Chandigarh, India, - Yesterday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama travelled by road from Dharamsala to Chandigarh. This morning he was invited to inaugurate the 11th Global Week of the Chitkara University and representatives of the university came to escort him to its campus at Rajpura. The Global Week, when teachers come from across the world to teach short courses to Chitkara students, is regarded as a platform for raising their international awareness and broadening their learning experience.
His Holiness was seated in the front row of the auditorium while the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Mrs Sangeet Jaura introduced him to the 1200 strong audience of students and faculty. Five young Tibetan women performed a selection of songs and dances from Tibetan opera tradition, beginning with a poignant rendition of verses of a prayer for His Holiness’s long life. Five young Indian women then gave an energetic performance from the South Indian Bharatanatyam dance tradition. They were followed by a group of four more young Indian women who danced in the North Indian Kathak style. All three groups of performers came down from the stage to where His Holiness was sitting and he thanked each one of them personally.
Invited onto the stage, His Holiness was joined by the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor of the university in lighting a lamp in salutation to Sarasvati the goddess of knowledge, music and learning. Next, he sat between them and addressed the audience.
“Respected brothers and sisters and younger brothers and sisters, we really are human brothers and sisters. According to theistic religious traditions we are all created by one god who is the embodiment of infinite love. As his children, we are all brothers and sisters. From a non-theistic point of view, our lives have no beginning. We are born in life after life and as human beings on this occasion we are all brothers and sisters of the wider human family.
“Some of the problems we face, such as natural disasters, are beyond our control. But others, involving bullying, exploitation and cheating, we make for ourselves. Nevertheless, scientists have found evidence that human beings are, by and large, compassionate by nature. They also point out that constant anger and hatred serve to undermine our immune systems, so, clearly, cultivating warm-heartedness is good for our health.
“In infancy we are open and friendly to our fellows, but after starting school we pay little attention to our emotions. Modern education was influenced by the West, but here in India we have longstanding traditions of non-violence, compassion, concentration and insight into the nature of reality—‘ahimsa’, ‘karuna’, ‘shamatha’ and ‘vipashyana’. Jainism and Buddhism are both products of such Indian values. Today, we need an education along these lines about the workings of our minds and emotions, otherwise we only aim for materialistic goals.
“We need to learn how to tackle our destructive emotions. If we do that, we’ll be able to understand how warm-heartedness is the basis of world peace. People who only receive a materialistic education naturally develop only a materialistic outlook. Consequently, they have only a limited idea of how to deal with problems they face. Just as we bring up children with an appreciation of physical hygiene, we need to introduce them to an equivalent emotional hygiene that entails discovering how to temper anger and attachment and cultivate warm-heartedness towards others.
“I am committed to reviving interest in the ancient Indian knowledge of the workings of the mind and emotions, and I believe India now is the only country that could pioneer a combination of such understanding with modern education. Just as Mahatma Gandhi revealed the power of ‘ahimsa’, non-violence, in the 20th century, in this century India could reveal the importance of tackling our disturbing emotions and cultivating peace of mind. Where religion is a matter for personal concern, secular ethics apply to the whole of humanity. Therefore, it would have a wider appeal if peace of mind was approached from a secular point of view.”
His Holiness went on to explain that we can build a happier more peaceful humanity once we understand that the ultimate source of happiness is not money and power, but something within ourselves. He told his listeners that he would like to hear what they had to say about this, since the airing of different opinions serves to stimulate fresh thinking. He recalled that masters of the Nalanda Tradition, to which he belongs, subjected even the Buddha’s teaching to critical appraisal. Where it appeared to contradict logic and reason, they would ask what the Buddha’s purpose was in presenting things that way.
A question was raised about health care, to which His Holiness responded that peace of mind is as important as physical health. It enables you to remain calm whatever the circumstances around you. On this basis, the 8th century Indian master Shantideva pointed out that our enemy can be our greatest teacher. What’s more, a self-centred attitude prompts you to be suspicious and afraid, whereas when you consider other human beings as brothers and sisters fear disappears.
His Holiness explained that when he faces a challenge he always examines it from different angles to assess whether it can be overcome. If it can, there’s no need to worry about it. If it can’t, then worrying about it is of no use. He observed that what seems like a problem to begin with often turns out to be an opportunity. He suggested that if young people today were to deal with challenges they face with vision, they could look forward to creating a happier more peaceful world. Where self-centredness narrows the mind and induces fear, altruism and concern for others brings self-confidence.
He pointed out that destructive emotions are rooted in ignorance, which is to see things as existing the way they appear---in other words as intrinsically existent. Coming to understand that the way things appear owes much to the observer is liberating.
Asked how to teach about human values to children who lack even basic necessities, His Holiness lamented the global gap between rich and poor. Here in India, he said, the caste system is out of date. More than two thousand years ago, the Buddha opposed distinctions on the basis of caste. It is a custom that has roots in a feudal attitude, but is something that can be changed through education. He expressed admiration for the pluralism and diversity that flourish in India and observed that because we human beings are social animals, we need to treat each other with loving kindness.
His Holiness described global warming and the climate crisis as very serious, emphasizing how much he appreciates Greta Thunberg’s efforts to raise awareness of the need to take appropriate action. He reported a Taiwanese environmentalist recently warning him that if things don’t change, 80 years from now the situation will be really grave. His Holiness admitted that it won’t affect people his age, but that it is essential to consider what the impact will be for those who are young now.
Having said that, His Holiness told another questioner that there are grounds for optimism. He recalled that from one perspective the 20th century was an era of war and bloodshed. However, the spirit that gave rise to the creation of the European Union, to put the common good first, was a sign of hope and human maturity that could well be emulated in Africa, Latin America and here in Asia. Such a development would allow for greatly reduced military spending. The possibility of resolving conflict through dialogue rather than violence enables the prospect of this becoming a century of peace and demilitarization.
“Individuals cultivating peace of mind lead to a more peaceful society,” His Holiness advised, “and that in turn contributes to a more peaceful world. All beings want to find joy. We depend on hope, which is the pursuit of something good. But to do that we need to use our brains properly. Real happiness depends, not on sensory awareness, but on the mind itself—the key is to establish peace of mind. To do that requires that we understand the system of mind and emotions, which was thoroughly examined in ancient India.”
Chitkara University presented His Holiness with the degree of Honorary Doctor of Literature in acknowledgement of his unparalleled and invaluable contribution to humanity, world peace and education. He formally declared the 11th Chitkara Global Week open and the Vice Chancellor offered words of thanks.
Outside the auditorium His Holiness opened the Chitkara Centre for Happiness by unveiling a plaque and planted a tree as a memento of his visit. As the guest of the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor, he was entertained to lunch in rooms decorated like a roadside Punjabi ‘dhaba’, before returning to his hotel in Chandigarh.