H.H. Dalai Lama: Universal Responsibility

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Universal Responsibility in the Modern World

Transcript of His Holiness’s Public Talk on Universal Responsibility in the Modern World. Royal Albert Hall, London, United Kingdom, May 22, 2008.

Riki Hyde-Chambers (Chairman of Tibet Society): Ladies and gentlemen, it is my very great privilege to introduce you to His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

Someone in audience: We love you.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Thank you.

Firstly, let me sit more comfortably. Don’t worry, I am not going to meditate in silence. Thank you very much. I am very very happy to be meeting with the public in this hall once more. I think it is the third time, or maybe the second. I don’t remember.

Dear brothers and sisters, I am extremely happy to sit here with you and interact. I will begin by speaking for about 30 or 40 minutes. When I talk, it is not for a precise time; it depends on my mood. If my mood is good I will speak for longer; if my mood is not that good the talk will be shorter. Whenever I give a talk I do not do any preparation or have any notes. I just express what I feel in a completely informal way. Then there will be some questions. That will be helpful to me, because sometimes there are unexpected questions, or points that I had never considered. That helps me to think about the point more seriously; so there is mutual benefit.

To begin, I want to thank the organisers, mainly I think the Tibet Society. I think that it is the oldest such society, formed when we became refugees, to support the Tibet cause. I remember the late Lord Ennals, and other very active members, who made a great contribution to the Tibetan cause. He is no longer with us, but, Riki was here on my first visit in 1973, and since then in his face there has not been much change. He is physically not very big, but he is full of energy and warm feeling. These people carry the original spirit, and make it even stronger. I want to thank the Tibet Society, and our other friends and supporters. Thank you very much. Among the parliamentarians, there are a number of people who show genuine concern. Thank you. I always believe that our supporters are not pro-Tibetan but rather pro-justice. I very much appreciate that.

I also want to thank the Tibetan musicians and dancers. I very much appreciated them. For nearly half a century they have been homeless; the generations change, but our people keep the Tibetan spirit alive. Here in England there are very few Tibetans, but they keep our spirit very much alive. Not only that, but those young children who were born here have received a transfer of the Tibetan spirit from their parents. A transfer from the older generation to the younger generation. That was our original aim. As soon as we became refugees, our main concern was to preserve the rich Tibetan Buddhist culture. In other words, a culture of peace, of compassion. Today, that is something very relevant to this world. Therefore, right from the beginning, our main effort has been to preserve the Tibetan culture. Nowadays our main discussions with the Chinese authorities are about how to protect Tibetan cultural heritage. That is our main concern. This small group here made an effort to preserve our spirit, our cultural heritage. Thank you very much.

Turning to my talk here, I think that most of you know that I have two main concerns. No. 1—now because of this light this is necessary [dons peaked cap]. This is not the red hat sect, the yellow hat sect or the blue hat sect. It is something very practical. My main interest, my main commitment on a voluntary basis, is to two things: No. 1, the promotion of human value and No. 2 the promotion of religious harmony. I am committed to those two things until my death. The third commitment is regarding Tibetan problem/struggle. It is not necessarily a voluntary commitment, because of historical facts. The most important thing is that the Tibetan people both inside and outside of Tibet trust me very much and pin a lot of hope on me, and so I have the moral responsibility to serve them as well as I can. Of course, my ability, knowledge and experience in various fields are very limited, but it is my moral responsibility to serve them in whatever way I can. But there will be a time limit. I am already in something like a semi-retired position, as we have had an elected political leadership since 2001. So, my position is something like that of senior adviser. In most cases, the political leadership listens to my view, but sometimes it doesn’t. That is good. Also, on my part, I have some reservations about some of his policy, but I always remain quiet. So, we are sincerely practising democracy.

