Shewatsel, Leh, Ladakh, UT, India - When His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived at the Ladakh Gonpa Association's Dharma Centre, a huge community prayer hall at Choglamsar, Mr. Thupstan Chhewang, President of the Ladakh Buddhist Association and Acharya Tenzin Wangtak, President of the All Ladakh Gonpa Association and other representatives were there to greet him.
“During my recent travels across Ladakh and Zanskar,” he told them, “I was very touched by the deep reverence and affection shown to me by people from all sections of the community. It made me feel that I must live long to serve people with such a sense of devotion. Such a display of brotherhood and sisterhood among people belonging to different spiritual traditions is admirable.
“People from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh share the same Tibetan Buddhist culture, a culture of peace and compassion. I'd like to express my deep appreciation of the way you are contributing to the preservation of this Buddhist culture. It is derived from the historic Nalanda University, where learning was based on reasoned investigation.
“Since Ladakh is a border region, my travels will not go unnoticed across the frontier. A smiling Dalai Lama meeting people who show such deep faith and trust in him not only gives inspiration to Tibetans in Tibet, but for them is also a source of pride. Despite some rigid communist officials labelling me a reactionary, when they see a perpetually smiling Dalai Lama doing his best to serve humanity, they might doubt the harsh policies they have imposed on Tibetans.
“What’s more, even among Chinese people, there is a growing interest in Buddhism, particularly the Nalanda tradition that Tibetans have kept alive. Although Chairman Mao told me in 1955 that religion is the opium of the people, I feel that if he were alive today, he might retract that judgement.
“Cultivating the awakening mind of bodhichitta, has long been my daily practice. And this morning too, as I was coming to meet you, I was doing that practice as we passed the long Manthang-an at Choglamsar, the wall heaped with thousands of stones inscribed with mantras, including the six-syllable mantra of Avalokiteshvara.
“As I have said time and again, all the major religions teach about love and compassion, despite adopting different philosophical points of view. And this is the reason I make a point of praying at the places of worship of different faiths.
“I was born in a remote part of north-eastern Tibet. When the Regent, Reting Rinpoché and other dignitaries including Kewtsang Rinpoché offered prayers at Lhamoi Latso, the lake sacred to Palden Lhamo, not far from Lhasa, seeking signs of where to look for the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, they saw three Tibetan syllables on the surface of the water: A, KA, and MA, They also the likeness of a house and its surroundings.
“As it turned out, from early in the morning that Kewtsang Rinpoché and his delegation were due to arrive at my birthplace, seeking my predecessor's reincarnation, I’ve been told that I was very excited and expecting guests. When Kewtsang Rinpoché reached Taktser, my village near Kumbum, he felt that it was the very place he had seen in Lake Lhamoi Latso.
“Moments after the search party entered our house, this two-year-old boy asked Kewtsang Rinpoché to give him the rosary he had round his neck claiming it as his own. In fact, it had belonged to the Great 13th Dalai Lama. When Rinpoché asked the child if he recognized him, he instantly called out, "Sera Aka!", which means Lama from Sera Monastery.
“In due course, I reached Lhasa and took the three vows: Upasaka (the vows of a Buddhist lay person), the novice and Bhikshu—fully ordained monk—vows in front of the Chenrezig statue in the Jokhang, the main temple in Lhasa. In addition, as a child I began to study Buddhism with my tutors, chief of whom was Yongzin Ling Rinpoché.
“I’ve had the opportunity to memorize classic Buddhist texts and study them in great detail. I am also grateful that these studies prepared me for deep discussions with scientists, particularly in regard to Buddhist philosophy, but also Buddhist psychology, which, I’m convinced, has much to contribute to a better understanding of how to train the mind and emotions from a secular, academic point of view.”
As he came to an end, His Holiness advised his listeners to think about cultivating the awakening mind of bodhichitta, and recommended them to be warm-hearted, to live in harmony with others and help them whenever they can.
Next, His Holiness paid a brief farewell visit to the former Gaden Tripa, His Eminence Rizong Rinpoché, who is 96 years old, at his residence in Leh. He is someone from whom His Holiness has received many teachings.
His Holiness attended a farewell luncheon offered by the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) and the Ladakh Gonpa Association in his honour at Abi Pang Spituk, a huge park on the outskirts of Leh. Among those present were eminent officials, as well as elected representatives of the LAHDC, district officials, representatives of religious communities, and members of the public.
Mr. Thupstan Chhewang, President of LBA gave a brief welcome address, in which he expressed deep gratitude for His Holiness’s visit to Ladakh, before requesting His Holiness to address the gathering.
He began by declaring how pleased he was to see so many people, lay-people and monastics. He mentioned once again that the Himalayan region from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh shares a common Buddhist culture with the people of the "Snow Land of Tibet". He thanked them for their deep interest in it and their support for efforts to keep it alive. He thanked them too for their devotion and the trust they have shown in the person of the Dalai Lama.
“We have been able to keep the Nalanda tradition of Buddhism alive for centuries,” he observed, “because it has such potential to help individuals develop happiness and peace of mind. The main advice of this tradition is to do no harm to any being. We have all been aware of compassion from our childhood, therefore we have to help others and avoid doing them harm. This simple advice can be of benefit to the whole of humanity.”
His Holiness also recalled his friendship with members of the Muslim community in Lhasa when he was young. And he reiterated his appreciation that as neighbours of Tibet, the people of the Himalayan region have kept the Tibetan Buddhist cultural heritage alive, while Tibetans in Tibet have been under the control of a repressive communist party.
Finally, His Holiness advised all those gathered around him to be happy and to keep in mind the importance of being warm-hearted. His last words, "See you next year", were received with joyful applause.