Panel Discussion as Part of the Forum ‘Happiness and Its Causes’ and a Meeting with Chinese Scholars and Friends in Melbourne

June 20th 2013

Adelaide, Australia, 20 June 2013 - Before leaving his hotel to begin his public program this morning, His Holiness was interviewed by Mark Davis for Dateline on SBS Television. He asked if His Holiness had more time and energy for spiritual matters since retiring from political responsibilities.

“Yes, I am committed to promoting human values and inter-religious harmony. The affection our mothers show us right after we’re born plants the seed of compassion in us that is the ultimate source of peace of mind. As people grow up they tend to forget this. I try to remind them about it.”


Mark Davis of SBS Television's Dateline interviewing His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Melbourne, Australia on June 20, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
He said that the system of Dalai Lamas’ exercising temporal as well as spiritual authority was out of date, which he had been aware of since he was a child, and that it was necessary to act according to the realities of the twenty-first century. However, he conceded that as 6 million Tibetans continue to vest their trust in him, he has a responsibility to do what he can to help them.

In relation to prospects for change in China, he said that in a country with such a large population some central power is necessary and that if China were to collapse or disintegrate it would never experience democracy. Therefore, gradual change is in everyone’s interest.

With regard to the self-immolations that have been taking place in Tibet, he repeated that they are very, very sad. He recalled telling a BBC interviewer early on that he doubted that such actions would be very effective. However, he reiterated that they are the symptoms of a cause that it is the Chinese authorities’ responsibility to investigate and address.

Finally, asked if he thought he would set foot again in Tibet, he answered:

“Definitely.”

Joining a panel in the Melbourne Convention Centre as part of a conference focussed on ‘Happiness & its Causes’, moderator Natasha Mitchell asked His Holiness why compassion is radical. He answered:

“We are born full of affection. After our birth our mother’s touch and affection is crucial to the growth of our brains. Affection and love are already within us. We belong to a category of mammals whose very survival is totally dependent on others.”

In connection with leadership and compassion, he said:

“Modern culture doesn’t pay much attention to these things. After the age of about 10 a sense of compassion seems to become irrelevant. People tend to associate compassion with weakness, so when the goal of life is money and power, there’s little room for compassion. However, it’s notable that towards the end of the twentieth century leaders have begun to use the word compassion.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and fellow panelists during the "Happiness and It's Causes - MindForum" at the Melbourne Convention Centre in Melbourne, Australia on June 20, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“Whenever I have the opportunity I share my views about this with others. Today’s leaders belong to a society that has had little interest in inner values like compassion. I believe we need to find ways to overcome this neglect of inner values by introducing secular ethics into our modern education system. The path to change is to educate the future generation.”

Professor of Psychiatry, Jayashri Kulkarni spoke about a general problem of violence against women and an increase of sexual assaults against women. She noted findings that when pregnant women are subject to assault the cortisol their bodies generate is conveyed to the foetus. She asked how as a society we can improve the status of women and diminish sexism and gender violence. His Holiness replied that he is aware of discrimination against women. He feels that in very early human society there was greater equality, but that as population increased and agriculture emerged so did a need for leadership. In the absence of education, physical strength became the criterion for leadership and males became dominant. He said education can change this and suggested that in the short term it may be useful for schools to teach girls about self-defence.

Lorimer Moseley, a Professor of Clinical Neurosciences first wanted to ask:

“What’s it like being Dalai Lama?”

His Holiness replied:

“I try to think of myself just as one among 7 billion human beings. If we emphasise differences between us it creates distance; if I dwell on the idea that I’m Dalai Lama I make myself a prisoner, but if I think of myself as a human being like everyone else it brings us closer. All 7 billion human beings are interdependent, so my future like everyone else’s depends on the rest of humanity.”

Moseley talked about the protective role of pain. He asked what sort of practice of mind can bring physical contentment. His Holiness responded that according to the ancient Indian science of mind, we can distinguish sensory consciousness from mental consciousness and so the sensory level from the mental level of pain and pleasure. He recalled having a smallpox vaccination when he was young that was painful and uncomfortable, but because the doctor had explained its protective function of preventing disease, he willingly put up with the pain.