In response to an invitation to visit, I generally talk about two things: the promotion of human value and the promotion of religious harmony. But my recent visits to America, Germany and now here, have become much more politicised because of the recent events in Tibet. Okay. So the theme of my talk here is universal responsibility in the modern world. Since my first visit to Europe in 1973, I carry this message of universal responsibility, of a sense of global responsibility. Since I went to India in 1959, I have had the opportunity to meet a variety of people—and my broken English is quite helpful for listening to the BBC World Service—and it seems to me that we are facing many, essentially man-made, problems. Of course, natural disasters are something different, but a major portion of our problems are essentially of our own creation. At the same time, nobody wants problems. There are a few thousand people in this hall, and I think that when you get up in the early, or late, morning, none of you hopes that you have more problems, more trouble that day. Nobody feels that. From early morning, as soon as I wake up, I think, hope or wish that it will be a pleasant day. A joyful day with no problems. That is human nature. Essentially, most troublemakers are not intentionally so, but their approach has become unrealistic and that causes unexpected problems. An unrealistic approach does not happen intentionally either, but comes about because of a lack of a holistic, comprehensive perspective, and in many cases short-sightedness. So, ultimately, that is a lack of a sense of global responsibility, which divides us into “us” and “them” and makes us feel that our interests are independent from others’. We consider our own interests as the most important ones and disregard others’ interests. So that creates a problem. In reality our interests and others’ interests are very much interconnected; we are part of the six billion human beings. Therefore, if six billion human beings are happy, one individual is bound to be happy. If six billion get trouble, you cannot escape. That is the reality. According to that reality, our centuries-old concept that “us” and “them” are independent is, I think, outdated. Now, particularly in these modern times, with the economic conditions, the environmental issues and the sheer size of the population, everything is interdependent. So, in those circumstances, a Buddhist concept is that you should consider all sentient beings as the mother sentient being, to whom you should develop the same sense of closeness as to your own mother. So, according to theological religion, all creation is created by God. So, we human beings, other sentient beings and the whole world were created by God. A Muslim friend told me that a true Muslim should love the whole of creation as much as they love God. So different words, a different approach, but the same meaning. Therefore, there is the idea that there is a sense of global responsibility, that we should develop a sense of concern for the whole of humanity, the whole world. That eventually develops. For more than 30 years that has been my concept, and it is still relevant. More and more people seem to agree with it.

So, how do you develop a sense of global responsibility? It is very much related to commitment to the promotion of religious harmony and human value. Firstly, I will touch on the promotion of human value.

What is human value? Money? Oh, yes. That is very important. In Tibetan we say Kunga Dhondup. That is a nickname for money, which literally means, “That which makes everybody happy and can accomplish everything”. That is true, without money you cannot do things. Money is important. Sometimes I make a joke to Buddhist audiences, particularly Tibetan: we usually recite a special sort of Tibetan mantra, “Om Mani Padme Hum”. Some of you know that, I think. We recite that, sometimes hurriedly, so it becomes: “Om Mani Padme Hum, Om Mani Padma Hum, Om Mani Padma Hum”, then it become “OmMani, OmMani, Mani, Mani, Mani” [spoken more and more quickly]. It sounds very much like, “money money money money”. Maybe, “dollar money dollar money”, or “pound money pound money”. So, money has value, and all these external facilities are valuable. Good. But they all provide physical not mental comfort. If you have plenty of money, you have some sort of satisfaction in your mental life: “Ah, I have a lot of money.” That is an illusion, because we notice that a billionaire has plenty of money but is a very unhappy person. We notice that. They have a lot of worry, anxiety, suspicion and jealousy. Money fails to bring them inner peace. More money brings more suspicion, discomfort and worry. To truly believe that if you have money everything can be sorted out, that you will get 100 per cent satisfaction, is an illusion. But, of course, you must be the judge of that, because I never say that the points that I make are 100 per cent correct. Please investigate for yourselves. I myself am trained in such a way that I am always investigating.

