His Holiness the Dalai Lama Speaks about the Art of Compassion at Western Connecticut State University

October 19th 2012

Danbury, CT, US, 18 October 2012 - After a short journey from Providence, Rhode Island, this morning, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s first stop in Connecticut was at the Do Ngak Kunphen Ling Tibetan Buddhist Center for Universal Peace. Set quietly in a local house on 100 acres of ground near the town of Redding, the center is directed by Gyumed Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Jampa. He and members and friends of the center gave His Holiness a warm welcome and escorted him into the main shrine room, where he gave a short talk.

“I am very happy to be able to make this short visit here. I know Khen Rinpoche very well, he is a good monk and I am sure he won’t cheat you. Some time ago he was unwell and I was a little worried about him, but now he seems fine.”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to members of the Do Ngak Kunphen Ling Tibetan Buddhist Center for Universal Peace in Danbury CT, on October 18, 2012. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
He said he was pleased to hear about what was taught in the center. Buddhism in general and the Nalanda tradition in particular emphasise study and investigation. The Buddha himself told his followers not to accept his teaching on trust but to investigate and examine it. The Nalanda masters applied this admonition with the result that some of the teachings recorded in the scriptures are regarded as definitive, while others are regarded as provisional. It seems to be a unique Buddhist stance to allow for an intelligent approach based on study and examination in addition to faith.

His Holiness referred to the subtle explanation of the emergence and dissolution of consciousness in Buddhist science that has much in common with a modern scientific approach. He also mentioned that in learning more from modern science one of the casualties has been the Buddhist description of the cosmos with Mount Meru at the centre.

With regard to practice, the basic structure is the training in morality, concentration and wisdom. In the introductory verses to his Great Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, Je Tsongkhapa says, ‘These days those dedicated to the practice of meditation seem to be lacking in knowledge, whereas the learned seem not to be skilled in applying what they know to their practice.’ What he envisaged was a text that would bring together all the elements of the Dharma in a way that could be readily applied in practice. His greatest fulfilment of this aim in the Stages of the Path comes at the end with his explanation of concentration and special insight. His Holiness said he had advised Khen Rinpoche not to confine himself to the text alone, but to elaborate where necessary, as a result of which his students’ understanding will be enriched.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to over 700 members of the Tibetan community that gathered in Danbury, CT, on October 18, 2012. Photo/Sonam Zoksang
After lunch at the Center, His Holiness drove into Danbury where he was received by the President and Vice-President of Western Connecticut State University. He addressed about 700 Tibetans before going on to the O’Neill Center where he was to speak about the Art of Compassion. Warmly received by a mixed audience of 3500, he was introduced by Richard Gere, who rejoicing at the sight of so many smiling faces  and extolled the feeling of brother and sisterhood in gathering to listen to His Holiness. “This opportunity to be with a completely reliable spiritual teacher is extraordinary,” he said. And His Holiness responded in kind,

“Respected President of the University, dear Richard Gere, brothers and sisters, it’s a great honour for me to speak to you students and local people, as well as so many other old friends. It feels like a reunion.”

“My fundamental belief is that we are all the same as human beings. We don’t need an introduction when we meet because we are mentally, physically, emotionally the same. I find this is a very helpful way of thinking. Whether I’m speaking to 1000 people or 100,000, there are no barriers between us.”

His Holiness explained that when there are no barriers there’s room for trust. Trust is the basis of friendship. On a global level the time has come to develop a strong sense of the oneness of humanity. Then there will be no room for exploitation, cheating or bullying. If others are successful, be happy. Otherwise, if we a jealous, that leads to mistrust, which leads to fear and suspicion and ultimately loneliness.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at Western Connecticut State University's O'Neill Center in Danbury, CT, on October 18, 2012. Photo/WCSU
Everyone wants to lead a peaceful life, but a peaceful society does not evolve only from economic development, it comes about as a result of inner peace in the hearts of individuals. How can we develop such inner peace? Through prayer? His Holiness said that of course prayer has its place, but he feels a need to take action instead. People today are familiar with the word meditation, but there is more to it than closing our eyes and relaxing. The mind needs to remain fully alert, we need to analyse the nature of self and scrupulously examine what suffering is. He said such analytical meditation is what brings him inner peace. Other people can do this too if they employ their intelligence fully.

Emotions create trouble in our minds, but we can regulate them by applying our intelligence. For example, we might be on the verge of getting angry, but another part of our mind intervenes and helps us to stop. Anger only ever brings trouble, as well as damaging our health. We can regulate emotions like anger not through prayer, but by using our intelligence. To do that better we need to know more about how the system of mind and emotion works. However, while modern education has much to tell us about the material world, it’s generally inadequate when it comes to the mind.

His Holiness declared that we are all born from a mother and we are biologically equipped to give and respond to affection by the care that most of us receive from her. This sense of affection is the basis for warm-heartedness and warm-heartedness is the basis for the compassion that underlies what he calls secular ethics. Although ethics are widely regarded as the province of religion, His Holiness uses secular here not to dismiss religion but to express an impartial respect for all religions.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama responding to questions from the audience during his talk at Western Connecticut State University's O'Neill Center in Danbury, CT, on October 18, 2012. Photo/WCSU
Happiness and suffering are dependent on causes; actions we do that benefit others, benefit us too. Many of our problems arise because we take an unrealistic approach to whatever’s involved. His Holiness remarked that the idea of interdependence can be helpful in all kinds of situations. If we are unrealistic, whatever we do will not yield a positive result. Conversely if we want to better appreciate the reality of a situation, we have to take a realistic view. His Holiness concluded his talk, saying,

“Happiness depends on inner peace; inner peace depends on warm-heartedness. Inner peace can be found by employing our intelligence.”

A student asked what one thing most harms humanity and His Holiness’s answer was ignorance. The reason we place such stress on education is that by definition it helps us reduce ignorance. To a question about the role of religion in society, he said religion had brought great solace to many in the past and will continue to do so in the future. The different philosophical views they expound indicate different approaches to the same target. Another student mentioned that we train children to be kind and compassionate, and asked what can be done to stop adults fighting. His Holiness recalled that the twentieth century, despite many great developments, was an era of violence and bloodshed. He hopes that this new century will prove to be an era of dialogue. Problems will continue to occur, but the solution should change, dialogue being more effective than force. What’s more, we should apply this too in our day to day lives.


Members of the audience at Western Connecticut State University's O'Neill Center listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking in Danbury, CT, on October 18, 2012. Photo/WCSU
When pressed about the advice he gives the foreign leaders he meets, His Holiness agreed that he has the opportunity to meet both political and spiritual leaders, but made clear that he doesn’t lecture them. He said they tend to sit together and talk easily like friends. Finally, with regard to where young people can find the inspiration to act for the good of humanity, he said they need vision and determination. He also suggested American students should learn more about other parts of the world. Once they learn more about difficulties elsewhere, they may better appreciate their own country’s qualities and be inspired to give those less fortunate their help.

His Holiness often finishes his public talks with the following proviso,

“Please think about what I have said and if it makes sense to you, fine, put it into effect; but if it isn’t any use then forget it.”
 

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