Mind Training & Taking Responsibility for Tomorrow’s World

May 9th 2014

Oslo, Norway, 8 May 2014 - Today is Norwegian Liberation Day, the day 69 years ago that Norway was officially liberated from Nazi forces. Civil rule had been effectively assumed by the ‘Reich Commissariat of Norway’ acting in collaboration with a pro-German puppet government, while the Norwegian king and legitimate government continued to operate in exile from London.


Norwegian book collector Martin Schøyen presenting to His Holiness the Dalai Lama examples of ancient Buddhist texts in Tibet in Oslo, Norway on May 8, 2014. Photo/Oliver Adam
As His Holiness started out for the day, Norwegian private book collector Martin Schøyen presented him examples of ancient Buddhist texts in Tibetan, including a page from the ‘Amitayus Sutra’ that he said was the oldest Tibetan text in existence. Arriving at Oslo University, Tibetans and Norwegian friends had gathered to welcome him. Once inside he had a brief meeting with a group of several Christian bishops and priests. He said:

“Religion is one of the factors that helps us cool our emotions, so it’s particularly sad when religion becomes a source of conflict. I think this occurs when there is not enough contact and understanding between us. We need to make greater efforts to emulate the Indian example of many religions living together in harmony. At an event to mark the first anniversary of the September 11th event, I pointed out that many people had adopted a view of Islam as a militant faith. I said then that it was wrong to generalize about an entire faith on the basis of the mischievous actions of a very few.”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking with Christian Bishops on his arrival at he Chateau Neuf Theatre in Oslo, Norway on May 8, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
He remarked that whenever he has the opportunity to meet other spiritual sisters and brothers he is happy and honoured to do so. Helga Haugland Byfuglen, Presiding Bishop of the Church of Norway, speaking for the group, thanked His Holiness for coming and told him that he was among friends. She agreed with him that it is necessary for religious people to get to know each other to be able to shape the future together. His Holiness took up the point and explained his efforts to promote secular ethics. He remarked that while ethics is the basis of all religions, it is not necessary for people to be religious to live ethical lives. Ethics bring a sense of confidence and a calm mind, which in turn fosters health and well-being.

In the Chateau Neuf theatre, before an audience of 1220, His Holiness said:

“I’m very happy to be here, with Buddhist monks and nuns representing the Pali and Sanskrit traditions and Christian brothers and sisters. Religious harmony is not just a matter of making diplomatic gestures but developing respect and mutual admiration. To think that all 7 billion human beings should become either Buddhist or Christian is unrealistic. These traditions have existed for centuries and will continue to do so in the future, so we have to live together. As I am going to teach about Buddhism today, I’d like to invite the Thai monks and nuns to chant the ‘Mangala Sutra’ in Pali and the Vietnamese monks to chant the ‘Heart Sutra’ in their language.”

In a brief introduction to the occasion, a representative of Karma Tashi Ling Buddhist Society told His Holiness that the only Buddhist temple in Scandinavia is nearing completion, inviting him to attend its inauguration next year. His Holiness replied that as he gets older invitations multiply and while he’s willing in spirit to attend he will have to see what is physically possible.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the Chateau Neuf Theatre in Oslo, Norway on May 8, 2014. Photo/Oliver Adam
“The West is a non-Buddhist region, while Buddhism is a largely Asian tradition,” he began. “I usually advise that it is better and safer to keep to your own tradition, not changing your faith like a change in fashion. However, if an individual really feels that a Buddhist approach is more helpful or effective for him or her, that’s up to them, but religious practice requires dedication and sincerity. Let me tell you about a Tibetan woman who came to see me in the 1960s. Her husband had died and she had two children to bring up. At that time Christian missionaries offered Tibetan refugees immense help with food and education. She told me that she had accepted such help for her children and consequently had become a Christian for this life, but would be a Buddhist in her next life - a clear sign of confusion!”

His Holiness went on to talk about an occasion in Australia when a Christian minister called Bill Crews, who provides help and support for the homeless, introduced him as a good Christian. In turn His Holiness told the gathering that he regarded Rev. Crews as a good Buddhist, noting that both try to practise love, compassion, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline.

When Buddhism was brought to Tibet in the 8th century, it was a revelation. As one great Tibetan master said:

In Tibet, the Land of Snow,
The natural colour is white,
But until the light came from India,
Tibet remained in the dark.

