Meeting with Members of the Dutch Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee and Friends of Tibet

May 13th 2014

Rotterdam, Holland, 12 May 2014 - Meeting with groups of people interested in Buddhism and the cause of Tibet at his hotel this morning, His Holiness the Dalai Lama began by telling them:

“There are several aspects of the Tibetan question, among which I’d like to talk to you about the damage being done to Tibet’s delicate natural environment. I read a report by a Chinese ecologist that compared Tibet’s significance to that of the North and South Poles; he described Tibet as the Third Pole. This is because Asia’s major rivers rise in Tibet and more than 1 billion people depend on their waters. Damming the Brahmaputra, for example, will have effects on both India and Bangladesh.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama meeting with Tibet supporters in Rotterdam, Holland on May 12, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“I appeal to supporters like you to assemble a group, experts among them, to go to Tibet to examine what is happening, to assess what damage has already been done and what precautions could prevent it getting worse. The information would be shared with the Chinese authorities who are often not properly informed.”

With regard to human rights violations, His Holiness explained that about 15 years ago a Chinese Communist Party Secretary announced that Buddhist religion and culture was a major factor compounding Tibetan separatism. Consequently, he cracked down hard on monasteries and nunneries, exerting tight control over their activities. This is what provoked the 2008 unrest.

“In the context of this real violation of religious freedom in Tibet, I’d like to mention the members of the pro-Shugden group demonstrating against me on the streets here. They are allegedly seeking religious freedom. In fact, when I propitiated this evil spirit, I forfeited my religious freedom. The practice and the spirit are very sectarian. It is said that if you are a follower of the Yellow Hat Sect and you so much as keep a text belonging to one of the Red Hat Sects in your room, he’ll punish you and do you harm.

“My Senior Tutor, Ling Rinpoche strongly opposed this spirit and the practice associated with it and yet when I wanted to receive a Nyingma teaching from another Lama, he cautioned me not to do so. Therefore, restriction of this practice actually protects religious freedom.”

His Holiness repeated that the Chinese crackdown on Tibetan language and the way they look down on Tibetan culture is the real source of separatism. He pointed out that if you beat a dog it will run away. If you want it to stay you have to treat it with affection. Tibetans are human beings, who are not to be fobbed off with new infrastructure, while not being treated with any respect. Tibetans are not animals and they are not the only ones to suffer. The other ethnic groups, the Uighurs, Mongolians and Manchus, indicated in the Chinese flag by the four smaller stars around the larger star for the Han, suffer too.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Tibet supporter in Rotterdam, Holland on May 12, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
There are only 6 million Tibetans, but they have their own history and culture of which they are justifiably proud. The crackdown on religion and language is a serious human rights violation. Then there is mining to which many local people object and finally the matter of relations between China and India, the world’s two most populous, nuclear armed, nations. The huge number of troops in Tibet is cause for alarm in India. If the situation in Tibet were normalized, many of them could be withdrawn.

Talking to a separate group of Chinese students, His Holiness spoke of his interest in visiting the Buddhist sacred site of Wutai Shan. An earlier request was dismissed on the grounds of his alleged political activities. He has since made an agreement with a Taiwanese monk that should he be permitted to visit the Chinese Mountain associated with Manjushri, they would arrange to recite Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom’ there in Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese. To a question about the ultimate goal of Buddhism, he answered ‘Buddhahood’, adding that his own practice focuses on developing the awakening mind of bodhichitta and an understanding of emptiness. He told the questioner that if he too does those practices the sun will shine in his life.

To remarks about the strong sense of being Chinese among Chinese youth, His Holiness said that in Mao’s day Han chauvinism was disapproved of, but these days does not seem to be discouraged. He felt that nationalist feelings should not be taken to extremes. In relation to the intense surveillance that takes place in China, he said that the 1.3 Chinese people have a right to know what is going on and have the ability to judge right from wrong on that basis. He added that it is important that the Chinese judicial system be brought up to international standards.