The audience at the Melbourne Convention Centre, venue for the "Happiness and It's Causes - Mind Forum" with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Melbourne, Australia on June 20, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
He cited another example of how for two people the sound of music is the same, yet for one it is beautiful, while the other finds it irritating. He said training the mind is a mental experience; we learn on a mental level.

Dr Mario Beauregard, who works in Psychology and Neuroscience, told the panel that some people assert that mental experience can be reduced to electrical impulses. The materialist view regards people as like machines. However, he described how research into the placebo effect is showing that we can regulate ourselves. Human beings can consciously regulate areas of the brain that have emotional functions. He said it is becoming clear that the brain is plastic and that we can train ourselves and parts of our brains with regard to positive emotions. He asked about the relation between mental health and the physical state of the brain.

In his answer, His Holiness spoke about different levels of mind, comparing the waking state to that of deep sleep and dream in which sensory consciousness is suspended. According to Buddhist and ancient Indian psychology, there is a great deal to explore here. The coarser levels of mind may entirely depend on the brain, but the subtler mind is not so dependent. To a question about the source of consciousness, he said that the substantive cause of consciousness must be consciousness.

Beauregard talked about near death experiences, about people who have been clinically dead, who afterwards report experience during the process. He said there is now evidence of consciousness and mental function in the absence of brain activity. Prof Kulkarni interjected that anxiety about death and wishing to explain it is a longstanding phenomenon. His Holiness agreed, but said that if you’ve lived a meaningful life there is no need for fear of death. He added:

“So far, scientific investigation of the mind has been insufficient and inconclusive because mind cannot be seen and is difficult to measure. But I feel that in the later part of this century our knowledge and understanding of the mind will significantly improve.”

After lunch with his fellow panellists, His Holiness attended a meeting of Chinese scholars and friends. Addressing them he said:


His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Chinese friends and scholars after their meeting in Melbourne, Australia on June 20, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“Chinese brothers and sisters, I am happy to meet Chinese when I visit different countries and I am happy to meet you here today. Tibetan-Chinese relations are about 2000 years old. Sometimes we have been close, and at other times we have fought each other. For the last 60 years or so we have faced a problem.”

He recounted the apprehension with which he had gone to China in 1954 and the sense of confidence he felt on his way home in 1955. He reminded his listeners that Tibetans are not seeking separation and independence and informed them that within China many intellectuals and retired officials have expressed support for the Middle Way Approach.

From Melbourne, His Holiness flew to Adelaide, where he was received with great enthusiasm at the airport. He paid a short visit to the Tibetan Buddhist Institute, Theckchen Shedrub Choeling founded by Khensur Lobsang Thubten Rinpoche. After hearing a brief report of the centre’s activities and projects to support the education of Tibetan children he addressed the gathering.

“Spiritual brothers and sisters, respected monks and nuns, I am happy to be here and although Geshe-la isn’t able to be with us I can see that you are fulfilling his wishes. Our main concern is the preservation of Tibetan Buddhism and our Buddhist culture. Tibetan Buddhism is directly related to the Nalanda tradition that the Indian master Shantarakshita, with Padmasambhava’s help, introduced to Tibet. He was a great philosopher and logician and, as well as instigating the translation of Buddhist literature into Tibetan, he introduced the study of logic and epistemology right at the beginning for the benefit of future generations.

“Over the last 54 years in exile, I have had discussions with Buddhists from many Buddhist countries and found that when I met Sri Lankan bhikkhus we had the practice of Vinaya in common. When I met Buddhists from China, Japan and Korea, we had the Perfection of Wisdom and the Bodhisattva vow in common and with the Chinese and Japanese we also share the practice of tantra. This is evidence to me of the comprehensiveness of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the Tibetan Buddhist Institute in Adelaide, Australia on June 20, 2013. Photo/Rusty Stewart/DLIA 2013
“What’s more, the name of Buddha Shakyamuni, like that of Mahatma Gandhi, has become synonymous with the idea of non-violence. Tibetan Buddhist culture is a culture of compassion and non-violence.”

He said that he knows Geshe Lo Thubten well and that he is a good scholar and a good monk. He said he appreciates the work of this small centre, but suggested that it should become a centre of learning not only a place to pray.

“When we think of Nalanda we think of a centre of learning. Buddhist psychology is of great benefit; people with a general interest in the mind and emotions should also be able to come learn about them here. Thank you.”
 

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