Shewatsel, Leh, Ladakh, India - This morning His Holiness attended a farewell lunch at the Sindhu Ghat, on the banks of the Indus River, near Shey. It was offered by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC). Among those present were the elected Councillors headed by the Chief Executive Councillor (CEC), Tashi Gyalson, Union Territory officials, as well as representatives of various organisations and religious communities of Ladakh.
Jamyang T. Namgyal, MP and Tashi Gyalson, the CEC, were among those who welcomed His Holiness to the function. On behalf of the people of Ladakh, they expressed wholehearted gratitude to His Holiness for the extraordinary way his teachings and advice have enriched the lives of the people of Ladakh. Over the years, he has encouraged them to cultivate a warm heart and work for the welfare of their fellow human beings. They requested His Holiness to continue to visit Ladakh and to stay longer.
Chief Executive Councillor, Tashi Gyalson presented a brief report on the development of Ladakh in recent times, which has included bringing basic facilities, such as electricity, better roads and other infrastructure, to remote regions. He was also happy to announce that Tibetan refugees in Ladakh are also benefitting from the welfare schemes introduced by the Union Territory of Ladakh.
There were three song and dance performances. Two of them were traditional cultural dances, while the third was a song written by a Ladakhi scholar extolling the qualities of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
His Holiness was invited to address the gathering. He said that he found the sight of the great statue of the Buddha across the valley in Stok Village inspiring. Consequently, he recited a verse of homage to the Buddha from the ‘Song of Experience' by Jé Tsongkhapa:
Your body is created from tens of millions of excellent virtuous factors,
Your speech fulfils the hopes and wishes of limitless beings,
Your mind sees all knowable objects exactly as they are,
I bow my head to the Chief of the Shakyas (Shakyamuni Buddha).
Having paid his respects to the Buddha in this way, His Holiness commented on human beings need for love and affection.
"Although there have been cruel and unkind people throughout human history, one factor that unites us all is the love and compassion we have received from our mother. This experience becomes the basis for us to cultivate a warm heart and work for the welfare of all sentient beings.
"As a Buddhist monk, I respect all the world's religious traditions. And whenever I can, I visit other people's places of worship. Although they may differ in terms of philosophy, what our various religious traditions have in common is that they all promote friendship and warm-heartedness.
"Tibetan Buddhism is derived from the pure lineage of the Nalanda Tradition which emphasizes critically examining the teaching of the Buddha as he advised his disciples to do. Masters like Acharya Nagarjuna, Dignaga and so forth, carefully examined the words of the Buddha and distinguished between those teachings that can be regarded as definitive and those that are only provisional and cannot be accepted literally. Our custom of examining the Buddha's teaching in the light of logic and reasoning has attracted the interest even of modern scientists. Many of them are keen to learn about what our rich Buddhist tradition has to say about the workings of our mind and emotions."
His Holiness observed that we cannot impose religious faith upon others. In contemporary society there are many good people devoted to the welfare of others, who do not necessarily subscribe to any faith tradition—and yet they have good heart. They may find if useful to incorporate secular principles into their lives.
Looking at the snow-capped mountains beyond Stok, His Holiness was reminded of the prayer to Chenrezig, "In the land encircled by the fence of snow mountains…" Ladakhis and people of the Himalayan region adjacent to the Tibetan plateau have been Buddhists for a long time. If they were able to follow the teaching of the Buddha in an appropriate way, he said, they would be able to promote secular principles. His Holiness mentioned that he tries to take a modern scientific approach to make Buddhist principles accessible to the wider world.
His Holiness told the gathering that he appreciated the people of Ladakh's faith and devotion. He assured them that he will continue to visit Ladakh, which generally enjoys a dry climate when the monsoon makes the Indian plains wet and humid.
Executive Councillor, Tashi Namgyal Yakzee offered a vote of thanks and prayed that His Holiness will live a long, healthy life and continue to benefit humanity at large.