At the end of the meeting, one of the students stood up to say: “We love Tibet, we love His Holiness; Tibetans and Chinese are brothers and sisters.” This prompted His Holiness to remember an old Chinese man who had brought his son to see him saying that he wanted the next generation to meet His Holiness.


Dutch Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Chairperson Angeline Eijsink greeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his arrival the the Dutch Parliament building in the Hague, Holland on May 12, 2014. Photo/Jurjen Donkers
Mid-morning His Holiness drove to The Hague for a meeting with members of the Dutch Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and other MPs. He was welcomed at the door by Committee Chairperson, Angeline Eijsink who escorted him into the meeting room where committee members were eager to greet him and shake his hand. In her introduction she said:

“We are very happy to have you here again after five years. We admire your work for peace and human rights. Many join me in welcoming you to the Netherlands again. I’d like to open the floor for you to speak to us.”

“Respected Members of Parliament,” His Holiness began. “I have been an admirer of the democratic system since I was a child. Before I took political responsibility for Tibet, my friends included sweepers and servants through whom I heard the gossip about this or that official’s bullying, exploiting and favouritism. Soon after I took responsibility in 1951 I set up a committee with the intention of instituting reform. However, since the Chinese wanted to make their own changes they didn’t approve of it. After arriving in India in 1959 I renewed my efforts to introduce democracy among Tibetans. Consequently, in 2001, after a political leader was directly elected for the first time I semi-retired. Then, after the elections of 2011, I fully retired.

“I have confidence in democracy. I believe a country belongs to the people who live there, not to their leaders. The Netherlands belongs to the Dutch people not to any of the parties represented among you.”

Describing himself as a 79 year old simple Buddhist monk, he said he considers himself just a human being like the 7 billion others on the planet, each of whom should think about the welfare of others. He said that all of us are born to our mothers and have grown up in her affection, which planted the seed of compassion within us. Nurturing this sense of compassion and human values he described as his first commitment. He said his second commitment is promoting inter-religious harmony, much as it has flourished in India for hundreds of years. As for his third commitment, he said he is a Tibetan and someone in whom Tibetans have placed their trust.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama meeting with members of the Dutch Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee and other MPs at the Dutch Parliament in the Hague, Holland on May 12, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“I feel that Tibet’s culture of peace and non-violence is of immense help and value to humanity. I’m dedicated to preserving it, not only for the people of Tibet, but also keeping in mind the large number of Chinese Buddhists who are renewing their interest in Tibetan Buddhism.

“The people of this country and the EU have for decades shown great concern for Tibet and its people. Along with the USA and Canada you have generously offered us support and I’d like to thank you.”

The first question from the floor was about the possibility of renewing dialogue with the Chinese authorities. His Holiness remarked that Tibetans and Chinese have had relations for about 3000 years; sometimes they have been happy and sometimes less so. In the early 1950s he met Chairman Mao with Tibetan Communists who felt that under Chinese Communist leadership they could build a better Tibet. However, after 1956 or 57, these Tibetan Communists were removed and the Party became more leftist and inflexible.

“Today,” he said, “the new leader, Xi Jinping seems to be more practical and realistic. What I can say is that over the years the Chinese Communist Party has shown an ability to act according to changed reality.”

Another questioner asked what else he and his colleagues could do for Tibet and His Holiness repeated what he had said elsewhere that it is important to express concern for Tibet’s natural environment and for continuing violations of human rights. He also mentioned that Liu Xiaobo needs their support. Asked whether the continuing self-immolations in Tibet are an expression of protest, anger or despair, His Holiness replied: “Despair.” He said:

“We Tibetans love our culture, as I’m sure you do, but the control and oppression it is presently under upsets many Tibetans to the point that they are prepared to take their lives. This is a sensitive political issue because Chinese hardliners accuse us of instigating these drastic steps, much as they blamed us for the protests in 2008.”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama meeting with members of the Dutch Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee and other MPs at the Dutch Parliament in the Hague, Holland on May 12, 2014. Photo/Jurjen Donkers
A committee member wanted to know what gives His Holiness the energy to go on and he answered:

“I have the freedom to speak up for Tibet. The spirit of Tibetans in their homeland has not diminished and we have their support for our Middle Way Approach. I think things are changing. China must follow the world trend towards greater democracy and freedom.”

