Theckchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India - A delegation of 75 young women from the Young FICCI Ladies Organisation (YFLO), Delhi, called on His Holiness the Dalai Lama this morning. YFLO is a platform for young women from diverse professional and entrepreneurial backgrounds to interact with each other. Its primary objectives are to promote entrepreneurship and professional excellence among women, to act as a catalyst for the social and economic advancement of women and society at large and to make women aware of their strengths.
When His Holiness entered the room he greeted the group with a bright, “Good morning”, before asking them to sit down. A representative offered him a gift and the FLO annual report entitled ‘Women Transforming India’.
His Holiness opened his remarks with the following observations.
“We are now in the 21st century. If we look back at the 20th century, it was a time of violence and fear. Therefore, we should make this century an era of non-violence and compassion. With regard to compassion, there is scientific evidence that women are more sensitive to others’ pain. Indeed in human history most warriors, or killers, were men, whereas women consistently show more concern for others’ well-being.
“In this century we should make special efforts to promote loving kindness and women should take a leading role in this. They shouldn’t just stay at home, but should support and be involved with education.
“Some years ago, the editor of a French women’s magazine asked me if there could ever be a female Dalai Lama and I told her “Yes, of course, if she would be more effective.” In Tibetan history there is already a case of the reincarnation of a high spiritual leader being born as a woman in the lineage of Samdhing Dorje Phagmo.
“The Buddha gave men and women equal opportunities in that he offered ordination as a Bhikshu to men and as a Bhikshuni to women. Although the introduction of the Bhikshuni lineage in the Tibetan tradition is something I can’t achieve by myself, I have been able to encourage nuns and women to study. The result is that there are now nuns who have attained the highest level of education, (the Geshe-ma degree).”
His Holiness explained that mothers gave birth to all 7 billion human beings alive today. He added that the impact of the affection they showed remains with us until we die. Conversely, the impact on those whose mothers neglected them or whose mothers passed away stays with them as a feeling of insecurity for the whole of their lives. He recalled his own mother’s kindness:
“My own mother was essentially kind. She was particularly kind to me, at the time her youngest child. There was no school in our village and she was illiterate, but she was naturally kind. I had no toys to play with, but instead rode on her shoulders as she went about her work in the fields or with our animals. We, her children, never saw an angry expression on her face. She was kind to us, kind to our neighbours. When victims of famine came to the door, she always found them something to eat. It’s because of her that I am the happy, smiling person I am today.”
His Holiness referred to discrimination against women on grounds of religious custom as misplaced. He suggested that discrimination in relation to the caste system seems inappropriate if Brahma is the source of each caste. He also criticized the social custom of looking down on women, but suggested it can only be changed through education in which women should take part. Finally, he advised that there should be more women in politics.
Atashi Saraf Singhania, Chairperson YFLO, thanked His Holiness on behalf of the group for taking the time to see them. Quoting Swami Vivekananda—“There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved”—she told His Holiness that members of YFLO want to encourage young women in all areas of commercial and entrepreneurial activity.
Answering questions from the group, His Holiness emphasised the importance of vision as a source of inspiration. He suggested that we need a vision of the world we’d like to see in 2029 and that we should aiming now to ensure that by the middle of this century the world will be a happier more peaceful place. He noted that many of the problems we face are our own creation. However, he expressed admiration for India as a free, democratic country that demonstrates that harmony among different religions is possible. This is an example that India can set the world.
In the context of today’s materialistically oriented education system he extolled the qualities of ancient Indian knowledge rooted in the practices of cultivating a single-pointed, calmly abiding mind (shamatha) and the insights derived from analytical meditation (vipashyana). These practices have led to a cumulative understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions leading to their transformation and the achievement of peace of mind. The Buddha was a product of such Indian traditions, which also fostered the practice of ahimsa or non-violence and its motivation in karuna or compassion. He mentioned that training the mind is more effective that prayer on its own.
His Holiness expressed some sadness that modern Indians pay little attention to the qualities of ancient India. He declared that the Indus Valley civilization compared to the ancient civilizations of Egypt and China had produced a stream of brilliant thinkers. These culminated in the Buddha and the great masters of Nalanda, whose works were the basis of his own study and training. He noted that the renowned Indian physicist, Raja Ramana, had once told him that although quantum physics is relatively new in the West, many of its ideas were anticipated by ancient Indian thought.
Asked how to inculcate a sense of gratitude in children, His Holiness recommended showing them affection. Invited to define the purpose of life, he replied that it is to be happy and joyful. If you are full of joy, he said, your health will be good, your family will be happy and that happiness will affect the atmosphere of the community in which you live. He teasingly remarked that young women like those before him spend time and money on cosmetics to make themselves look good, but a smile rather than a frown can make any face more beautiful.
Another questioner wanted to know how to live a happy life. His Holiness told her that we all live in hope, hope that something good will happen. As human beings we have to use our intelligence and to be realistic. This entails looking at things from different angles in order to see the whole picture.
“Be truthful and transparent,” he recommended. “If you tell a lie, it leads to fear and anxiety. Transparency and concern for others leads to trust and trust leads to friendship—and we all need friends. This is Nalanda thought—Indian thought.”
His Holiness noted that when it encourages others to succeed competition has a favourable result, but when it results in the obstruction and failure of others it’s unacceptable.
He thanked the group for coming, told them how much he had enjoyed talking to them and posed for photographs with them before returning to his residence.