Welcomed in Trento, His Holiness the Dalai Lama Speaks About Happiness in a Troubled World
Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy - Today, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was a guest in Trento, which entailed his driving under cloudy skies along the Adige River for about half an hour. On arrival at the Palace of the Autonomous Province of Trento he was received by the President, Dr Alberto Pacher and the Head of the Province’s Press Office, Roberto Pinter. They escorted him to the President’s office, where they held discussions together.
From there it was a short walk to the Provincial Council building, where they were met by the President of the Council who led them to the modern Council Chamber, a three tiered circular structure. Following words of welcome, His Holiness was invited to speak:
“I prefer to begin by greeting you as my brothers and sisters. Why? Because so many of the problems we face today are due to our focussing on secondary differences between us, while neglecting the basic oneness of humanity. As human beings we are all the same mentally, physically and emotionally, and we need to increase our awareness of this.”
He declared it an honour to speak before its members in the Provincial Council Chamber, noting that he had admired democracy since learning about it when he was a child in Tibet. The world belongs to humanity as a whole, he said, and each country belongs to its people, not their king or president. Therefore, he felt honoured to have the opportunity to meet and address representatives of an elected, accountable leadership that truly serves the people.
He described how he had taken responsibility for Tibet’s affairs in 1951 and in ‘52 and ‘53 had attempted to introduce reforms. After reaching India in 1959 he encouraged the introduction of democracy into the Tibetan system, culminating in an elected leadership in 2001, at which time he semi-retired. Following the 2011 elections, he passed all his political authority to the newly elected leadership and fully retired. What’s more, he also brought an end to the nearly 400 year old tradition of the rule of Tibet by the Dalai Lamas that had begun with the Fifth Dalai Lama in the mid-17th century.
Referring to what he calls his three commitments, he said:
“I am a human being and acknowledge that my well being depends on others. It’s unrealistic to think that the future of humanity can be achieved only on the basis of prayer, what we need is to take action, so my first commitment is to contribute to human happiness as best I can. Secondly, I am a Buddhist monk, and according to my experience, all religious traditions have the potential to convey the message of love and compassion. So my second commitment is to foster harmony and friendly relations between them. Thirdly, I am a Tibetan, and although I have retired from political responsibility, I remain concerned to do what I can to preserve Tibetan Buddhist culture and the natural environment of Tibet - both of which are under threat of destruction.
“It’s a great honour to be here; thank you.”
Before offering the President of the Council a white silk scarf or khata in Tibetan, he briefly explained its significance. He said the custom is derived from an Indian tradition of offering a shawl as a mark of respect; the silk material is not produced in Tibet, but in China, however, it is made to Tibetan instructions and is inscribed with auspicious wishes in the Tibetan language. So, offering a khata is an exercise in harmony, combining Indian tradition, Chinese material and Tibetan custom, akin to extending the hand of friendship without prejudice or expectation.
At the following press conference, His Holiness began by saying:
“Whenever I meet other people, I have the feeling that we are the same; you want a happy life, so do I. To serve others if you can, but at least to avoid harming them is the basis of a happy life, effective on a global, national, local, family and individual level. Thus, warm-heartedness is the ultimate source of happiness. Why am I telling you this? Because you media people have the opportunity to spread awareness and there is a need to let the public know that the source of peace and happiness is peace of mind.”
To a question about how to create awareness of secular ethics, His Holiness said we need to understand the inadequacy of an educational system so skewed towards material values. The solution is not to give an occasional lecture, but to integrate ethics into the educational curriculum. To do this effectively requires a secular ethics, free of religious influence, based on common sense, a realistic view and scientific findings.
Challenged to respond to the self-immolations taking place in Tibet, he said he was hesitant to comment on what is such a sensitive political issue. He repeated that when these sad events began to take place he pointed out that they were symptoms of a cause and that Chinese officials should make it their business to investigate what that cause is. Clearly it is not because these Tibetans are drunk or experiencing family troubles. It is because of the desperate situation in which they find themselves and the prospect of arrest and severe torture should they protest in any other way. Rather than harm others, they choose to shorten their own lives. He said:
“As I have nothing to offer as an alternative, there is nothing for me to say. There is a real problem, but it can’t be resolved by force. For the last 50-60 years force has been employed and failed. The Chinese leadership would do well to follow Deng Xiaoping’s stricture ‘Seek truth from facts’ and adopt a realistic approach. Mere wishful thinking will not solve these problems. Therefore, we hope and pray that the new leadership will act with common sense, realism and wisdom.”
