New York, NY, USA, 19 May 2010 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama left Cedar Falls, IA, in the morning arriving in New York City around noon. At the airport, His Holiness was received by Rato Khyongla Rinpoche, head of the Buddhist center, Kunkhyab Thardo Ling (the Tibet Center), and Mr. Richard Gere, founder of Healing the Divide, an organization dedicated to collaborative solutions to humanitarian crises that threaten the development and welfare of marginalized communities around the world, which are hosting his visit to the city, and Mr. Tsewang Phuntso of the Office of Tibet.
Upon arrival at the hotel, His Holiness gave an audience to Tibetans who are from Kyegudo area in Kham, eastern Tibet, which recently suffered a devastating earthquake. These Tibetans had come to seek His Holiness’ blessings on behalf of the people in their hometown, particularly to seek his prayers for the deceased. His Holiness shared with the group his thoughts when the tragedy occurred. He asked these Tibetans to convey to their friends and relatives back home that while the have suffered a great tragedy at the same time it is fortunate that the victims have received the prayers of all the great masters of Tibetan Buddhism.
In the afternoon, His Holiness gave some private audiences. Therefore, he met with around 100 friends and supporters of the Tibet Center, including well known singer Tony Bennett.
In his remarks, His Holiness praised Khyongla Rinpoche as a sincere and very learned individual, saying both of them were the students of the same teacher, Ling Rinpoche. His Holiness praised Khyongla Rinpoche’s scholarship recalling an event around 1956-57 when he was returning from India to Tibet. His Holiness said he had then had the occasion to watch Khyongla Rinpoche debate with Zemey Rinpoche and that Khyongla Rinpoche was better in putting forth his arguments.
His Holiness also appreciated Richard Gere’s interest not merely in Tibetan spiritualism but also in the just cause, referring to him as an “unchanging friend of Tibet.”
His Holiness then invited questions from the gathering. To a question on whether one could seek recourse to a shorter version of a sadhana instead of the full version in daily practices, His Holiness responded that this could be done. He quoted scriptures to this effect. To another question on how to deal with the issue of sectarianism within Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness gave a broader overview of religions in general and then went to the specifics.
His Holiness said there were two levels to look at the issue. First, all the major religions of the world differed in the philosophical aspect while being similar in the messages of love, compassion, etc. His Holiness suggested a positive perspective of all the religions giving his own experience. His Holiness said he had faith towards Buddhism, his religion, but at the same time he had respect, appreciation and admiration for all religious traditions. He said he visited mosques, churches, Hindu mandirs, etc., whenever possible.
Secondly, at another level there were the two main Buddhist traditions of Pali and Sanskrit and as Buddhists we should have faith in both. Within the Mahayana tradition, there were the Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Tibetan Buddhism all of which had the same root in the Nalanda School. Within Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness talked about the schools of Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Geluk and Jonang, all of which followed the Nalanda tradition.
His Holiness said he advocated non-sectarianism and said that all the Dalai Lamas had followed this approach. He talked about the first Dalai Lama having received teachings from Kagyu and Sakya masters, the second Dalai Lama was praised as a non-sectarian master in a biography about him, while the third Dalai Lama had received teachings from the Sakya lineage. He said the fifth Dalai Lama was a non-sectarian receiving Kagyu teachings while the seventh Dalai Lama followed a purely Geluk tradition. He said the 13th Dalai Lama was basically non-sectarian and he himself had also been following this approach. His Holiness, however, said the tradition of critical debate voicing different viewpoints was there in Tibetan Buddhism. He said there were Tibetan masters who were critical of Je Tsongkhapa and similarly Tsongkapa, while not using strong words, made pointed case against the viewpoints of others.
His Holiness then went back to his residence.
On May 20, 2010, His Holiness will first appear live briefly on NBC’s Today show program around 8:00 am before going to Radio City Hall, the teaching venue. He will begin teachings on Shantideva’s Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life and Nagarjuna’s Commentary on Bodhicitta.