His Holiness Finds a Warm Welcome in Vienna
Vienna, Austria, 25 May, 2012 - Before leaving Yeunten Ling, on another bright morning, His Holiness expressed a wish to visit the new statue of the Buddha in the garden below the temple. After he had paid his respects, the institute staff saw him off and he drove to Liège airport for the flight to Vienna. On arrival he drove to his hotel where Prof. Heinz Nussbaumer met him and immediately escorted him to a meeting with the press. They were joined by the Kalon Tripa, Dr Lobsang Sangay, who has been invited to Vienna to address the European Solidarity Rally for Tibet tomorrow and His Holiness introduced him to the assembled journalists.“This young man was born in India, but completed his education at Harvard University. Since the Tibetan leader was first elected in 2001, I have been semi-retired, but after Lobsang Sangay was elected last year, I thought the time was right, so I retired completely and handed my political responsibilities to him, so now he’s my boss – although when it comes to spiritual affairs, I’m still his boss!”
His Holiness began by outlining his two major commitments: that as a human being like the other seven billion on the planet, who want to be happy and have a right to be happy, he is committed to helping others find lasting happiness. Secondly, as a simple Buddhist monk he tries to promote harmony and understanding among different religious traditions. He said that it is very sad when religion becomes a ground for conflict, considering that all the major religions have the potential to help humanity.
“I believe the media also have a special responsibility to report these things. And in a democratic society, they also have a responsibility to sniff out what’s going on. When hypocrisy becomes almost fashionable, the media should investigate impartially and objectively and report what they find in order to help build a clean society.”
In response to a question about his hopes for Tibet, His Holiness said that observing the power of truth compared to the power of the gun for over fifty years, it seems that in the short term the gun may prevail, but in the long run the power of truth is much stronger. This is why Tibetans have adhered to their policy of non-violence. In contrast to which the Chinese authorities appear to think they can solve Tibet’s problems by increasing suppression, that is, through the power of the gun. What support like the planned rally tomorrow will show, is that the Tibetan problem will not go away.
Another questioner wanted to know about links between Tibetan resistance forces and the CIA. His Holiness admitted the connection, but clarified that Tibetan resistance had already begun before the CIA became involved. What’s more, His Holiness’s escape from Norbulingka was planned and executed by Tibetans and the CIA made contact only after he was well on his way.
In the afternoon, His Holiness began his talk at the Vienna Stadthalle by introducing his German translator, Christoph Spitz and his English speaking assistant, Geshe Tashi Tsering, to the audience. He pointed out that the seven billion human beings alive today are physically and emotionally the same and that he counted himself among them. If we seek to find differences, there will be no limit, for even we change from who we were in the morning, at noon and in the evening. He said we pay too much attention to secondary differences, while fundamentally we are all the same. We all belong to one humanity, which we tend to forget.
Considering that about 200 million died in war and violence during the twentieth century, His Holiness recommended that we take steps to ensure that the twenty-first century is instead the beginning of an era of peace and non-violence. But, he said, this will not be achieved by mere prayer or meditation, peace will have to be brought about through action. He also made clear that even if there is peace, that is no guarantee that we will not face problems or conflicts. The difference will be that we need to address and solve them through dialogue.
His Holiness again stressed that we need moral principles, but as many people think that ethical principles are the preserve of religion and many of them have little regard for religion, we need to employ secular ethics. He clarified that he uses the word secular not to dismiss religion, but as it is used in India, to include and indicate respect for all religious traditions. Secular ethics are what we are going to need to solve the gap between rich and poor and the threats climate change presents to our environment.
“I feel we can change, we can create a happier century by building awareness. Whatever goal we are seeking to achieve must be approached realistically. As most of our problems arise because of the destructive factors in our minds. If we can overcome these and apply a sense of secular ethics, we can build a happier, more peaceful world for everyone.”
His Holiness then invited the audience to submit questions to him. To a question about the most important value to apply in daily life, he said,
“Lead an honest life, help people, and animals if you can, and at least refrain from harming them. Keep a calm mind, then you’ll stay relaxed whatever happens. Practise with determination, but don’t inflate your expectations. People sometimes ask me for the quickest way to change their minds, but in our day and age I expect they also want to know the cheapest way and the way that requires the least effort.”
About the future of humanity, His Holiness again raised changing attitudes to war, pointing out that in the early twentieth century young men joined up without hesitation, whereas now the public has by and large turned against war, as shown by the demonstrations against the Vietnam and Iraq wars. He also cited changing attitudes to relations between science and spirituality, both of which now seem much better able to learn from each other. Although he hopes and expects the twenty-first century to be a better more peaceful century than the last, he reiterated that it will not be achieved just by wishing for it. Everyone will have to make an effort and contribute to a people’s movement for change.
As His Holiness was ending his talk, telling his listeners in Austria, “I consider you my friends and I am your friend,” Dr Michael Spindelegger, Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister of Austria arrived to greet him, followed by a brief private meeting.
Tomorrow, His Holiness will attend two sessions of a Symposium on Buddhism and Science, as well as the European Solidarity Rally for Tibet.