Newark, New Jersey, USA, 12 May 2011 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama left Fayetteville in Arkansas in the morning arriving in Newark in New Jersey around noon for the last part of his programs in the current tour of the United States. On arrival Prof. Robert Thurman of Tibet House, who is the co-convener in the Newark Peace Education Summit, which His Holiness is participating on May 13 and 14, received him.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama meets with the press in Newark, New Jersey, on May 12, 2011. Photo/Getty Images
In the afternoon His Holiness attended a press meet where he was introduced by Prof. Thurman.
In his initial remarks, His Holiness dwelt on his two commitments of promotion of human values and promotion of religious harmony. He said in the past several days he had been touching on thesethemes at the different public talks, and joked that since he has been repeating them so much he seemed to have memorized them. His Holiness said that these values that he propagated were nothing new but ones thatwere promoted for long by India.
Talking about his first commitment of promotion of human values, His Holiness said that we are all the same human beings; we all want a happy life. He said that people mistakenly think that happiness can be achieved through material development. He added that weneeded to realize that the source of happiness is within ourselves. He emphasized that these human values needed to be promoted through an approach that did not touch on religion to be inclusive of all human beings.
Referring to his commitment to the promotion of religious harmony, His Holiness said on a few occasion, and particularly yesterday’s development (May 11, 2011 when he heard a Christian nun and a gentleman at a panel in the University of Fayetteville in Arkansas talking about their Christian religion inspiring them in their work) confirmed his belief that all religions have the same potential to inner peace notwithstanding their philosophical differences. He said the real purpose of all religions was the same: to promote love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, and self-discipline.
His Holiness said that the people seem to agree with his line of thinking.
His Holiness said the reason why he was mentioning these today was because the media also have a special responsibility and role in order to build a happy democratic society. He repeated his comparison of the media to an elephant who should be using the long nose to investigate both what is in the front as also what is behind and to point them out. He said that the media should do this in an honest, truthful, unbiased and objective way.
His Holiness then answered questions from the media. The first question was whether he was ready to negotiate with the Chinese and whether he was ready to find his successor in the eventuality of his passing away.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to members of the press in Newark, New Jersey, on May 12, 2011. Photo/Getty Images
His Holiness outlined the history of contact with the Chinese leadership. He said direct contact began in 1979 and there was real hope in the early 1980s, but that things became difficultand contact ceased in early 1990s. He said, “again we renewed direct contact with Central Government” in 2002 and since then there have been nine rounds of talks but no positive result. He said even our sincere proposals under the Chinese constitution was described as disguised independence movement. In the meantime, His Holiness said the situationinside Tibet had been becoming worse and worse. Nevertheless, he said from our side always we are always open for talks.
His Holiness said there is problem in Tibet but that Chinese officials refuse to accept that. He suggested that journalists should visit Tibet to see the situation and to see whether there is problem or not. Sooner or later we have to tackle this problem, he added. “Once theChinese central government really addresses the real situation we are always ready to help,” His Holiness said.
On the issue of his succession, His Holiness said that major Tibetanreligious leaders in exile have been meeting occasionally in the past and this issue of successor of Dalai Lama has been a topic of discussionin the past few years. However, nothing has been finalized, he said adding that perhaps there could be another conference of top religious leaders within this year. He joked by asking the people at the press meet whether, by looking at his face, they could tell there was any needto hurry in deciding on his succession or not.
His Holiness also responded to questions about the approach the Japanese people should be taking with regard to their recent tragedy andhow Mexicans should be dealing with violence resulting from the drug trade, etc. His Holiness said that people should try to understand the situation and to look forward by making efforts to build a new society. He talked of how the Japanese people were able to rebuild their societyafter the destruction from the Second World War. He said people have the potential to look forward. In terms of Mexico, His Holiness said the people should not feel hopelessness and lose courage and determination. Referring to the fact that the drugs in Mexico find users in the United States, His Holiness said the very use of drugs indicated that the people were missing something inside. He added that these people have not realized their inner potential.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Prof. Robert Thurman during their press meeting in Newark, New Jersey, on May 12, 2011. Photo/AP
Askedfor a message to the urban youth in cities like Newark that experience lot of murders amongst youngsters, His Holiness said that simply a message from him would not help. What was needed was a long-term plan, he said. He talked about the historical development in the United Stateswhen Lincoln abolished slavery followed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a“courageous and marvelous leader” who fought for civil rights. Now, he said, there is a Black American in the White House. These were positivedevelopment, he said.
