His Holiness the Dalai Lama Visits the National Cathedral and National Institutes for Health

March 8th 2014

Washington DC, USA, 7 March 2014 - On arrival at the Washington National Cathedral this morning, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was warmly received by the Bishop, the Rt Rev Mariann Edgar Budde and the Dean, the Very Rev Gary Hall. As they stepped into building noise could be heard in the distance as demonstrators from the New Kadampa Tradition under the guise of the International Shugden Community raised slogans and a larger group of Tibetans sang, danced and played drums to celebrate His Holiness’s presence among them.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the National Cathedral in Washington DC on March 7, 2014. Photo/Sonam Zoksang
In the Cathedral, Rev Hall explained that His Holiness was making his fourth visit and the Rt Rev Budde introduced him to the audience. He stepped up to the podium only to turn back to retrieve a cap from his bag to shield his eyes from the bright lights and enable him to see the faces in the audience. He began:

“Respected elder brothers and sisters, younger brothers and sisters, it’s a great honour for me to be here again. We are now in the 21st century, at time when religious harmony is as important as ever. Generally, there is a strong desire for peace everywhere, while people increasingly feel that violence is not the right way to solve problems. Indeed, people are fed up with violence. We don’t need to repeat the mistakes of the last century and one element in this is to promote inter-religious harmony.”

He praised India for the example it sets in this connection. All the major religious traditions are not only present in India, but flourish, living together side by side. He conceded that these traditions may differ widely in their philosophical views but share a common goal, which His Holiness feels committed to preserving. He said that genuine harmony must come from the heart, it is not just a matter of a few minutes smiling, but arises from awareness that a variety of religious traditions are a necessary part of humanity. They have a role in helping us temper our disturbing emotions. Anger and hatred are the opposite of love and compassion, which is why all religious traditions teach tolerance and forgiveness. They are also related to self-centredness and greed that provoke jealousy and mistrust, which is why religious traditions also teach contentment and simplicity.

“Meanwhile,” His Holiness said, “our Christian brothers and sisters have made the greatest contribution to education in many remote parts of the world, motivated by their faith and the idea that serving the poor is the best way to serve God. One of my Muslim friends also says that a good Muslim must show love and compassion to all the creations of Allah.


Members of the audience listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the National Cathedral in Washington DC on March 7, 2014. Photo/Sonam Zoksang
“For some people the idea of a creator is very powerful. I asked a Christian friend whether there would be any difficulty in his believing in previous lives and he was quite determined that there would, because God had created this very life. This is a powerful teaching. To think that you were created by God means that you also have a spark of God within you.

“As a Buddhist I have to say something about Buddhism too. We believe in the law of causality, so we are creators ourselves. This too is a powerful teaching, because it means we are responsible for our own actions. If we do good to others, happiness results, if we harm them suffering ensues. This is yet another powerful teaching.”

His Holiness explained that his main commitment is to promoting human values. He stated that one religion, no matter how wonderful, would not have a universal appeal to all humanity. He noted that, for example, one billion human beings assert that they are non-believers, while many of those who claim to believe are insincere or mischief makers. The point is that there is a general lack of ethics. Ethics will not be promoted through ceremony and ritual, but through systematic education. He suggested that what is needed is a kind of emotional hygiene corresponding to physical hygiene.

“We have too much stress and the things we do for distraction only provide temporary relief.”

He suggested that those children who receive great affection from their mothers grow into happier adults, but what is also important is to find ways to incorporate ethics into the education system.

“If these ideas interest you, think about them further, discuss them with your friends and family. Let’s spread a message about the need to foster ethics and inner values in our education.”


The Very Rev. Gary Hall, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde at the National Cathedral in Washington DC on March 7, 2014. Photo/Sonam Zoksang
His Holiness was interrupted by a member of the audience calling out a question about Dolgyal-Shugden practice. His Holiness told him that at one time, out of ignorance, he had done the practice himself, but had come to realise it was a mistake. Research showed that the 5th Dalai Lama and the 13th Dalai Lama had strongly opposed it. Having realized it was a mistake, His Holiness said, his responsibility was to let other people know. How they choose to act on the basis of that knowledge is up to them. He said it was good that demonstrators were drawing attention to the issue and encouraging people to clarify what it’s about.

“As a human being I promote human values; as a Buddhist I encourage religious harmony and as a Tibetan I am concerned about preserving the Buddhist culture of Tibet and the country’s natural environment.”

When Dean Hall asked His Holiness how he keeps going, he answered, in connection with the cause of Tibet, that he is not looking for a one sided victory but a mutually acceptable solution. Tibetans have, for nearly 55 years, hoped for the best, while preparing for the worst. The Dean asked how he sought compassion and justice together and His Holiness replied that if you act with compassion, justice comes about naturally.

