Hamburg, Germany, 26 August 2014 - The streets were quiet and the park beyond his hotel empty when His Holiness the Dalai Lama left early this morning for the teaching venue, the Congress Centre. The large hall too was virtually empty as he took his seat before the mandala pavilion on the stage to begin preparations for an Avalokiteshvara Empowerment. By the time he was ready, the audience had arrived and he greeted them from the throne:
“Good morning, as I mentioned yesterday, in order for the practice of tantrayana to be effective and meaningful, we need to understand that despite the way they appear, things are like an illusion because they are empty of inherent existence. I hope that those of you who take this seriously were able to think about emptiness and bodhichitta last night and this morning!”
His Holiness explained that when the Buddha taught in India 2500 years ago, challenges and arguments with proponents of other views were common. This was true too during Nagarjuna’s time and such challenges were regarded as an opportunity to sharpen your point of view. While the Pali tradition recorded what the Buddha taught in public, the Sanskrit tradition included teachings given to more select disciples. Nagarjuna, Maitreya and Bhavaviveka all argued that the Sanskrit tradition consisted of authentic teachings of the Buddha. Today, there continue to be disputes about whether the Sanskrit tradition and in particular tantrayana were actually taught by the Buddha.
His Holiness reported that when his friend Professor Upadhyaya was doing research into Kalachakra in Nepal he came across a palm leaf manuscript of a Sanskrit text dealing with tantra. He recognised the style of writing as belonging to Aryadeva and was convinced that this was evidence not only of Aryadeva’s but also of his master Nagarjuna’s interest in the study and practice of tantra. His Holiness mentioned that references in the writings of Chandrakirti and Dipamkara Atisha indicate their involvement with tantric practice too. This confirms the existence of a genuine tradition of Buddhist tantra.
|Members of the audience during the bestowing of the Avalokiteshvara Empowerment by His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Congress Center in Hamburg, Germany on August 26, 2014. Photo/Manuel Bauer|
Carefully guiding his listeners through the process of the Avalokiteshvara empowerment, His Holiness asked them first to recite Chapter Two and up to verse 23 of Chapter Three of ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ as a preliminary practice. He then led them through the process of generating the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the bodhisattva vow. At the end of the empowerment, which also brought this short series of teachings to an end, he thanked the audience for being attentive. He told them that the important thing was to try to make their lives meaningful by helping others, restraining from harm and trying to keep a calm mind.
Christof Spitz, who, in addition to his role as His Holiness’s German interpreter, has also been the head of the committee organizing the teachings, stepped forward to express thanks and appreciation to His Holiness for coming. He thanked those who had supported the event including several hundred volunteers without whose help it could not have taken place. In the interest of transparency he also gave a report of the event finances, revealing that there had eventually been a surplus that would be used for charitable purposes such as supporting work to encourage secular ethics in the Hamburg area and the translation of the Buddhist science book. He ended expressing the hope that many in the audience might meet again next February when His Holiness is to teach in Basel, Switzerland. His Holiness’s final words were:
“Try to improve. Don’t expect too much, but don’t feel discouraged either; keep up your enthusiasm; you will make progress. Thank you.”
The hall was filled with appreciative applause and smiling faces.
After lunch His Holiness engaged in discussion with a group of leading journalists from all over Germany. Topics included modern technology, which by and large he approves of, with the proviso that it should serve us rather than the other way around. Regarding war he said he would like to ask combatants whether they really thought problems would be solved by fighting.
|His Holiness the Dalai Lama meeting with leading German Journalists in Hamburg, Germany on August 26, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL|
“People seem to become intoxicated with violence,” he said, “it’s difficult to stop them.”
He stressed the need to learn from the past and avoid repeating it. In the globalized world in which we live, he said it’s no longer helpful to restrict ourselves to the interests of ‘my community’ or even ‘my nation’, we need to think of what will benefit humanity as a whole. Questioned about whether there were occasions when the use of force was the only solution, His Holiness conceded it was possible, but that it was difficult to judge. He felt that a non-violent approach is too often neglected. He mentioned there had been a suggestion that a group of Nobel Laureates, retired leaders, scientists, and thinkers such as President Havel might have gone to mediate prior to the second Iraq war. He discussed this with President Havel when he met him, by which time it was too late. He agreed that if more leaders today were women, the world might be a more peaceful place.
About the situation in Tibet His Holiness remarked that one of the problems was the deliberate neglect of Tibet’s rich culture. He said that while the Chinese love their own culture and language, so too do Tibetans love theirs. The difficulty is when Chinese authorities show Tibetan culture insufficient respect. Asked how foreign governments could help he said it was difficult to say, but noted that there is still a lot of support for the Tibetan cause. He expressed appreciation of the way German Chancellor, Angela Merkel had recently been forthright in openly speaking at Tsinghua University in China about the need to respect human rights. In that context, he said that the 1.3 billion Chinese people have every right to know what is really going on and have the ability, on that basis, to judge right from wrong. Government censorship, amounting to fooling the people, is both immoral and unhelpful.
Finally His Holiness was asked his impression of Pope Francis and his answer was:
“Very good. He did well to dismiss the German bishop, who probably preached contentment in his church but lived in luxury himself. I was impressed. I also admired his attempt to build peace between Palestinians and Israelis. It may not succeed, but it was good to try.”
|His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to members of the Tibetan Community in Germany and the Tibet Support Group at the Laeiszhalle in Hamburg, Germany on August 26, 2014. Photo/Manuel Bauer|
After a short drive to the Laeiszhalle, His Holiness was received outside the theatre by Mrs Claudia Roth of the Green Party, who is Vice-President of the German Parliament, Mr Wolfgang Grader, President of the TID and Tibetan Community in Germany President Jampa Kungashar. They escorted him into a meeting marking the 25th anniversary of the Tibet Support Group, Germany and the 35th anniversary of the Tibetan Community in Germany. More than 1600 people cheered their greetings as he arrived. After initial words of welcome, everyone stood for the Tibetan National Anthem. This was followed by a short slide show to illustrate the Tibet Support Group’s (TSG) activities.
His Holiness expressed his deep appreciation of the TSG’s support, adding that he knew how active they have been. He spoke about different aspects of the Tibetan issue from the need to preserve the natural environment and the effect of climate change in Tibet, with consequences for 1 billion elsewhere in Asia who depend on Tibet’s rivers. He also highlighted his concern to preserve Tibetan culture, a culture of peace and non-violence, and Tibet’s Buddhist traditions. His Holiness mentioned that he has devolved all his political responsibilities to a young, dynamic elected leader, Dr Lobsang Sangay, who was sitting in the front row before him.
The meeting ended with an exchange of katas with Mrs Claudia Roth, Mr Grader and Mr Kungashar. The audience cheered and many pressed forward in the hope of shaking His Holiness’s hand as he left the stage. Tomorrow, he is due to fly back to India at the end of this short, but warmly received visit to Hamburg.