His Holiness the Dalai Lama Addresses an All Party Parliamentary Group in Japan
Tokyo, Japan - His Holiness began the day by meeting some Tibetan students who are studying in Japan. He spelt out to them how Tibetan Buddhist literature has been a unifying factor among Tibetans for centuries. The Kangyur and Tengyur are not only held in respect by almost every Tibetan, but also by other Himalayan and Central Asian peoples. Next, he met a group of Chinese to whom he explained his threefold classification of the contents of those same scriptures into science, philosophy and Buddhism. He told them that since the aim of Buddhist practice is to cultivate wisdom, eliminate ignorance and overcome suffering, he increasingly encourages twenty-first century Buddhists to study.
Later in the morning, under glorious autumn sunshine, the light catching the turning leaves on the trees, His Holiness drove to the National Diet Building, home of the Japanese Parliament, to address an All Party Parliamentary Group. He was received on arrival by Eriko Yamatani, Chairperson of the Committee that invited him, and senior parliamentarian Takeo Hiranuma. They escorted him to the meeting. In attendance were 150 parliamentarians from eight political parties and the secretaries of 50 others who were unable to come themselves. They broke into rousing applause as he entered the room.
Ms Yamatani welcomed His Holiness and invited him to address the gathering. He began by explaining that wherever he is invited to speak, he likes to address his listeners as brothers and sisters, because as human beings we are all the same.
“Respected brothers and sisters, I’m extremely happy to be here once more. I would like to tell you of my deep gratitude to all those involved in making this meeting possible. You have expressed warm feelings of friendship and deep concern for which I would like to thank you.”
He went on to explain that many of the problems we face are of our own making, because we pay too much attention to the secondary differences between us. In fact all 7 billion human beings share a desire to live a happy life and have the same right to fulfil that desire. In that context there should be no scope for one group to harm another.
“Throughout human history we have tended to divide people into ‘them’ and ‘us’, which inevitably leads to conflict. On a human level, there is no real basis for such divisions; we are all part of ‘us’. It is not that there are no differences between us, but they are secondary to the fact that we all belong to one human family, living on this one blue planet that is our home. We need to make an effort to build a peaceful, happy human community.”
His Holiness voiced the firm hope that the 21st century would be a century of peace. He conceded that there would continue to be problems as the world’s population continues to grow, as the effects of climate change become more drastic, and as natural disasters multiply. But such problems have to be faced together. He said that the Copenhagen summit on climate change had been disappointing because too many governments chose national interests over the interests of the whole world. Such problems will only be surmounted by talk; we have to engage in dialogue. This is why His Holiness is encouraging young people to think of making the 21st century a century of dialogue.
“Japan is one of the most fully modernised nations, it is one of the leading countries in Asia and it’s a country whose religious traditions place great value on peace. I hope you’ll join me in the wish to build a more peaceful world, which is why wherever I go I try to promote the idea that we 7 billion human beings belong to one human family.”
“As you can see, I’m a Buddhist monk and it pains me when conflicts appear to be stoked by religious differences. This is what seems to be happening between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma. It’s very sad. I have appealed to the Buddhist monks there, when conflict flares up, to remember the face of the Buddha. I am convinced that if the Buddha were there he would offer protection to those Muslims who find themselves under threat.”
His Holiness explained that his second commitment is to the promotion of religious harmony, and that he hopes this is something Japan can also contribute to. Diverting from his theme he mentioned how important it is for Japanese students to improve their command of the English language, which is the international language, in order to better contribute to the world community.
“Finally,” he said, “I’m a Tibetan, a refugee who has lived nearly 55 years in exile. During this time, many, many people have shown us sympathy and support and I appreciate it. Since we elected a political leadership in 2001 I became semi-retired and after elections in 2011 I completely retired from my political responsibilities. On top of that I also brought an end to the institution of the Dalai Lamas occupying a temporal role in Tibetan affairs. This is part of my small contribution to furthering democracy among Tibetans.”
He stated that at a time when China still seems to be facing an ethical crisis, as a Tibetan he is concerned about the status of Tibetan culture, which he regards as a culture of peace. In addition to that is the issue of Tibet’s ecology. The Tibetan environment plays such an important role in the world’s climate that one Chinese ecologist referred to it as the Third Pole. This is not something that concerns only Tibetans, for the rivers that rise in Tibet affect a billion people elsewhere in Asia.
“So this is an outline of concerns that I will pursue for the rest of my life,” he said.
“With regard to the new Chinese leadership, many friends have told me it seems to be more practical and realistic. Premier Xi Jinping is taking a stern line against corruption and in this he seems to be a man of courage and action. The recently completed third plenum noted the needs and concerns of the rural population and poor working people, which include a judicial system functioning to international standards. The Chinese people are hard-working and realistic and it is in them that there is hope for the future. “
There was only time for His Holiness to be asked one question and that related to the self-immolations that have taken place in Tibet. He reiterated that these events are sad and observed that it is in protest against the great difficulties they face that these people are prepared to give up their lives; it’s not because they are drunk or beset by domestic problems. He said it is difficult for him to ask them to act differently because he has nothing to offer them. It’s for the Chinese authorities to investigate the situation thoroughly to establish why so many in Tibet have chosen this path. He repeated how sad it is, especially when some of those who have set fire to themselves have been young mothers of small children.
Standing to leave, His Holiness’s attention was caught by the Tibetan flag standing next to his table. He said he would like to tell a story. During one of his meetings with Chairman Mao Zedong in Peking in 1954, Mao had asked him whether Tibet had a flag. When His Holiness cautiously answered that it did, Mao replied,
“Good, you must fly it alongside the national flag.”
This is why, today, despite hardliners in Peking asserting that the Tibetan flag is a symbol of the ‘splittists’, His Holiness feels he has Mao Zedong’s personal permission to keep and fly it.
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