Dharamsala, HP, India - There was a brisk chill in the air and the Dhauladhar Mountains stood stark against a bright blue sky as His Holiness the Dalai Lama drove to the Government College in Dharamsala this morning. He had been invited by the Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, whose aim is to propagate the life, mission and thought of Mahatma Gandhi, to attend a Convention for Global Peace focussing on the Path of the Buddha and Gandhi. On arrival His Holiness walked the whole length of the front row greeting members of the audience, shaking their hands and having his photograph taken with them.
The entire gathering stood for the national anthem, following which His Holiness joined in the lighting of the lamp and offering floral tributes to the Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi. Students from Kulu sang an extensive invocation. Gifts were presented to the various guests on the stage.
Vice-Chancellor of the Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Kuldip Chand Agnihotri, speaking in Hindi, remarked that recalling the Buddha and Gandhi today can contribute to world peace because the essence of the Dharma is ahimsa, non-violence. Shri Laxmi Dass of the Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti spoke of the dangers of conflict and distrust in a world where nuclear weapons exist. Professor Samdhong Rinpoche expressed the hope that the gathering would point the younger generation in the direction of world peace. He drew attention to the example His Holiness the Dalai Lama has set in ensuring that the struggle for freedom in Tibet is non-violent.
“Respected elder brothers and sisters and in particular, younger brothers and sisters,” His Holiness began. “I always address people this way because we are all the same as human beings. Differences of religious faith, race or nationality are of secondary importance in the context that we are the same in being human. Focussing on such secondary differences gives rise to conflict. This is how we make problems for ourselves and reducing them is the responsibility of each and every one of us.
“These days, when I wake in the morning and start my meditation, I often wonder how many people have been killed and how many children have starved to death while I peacefully slept.
“People create these problems and people have to solve them. Those of us who belong to the 20th century will be gone after ten to fifteen years, but those of you who belong to the 21st century must work to make a happier world. You have the opportunity and the responsibility to do this. To start with you have to cultivate inner peace. Peace in the world can’t be created through anger, hatred and jealousy.
“Both Buddha Shakyamuni and Mahatma Gandhi were Indians, shaped by Indian traditions that involved transforming their inner world. They did not achieve inner peace through prayer alone, but by tackling their negative emotions. Traditions for generating peace of mind are important today. We too need to understand what gives rise to inner peace and what destroys it.”
His Holiness mentioned that he has heard of Sadhus who meditate naked, deep in the mountains where they cultivate inner heat through their practice, but he has not yet had the opportunity to meet and talk to any of them. He reiterated that to achieve peace of mind, we have to tackle our negative emotions. Ancient Indian psychology had a profound understanding of how to do this. He recommended that we approach such knowledge today less in a religious spirit than from a practical, secular and academic point of view.
Quoting the Buddha’s famous dictum ‘As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it, So, bhikshus, should you accept my words after testing them, and not merely out of respect for me,’ His Holiness confirmed that the masters of Nalanda University examined what the Buddha taught in the light of reason. The knowledge they transmitted is contained in the more than 300 volumes of literature translated mostly from Sanskrit into Tibetan. He announced that compendia of extracts are being translated into Hindi, English and other languages.
“While modern India is making good material development it has tended to neglect its heritage of ancient knowledge. Fortunately, we Tibetans, chelas of Indian gurus have preserved much of this tradition. Today, what’s important is to combine modern education and technological prowess with the ancient knowledge of the workings of the mind and emotions that shaped the Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi. India is the only country where this can be done.
“In my discussions with modern scientists I’ve learned about the new insights of quantum physics. However, the great physicist Raja Ramana told me that he found that these were anticipated centuries ago in what Nagarjuna wrote. Similarly, where modern scientists tend to view the mind in terms of sensory consciousness, ancient India had a highly developed understanding of the depth of mental consciousness.
“On the basis of your ancient heritage I believe you Indians have the potential to make a great contribution to the welfare of humanity. Buddha Shakyamuni emphasised the dependent arising of phenomena—pratityasamutpada, but he also stressed the importance of karuna, compassion. Mahatma Gandhi looked like a beggar, but was highly educated and wise. We have the opportunity to follow the ancient Indian traditions that gave rise to these exemplary figures. This is something that we can do—that’s all, thank you.”
His Holiness then returned to his residence, but the Convention for Global Peace focussing on the Path of the Buddha and Gandhi will continue for a further two days.