His Holiness the Dalai Lama Speaks on Community and Well-Being and the Quest for Happiness in Adelaide

June 21st 2013

Adelaide, Australia, 21 June 2013 - As the Winter Solstice dawned over Adelaide today, the sky was dark with benign rain. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was received on arrival at Adelaide Town Hall by Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and Bob Brown, who escorted him to a private meeting the focus of which was a ‘Discussion on Compassion.’ He responded to this welcome:

His Holiness the Dalai Lama signing a framed mandala for Adelaide Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood during his visit to the Adelaide Town Hall in Adelaide, Australia on June 21, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“I’m very happy to be here once more in this beautiful city to meet again with old friends. I first met Bob Brown in Hobart in 1992, before he went to Tibet in 1997. As some of you know, I have three commitments: as a human being, one of the 7 billion human beings, I try to share with others the idea that the real source of happiness is within us. I’m also a Buddhist dedicated to promoting religious harmony. Thirdly, although I have now completely retired from political responsibility and have voluntarily brought the Dalai Lamas’ historic involvement in Tibet’s political affairs to an end, I remain committed to preserving Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan culture.”

The meeting discussed compassion and how it affects questions to do with indigenous peoples, immigrants, refugees and education. When His Holiness was asked his advice for politicians who possess neither wisdom nor compassion he suggested that retired politicians like Bob Brown could advise their younger successors, claiming that he lacked the capacity to do so.

He was escorted into the Town Hall auditorium by the Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood and Senators Nick Xenophon and Sarah Hanson-Young. The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra played on the platform. Tribute was paid to the Kaurna people whose traditional lands include the area around Adelaide.

Senator Hanson-Young formally welcomed His Holiness:

“Thank you for coming to our beautiful city to brighten this rainy day.”

The Lord Mayor then invited him to speak about ‘Community and Well-Being.’

“Of course, we human beings as social animals have a sense of community. Some scientists believe that all social animals have a sense of compassion for each other, not out of piety, but from a need to survive. Sometimes we develop a false idea that because we have money and power we don’t need others’ support. But if we think this way, we’ll eventually find ourselves isolated and alone.

“A sense of community is in fact essential because we have to work together. We need to adopt a more holistic view that takes others into account. Adelaide with all its trees is a beautiful city, its future depends on Australia, Australia depends on Asia and Asia on the rest of the world. What really brings people together is trust, which leads to friendship and cooperation. This is why religious traditions stress the need for love and to complement it tolerance and forgiveness. To meet our own interests we need to be concerned about others. Because we live in a multi-cultural, multi-religious world we need to cultivate the kind of religious harmony we find flourishing in India.”

The Adelaide Town Hall, venue for the event "Community and Wellbeing" with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Senator Nick Xenophon, Adelaide Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood, and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young in Adelaide, Australia on June 21, 2013. Photo/Rusty Stewart/DLIA
Senator Hanson-Young acknowledged the oppression that continues in Tibet and asked when we might see human rights and freedom for all in China. His Holiness replied that the core of the Tibetan problem is that an uninvited guest had arrived armed with a gun. He said that in Tibet today there is intense security and surveillance. A Chinese friend recently remarked that there are more CCTV cameras than windows in Lhasa these days.

In the Chinese rendering of the formal title of the People’s Republic of China is a word that refers to unity, to being united. The Chinese flag bears five stars to indicate the peoples who make up China. But in order to build a united country the key factor is equality among the participant peoples. In India there are many different peoples with their own different languages who willingly contribute to the union. The problem in China is that it does not implement the rights that exist in the constitution.

When a party secretary asserted that the fount of Tibet’s sense of separatism is its Buddhist traditions, Tibetans were offended. His Holiness suggested that if Tibetans were shown respect and given material help they would be happy. They could take care of their environment and keep their rivers clean, which would be in the interest of millions across Asia, including many Chinese.

At present censorship and disinformation are rife in China. Economically China has already joined the world community, so the free world has a responsibility to encourage China to enter the democratic mainstream too. Both former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo have spoken of the need for political reform. The free world should support these points of view.