His Holiness said that all Tibet’s Buddhist knowledge had come from India and that the master who first established it, Shantarakshita, was not only a good monk, but also an exceptional philosopher and logician. A keen study of philosophy and logic became characteristics of Tibetan Buddhism. And it is this context that His Holiness has jokingly remarked when people build huge statues that while he appreciates them, the statues will never speak. The way to maintain the tradition is to cultivate knowledge in the mind. He explained that the word for Buddha in Tibetan indicates that he has eliminated all negative aspects and cultivated all positive qualities. Because a Buddha is able to perceive conventional and ultimate truth simultaneously, he is not subject as we are to the huge gap between appearance and reality.


Many of the over 1200 people attending His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teaching at the Chateau Neuf Theatre in Oslo, Norway on May 8, 2014. Photo/Duy Anh Pham
Saying that warm-heartedness opens the mind and brings inner strength, His Holiness denied the suggestion that Buddhism has no place for desire. He said this is a misunderstanding. We have a desire to lead a happy life, we have a desire to overcome suffering and achieve Buddhahood, and we have a right to work to fulfil these desires.

Turning to the text of Geshe Langri Tangpa’s ‘Eight Verses of Mind Training’, he said that seven of the verses concerned the method aspect of the path, while the last verse concerns wisdom. He then read through and paraphrased each verse in turn.

“I will regard all sentient beings as precious; I’ll show them respect. Whenever I meet them, I’ll cultivate a wish to fulfil their well-being; I’ll be prepared to serve them. We see Christian brothers and sisters doing just this, sacrificing their own comfort to serve others. When disturbing emotions like anger, hatred and jealousy threaten to arise I will stop them, for example by observing my breath. When I meet sick people who are subject to discrimination, like lepers or AIDS sufferers, I’ll extend them my help. When someone criticizes or scolds me, even though I tried to help them, I’ll give them the victory and accept the defeat. When someone I’ve helped does me harm, I won’t retaliate, but regard them as a teacher of patience. Through study and training, I’ll learn to take others’ sufferings upon myself and offer them my joy. Finally, regarding the eight worldly concerns, I will view everything like an illusion. Although things appear to have objective existence, I will see them as being like illusions.”

His Holiness attended a discussion with students in the afternoon focussed on the theme ‘Taking Responsibility for Tomorrow’s World’. The occasion opened with a startling flute recital by Tale Coleman and continued with an introduction by Oslo University Rector Ole Petter Ottersen. He remarked that for decades His Holiness has been the face of Tibet and speculated that the world would be a better place if its battles were fought through dialogue and argument as His Holiness commends.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking with students at Auditorium Oslo University in Oslo, Norway on May 8, 2014. Photo/Oliver Adam
His Holiness told his audience that he is always happy to talk to young students. While counting himself a member of the 20th century generation whose time has passed, he asserted that those who are less than 30 years old belong to the generation of the 21st century.

“It is your responsibility to work with vision, determination and wisdom to create a happier, more peaceful world. It won’t be achieved through mere prayer or wishful thinking but will require you to take action, while respecting others and their needs. We need to consider all 7 billion human beings alive today as belonging to one human family. Climate change and the global economy affect us all beyond national boundaries. We are faced with problems like the huge gap between rich and poor in many parts of the world.

“We are social animals so taking others’ well-being into account is in our long-term self-interest. Look at bees, they have no religion, no constitution, no police, yet they work together because they are social animals. I suggest the 21st century generation keep these things in mind.”

David Abram spoke eloquently about our relationship with the earth and how much we take for granted. We overlook the magical importance of gravity. We speak of living on the earth, whereas we actually live in the air and the air lives in us. His Holiness agreed suggesting that in places like India, development takes place in the countryside and villages rather than in the cities alone.


Students listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at Auditorium Oslo University in Oslo, Norway on May 8, 2014. Photo/Oliver Adam
Four students spoke articulately about their views of the future: one asked shouldn’t we recycle more, use public transport and reduce our energy consumption. Another appreciated the need to work with each other and to teach more in schools about what needs to be done for the future. Another questioned whether the problem isn’t that human beings are prone to taking short-sighted decisions. The young woman among them said her generation would be bringing children into a world in distress. She wanted young people to have a veto on policies being implemented now that will have negative consequence she and her peers will have to clear up. She said, for example, that there is no clean way of polluting, so the focus on petroleum has to change.

His Holiness concluded:

“When we face problems what’s important is to assess what we can actually achieve. I’m an old man who has faced all sorts of difficulties in his life, but I’ve never given up.

“In the past, when the need for leadership arose, physical strength was the criterion and so favoured men. Education has brought greater equality of potential. At a time when we need greater concern for the environment and sensitivity towards others’ concerns we need more women to take a lead.

“Thank you.”

Tomorrow, His Holiness will be visiting the Norwegian Parliament and the Nobel Peace Centre.
 

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