The Tibetan Buddhist tradition is actually the Nalanda tradition. Nalanda is, I think we can say, the oldest university, because it is more than 2,000 years old. It is not just a monastery, but a learning centre. The Tibetan Buddhist tradition was established by a great Indian philosopher, a logician, from that university. His name was Shantarakshita. In the 8th century he was invited to Tibet by the Tibetan emperor. He was aged 900, according to the Tibetan age system; according to an Indian friend he was around 75 years old. That friend teases that Tibetans add an extra zero, so that 90 became 900. Shantarakshita—his name sounds good, in Tibetan Shiwa Tso—was the person who established Buddhism in Tibet, with the help of the Tibetan emperor. Since he was a great scholar and logician, he was never satisfied. He said, “always investigate, always argue, always reason.” So that was his style. He introduced the Buddhist tradition in that way. Up to now, the major Tibetan Buddhist institution has always carried study in such a manner: investigation, investigation. I myself am also trained in investigation and experiment, and so I want to share with you, even regarding my own talks: “Please carry on investigating.” Do not just accept my word.

Real inner peace and inner satisfaction ultimately depends on our mental attitude. What kind of mental attitude? Firstly, we are social animals, so there must be an emotional factor that brings us together as a social group. There is also a biological factor. We are born from our mother’s womb, and at that moment are just like animals, tiny infants. Our survival totally depends on someone else’s care, usually our mother’s. If your mother abandons you for just one, two or three days, I think that you will die. Our survival totally depends on others’ care. Furthermore, the physical body survives with the nutrition of the mother’s milk. The survival of the youngsters of not only human beings, but of cats, dogs and even birds, entirely depends on others’ care. That is a fact. So, there must be an emotional factor that has developed that kind of determination on the part of the mother: the mother’s affection. That affection brings with it the determination of a mother to sacrifice her own comfort, or even her life, in order to protect and care.

Recently I was on an overnight flight, from I think Japan to America or from America to Europe. In the front seat there was a couple with two children. One was perhaps six or seven years old, and the other one year old. The younger one did not sleep the whole night; he was walking here and there and shouting. On one occasion, I offered him a sweet from my pocket. He took it and then carried on walking. At the beginning, the father was taking so much care of him, but after around midnight he suddenly lay down on the chair. Then the mother took care of the child through the whole night. The mother’s eyes became red due, I think, to lack of sleep. So that reaffirmed for me, that the mother is so, so kind. That kind of attitude does not come from religious teaching, but from nature. It is mainly a biological factor. That affection is ultimately the basis of our life.

There has been some scientific research. On one occasion, a scientist made a presentation about young monkeys, some of whom were with their mothers and some of whom were separated from their mothers. The monkeys who were with their mothers were always playful and very rarely fought. The monkeys who were separated from their mothers were always in a bad mood and often quarreled. We are the same. Therefore, a happy, peaceful life is ultimately very much related to affection. On another occasion, a medical scientist at a conference talked about how guinea pigs, or mice, licking each other had a very positive effect on the healing of wounds. That also indicates that affection has an effect on our physical selves and on our mental comfort. Therefore, we can say that human affection is the basic human value. From the time of birth until death, affection, or human compassion, plays a very important role.

Now immense crises have developed, compassion really makes a difference. My own case is the recent developments, since 10 March. On the afternoon of 10 March I received news from Lhasa that some Tibetans were now demonstrating. As soon as I heard that, I had the same experience as on 10 March 1959: a lot of anxiety and also fear. At the intelligence level, there was a lot of anxiety, fear, doubt and uncertainty. But underneath, on a more emotional level, it seemed quite okay. Usually I sleep for at least eight or nine hours. What do you think, is that too much? Fortunately, in spite of a lot of disturbances at the intelligence level, my sleep is never disturbed. So, underneath, there seems to be some calmness. The main factor is my training, and daily meditation. One particular sort of meditation is “take and give”, give and take”—the Tibetan word is Tonglen. I usually meditate on that, on altruism. Of course, my day starts at 3.30am every morning, when I do at least four hours’ meditation, mainly analytical meditation. One part of my meditation is to visualise those individuals who take decisions, and develop altruism. It is very important to make a distinction between the action and the person. As far as action is concerned, we have to oppose, to make a response. But the person who carried out the wrongdoing really deserves our compassion, our concern. It was their wrongdoing, so from the Buddhist viewpoint, from the non-theistic religious viewpoint according to the law of causality, they have to face the consequences. So there is more reason to feel concern about that troublemaker than about their victims. Visualise those things and then take their anger, hatred and suspicion and give them compassion, a spirit of forgiveness and patience. That kind of meditation practice looks silly because it is just imagination. Yes, it has no actual effect. But the practitioner’s emotional level gets immense benefit from it. That is my experience, but it is nothing special.