When a young father among the members asked what values he should be thinking of sharing with his now six month old son, His Holiness at first said that parenthood was something he has no experience of, but on reflection he said:

“You have a great opportunity in bringing up your young son. Scientists have found that physical touch is an important factor in children’s development, especially the development of the brain. It’s important that you share your love and affection with him. In my own case, my mother was really warm-hearted, we were not very well off, but she treated us all with immense kindness. She was my first teacher of compassion.”

Angeline Eijsink concluded the session:

“Thank you for bringing your wisdom to our parliament.”

In the sunshine in the yard outside the parliament reporters and schoolchildren were waiting to catch a glimpse of His Holiness. He moved among them laughing, exchanging greetings and shaking hands.


Former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers introducing His Holiness the Dalai lama at the start of a seminar on "Education of the Heart" at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Holland on May 12, 2014. Photo/Jurjen Donker
After lunch His Holiness participated in a seminar on the theme ‘Education of the Heart’ at Erasmus University, the seat of learning that bears the name of the great Dutch humanist. His Holiness was introduced by an old friend, former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers. A band of musicians played a song composed specifically for His Holiness’s visit. Moderator Daniel Siegel explained to the 600 people in attendance that ‘Education of the Heart’ was an initiative taking inspiration from His Holiness’s book Beyond Religion’ to bring inner values, secular ethics into contemporary education. He asked His Holiness what reflections he had gathered about this from his travels around the world and he replied:

“Firstly, it’s a great honour for me to participate in this seminar with you. I’m especially happy to see all these young people here because meeting young people makes me feel younger too. But also these are the people who embody our hopes for the future. Those of us here who are more than 60 years old belong to the 20th century, a time which has passed. We can learn from it, but we can’t change it. The future, however, is more like an open space which is full of potential and which could go this way or that. You young brothers and sisters, who belong to the 21st century, have the opportunity to shape the future and make a better world.

“Don’t follow the example of the 20th century in resorting to the use of force at every opportunity. When problems arise try to resolve them in other ways. The use of force and violence is out of date. First of all think in terms of what will most benefit humanity as a whole. Climate change and the global economy are nudging us towards seeing humanity as one family. We are interdependent as never before and yet we still tend to think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’, which makes our outlook unrealistic and likely to fail. Meanwhile, in too many parts of the world there is a huge gap between rich and poor.

“We need to exert efforts to focus humanity on moral principles, but if they are to be based on religious faith we run into complications. There are limits to each religious tradition which mean that none of them has universal appeal, while 1billion of the 7 billion human population have no interest in religion at all. The solution is to introduce secular ethics into the education system.”


A student asking His Holiness the Dalai Lama a question during the seminar on "Educating the Heart" at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Holland on May 12, 2014. Photo/Jurjen Donkers
A delightful musical interlude played by three young women was followed by questions. His Holiness stressed that to take action on the basis of compassion requires courage and self-confidence. Drawing on the advice of a great Indian Buddhist teacher he pointed out how important it is to realistically assess what can and cannot be done. If you can overcome the challenge you face, there is no need to worry about it, but if you decide you can’t overcome it, worry won’t help. This approach is both practical and realistic.

In the grounds of the university His Holiness participated with several children in the planting of a tree. Having tied a silk scarf loosely round it he made the wish that as the tree grows tall and strong, the seed of compassion may grow widely in the world.

Tomorrow, His Holiness travels to Frankfurt in Germany where he will give public talks on secular ethics and compassion.
 

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