the teachings of the Mahayana or the Sanskrit tradition were not give publicly but to groups of select disciples with pure karma. This is evident from the Heart Sutra, which involves Shariputra and Avalokiteshvara. The Pali teachings on the other hand were given in public.

His Holiness reminded his listeners of the Buddha’s own caution to his followers to test his teaching as a goldsmith tests the quality of gold.

“The Four Noble Truths are the fundamental teachings of Buddhism, but in the Sanskrit tradition they are expanded and elaborated through reasoning. The third truth, true cessation, can only be understood in the context of emptiness. When the Heart Sutra says, ‘form is emptiness, emptiness is form’, it explains that things exist but have no intrinsic existence. It is not sufficient simply to dismiss the Mahayana as not the teaching of the Buddha when it has been examined and verified through reasoning.”

His Holiness then met briefly with the 103 Tibetans resident in Japan.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to a group of Tibetans living in Japan in Tokyo, Japan on November 26, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“We’re going through a very difficult time in our history,” he told them, “so even though you are living in another country you should keep up your spirits as Tibetans. We are following the Middle Way Approach (MWA) in hope of solving our problem by reaching a mutually beneficial solution.

“Today, there are 400 million Buddhists in China, many of them intellectuals who are interested in the Tibetan Buddhism and culture that is our treasure. Some of them come to see me in India, many of them in tears.

“In the Chinese government are some who have a moderate, realistic outlook, while others remain hardliners. Increasing numbers of Chinese intellectuals support our cause. This is an expression of our determined non-violence bearing fruit. Many support us on that basis and I am hopeful of a positive result.”

He appealed to them to try to live an ethical life, avoiding cheating or deceiving others. He spoke of the importance of continuing to demonstrate that Tibetans are honest and truthful. He expressed regret about a recent occasion when he gave similar advice in New York and before the day was out a Tibetan got into a fight and killed someone. He asked them to try to maintain Tibetans’ otherwise good reputation, not to be carried away by short term goals and to promote Tibetan culture and values.

“It’s important for your children to learn both spoken and written Tibetan. I was really impressed with young Tibetan Muslims in Kashmir who speak enchanting Tibetan, despite there being no school to teach it. They learn from their parents and grandparents. Meanwhile, I’ve come across Tibetans in American who only speak to their children in English.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama with members of the Tibetan community living in Japan in Tokyo, Japan on November 26, 2013. Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan
“We have young people campaigning for independence, which is our right, but we have to ask what kind of independence they are talking about. The independence declared at the time of the 13th Dalai Lama is not comprehensive. The independent status Tibet enjoyed in 7th to 9th centuries is clearly attested not only in our historical documents but in Chinese records too.

“Some say we need to change the MWA, but if those of us living in free countries push for independence, the people who suffer as a result will be Tibetans in Tibet. Those who work hard there to educate our people will encounter new difficulties. When even strong foreign powers have to come to terms with China, how can we hope to achieve something different? As Nehru told me in 1956 and 1959, the USA will not go to war with China over Tibet. If we raise our voices for independence, we kindle the Chinese anger without achieving our goal. The EU and India are both models of how we can make it work.

“We need material development and economic progress. With genuine autonomy we can look after our education, language, religion and environment, while leaving defence and foreign affairs to China.

“We pray at the beginning of the day, ‘May all sentient beings be happy and free from suffering’. We don’t exclude the Chinese.”

His Holiness then drove directly to Narita Airport and boarded a flight to return to India at the end of a tour that has seen him interact with Japanese from many walks of life, of both young and older generations. Everywhere he went he was received with respect and smiling faces.
 

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