In the past I have also told the story of a Tibetan monk I knew well before 1959, who spent 18 years in a Chinese gulag. In the early 80s, the Chinese Government adopted a new policy allowing Tibetans to go to India, and allowing Tibetans outside of Tibet to go “home”, to their villages. So this monk then joined Dharamsala. So since we knew each other very well, one day we chatted. He told me that during 18 years in the Chinese gulag he had faced danger on a few occasions. I thought that maybe he meant that his life had been in danger. I asked him, “What kind of danger?” His answer was, “Danger of losing compassion towards the Chinese.” That is the kind of attitude I am talking about. A practitioner has a certain kind of inner peace through that practice, and this is an example.

In order to keep inner peace, compassion really makes a difference. That is very important. When I talk about compassion, I think it is worthwhile to be more precise. One kind of compassion is essentially low level and has a biological factor, it is low-level compassion mixed with attachment. That limited compassion, as a seed, can be strengthened with the help of reasoning and become a higher level of unlimited, unbiased compassion. We need that. To give an example, as I mentioned before, for my own happy and successful future as a social animal, as one of the six billion human beings, I have to take care of the other human beings, because my future depends on them, doesn’t it? If I create more enemies I will suffer. If I create more friends I will benefit. How do we create friends? Only through money? No. Money can bring friends, but they are essentially friends of money, not of you yourself. When your fortune grows and you become richer, richer, richer, you will find more friends. When your fortune goes, those friends will also disappear. Even if you phone them they may not answer. Those friends are not genuinely your friends, but friends of your money. Therefore, real friends come only out of a sense of concern or respect. Respect them. Develop a genuine sense of concern, of compassion, as even animals do. My main point is that a seed of happiness, of inner calmness, of inner strength, creates more inner strength, more self-confidence and less fear. That automatically causes some kind of close feeling towards other human beings to develop. A compassionate attitude opens our inner door, and as a result it is much easier to communicate with others. If there is too much self-centred attitude, then fear, doubt and suspicion come and as a result our inner door closes. Then it is very difficult to communicate with others.

There was a doctor at a conference in America who presented the data from an experiment he had done. He said that individuals who often use the words, “me’, “my” and “I”, are at a greater risk of a heart attack. Why was that? He didn’t explain. But I thought, “Ah, that could be true”, because a self-centred person is someone who cherishes him or herself, and only him or herself, and that feeling is reflected in their use of the word, “I”. There is nothing wrong with that word, but the attitude behind it is thinking of just oneself. If you think only of yourself, even a tiny problem appears unbearable. If you think more about others’ wellbeing—“others” is infinite—your mind opens wider and your own problem appears insignificant. The same problem, the same tragedy can appear very different. From one angle, you can see something as very bad; from another angle you can see it and say, “Oh, that’s okay.” That often happens, and therefore a compassionate attitude really widens your mind. One small problem is not very serious. That makes a difference to our inner peace. That is the way to promote human value, which is the basis of our inner peace. That is a very important factor for a happy life, including a healthy body.

A scientist told me that anger, hatred and fear are actually eating our immune system. Compassion strengthens our immune system. Therefore, from the point of view of physical health, and mental health—because of peace of mind—warm-heartedness is a key factor. That, as I mentioned earlier, does not necessarily come from religious faith, but from nature. Therefore I usually call it “secular ethics”. That is very very important for peace. Genuine, lasting world peace must be through inner peace. I sometimes call that “inner disarmament”. Through anger and hatred, genuine peace is very difficult. Even at the family level, if you are full of hatred and suspicion, how can you develop genuine peace in that family? Compassion brings real peace.