His Holiness said there was a need for a long-term strategy. He saidpeople should seriously address the issue of gap between the rich and the poor, not just in the United States, but also in India, China, etc. This gap is leading to feeling of discomfort among the poor who then become frustrated. Frustration leads to anger, which in turn leads to violence, he said.
His Holiness said education was important in changing the situation.The education system needed to incorporate moral teachings through a secular way. His Holiness explained that secularism does not mean disrespect of religion but respect of all religions, as well as for non-believers, as was the case in India.
He said such an approach would help bring about a calm mind adding that a calm mind will lead to a healthy individual, which will in turn help bring about a happy family and a happy community.
To a question about the appropriateness of violence in the name of justice with regard to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, His Holiness reiterated his long standing opposition to death penalty and said that he was a signatory to a campaign by Amnesty International to abolish thedeath penalty. He said right from his childhood when he learnt of the hanging of German leaders after the Nuremberg Trials he felt sad, as these people were already defeated. He also referred to the hanging of Saddam Hussein, who was already defeated. He said death sentence in suchcases appeared to be out of revenge and not preventive. His Holiness said there were different views on the issue of the killing of Bin Laden. Some support it while others say it was wrong. He said he was among those who think it was wrong.
His Holiness recalled that during the commemoration of the first anniversary of the September 11 tragedy in Washington, D.C., he had the opportunity to mention that we should not be against a whole community just because of the mischievous action of a few people. He said mischievous individuals were in all religious communities.
When asked about his view on Tibet House USA, His Holiness said that he knew Prof. Robert Thurman from a long time. His Holiness said he appreciated the founding of Tibet House to bring awareness to Tibetan culture. While saying that Prof. Thurman was living his life in the spirit of Tibetan Buddhist culture, His Holiness drew attention to the difference between Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhist culture. He said Tibetan Buddhism was for the individual while Tibetan Buddhist culture was for the community. He talked about a community of Tibetans who were Muslims but still their way of life was Tibetan Buddhist culture.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama poses for photographs with reporters at the conclusion of his press meeting inNewark, New Jersey, on May 12, 2011. Photo/Getty Images
To a question on the Indian Government’s position on Tibetan independence,His Holiness said that in the late 1940s and the 50s there seemed to have been serious discussions among Indian leaders, including Sardar Patel, which resulted in the formulation of a policy on Tibet. He said the successive Indian governments have consistently followed this policy. His Holiness clarified that we were not seeking separation and that Tibet had been materially backward and Tibetans wanted modernization. Therefore, it was beneficial to remain with the People’s Republic of China but that Tibetan Buddhist heritage as well as our language and script were such that needed preservation through meaningful autonomy for Tibet. His Holiness expanded on the fact that Tibetan Buddhism is richer than other Buddhist traditions, including Chinese Buddhism. For example Buddhist logic was something that was present in Tibetan Buddhism and not in Chinese Buddhism, he said. He said Tibetan Buddhist culture was of concern not just to the six millionTibetans but for many million more people in the Himalayan region as well as Mongolia and in the Russian Federation, who follow Tibetan Buddhism.
His Holiness also responded to a question about reports that the Chinese were banning Indian pilgrims from visiting Mount Kailash from 2013 by saying that as a sacred place to the Hindus it should be open toall pilgrims.
When asked for a message to the teenagers in the Newark area who indulge in violence (who will not be able to attend the peace summit), His Holiness said that he understood their frustration and that in some case there was sufficient reason to face frustration. However, the causes will not go away through violence, he said. Instead, people should have determination, be optimistic, work hard and educate themselves. He said these youth had the potential and the responsibilityto make this society better and happier. Saying that everybody is boundto have challenges, His Holiness cited his own personal experience. He said at the age of 16 he lost his personal freedom (when he was entrusted with temporal responsibility over Tibet) and that at the age of 24 he lost his country (when China completely took over Tibet). Thus he faced a lot of difficulties and there were sufficient reason to be angry. However, he realized that anger would not solve anything. He saidthe injustices could not be resolved through violence. His Holiness concluded by saying that when he was young, he too was impatient, like these youngsters who are impatient today, but now knew that on bigger issues people need to maintain patience and have he energy to find solution step by step.
More than 50 journalists were present, including those representing American, Japanese, Mexican, and Indian media as well as some representatives from China’s Xinhua news agency (who, however, did not ask any questions).
As a child, my mother Enid often said to me, “There is no such thing as a silly question,” and then would add, “unless.” This latter word was left hanging, and I eventually realised that it was up to me to learn the depth of its meaning.
At the same time that Enid was planting seeds for reflection, my first spiritual teacher, Ven. Lama Senge Tashi, encouraged me to cultivate more skilful thoughts, speech and actions. Sometimes I would try to verbally assert “I” or “Me,” and Lama would respond with, “Who is speaking?” or “Who is asking?”
