Arriving in Switzerland, His Holiness the Dalai Lama Addresses the Second Tibetan Buddhist Conference in Europe

April 12th 2013

Fribourg, Switzerland 12 April 2013 - A light drizzle was falling when His Holiness the Dalai Lama stepped out of his hotel in Bolzano and looking up, waved to staff in the Provincial Offices who waiting to see him off on his journey to Switzerland. The weather deteriorated sufficiently to delay the take-off of his flight by almost an hour.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting well-wishers on his arrival at the Friborg Forum in Friborg, Switzerland, on April 12, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
He was received on arrival at Payerne Airport in Switzerland by India’s Ambassador Ms Chitra Narayanan and a representative of the Tibetan organizers of the teachings in Fribourg, before driving under intermittent sunshine to the Fribourg Forum to address about 80 representatives at the Second Tibetan Buddhist Conference in Europe.

“I am honoured to meet with people dedicated to the Buddhadharma.” He said, “Let me share a few points with you.

“Each one of the 7 billion people on earth wants to lead a happy life. Until now many of them have become accustomed to thinking that money is a natural source of happiness. However, this is not the case. Nowadays, therefore, bodies like the Mind & Life Institute are making efforts to educate people to pay more attention to developing inner peace and a calm mind.”

His Holiness explained that our various religious traditions besides Buddhism should be capable of fostering the ethics that are the root of such inner values. If we look at what the Buddha taught in terms of the Listener, Solitary Realizer and Bodhisattva vehicles and the Vaibhashika, Sautrantika, Chittamatra, and Madhyamaka schools of thought, we might ask why he gave such a range of instructions. And the answer is that he saw that different people have different needs and aptitudes.

His Holiness read recently that one billion out of the 7 billion population of the earth count themselves as non-believers in any religious tradition. Yet he suspects that of the remaining 6 billion, many more fall among the non-believers because they only pay lip-service to their spiritual practice when they are at the church or temple and appear to neglect it in the rest of their lives.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the European Tibetan Buddhist Conference held at the Friborg Forum in Friborg, Switzerland, on April 12, 2013. Photo/Manuel Bauer
Therefore, there is a need for a serious effort to increase awareness of the importance of ethics, not as a religious practice related to heaven or liberation, but as something that affects us directly now. We need to help people understand that they will be happier if their actions are more consistently positive, which will lead to greater transparency, more friends and greater self-confidence.

This is not an invitation to proselytise. His Holiness was very clear about that:

“Even though I have spoken about Buddhism all over the world, I never suggest that anyone should become a Buddhist. Rather I recommend that people preserve their connection to their native religion. I also warn against building extravagant centres and temples in what are traditionally non-Buddhist countries for fear of causing an affront.”

What is important, he went on, is that people find ways to become more realistic and more compassionate. The path to this is education. Buddhists should examine how they can contribute to the betterment of society where they live by developing such education. His Holiness mentioned that in recent years he has reassessed how we can classify the teachings found in the Kangyur and Tengyur collection: Buddhist science, Buddhist philosophy and Buddhist religion. Classes based on these categorisations, during which visitors to Buddhist centres could learn about the functioning of the mind and emotions, would be very useful. This could entail establishing a sense of mental and emotional hygiene to correspond to the physical hygiene we normally observe to preserve our health.

Delegates to the European Tibetan Buddhist Conference listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Friborg Forum in Friborg, Switzerland, on April 12, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
Stressing that to be a Buddhist in the twenty-first century requires knowledge and understanding, not only faith, His Holiness urged people to study. This he said is an aspect of the legacy of the Nalanda tradition, which is the source of all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He recalled a woman in the USA telling him that it was all very well for him to assert that Tibetan Buddhism is derived from Nalanda, but not all Sakyapas or Kagyupas agree. He said that he kept quiet at the time, but that it is quite clear that the Sakya tradition derives from the adept Virupa, and the Kagyu tradition from the adept Naropa, both of whom had formerly been scholars at Nalanda.

“It’s important to avoid divisive sectarian tendencies like this because Tibetan Buddhism is one of the richest Buddhist traditions and the Tibetan language is the best medium for conveying what it says.”

After lunch, His Holiness gave several interviews to German, French and Swiss journalists. Inevitably he was asked again about the self-immolations that have taken place in Tibet and why he does not issue a statement urging them to stop. He replied:

“I have retired from political engagement and this is a political issue. However, we should note that these people could have sought to harm others, but chose to end their own lives instead. When this first occurred I expressed my sadness, but even then I expressed doubt as to the effectiveness of this kind of action. I certainly have not encouraged it.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama being interviewed for Swiss National TV at his hotel in Murten, Switzerland, on April 12, 2013. Photo/Manuel Bauer
His Holiness challenged a suggestion that non-violence is not of practical value, pointing out that India achieved Independence through non-violent struggle and having done so was able to maintain friendly relations with Britain, the former colonial power. He pointed out that non-violence is a crucial factor in attracting the support of Chinese intellectuals and writers to the Middle Way Approach.

He was also asked what he might say to Xi Jinping if he were to meet him and his response was:
“You are the leader of 1.3 billion people. As Deng Xiaoping said, we should seek truth from facts. Please do that. Analyse the reality of the situation then act accordingly. This is also what Hu Yaobang did.“

Tomorrow, His Holiness will return to the Friborg Forum, where he will begin teaching Atisha’s ‘Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment.’

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