At the global level, we need external disarmament for genuine world peace. If there is first inner disarmament, there is a real possibility to achieve external disarmament, step by step. I usually talk about “my century”—the older generation, of more or less my age, 60 or 70, belongs to the 20th century. Our century, whether we like it or not, has become the century of bloodshed, war and violence. Our generation will now let the younger generation solve the problems that it started. Our younger generation, which belongs to this century, the 21st century, will hopefully have a peaceful century. Peace does not mean no more conflict among humanity. Conflict is bound to happen, so in order to keep peace in spite of conflict, the only realistic method is the spirit of dialogue, respecting the other side and understanding their viewpoint. We need to try to solve problems in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, in a spirit of reconciliation and compromise. I often share this with people: let us now try to make this century a century of dialogue. Then there will be a real possibility of peace.

So, that was about the promotion of human value. Now I will talk about the promotion of religious harmony. If you have a sense of global responsibility, all human beings, including non-believers and even those who criticise religion, who are anti-religion, are your brothers and sisters. Once we develop that, there is no problem with people having different religious faith. That is their right. If you look closely, all major religious traditions, as I mentioned briefly before, carry the same message of love, compassion and forgiveness. A different approach is necessary because of different locations, different times and different climates. People’s mentality is a little different. Therefore a different approach is necessary to promote these human values. All major religious traditions carry the message of love, and a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. So, it is a matter of a different approach. Some say that there is God, that God made all these things and that we are therefore brothers and sisters in a true sense. Some say it is the law of causality. Again, good experience comes from love and respect for others. Bad experience comes from harming others. That brings negative consequences. It is the same end but with a different approach. Therefore, if you understanding these things, you will see that there is no obstacle to bringing genuine harmony among religious traditions. It may be useful here to make a distinction between faith and respect. Faith is towards one’s own religion, respect is to all religions. That is one thing. Another thing is the concept of one religion, one truth and the concept of several truths, several religions. Those two things appear contradictory, but that is due to the different context. On an individual basis, the concept of one truth, one religion is very relevant in developing a single-pointed faith, but in terms of a group of people, the concept of several truths, several religions is relevant. That is a fact. That is reality. Therefore there is no contradiction between the concept of one truth, one religion and the concept of several truths, several religions. That is my way of promoting religious harmony. Full stop. Now the Questions and Answers.

Norman Baker MP: Your Holiness, thank you very much for a wonderfully warm and compassionate speech. You had the audience rapt, listening to every word here at the Royal Albert Hall. We are all delighted that you are in London, and to hear your address this afternoon. You are a beacon of hope and inspiration, not just to Tibetans but to many millions around the world. Thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am Norman Baker MP, president of the Tibet Society. It is my tremendous privilege to conduct this question and answer session, which I am afraid necessarily will be a little truncated, because His Holiness has a very important engagement shortly after this engagement here. So straight on to the questions, if I may.

The first question is: “What are your opinions on the earthquake crisis in China?”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: I was very sad and very shocked, particularly when I saw the picture of the young student who perished under the rubble of the collapsed school. I immediately felt, “Oh, due to the one-child policy, many of the parents of these students have only one child.” One mother, one child. How much pain do those mothers, those parents feel? Their only child. That is very sad. But one really encouraging thing was the worldwide response, similar to when the tsunami happened. With the Burmese case also, although the military junta’s handling of the situation is very poor, I think that the response has been wonderful. The Chinese case is also very encouraging, including the response from those Tibetans who have recently suffered very much. For example, the monks in the Drepung monastery near Lhasa have suffered a lot recently. A lot of monks were arrested or missing, but, after the earthquake, monks from that monastery also raised funds for the victims. Another encouraging sign is the transparent way the Chinese Government has handled that problem. That is very, very encouraging. So, hopefully now there will be more transparency over a wider field.

