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The First of Two Introductory Talks on Buddhism at Upper TCV

Dharamsala, HP, India, 27 May 2015 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama was given a traditional Tibetan welcome when he arrived at the Upper Tibetan Children’s Village School this morning. A large group of female students sang a traditional welcoming song. As His Holiness walked from his car to the stage he greeted people in the crowd who caught his eye. Approximately 4500 students from Upper and Lower TCV Schools, Gopalpur, Suja and Chauntra TCVs, Sherab Gatsel Lobling, students at various universities and others currently attending a Teacher Training organized by the Education Department of the CTA, were seated under an awning on the Upper TCV basketball court.

Once His Holiness had taken his seat, several groups of lay-people performed exemplary debates directly in front of the stage discussing the three kinds of knowledge, the two methods for generating the awakening mind of bodhichitta, definitions of the Three Jewels, the Four Noble Truths and so forth.

“Today, people from a variety of places have gathered here to listen to an introduction to Buddhism,” His Holiness began. “This is the ninth occasion that we’ve done this and it looks like this might be the biggest yet. Students and teachers from different schools, my greetings to you all - Tashi delek. I’d especially like to greet those who have just debated in front of us and congratulate them for taking an interest in logic and philosophy.

“In Tibet in the past almost no one from the lay community or even from among the nuns engaged in debate. This was one of our shortcomings. In the 56 years we’ve been in exile, I’ve urged people, even those belonging to monasteries and nunneries that had no tradition of study to take it up. Phende Lekshe Ling, Namgyal Monastery, is an example. When it was established by the 7th Dalai Lama he asked the monks of Zhalu Monastery to give the monks of the new monastery training in performing rituals. Like those at Gyumey and Gyutö Tantric Colleges, they were adept, but followed no course of study. That has changed. Similarly, study in the nunneries has succeeded to the point that we will shortly have nuns who have become Geshes or Geshemas.”

He said that the excellent Nalanda tradition had spread across the length and breadth of Tibet and yet the majority of the people did not properly appreciate it. It is a tradition that relies on investigation and analysis, not just scriptural quotation. He cited the Buddha’s advice to his followers not to accept what he taught at face value, but to test it the way a goldsmith satisfies himself of the value of gold.

His Holiness remarked that the psychology and philosophy explained in the Nalanda tradition are of great interest to contemporary scholars and scientists. They are sufficiently impressed to enquire whether its dialectical approach can be applied to other academic disciplines. He feels it can. He mentioned that while Buddhist traditions identify 49 or 51 emotions, the American psychologist Paul Ekman has done extensive research into facial expressions that enable him to identify 15.

When, 40 years ago, His Holiness was thinking of opening a conversation with modern scientists, a Western Buddhist friend cautioned him to be careful saying that science is the killer of religion. He considered this carefully and concluded that, as tradition based on reason, Buddhism was not vulnerable to this threat. He went ahead and is confident that the results have been mutually beneficial. One result is that monks in the great monasteries re-established in South India now study science as part of their curriculum.

“When I reached Mussoorie in April 1959, most of you were not born. Now I’m in my 81st year and I will definitely not live for another 80 years, but judging by my present physical health I might live another 10 or 20 years. You Tibetans who are young today will have to shoulder the responsibility of preserving our religion and culture. Our brothers and sisters in Tibet are not free to do so. We who have such freedom should exercise it.

“Conditions in Tibet in the past were ripe for change,” His Holiness said. “In retrospect I can see that many things could have been done differently. The 13th Dalai Lama tried to strengthen links between different parts of Tibet because the country was politically fragmented. But what bound all Tibetans together was their Buddhist culture, their respect for and study of the Kangyur and Tengyur. This was also true of the Himalayan and Mongolian regions too.”

His Holiness pointed out that every one of the 7 billion human beings alive today wants to be happy. He clarified that the Bodhisattva ideal is not about abandoning our own happiness, but about giving priority to the happiness of others.

“However,” he asked, “how can you help others if you can’t help yourself? We pray that all beings be free from suffering, but for the prayer to be fulfilled we need to do something about it.”

Recalling his recent discussions with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who also visited TCV, he said that their conclusion was that we need to find happiness without violence, which is something everyone can try to do. He said that it’s clear that if humanity is happy, each of us as individuals will be happy too. He repeated that as human beings we are all responsible for each other; we all have the potential to be kind and affectionate. He also spoke about his commitment as a Buddhist monk to promoting harmony among the world’s religious traditions.

Finally, His Holiness spoke of his commitment to preserving the natural environment of Tibet, something of importance not only to Tibetans but also to maybe 1 billion other people in Asia who depend on the waters of rivers that rise in Tibet.

He also voiced his concern to preserve Tibetan culture, a culture of peace and non-violence, which can make a positive contribution in the wider world. He told the story of a former Tibetan official who had emigrated to the USA and was working cleaning vegetables in a university kitchen. His colleagues noticed that he was carefully rescuing worms and bugs he found on the vegetables, setting them aside and taking them outside to release them at the end of his shift. They asked what he was doing and he told them that Tibetans try not to kill small creatures, but to protect life wherever they can. Shortly afterwards he noticed that several of them were following his example. His Holiness concluded:

“I’ve done what I can to preserve Tibet’s ecology and its compassionate, non-violent culture. Now I’m passing this responsibility to you.”

He announced that he will give a further introduction to Buddhism tomorrow. He will also lead a ceremony for generating the awakening mind of bodhichitta and make time to answer students’ questions. The day after that, he will give an Avalokiteshvara empowerment.