His Holiness went on to address the Italia-Tibet Association that is marking its 25th anniversary this year. He said:
“Brothers and sisters, I appreciate your friendship that is not motivated by an interest in money or power, but arises from your sympathy for a people going through very hard times.
“I always describe our friends and supporters not as pro-Tibet or anti-Chinese, but as pro-justice, for ours is a just struggle, which continues to attract more people, including Chinese who find out about it. Public concern leads to solidarity. On a governmental level, the USA, the EU and India, despite some limits on their expression, do make their views and support known to the Chinese.”
He described the Tibet issue as not just a matter of human rights, but also as an issue of ecology, citing the fact that Asia’s major rivers rise in Tibet. Preserving Tibet’s ecology, therefore, has a direct bearing on the water supplies of 1 billion human beings. He also mentioned the importance of preserving Tibetan culture, because, being a culture of peace and compassion, when the 7 billion people in the world face man-made problems, it remains relevant today.
Finally, he noted that 60 years have passed since the so-called liberation of Tibet and more than 50 years since 1959. Generations have come and gone and yet the Tibetan spirit remains strong. He said he tells his Chinese friends that the Tibetan spirit is inspired by the Buddhadharma that is more than 2500 years old, interest in which is increasing across the world. Scientists for example are interested in what it has to say about the function of the emotions. Even in China, some statistics say they are now more than 300 million who call themselves Buddhists. While the Tibetan spirit is strong, the totalitarianism of the Chinese communist party is in decline. The world over, the trend is towards democracy and freedom. No matter how powerful China is economically, it cannot buck the trend. He said:
“I hope and pray they will seek truth from facts and adopt a realistic approach to solving our problems. We consider Tibet to be an occupied land. In the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries it was clearly independent. Now things have changed; we are not seeking separation and independence, but we need meaningful autonomy and respect for our culture and language.
“The power of truth and adopting a realistic view are strong. Change is happening in China. The leadership there has recently changed. Your support and other international support at this time are very important. I repeat that this is not a matter of being anti-Chinese, but a matter of justice.
“I appreciate your support - and I am moved that our friend here, the president of your association, who looks physically strong and mature, weeps when he speaks of our cause. Thank you.”
After an official lunch, hosted by the Province in the ancient basement of the Provincial Palace, His Holiness drove to the Palantrento Stadium, where more than 4500 people, many of them young and among them 1000 early teenage school children, gathered to hear him speak about ‘Happiness in a Troubled World.’ Following a spirited introduction by Roberto Pinter, His Holiness repeated that the cause of Tibet is a just cause, which Tibetans are determined to resolve through non-violence.
He reminded his listeners that they are all mentally, physically and emotionally the same kind of human beings, who all deserve to live a happy life. He said that from his own experience he has learned that the ultimate source of peace of mind is within us. And that this brings inner strength and confidence. Warm-heartedness and the practice of love and compassion have a positive effect on our brains, our physical well-being and are essential if we are to have peace of mind. Violence on the other hand is the wrong way to deal with problems, because it stokes more hatred and ill-will.
“You young people of the 21st century generation, have a responsibility to create a better future. This is in your hands. You will need determination and wisdom to deal with things in more holistic, realistic way.”
Asked how he continues to remain so happy, His Holiness replied that as a result of experience and analysis, when faced with difficulties he reflects: “If you can overcome the problem you face, there’s no need to worry; and if you can’t overcome it, there’s no use to worry.” He said:
“Yes, I lose my temper now and then, but it doesn’t last. I never make friends with the destructive emotions; when they appear, I show them the door.”
In answer to several questions from a young Chinese woman he replied:
“I am very glad you have asked your questions. China is traditionally a Buddhist country and this seems to be reviving. Protect your traditional cultural heritage; respect your parents and elders. If you are interested in Buddhism, try to be a 21st century Buddhist. You need to know how to train your mind. Buddhism encourages us to use our intelligence in the most constructive way and to find out how to do that I urge you to study. Learn how to deal with the destructive emotions. If you can, raise funds to improve education in Tibet. And tell those officials who call me a demon that the demon is quite well and his horns continue to grow!
Tomorrow, His Holiness travels to Switzerland.
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