Senator Nick Xenophon asked His Holiness if he thought he would see Tibet again and he answered that most Tibetans in exile believe that they will one day return to Tibet. He mentioned that the slogan of the Hu Jintao era was harmony, but in ten years he failed to achieve it, not because it is not an admirable goal, but because the use of force is the wrong method to fulfil it. The building of harmony requires respect and trust; the use of force only elicits fear. His Holiness assured his listeners of the growing support that Chinese intellectuals and others offer the Middle Way Approach. As more and more Chinese become acquainted with outside world, foreigners interact with China and information improves, change is bound to come.

His Holiness answered a number of questions from the floor, reiterating that every one of the 7 billion human beings alive today has to take the future of humanity into account. Modern education doesn’t have much place for inner values, which has shaped the societies we live in. The solution seems to be to introduce ethics into modern education.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama wearing a traditional Australian Akubra hat offered to him at the conclusion of "Community and Wellbeing" event at the Town Hall in Adelaide, Australia on June 21, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
He counselled people facing problems to keep up their self-respect, their self-confidence and determination. He said that if they allow their morale to sag, problems increase.

“Keep up your inner strength. Don’t give in to anger, which stokes violence and can be self-destructive. Compassion for others in this context can be very powerful. This is what I advise Tibetans: keep up your optimism, determination and will-power.”

In a discussion of vegetarianism His Holiness expressed an admiration for the practice, but explained how his health had failed when he adopted it strictly himself. He acknowledged that it is unrealistic to expect everyone to give up meat, but suggested it is reasonable to encourage people to eat less. He reported that the common kitchens of the great Tibetan monasteries and other institutions have been entirely vegetarian for about fifteen years.

To His Holiness’s and the audience’s great amusement, Nick Xenophon came forward to offer him a traditional Australian Akubra hat to protect him from the sun, rain and bright light. He put it on at once.

The Mayor, calling on people’s sense of community, urged everyone to tell three people one thing they had learned today and to ask each of those people to tell three more. He asked them to do it again over the coming weekend.

During the break for lunch, His Holiness met with members of the Tibetan, Bhutanese and Mongolian communities. He talked to them about their shared spiritual heritage, Tibetan Buddhist culture, with its common written language. He encouraged them to view the scriptures in terms of science, philosophy and religion and to study them accordingly.

When he arrived at the Adelaide Convention Centre, a group of Aboriginal boys were performing a dance which he came on stage early to watch. Bob Brown gave a fulsome introduction welcoming to the beautiful city of Adelaide His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

“I’m very happy to be here and to have this opportunity to speak to you,” His Holiness said. “Wherever I go I carry the ancient Indian message of non-violence and peace, and on the basis of them, inter-religious harmony. These are ideas that the most populated democratic country in the world, India, has given birth to. Although it is undertaking substantial modernisation, India retains these ideas today.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during his talk on "The Quest for Happiness" at the Adelaide Convention Centre in Adelaide, Australia on June 21, 2013. Photo/Rusty Stewart/DLIA
“In the twentieth century, 200 millions died in violence. If that violence had brought any benefit we might say it was justified, but it didn’t, it only brought suffering. If we are fed up with violence, we have to take action to prevent it, prayer alone will not do. We need, for example, to promote non-violence through education. Non-violence is not just a passive absence of violence, it’s when you have the urge and opportunity to hit back, but with respect for your opponent, you restrain yourself.”

He said that modern secular education lacks a sense of ethics. Religious and family values are in decline, so we should fill the gap by teaching secular ethics. He said that he and friends are investigating how they might best be introduced into the modern education system.

As he came to the end of his talk, Dorinda Hafner, who was moderating the event before an audience of more than 5000, put a series of questions to him touching on such issues as happiness, forgiveness and the after-life. To finish with she asked a question of her own, telling His Holiness that she believes we create our own happiness and asking him what he thought.

“For me, happiness is a sense of satisfaction, which brings with it a sense of fullness and completeness. Thank you."

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