Norman Baker: Thank you. The second question is rather different: “What makes you laugh?”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: In one word, Love; in another, I immediately laugh at others’ little mistakes. Once in London, we visited a place, I can’t remember where, where a young Tibetan was performing a dance or something like that. The child was wearing very big shoes, and as soon as I saw those big shoes I laughed and laughed. Sometimes people are too serious. Once in Mexico City at an interfaith service, there were a few representatives of different traditions, including a representative of Japanese Buddhism. As usual, he was quite stern—or very dignified—and as usual he did the rosary like this. Then somehow the string broke, and the beads scattered all over. But he still remained like that. I laughed a lot at that.

Norman Baker: The third question is: “What can we in the United Kingdom do to help in the struggle to keep Tibet and its wonderful traditions alive?”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Thank you for your concern. Our main aim, as everybody knows, is not to seek separation, because our interests remain within the Peoples’ Republic of China. We get much benefit from that, as far as material development is concerned, provided that we have meaningful autonomy, with the safeguard of preserving our culture. There is no time to explain in detail now, but recently the Chinese Government seems to be paying more attention to the Tibetan problem. Also, I think that the clear worldwide signal of concern definitely impacts on the leaders of the Chinese Government. So, please continue to express your solidarity and concern. It is really helpful. I particularly appreciate the sincere concern of the parliamentarians and their desire to help. That is really very helpful. Please continue. And then, wherever you find an opportunity to talk with Chinese brothers and sisters, then talk. Educate them, because some of the Chinese do not have the full information about the reality. Sometimes there is a feeling that there we Tibetans are anti-Chinese, but they are absolutely not. So it is important to educate them.

Norman Baker: Sadly, I have been told that I am only allowed one more question. I am very sorry about that. “Would you like to be reborn in London?”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: What do you mean by “reborn”?

Norman Baker: Reincarnated.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Yes, that’s possible. Since my childhood, we have described Englishmen as “big noses”. So my next reincarnation could be as a big nose! That is theoretically speaking. It is important that there is some usefulness. As I always pray, as long as sentient beings’ pain and suffering remains, I will remain in order to serve them. That is my favourite sort of prayer. I try to develop that kind of determination. So naturally, my next life will be wherever it would have some usefulness. That is for sure. So, if there is more usefulness here, then naturally I will be reborn here.

Norman Baker: We would love to have you here if you do that. Ladies and gentlemen, I was asked by the BBC this week, “Why Tibet?” It is not simply the wonderful culture and history of the country, nor the terrible human rights abuses that have occurred, nor the inspirational leadership of His Holiness. It is also because the Tibetan cause is our cause, a struggle for every person’s right to be free, to say what they want to say, without being subject to arrest, imprisonment or torture. It is a right to be able to demonstrate peacefully for causes in which they believe. It is the ability to follow one’s religion and culture, without being intimidated by the state or by others. Those are not simply Tibetan causes; they belong to us all. In your programme, you will have seen some of the action points that some of us are pursuing in parliament, and which the Tibet Society is pursuing as well. Please take a moment to look at those, and see if you can help in some way. If you are not a member of the Tibet Society, please do join us and help us in our campaign for justice so that we can await the day, not too far away I hope, when Tibet will once again be free, and we can meet in Lhasa.

Lastly, I want to tell you of an initiative, which I hope, Your Holiness, you will agree with. It is called is “Give Peace a Hand”. In a moment you will, I very much hope, shake my hand, and there are two Tibetan children outside who I will pass that handshake on to. There are also 2,000 people between here and the Chinese Embassy, and that handshake of peace will go from here to the Chinese Embassy. I hope very much that that will be a message of peace and reconciliation, and a constructive end to this very useful and wonderful occasion this afternoon. Thank you very much for coming. http://www.dalailama.com/messages/transcripts/universal-responsibility-modern-world