During the Covid-19 pandemic a dharma sister passed from this life. Her name was Robyn. Although she did not call herself a Buddhist, nevertheless, Robyn had a special connection with the deity Medicine Buddha.
Over the six years that I worked with her, in my role as a hospital chaplain, Robyn frequently asked me to chant the mantra of Medicine Buddha and guide her through the visualisation. During her many stays in hospital, this particular practice brought comfort to her while she was experiencing chronic pain, anxiety and fear of the unknown. The medications she took would sometimes cloud her memory, so I would guide her through the details of the visualisation and begin chanting:
Once, as I was about to hold a summer Dharma class on a beach, as the first students began to arrive for the session I picked up two rocks and carefully placed them, one on top of the other, on to a much larger rock base. Observing what I had just done, three students approached: a young married couple and their five year old son.
True Seeing (Ven. Shih Jingang) One day, while Little Pebble and his Master were walking through a garden, the old teacher stopped to look at a white rose in full bloom. He motioned for his young disciple to join him, and they both sat down near where the flower was growing.
‘Little Pebble,’ said the Master, ‘when you look at this object, tell me what you think about it.’
‘The flower is pretty,’ stated the boy. ‘I like it.’
‘’’Flower,” you say. “Pretty, like it,” you say,’ replied the Master, looking to see how his young disciple reacted. Then he added, ‘Mind creates names like flower, and thoughts of like and dislike, pretty and ugly. This mind is small and closed, but if you can see beyond it to the nature of mind, then all is vast like space, completely open to all things. In this state of awareness, there is neither a flower nor a non-flower. Understand?’
But the young disciple did not quite understand, so his Master continued, ‘Little one, come here each day,
One day, Little Pebble went to his teacher, and said, ‘Master, my friend’s dog Tiger died.’
The look on Little Pebble’s face told the old monk that he was troubled. ‘Little one, do you have any questions?’
‘Master, where did Tiger go?’
‘Where did you come from?’ asked the old monk.
‘From my mummy’s tummy.’
‘And where did Mummy come from?’
Little Pebble couldn’t think of an answer.
The Master regarded his young disciple for a moment, then said, ‘Remember, when you made shapes with mud and named them Mummy, Daddy, Master?’
“Calling forth the Great Compassion, we are one with our True Nature; that which is directly Buddha, also indirectly Buddha. Oneness with the Triple Treasure, endless, joyous, perfect being. Morning thought is Kuan-Shih-Yin, evening thought is Kuan-Shih-Yin. All present thoughts arise from Mind, no thought exists apart from Mind.”
These are the words of the Ten Verse Life-Prolonging Kuan-Yin Sutra. Who is reciting them?
A few blocks away, an old man is crying out for help and someone hears. He is a brother, sister, father, mother from a previous life. A phone is picked up and then there are footsteps running towards the sound, “Help me! Help...” Someone sees the old man sitting on the top step, near the front door of his house.
No past, no present, no future. All created things arise and pass away. All names and labels dissolve. You can observe this in meditation practice and, in experiencing impermanence in life and so-called death.
At the conclusion of the Diamond Sutra, it is said that, this is how we should view our conditioned existence: as a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a drop of dew, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.
Today I sit alone in a house. The government of the country in which I live has requested that I stay here in isolation for the health and safety of the community both here and abroad. Countless others are doing the same thing, except that some call it a forced lock down, or an obstacle to their free movement. I see this as an opportunity to practice.
The Buddha taught that the suffering connected with birth, sickness, old age and death is a fact of life for sentient beings in Samsara. But so is the possibility of transcendence from Samsaric suffering.
So, for a practitioner, the question is not just “Why?” but also “How?” Why do I/we suffer and, how do I/we overcome suffering? The answer to the former is found in intuitively recognizing (the 3 Poisons): harmful habits of attachment, anger and ignorance; and the answer to the latter lies in resolving to study and practice the Noble Eightfold Path (the antidote) and, fully realizing Buddhahood for the benefit of a
In the Dhammapada, the Buddha says, “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has given many millions of people worldwide time to reflect on their lives and habits of thought, speech and action.
I know quite a few who have found a refuge of peace in their gardens. Cultivating, planting seeds, adding water and nutrients all help in maintaining a healthy garden. They are also a necessary part in taking care of our bodies. But what about the mind? Generosity, ethics, loving-kindness, compassion, meditative concentration and wisdom are the food for our inner spiritual garden. Without them there is no harvest, no fruit of Awakening, Buddhahood.