H.H. Dalai Lama with Sri Lankan Theros and US Diplomats
Marzo 20th, 2015 by admin

His Holiness the Dalai Lama presenting a member of delegation of senior Sri Lankan monks with a Buddha statue after their meeting in New Delhi, India on March 19. 2015. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL

His Holiness the Dalai Lama presenting a member of delegation of senior Sri Lankan monks with a Buddha statue after their meeting in New Delhi, India on March 19. 2015. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL

His Holiness the Dalai Lama Dialogue with Sri Lankan Theros and US Diplomats

New Delhi, India, 19 March 2015 – After the bitterly cold and wet weather of Dharamsala over the past week or so, Delhi was comfortably warm when His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived yesterday. This morning he met with a delegation of Sri Lankan Theros, senior monks, for discussions that would include Vinaya or monastic discipline. Having warmly welcomed them, he declared: “We are all followers of the same Buddha. At a time when scientific minded people are expressing some doubts about religion, many of them are expressing an interest in aspects of the Buddha’s teachings. He taught not only about the next life, but also about how we can be happy people in this very life, which is why what he taught is consistent with secular ethics. As some scholars have said, Buddhism can be seen as a branch of humanism.”

His Holiness explained how when he meets other people, no matter who they are, he thinks of himself as just another human being like them. To think of yourself as different from them, as someone special, is to create distance and a barrier between yourself and others, which can lead to isolation and loneliness. On their part, the Sri Lankan monks disclosed that among them were the chief prelates of the three principal traditions of Sri Lankan Buddhism: the Ramanya, Shiyam and Amarapura Nikayas, members of the Asgiri Chapter and the President of the Mahabodhi Society. Their spokesman said: “Yesterday we discussed the Vinaya all day. We compared the Theravada and Mulasarvastivada traditions, which are the Vinaya traditions of Sri Lanka and Tibet respectively, and found no significant differences between them.” The monks expressed a unanimous wish, shared by a large number of people in Sri Lanka, to see His Holiness visit their country. He replied that not only would he be very happy to come, but he would be happy if Sri Lankan monks were to come to visit and exchange views with Tibetan monks. He remarked that while his health in general is good, he has trouble with his knees that hinder his going up and down stairs and expressed a willingness to speak from a wheelchair if necessary. With regard to his travels abroad he said: “I never try to propagate Buddhism in non-Buddhist countries, partly out of my respect for other religious traditions and partly out of a desire to foster inter-religious harmony. As 21st century Buddhists, what we all need is to know is what ethics, concentration and wisdom are. We need to understand how the Buddhist teaching of selflessness corresponds to the views of Quantum Physics.” When His Holiness mentioned that he had studied only 13 years before obtaining his Geshe degree, others study for 20 years, while in Tibet in the past it was not uncommon for Geshes to study for 20-30 years before they took their exams. The Sri Lankan monks responded that in their system they have titles that similarly indicate seniority, after 10 years a Sthavira becomes a Thero and after 20-30 years a Mahathero. All agreed on the importance of meeting more frequently to exchange views.
His Holiness expressed his wish to find ways to educate ordinary people about the reality that the ultimate source of happiness is within us, that inner values are a source of peace of mind. He went on to extol the fundamental wisdom of the Four Noble Truths and how the Sanskrit tradition explains their 16 characteristics. The eldest of the Sri Lankan Theros expressed his approval of this exchange of views and suggested that the quality of the monastic community would be improved if the bimonthly confession and purification rituals were more strictly observed. When His Holiness asked what particular text the Sri Lankans rely on to develop wisdom they mentioned Buddhaghosha’sVisuddhimarga’ or ‘Path of Purification’. He remarked: “We are spiritual brothers following Shakyamuni Buddha, but you are the senior students. I often mention that the Chinese are senior to us in their study of the Buddha’s teachings too. However, Tibetans make up for their junior status by the depth of their study and understanding. I am convinced we can learn from each other, and this has been a good beginning.”
A delegation from Gujarat wished to have His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s and the Sri Lankan Elders’ views about a project to develop ancient Buddhist sites as pilgrimage locations. His Holiness told them: “Since these are Buddhist sites, it would be good to find ways to represent the Buddhist countries that exist today. You could show that even 2.600 years after the Buddha lived and taught in India, his teachings continue to flourish in many different countries. And rather than just creating places for pilgrims and tourists to visit, it would be far more valuable to create opportunities for study, centres of learning where people could learn more about the Pali and Sanskrit traditions of Buddhism.”
Meeting with US diplomats posted in 8 countries who had gathered together for a workshop, His Holiness said: “I often make clear my view that the USA is the leading nation of the free world. On one of my previous visits there, on the flight from Europe to America, I read a newspaper article that suggested the US economy was in decline, while the Chinese economy was on the rise. I mentioned my concern about the effects this could have across the free world to President Obama. He told me not to worry, that the US economy was still stronger than some people make out and still stronger than the Chinese, which brought me some relief. “India too is very important as the world’s most populous democracy. It’s a complex country that has shown that living in religious harmony is a real possibility. Finally, Japan is Asia’s most industrialized democracy. Relations between these three countries are very important, which is not to cast aspersions on China. I believe China will eventually join the free world, but it may take some decades yet.” Answering questions he invited from the floor, His Holiness explained that while it seems that atheist Chinese communists seem more interested in his reincarnation than he is, their interest would be more convincing if they found and recognised Mao’s and Deng’s reincarnations before concerning themselves with the Dalai Lama’s. He repeated what he said in 1969 that whether or not there is another Dalai Lama will depend on the wishes of the Tibetan people.

