His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s second day in Oxford
Settembre 16th, 2015 by admin

Photography, Interviews, Meetings and a Journey to Cambridge

Cambridge, England, 15 September 2015 – At the start of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s second day in Oxford, President of Magdalen College, Prof David Clary, escorted him through the library in the President’s House. Amidst shelves stacked with old leather-bound volumes, they stopped to examine some of the oldest books and other artefacts

His Holiness the Dalai Lama looking at the oldest book on display at the library of the President’s House at Magdalen College in Oxford, UK on September 15, 2015.
Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL

In a room behind the library, Prof Clare Harris gave a presentation about early photography in Tibet in which His Holiness took a keen interest. It had been thought that the date of the earliest photograph taken in Tibet was 1889. Prof Harris revealed an image of a rock formation, possibly near the Indus, that can be attributed to Philip Egerton’s 1863 expedition into Tibet at the behest of the Viceroy of India, Lord Elgin. Egerton managed to reach 10 miles into Tibet before he was expelled.

Nearly 40 years later, a Buryat, Gombojab Tsybikov, took the first photograph of the Potala Palace in 1900, which was then widely reproduced. Prof Harris suggested that a photograph of Gyantse Dzong taken three years later may have been prompted by Lord Curzon’s disgruntlement that the Russians got to Lhasa first.

In addition to foreigners taking photographs in Tibet, there were also Tibetans who took up the skill. Among them Jigme Taring and Tsarong Dzasa are well-known. Other previously unacknowledged photographers include the 9th Panchen Lama and the 13th Dalai Lama. Prof Harris showed striking photographs of His Holiness the Dalai Lama aged 3-4 in 1939 at Kumbum Monastery and another of him in Dromo / Yathung in 1951. She also showed a clear portrait of Samding Dorje Palmo, who His Holiness refers to as the highest female reincarnation in Tibet. He clarified that the photograph of him that appeared on the cover of Time magazine when he escaped from Tibet in 1959 had been taken in 1956.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama watching Professor Clare Harris’s presentation about early photography in Tibet at the Magdalen College’s President’s House in Oxford, UK on September 15, 2015. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL

Prof Harris’s intriguing presentation included a couple of particularly moving images. One featured Demo Rinpoche, who was subjected to struggle sessions in 1966 during the Cultural Revolution when he was pressured to denounce his religion, his loyalty to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his hobby of photography, which the Chinese communists regarded as a pastime of the wealthy. The final image entitled ‘Road to Tibet’ was taken by a contemporary Tibetan photographer called Jigme, who in 2012 was determined to walk back to his homeland. At Mustang, 10 miles from his destination, he took the photograph as the Nepalese authorities turned him back.

In the course of an interview with Richard Godwin of the Evening Standard, His Holiness revealed that his main aim when he comes to countries like England is to promote basic human values as a sound source of happiness. He also made it clear that he doesn’t regard this or that religious tradition as more or less troublesome.

“Rather,” he says, “if you think religion is part of your identity, but don’t practise it sincerely, it won’t be very effective.”

Richard Godwin of the Evening Standard interviewing His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Oxford, UK on September 15, 2015. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL

Asked about the refugee crisis in Europe he agreed that those who can should help, but stressed that in the long run the aim should be to bring peace to the homelands these people have fled. To just accept refugees is not to solve the problem.

As for how his own influence restrains violence in Tibet, he recalled a conversation with a Tibetan recently arrived from Tibet 10 years ago who told him that some young Tibetans felt obliged to observe non-violence while he is alive. His Holiness said he told him that it will continue to be important to maintain a non-violent stance in order to build bridges with the Chinese people. He also clarified that as far as he is concerned to serve others and not only to secure their welfare, but also to avoid harming them, is the standard of a meaningful life.

In a second interview, Oliver Harvey of The Sun sought His Holiness’s reaction to the large sum of money Sun readers have contributed to help Syrian refugees. He told him:

“It’s very good, there’s nothing else to do but help these desperate people in any way we can, but what’s important in the long term is to bring peace to the lands these people are fleeing. That’s where they should be. We Tibetans are refugees too and our goal is to eventually go back and rebuild what’s been destroyed in our country.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Oliver Harvey of the Sun  during their interview in Oxford, UK on September 15, 2015. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL

As for entering into dialogue with ISIS, His Holiness said he has several times appealed to Indian Moslems to intervene and instigate dialogue between the warring parties.

Harvey asked His Holiness about his visit to the Glastonbury Festival earlier this year and whether he’d enjoyed the music. He told him he had little interest in the music as such, but really appreciated the great atmosphere among people enjoying themselves together. Reminded that the Queen has become the longest reigning monarch, His Holiness mentioned that he has been familiar with pictures of her and her sister Princess Margaret all his life and happily wished her “Congratulations”. Finally, asked what he likes about England, he observed that since the British Raj’s interventions in Tibet a strong emotional connection has existed between the two countries.

At St Anne’s College His Holiness addressed a gathering of more than 50 Chinese students. He outlined his three commitments, the promotion of happiness for all human beings, the encouragement of inter-religious harmony, and, as a Tibetan, the preservation of Tibetan language and Tibet’s rich Buddhist knowledge. He stressed the profound understanding of mind and the emotions contained in the Nalanda tradition.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to Chinese students at St Anne’s College in Oxford, UK on September 15, 2015. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL

“China is traditionally a Buddhist country, I saw many Buddhist temples and sacred places there when I visited in 1954-55. Today, there are said to be 400 million Chinese Buddhists, many of whom share an interest in the preservation of Tibetan Buddhism. I often say that historically the Han and Tibetan peoples can and should be friends.”

Asked once again how Tibetan Buddhism will survive if there is no future reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, His Holiness pointed out that the Buddha’s teaching has flourished for two and a half thousand years without any reincarnation of the Buddha. Similarly, Nagarjuna’s teachings still have a widespread following despite his having no reincarnation either. He said that Buddhism reached Tibet in the 7th century and had taken firm root without the presence of the Dalai Lama.

His Holiness expressed his admiration for the way the Han people work hard and are determined to maintain their language and culture wherever they are in the world. He said that since Tibetan is presently the language that is most fit for explaining Buddhist ideas, it reflects narrow mindedness to regard its preservation as ‘splittist’. He encouraged his audience to become 21st century Buddhists, people who know what the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Lord Rowan Williams exchanging greetings on his arrival in Magdalene College in Cambridge, UK on September 15, 2015. Photo/Ian Cumming

“Take the Buddha’s advice to heart. Don’t accept his teaching simply because he taught it. Investigate and examine it. Test it in a scientific spirit.”

After returning to Magdalen College for lunch, His Holiness gave a short interview for a documentary about climate change to Sofia Stril-Striver. He then travelled by helicopter to Cambridge. Arriving at the Master’s Lodge of Magdalene College, he was warmly welcomed by his host Lord Rowan Williams. They met briefly to discuss the forthcoming days’ discussions before His Holiness retired for the night.

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