Three students asked questions. The first was how he remains humble, to which His Holiness replied that he always thinks of others equally as fellow human beings. He said that if he emphasises difference, that he is Tibetan, a Buddhist, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, it creates distance between him and others. A second student asked about how his meeting with President Obama had gone and wanted to know why members of the Chinese government got so angry about him. His Holiness answered:


A student asking His Holiness the Dalai Lama a question during his talk at the National Cathedral in Washington DC on March 7, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“Ask them! Still, the Chinese people are another matter. These 1.3 billion people have a right to know what’s going on. They have the ability to tell right from wrong, so the censorship they face amounts to an attempt to fool the people. In addition, it is important to them that the Chinese judiciary is brought up to international standards.”

Answering a question about faith and inspiration, he said that whatever you do your motivation should be pure and your goal should be realistic.

“I belong to the 20th century, but you young people belong to this new 21st century. The 20th century is past, we can only learn from the experience, but the future is yet to come and can be reshaped if we employ intelligence and warm-heartedness. You have the opportunity to create a happier century on the basis of compassion.”

He concluded by saying that America is the leading nation of the free world and should think not only of the interests of the US, but of the well-being of the whole world. In response to Dean Hall’s request he then recited three verses of prayer:

May the precious awakening mind
Take birth where it has not been born before;
Where it has been born
May it increase forever without decline.

May spiritual teachers appear in the world
May teachings shine forth like the rays of the sun
May the upholders of spiritual traditions be in kinship and harmony
And may those traditions long and beneficially endure.

As long as space remains,
And as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain
And help dispel the misery of the world.

***

After lunch, His Holiness had an engagement at the National Institutes of Health, but first he was able to meet Tibetans who live nearby or who had come down from New York.


Members of the Tibetan community listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during their meeting in Washington DC on March 7, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“My greetings to you all. We’ve been in exile nearly 55 years, but more important than that is what the people back home in Tibet have had to put up with for 60 years and still maintain their determination and courage. Even small children have a strong sense of being Tibetan. Anyway our generation has at least not disgraced the reputation of Tibet and the legacy of the great kings of the past.”

He said that since Tibetans came into exile, people at large have acquired a much better appreciation of Tibetan culture and traditions. There is also a greater awareness that Tibetans are a humble, kind, honest people. Visitors to Tibet are pleased to observe this and even tourists coming to Dharamsala prefer the atmosphere to other places. Heinrich Harrer realized that despite the hardship he faced in some ways, the seven years he spent in Tibet were among the best of his life.

“We Tibetans are enthusiastic about out Tibetan Buddhist culture, but I’d like to remind you that the Buddha advised his followers not to accept what he had taught at face value, or through blind faith. He encouraged them to question and test his words the way a goldsmith tests gold. So you should think about the teaching and apply it to your own experience. The Buddha emphasized suffering not to frighten us, but to alert us to the possibility of obtaining freedom from it.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to members of the Tibetan community during their meeting in Washington DC on March 7, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“Our ancestors worked hard to establish the Nalanda tradition in Tibet, but you don’t need to know Sanskrit, English or any other language to become acquainted with it because it is available in our own Tibetan language. Although Tibet fragmented after the 9th century, what the whole of Tibet had and continues to have in common is our language and the Buddha’s teachings,”

He spoke further about the nature of the teachings, the unique Buddhist view of dependent origination and the role of Shantarakshita in establishing Buddhism in Tibet.

Changing the subject he remarked that the Tibetan problem is not a matter of civil war or natural disasters, it’s that uninvited armed guests turned up talking about liberation, who then set about taking everything under their control. It is the kind of problem that can only be solved by sitting down and talking it through.

“If we were to try to take them on physically we would put people in Tibet at risk and undermine our international support,” he said.

***
At the National Institutes of Health (NIH), His Holiness was made welcome by the director Dr Francis Collins, who introduced him to several colleagues and members of staff before taking him into a couple of closed consultations. His Holiness’s old friend from the Mind & Life Institute, Dr Richard Davidson was also present.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the National Institutes of Health iin Washington DC on March 7, 2014. Photo/Sonam Zoksang
When His Holiness began to give the Ed Rall Cultural Lecture shortly afterwards to a packed auditorium, his first remarks were about what he had just seen. A 13 year old girl with cerebral palsy was undergoing a procedure in which her legs were being trained with a view to retraining her brain.

“Science has truly made a contribution to human well-being. I’ve been interested in it since my childhood and got my first opportunity to witness the effects of science and technology in mainland China in 1954 and once I came into exile in 1959. However, one caution is that scientific findings and developments are not necessarily a guarantee of a more peaceful world, as the development of nuclear weapons attests. Neither will scientific knowledge alone bring inner peace. Inner peace comes about as a result of both intelligence and compassion. That said, by the end of the 20th century a fair number of reputable scientists had begun to look into the question of what the mind is. I believe that by the end of the 21st century understanding of the mind will be much more complete.”

His Holiness was able to briefly answer several questions before leaving NIH for Dulles airport where he boarded a flight for Frankfurt en route back to India at the conclusion of a successful and wide ranging visit to the USA.
 

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