Regarding the impact recent events have had on the Tibetan people and their traditions he said it was too early to say. He warned, however, against becoming too attached to your own tradition, which can lead to partisan divisions into ‘us’ and ‘them’, with destructive consequences. He asked his listeners to look at the conflict between Sunnis and Shias in several Muslim countries. Chuckling he remarked that even among Tibetan Buddhists there are such divisions, with the Shugden group accusing him of being a ‘false Dalai Lama’. He narrated how they had made a placard of a photograph of him wearing a Muslim skullcap, which they explained as showing he is a Muslim not a Buddhist. His own explanation is that he likes to visit other people’s places of worship and that it is properly respectful to cover your head when you visit a mosque. He said: “I too mistakenly propitiated Dolgyal from 1951 until 1970. Then I undertook investigations that revealed that the 5th Dalai Lama had rejected it as an evil spirit. I realised that if I followed the Shugden peoples’ way, I would truly have been a ‘false Dalai Lama’, following practices contrary to the traditions of my predecessors.”
Asked about the balance between those who support the Middle Way Approach and advocates of complete Tibetan independence, His Holiness said that most young educated Tibetans who take a realistic view support the MWA, while others remain idealistic. He asserted that in the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries there were three distinct empires: the Chinese, Mongolian and Tibetan. Later, Chinese hardliners claimed that Tibet became part of China as a result of marriage in those early times. Then, they claimed that Tibet had absurdly become part of China when they both fell under Mongolian control in 13th century. In due course, Jiang Zemin said that they should simply claim Tibet had been part of China since early times. “It may be in our interest to remain within China if they ensure Tibet’s material benefit, but provided they give us the freedom to preserve Tibetan culture, which is useful and helpful as a culture of peace and compassion.” He reported a conversation he’d had with an independence advocate in which they had agreed that China wasn’t going to simply grant independence, Tibetans would have to fight for it. The question then was where they could obtain weapons and even if they could find a source, how they would pay for them. And if they could obtain them, how would weapons be delivered to Tibet? Not through India or Nepal, nor, probably, through Bhutan. And even if that could be achieved, how would Tibetans cope with casualties when the loss of 1000 would be significant to them, while the loss of 100,000 would make little difference to China. His Holiness said his correspondent wept as he left. Questioned about whether it’s possible to have any positive effect on other people’s disputes, His Holiness repeated that rather than focusing on the differences between them, we should emphasise what they have in common as human beings. He stressed the importance of being realistic and relying on common sense, reiterating the USA’s and others’ responsibility for leading the rest of the world towards democracy.

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