Shewatsel, Leh, Ladakh, India - This morning His Holiness the Dalai Lama took a short drive across the Indus to visit the Imam Bargah, a mosque in nearby Chuchot Yokma. He was received on arrival by representatives of both Shia and Sunni communities, who escorted him to his seat. The moderator of the event, a young woman, welcomed His Holiness and other guests.
Sheikh Nazir Ahmed Sharifi, Vice President of the Anjuman-e- Imamia chanted a moving prayer to formally open proceedings. Shia Representative, Ashraf Ali Barch, President Anjuman Imamia, addressed the gathering in Ladakhi. He expressed great admiration and affection for His Holiness as a man of peace, as someone who consistently declares that we are all the same as human beings, and as someone who makes great effort to promote inter-religious harmony.
Sunni Representative, Dr Abdul Quayoum, President of the Anjuman Moin-ul-Islam (AMI), addressed the gathering in English.
“Once again His Holiness the Dalai Lama is here with us in this mosque and it is the holy month of Muharram. His Holiness is renowned for his teachings about peace, harmony, brotherhood and righteousness. He loves to come to Ladakh and we love to listen to him. We are thankful to you for keeping Ladakh in your heart, please don’t forget us.”
Dr Abdul Quayoum mentioned that a translation of the Holy Quran into Tibetan is being prepared and he read aloud from a foreword His Holiness has provided.
“I commend the Muslim Community of Ladakh for translating the Holy Quran into Tibetan. As I often say, all the major religions of the world convey the same message of love, compassion and altruistic service to other living beings. For thousands of years our various religions have brought immense benefit to countless human beings. I have no doubt it would be helpful if their sacred scriptures were translated into the different languages of the world.”
His Holiness spoke to the congregation of men and women in Tibetan and his words were translated into Ladakhi.
“Whoever I meet,” he said, “I consider we are all the same as human beings. All eight billion people alive today were sheltered by their mother’s love and affection as soon as they were born. This is how things begin. Therefore, later, when we’re grown up and in the middle of our lives, we should do what we can to take care of others. If we do that, when we come to die, we’ll do so in an atmosphere of affection.
“The sad thing is that although we start out basking in our mother’s love and affection, we later come to focus on differences of religion, race or nationality that lead us to view other people in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’.
“What’s past is past, we can’t change it, but what we can do is to work to create a more peaceful world now and in the future. In addition to this, we have to take account of global heating. All over the world it is getting hotter and hotter. Scientists have warned us about this and the evidence is clear before us. Moreover, the Buddhist scripture, the Abhidharmakosha speaks of the world being destroyed by fire. What we see now may be the beginning of that process.
“Historically human beings have fought and killed each other. Now, when there are risks that affect us all, we should exert ourselves to help each other in an atmosphere of peace and harmony.”
As he bit into a ripe apricot, His Holiness remarked that he is 88 years old, but he still has all his teeth.
He observed that if we were all to cultivate a stronger sense of the oneness of humanity, we would be better able to work together out of love and compassion. People around the world, he said, are fed up with fighting and trying to solve problems through the use of force is out of date.
“Every human being on this earth is the same in wanting to be happy and not to suffer pain. I pray that the people of the world may not harm each other but live in peace and harmony.
“Our gathering here at this mosque is a symbol of brotherhood and sisterhood. I’m a Buddhist monk, but I respect all religious traditions because at their core is a common message about the value of love and compassion. It’s not helpful to talk critically about ‘my religion’ or ‘their religion’.
“In Tibet nearly all of us follow the same Buddhist tradition and yet there are differences among the Sakya, Kagyu, Nyingma, Geluk and Jonang traditions. Sometimes we refer to these differences in terms of the colour of our hats, comparing ‘yellow hats’ with ‘red hats’ and so on.
“I have received instructions from teachers of all these different traditions and I’ve made an effort to put them into practice. One of the reasons I’ve done so is to establish harmony among our various Tibetan traditions.
“We’ve all come together in this mosque today to show our friendship and respect for each other. Among us here are members of the two major Muslim communities, the Shia and Sunni traditions, and I would like to offer a Dharma Wheel to each of them.
“In Ladakh we can observe a strong tradition of harmony and ethics. While preserving a sense of love and affection for one another as human beings, it would also be good to maintain harmony among our religious traditions.
“Now, it’s time for lunch.”
His Holiness and other guests enjoyed a sumptuous lunch together.
As he was about to get to his feet to leave, several members of the congregation came forward to seek his blessings. As he walked to the door, he smiled and waved to people on either side of the aisle, and they were pleased to smile in return. During the short drive through Chochut Yokma and Choglamsar, groups of well-wishers lined the road with silk scarves and fresh flowers in their hands, eager to catch a glimpse of His Holiness as he passed. He reached his residence in just a few minutes.