Indianapolis, IN, USA, 26 June 2016 - On the final day of his current visit to the USA His Holiness the Dalai Lama was invited to give the keynote address to the 84th Annual Meeting of the US Conference of Mayors. He was met on arrival at the JW Marriott Hotel by the Conference President, Mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
Before joining the Conference Plenary Session he took part in a conversation with Lady Gaga that was streamed live over Facebook. Putting questions to him that had been submitted through Facebook, she asked how to help young people faced with a variety of problems like low self-esteem, self-harm and so forth. He replied:
“Despite it being our human nature to be compassionate, modern education is focussed on external and material goals. There are always problems to face, but it makes a difference if our minds are calm. On the surface we may get upset, but it makes a difference if we are able to stay calm in the depths of our minds.”
He added, “We are social animals, so our future depends on the rest of the community. Therefore, paying more attention to inner values like love and compassion are the right approach.”
Another questioner wanted to know what the most fruitful kind of meditation is and His Holiness explained that there are two kinds. One, single-pointed meditation focuses on a single object or for example on the clarity of the mind. But another kind of meditation is analytical, involving deeply thinking things through. His Holiness said that he personally finds analytical meditation more effective and more satisfying.
Asked how to find peace in this violent world His Holiness suggested that it can be very helpful to try and look at things from a wider perspective. Something that looks terrible close up can seem less daunting if you step back from it. You might even find it has positive aspects.
“Whatever happens,” he said, “hope and self-confidence are essential.”
|Ann Curry introducing His Holiness the Dalai Lama before his address to the US Conference of Mayors in Indianapolis, IN, USA on June 26, 2016. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL|
American television personality and new journalist Ann Curry escorted His Holiness onto the Conference platform, where he took a seat while she introduced him to the gathering. She spoke of these unsettled times when people feel our world is unravelling.
“Then there comes a man who says his religion is kindness. He is someone who lost his freedom at the age of 16, lost his country at 24 and became a refugee. He is someone who has thoroughly studied the classic Buddhist texts, but is also curious about modern science. He quotes science as having demonstrated that basic human nature is compassionate and sees this as a basis on which we can build hope.”
Before asking His Holiness to speak Mayor Rawlings-Blake invited the gathering to watch two short videos about Mayor Gary Fischer of Louisville, Kentucky and his initiative to declare Louisville a City of Compassion and Mayor Tom Tait of Anaheim, California, who has made Anaheim a City of Kindness. His Holiness has visited both cities and encouraged the Mayors in their work, which includes special attention to education.
The audience including more than 200 Mayors stood when His Holiness stepped up to the rostrum and he told them:
“Sit down and relax. I don’t like formality. Thank you for inviting me to be here. It’s a great honour to meet so many Mayors of this great nation. I always think of the United States as leader of the free world. It’s a country known for technological innovation. Your principles are freedom, democracy and liberty, and these qualities are related to warm-heartedness, a respect for others and a concern for others’ well-being. These are not slogans but related to a mental attitude. So I hope and believe that this nation can take the lead in building a more compassionate world.
|His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the US Conference of Mayors in Indianapolis, IN, USA on June 26, 2016.|
“On this small blue planet we are facing the effects of climate change, our population is increasing and natural resources are declining. On top of all that, we face other problems, difficulties we have made for ourselves. No one wants to face problems, and yet we create them through being too self-centred and not concerned enough about others. We divide people into ‘us’ and ‘them’, which leads to conflict and sometimes even war.
“The 20th century was marked by immense violence. Some historians say 200 million people were violently killed. If it had resulted in the world becoming a better place, some might suggest it was worth it, but this is not the case. Therefore, we have to address the destructive emotions like anger, jealousy and self-centredness that are a source of our problems. We have to cultivate our basic human nature of compassion.”
His Holiness observed that we all begin life in our mother’s womb. Once we have been born, she protects us with affection. Later, having a peaceful mind contributes to our physical health, whereas some scientists say that constant fear and anxiety undermine our immune system. He said that in his own case, friends tell him his face looks like that of a man of 60 not nearly 81 and the reason is that he has a calm mind. On the one hand looking good is fine, but much more important is having the inner beauty of a warm heart.
He said that ways need to be found to help everyone experience a calm mind. He mentioned work that is going on to introduce common human values to the existing education system. Taking a ‘City of Kindness’ button from his bag, he mentioned what a great inspiration Louisville, City of Compassion and Anaheim, City of Kindness are.
“Their efforts give me great courage that efforts are being made to create a brighter future. I don’t expect to see these projects come to maturity, but we need to take practical steps to introduce compassion, not just in theory but in practice. I think you can make a significant contribution to this and many other nations will then follow your example.”
|His Holiness the Dalai Lama looks on as Lady Gaga adds her comments during their interactive discussion at the US Conference of Mayors in Indianapolis, IN, USA on June 26, 2016. Photo/Chris Bergin|
Lady Gaga reinforced what His Holiness had sad with an impassioned defence of kindness.
“The truly fantastic thing about kindness is that it’s free. You can give and give and receive kindness and the well never dries up.”
She spoke of disharmony in the country and that kindness is the cheapest way to cure it with a priceless aftermath. Fellow panellist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Philip Anschutz added to this that Tom Tait had run for his mayoral election on a platform of kindness and won. “This is a room of practical people,” he said. “Kindness is something you can all use.”
His Holiness mentioned something from his own experience:
“When you are in hospital receiving treatment it makes a lot of difference if the physicians and support staff approach you with a smile and a kind demeanour. It sets your mind at ease. When they are stern and indifferent and treat you as if they are repairing a machine, you feel anxious and apprehensive.”
Speaking directly to the mayors, Lady Gaga urged them to be a calming influence on young people’s lives. Clarifying the idea of forgiveness, His Holiness suggested differentiating between wrong actions that people commit and the person who commits them. He said that when people are behaving badly or taking advantage of you, it’s correct to oppose it. What’s important is not to lose compassion for the person, the fellow human being, who’s doing it.
The question of making decisions, difficult decisions, was raised. His Holiness advised:
“Let your mind remain calm and decide whatever it is you need to do with clarity.”
After lunch, His Holiness started on the journey that will take him back to India tomorrow.