His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Final Day in Japan

November 15th 2010

Hiroshima, Japan, 15 November 2010 - On the last full day of his autumn trip to Japan this year, His Holiness began with a private audience and then devoted the entire afternoon to a series of interviews. The first was conducted with The Big Issue Japan, a magazine for homeless people, and the first question, inevitably, had to do with the recent economic crisis.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama meets with Japanese musicians in his hotel room in Hiroshima, Japan, on November 15th, 2010. Photo/OHHDL
Seated at a table on the 22nd floor of the Grand Prince Hotel, surrounded by windows overlooking the sea and a series of thickly forested islands--the view might almost have been an image of the spaciousness and the wider perspective he often speaks for--His Holiness stressed how the crisis "may teach people about the limits of economic growth." Ten or fifteen years before, when Japan was enjoying a boom, he recalled, he had warned that no one could take such growth for granted. Seizing on his questioner's use of the term "chaotic era" for the present moment, he went on, "Business circles may be in chaos, but ordinary people are not so much chaotic. Where I live in India, there are not many signs of chaos." The real reason for "mental unrest, he suggested, may be "too many ups and downs in the mind," as a result of lots of emphasis on economic value, but much less on inner value.

As he had reminded several audiences this week, "Here in Japan, Buddhism is your own treasure. So you should pay more attention and utilize your tradition, which is Buddhism. Sometimes we put too much emphasis on ritual, on ceremony. That's meaningless! We must take the essence, and these teachings must be relevant to our day-to-day life. If you're chanting the Heart Sutra without knowing the meaning, what's the use? It's almost like a tape-recorder: the sound is there, but no meaning!"

The next group to visit him was a band of Japanese musicians, dressed as for a heavy-metal concert, who are hoping to put on a Peace Music Festival, and were interested to know His Holiness's views on music. His Holiness stressed that his knowledge of music is "very limited," and pointed out that music touches many only on the sensory, not the mental level, but he affirmed the potential of music to reach large numbers of people with a very useful message. "Of course," he said, "the tone of a piece of music is important, but the most important thing is the message." As a medium, as a means to a constructive end, music can open the door to both compassion and non-violence (as can many things, it was tempting to think, so long as the motivation is pure and well-considered).

His Holiness the Dalai Lama meeting with the press in Hiroshima, Japan, on November 15th, 2010. Photo/OHHDL
Each of the four musicians in turn asked a sincere question, and His Holiness noted how many of the "natural disasters" that seem to afflict us are, in fact, ultimately brought about by men (through deforestation, for example); which is a cause for small optimism, because what is caused by men can be cured by men. Asked what time of day is his favorite, he mentioned "Deep sleep, because it's harmless. But very good for health!" As the sun began slanting through the steel-grey clouds above the water, sending shafts of light all around the scene behind him, His Holiness posed for photos with all his interviewers, and went downstairs to hold a press conference with twenty or so members of the Japanese press.

He began his group interview by outlining his main purposes in life, as a human being, a Buddhist and a Tibetan (and cited the example of India, where, "for more than 2000 years, all the major religious traditions have lived together. Of course there are some problems here and there. But mostly it's quiet harmonious"). He urged the media, in fact, not just to concentrate on bad news, which makes its audience think, "Basically, human people are bad. So humanity is doomed." Give them hope, he urged, give them courage!

Responding to questions from the floor, he described how cultural genocide is taking place in Tibet, unintentionally (since, for example, most Tibetans are now moved to speak Chinese rather than Tibetan in a Lhasa that is 65% Han Chinese) and sometimes intentionally (among those hard-liners who have taken classical Tibetan texts out of the university curriculum and tried to discourage the Tibetan language and Buddhism). He remembered how Chairman Mao, early on, had spoken out against "Chinese chauvinism" or too narrow nationalism.

Members of the media listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Hiroshima, Japan, on November 15th, 2010.
Asked, finally, for advice on how Japan should face challenges from abroad, he said, "Stand firm in principle, with patience! That's important." Though the press conference was due to conclude at 3:00 p.m., His Holiness kept on entertaining questions -- from Japanese newspaper people, Japanese television staffers and foreigners -- until 4:20, and then invited everyone in the room to come up and join him for a group photo.

By the time he headed up to his room to prepare for an early-morning flight to Tokyo and then to Delhi again, the sun was turning many of Hiroshima's buildings to gold and a large number of the people to be seen in the city were smiling and positively glowing.

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