Hyderabad, Telangana, India - A swift drive across Hyderabad this morning brought His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the site on Hitex Road, Madhapur, where the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics is to build its South Asia Hub. This will be a cooperative venture supported by the MIT based think tank and the Telangana State Government.
His Holiness and HE ESL Narasimhan, Governor of Telangana, unveiled the foundation stone together and then took part in a symbolic planting of saplings, which will grow on the campus. They were joined in these observances by Deputy Chief Minister, Mohammad Mahmood Ali and Minister of Industries, MA&UD and IT Kalvankutla Taraka Rama Rao. The Governor remarked that peace is commonly invoked in Hindu ceremonies. His Holiness agreed and suggested that prayer also needs to be augmented by action such as training the mind.
At the Hitex Open Arena nearby Ven Tenzin Priyadarshi, founder of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values greeted an audience of more than 1000 in the marquee and another 15000 online. He requested the Deputy Chief Minister, Mohammad Mahmood Ali to formally welcome His Holiness and then invited KT Rama Rao to introduce him. His Holiness began his address in his customary way.
“I always begin by greeting an audience as brothers and sisters, because I consider myself to be just one among the 7 billion human beings who I view as brothers and sisters. The way we are born and the way we die is the same whether we are kings, queens, spiritual leaders or beggars. This is why having a sense of the oneness of humanity is important. Wherever I go and whoever I talk to I try to promote this idea in an effort to break down barriers between us. Whenever I can I smile which mostly prompts others to smile in return, making us both happy.
“Although we are physically, mentally and emotionally the same, there are differences between us. I’m Tibetan, I’m Buddhist and I’m the Dalai Lama, but if I emphasize these differences it sets me apart and raises barriers with other people. What we need to do is to pay more attention to the ways in which we are the same as other people.
“Most of the problems we face we create ourselves by stressing secondary differences of nationality, religious faith and so forth. How sad it is that today religion is becoming a cause of conflict and violence. When people are being killed in other parts of the world, we can’t remain complacent, we have to think of how to ensure the well-being of these suffering people.
“Differences of nationality and ideology that were important in the early 20th century seem less powerful today. In Europe, having fought and killed each other for generations, after the Second World War the European Union was created. My physics tutor von Weizsäcker told me that in his youth in every French and German eye the other was an enemy. But, by the 1990s, he said that had all changed. Recognising that nothing good comes from the destruction of war, people had realized that it’s better to live together. It is this spirit of the European Union that I admire and that we need to see adopted in other parts of the world—in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
“In the long run I look forward to a global union and a demilitarized world. As long as human beings are involved there will be some problems, but we need to learn to deal with them through dialogue without resort to the use of force. This will entail developing moral principles because it won’t be achieved on the basis of mistrust and jealousy.”
His Holiness observed that ahimsa is a longstanding Indian tradition that is also not based on fear, but on confidence and compassion. An example is the way religious harmony flourishes here. Indigenous faiths like Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism thrive, but the flourishing alongside them of religions from elsewhere indicates real tolerance and mutual respect. Zoroastrianism came from Persia. There are barely 100,000 Parsis in their community in Bombay and yet they live without fear—this is India, he said. Likewise, Jews came and created a community in Cochin. Christians and Muslims came too. Now, Indian Muslims form the second largest Muslim population in the world, larger even than in Pakistan. His Holiness remarked that of course occasional problems crop up, but otherwise India is the only country in the world where all major religions live together in mutual respect.
Comparing the ancient civilizations of Egypt, China and the Indus Valley, His Holiness suggested that the Indus Valley ultimately gave rise to the greatest number of thinkers and varied schools of thought, including Buddhism. Ancient Indian psychology with its profound understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions has much to teach us today.
“More than 30 years ago I entered into discussions with modern scientists that have allowed Buddhists and contemplatives to learn more about the physical world, but also for the scientists to learn about the mind and emotions. Ahimsa—non-violence motivated by karuna—compassion is a way of dealing with destructive emotions. For more than 1000 years we Tibetans have kept these traditions that flourished at Nalanda alive. Modern Indians today have a special opportunity to combine modern education with the values and insights of this ancient Indian heritage. Many young people are already doing so. This Center for Ethics with its various programs and activities is making a contribution in this direction. I appreciate my friend here and the State Government for supporting it.
“The Center is named after the Dalai Lama, but I am just one student of the Nalanda Tradition, a student of Nagarjuna. Nevertheless, when I visit other countries I often tell people I meet that I’m a messenger of ancient Indian knowledge—a son of India. I justify this because my mind is filled with Nalanda thought, while my body has been nourished for 58 years by Indian rice, dal and chapatis.”
Answering the audience’s questions, His Holiness explained that since the majority of the world’s population continue to live in poverty we need to pursue material development. However, this pursuit needs to be coupled with inner or mental development. He reported that not only have scientists established that basic human nature is compassionate, but they have found that constant anger and fear undermines our immune system, while cultivating a compassionate mind strengthens it. He declared that when a significant number of people have no interest in religion, attempts to promote universal values have to take a secular approach.
A questioner who noted the role of education in fostering inner values asked about the role of parents. His Holiness told him that science has shown the positive effects of simple physical contact between mother and child, but what is additionally important is that parents shower their children with affection.
When asked how to prepare for death, His Holiness replied that to some extent it depends on what you believe. He said that if you believe in a loving God, thinking of him, his love and compassion can be helpful as you die. For a Buddhist it would be useful to keep the Buddha’s main message of compassion and things’ lack of independent existence in mind. He added that there are also ways of visualizing the process of death with its eight stages of dissolution in order to prepare for it when it takes place, ending finally with the mind of clear light.
“The best preparation for death,” His Holiness continued, “depends on the way you live, avoiding doing others harm and helping them wherever you can. If you do that you’ll be able to die without any sense of regret. So a peaceful death depends very much on how you’ve lived your life.”
Another young woman wanted to know which is the more effective way to train the mind, cultivating concentration or analytical meditation. His Holiness was forthright in his praise of analysis. He reported the way he does it himself. He analyses his body, mind and feelings. He thinks about impermanence and momentary change. He considers how past, present and future constantly shift. Past and future only exist in relation to the present, but the present is apparently impossible to tie down. He mentioned that he reflects on his body and that it consists of parts—head, hands, feet and trunk and asks himself whether any of the parts by themselves are his the body.
Finally, the moderator asked His Holiness to tell him how he manages to look so young. His Holiness retorted, “That’s my secret,” but then explained how he consistently sleeps for nine hours a night. When wakes up he engages in 4 hours of meditation which contributes to his inner peace. Sleep and meditation, he suggested, contribute to inner peace and inner strength. “If you choose, you too can do it.”
Ven Tenzin Priyadarshi wound up the session with a vote of thanks. First of all he thanked His Holiness for coming and then thanked the many people who had made this inaugural session a success: members of his team and the Government of Telangana in particular.
His Holiness attended a sumptuous official lunch as the guest of the Deputy Chief Minister, following which he drove to Rajiv Gandhi International Airport to fly to Amritsar, from where he will drive to Dharamsala tomorrow morning.