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His Holiness the Dalai Lama Teaches the ‘Precious Garland’ and Attends a Multi-faith Gathering at the Cathedral of St Stephen

Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 11 June 2015 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s first stop after reaching the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre this morning was to address a gathering of about 300 members of the Tibetan, Bhutanese and Mongolian communities resident in Brisbane. He spoke to them of the founding of the Nalanda tradition in Tibet by the Emperor, Trisong Detsen, Abbot Shantarakshita and adept Guru Padmasambhava. This was a tradition that spread throughout the Himalayan regions and was taken to Mongolia in the 13th century by Drogon Chogyal Phagpa and Sakya Pandita. Later, the 3rd Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso went to Mongolia and passed away there. His successor Yonten Gyatso was born there, the son of a Mongolian leader.

“These events indicate the unique relationship that existed between Mongolia and Tibet,” His Holiness said. “Much more recently, when I first went to Mongolia in 1979, it was still under communist rule. There was freedom of religion inside Ganden Monastery, but not outside it. I remember the monks performing a Long-Life ceremony for me, which they chanted in Tibetan. The mandala offering was especially loud and I recall being very moved.

Commending the freedom they enjoy His Holiness commended Tibetans, Mongolians and Bhutanese alike to combine their modern studies with a working knowledge of their own traditions. Walking to the teaching hall he took his place on the stage and began by greeting the more than 2500 people before him as brothers and sisters.

“We’re all part of one human family,” he told them, “we all have the same right to live a happy life. We all experience emotions, some of which bring us inner strength and joy, while others provoke fear, anger and hatred. Because we don’t want suffering we need to evaluate our emotions and decide which to enhance and which to discard. Our human intelligence enables us to judge which are helpful and which do us harm; something animals can’t do.“

He acknowledged his intention to teach the ‘Precious Garland of Advice for a King’ which Nagarjuna composed for Yajna Sri Satakarni of the Satavahana dynasty. He noted that Nagarjuna was not only a great scholar and physician, he was also an alchemist. He could be thought of as a scientist, but he was also a good Buddhist monk with a sharp brain and an acute mind. Because this text was originally addressed to a king, in addition to the philosophical and religious advice it contains it also comments on social welfare and good governance.    

His Holiness spent much of the morning session explaining the sixteen attributes of the Four Noble Truths, which he described as the basis of all Buddhist teaching. It is also the instruction, along with the Vinaya, that comprises the first turning of the wheel of Dharma, and which all Buddhist traditions have in common. Towards the end of the session he opened the ‘Precious Garland’, which begins with Nagarjuna’s homage to the Buddha:

I bow down to the Omniscient, Freed from all defects, Adorned with all good qualities, The sole friend of all beings.

After lunch, taking his cue from Nagarjuna, His Holiness alerted his listeners to the practices of ethics, concentration and insight that ancient Indian spiritual traditions had in common. What differentiated them was whether they accepted an independently existent self or soul, an ‘atman’, or whether, like Buddhists they rejected it. This led to a long discussion of the emptiness of persons and phenomena, which Nagarjuna admitted could be alarming, but sheds light on reality.

26 “I am not, I will not be. I have not, I will not have” That frightens all the childish And extinguishes fear in the wise.   

99 Because the phenomena of forms Are only name, space too is only a name. Without the elements how could forms exist? Therefore, even name-only does not exist.

Reaching the end of the day’s explanations, His Holiness remarked that he will explain the generation of the awakening mind of bodhichitta tomorrow.

From the Convention Centre His Holiness drove to the Cathedral of St Stephen, Brisbane’s Roman Catholic Cathedral to participate in a multi-faith gathering and prayers for peace. He was welcomed personally by the Archbishop of Brisbane the Most Reverend Mark Coleridge, who escorted him and other participating spiritual leaders into the church. In his words of welcome before a packed congregation, the Archbishop commended His Holiness as someone able to speak across cultures, someone who has known sorrow yet spreads happiness. He said:

“I welcome you not as a stranger but as a friend. Peace be with you.”

“Respected leaders of different spiritual traditions, brothers and sisters,” His Holiness began. ”Actually, we are all born the same way and indeed we will also die the same way. We are truly human brothers and sisters. It’s a great honour that you welcome me here in this holy place. It seems too that almost all the world’s major religious traditions are represented here, so this event confirms one of my own commitments to promote inter-religious harmony.

“Pope John Paul II invited me to the great inter-religious gathering he convened in Assisi. As we understood then, harmony among our different religious traditions is important because each one of them is a living source of love, tolerance and forgiveness. They may have differing philosophical points of view, but they all convey a message of love and compassion. Love and affection promote trust and trust is the basis of friendship, which we all require because we are social animals. We can’t buy it; it only grows from showing each other sincere affection.

“Therefore, all our religious traditions, despite their philosophical differences, which are only different methods for encouraging the growth of love, can contribute to creating a happy humanity, starting with happy individuals, families and communities. Here in the 21st century we face a number of problems that we have created and which we have to solve. And we have to employ warm-heartedness, not resorting to force, to make a peaceful world. That’s all; thank you.”

Associate Professor Mahamad Abdalla, Imam at Kuraby Mosque, strode up to express a response and His Holiness embraced him. Abdalla thanked him for his words about peace, forgiveness and tolerance, saying that religious harmony is needed more than ever today.

“Out of love, compassion and forgiveness we must create an atmosphere of peace and trust. We have to work together as one humanity.”

One by one, representatives came forward to celebrate and pray. Dr Janet Khan spoke on behalf of the Baha’i Tradition. Three monks, Venerables Pilimanthalawe Samahitha Thero, Ihalagonagama Nanda Thero, and Aluthgamgoda Gnanaweera Thero from Sri Lanka chanted words of refuge in Pali to represent Theravada Buddhism. Mr Surendra Prasad intoned Sanskrit verses before expressing a prayer in English from the Hindu Tradition. Mr Ariel Heber expressed prayers on behalf of the Jewish Tradition, while Venerable Chueh Shan spoke and then chanted in Chinese to represent the Mahayana Buddhist Tradition. Associate Professor Mahamad Abdalla pronounced prayers in Arabic and English from the Islamic Tradition. Mr Ranjit Singh prayed and sang from the Sikh scriptures. Finally, the Most Reverend Dr Phillip Aspinall, Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane invoked the blessings of Jesus Christ in his prayers for peace.

Monsignor Peter Meneely uttered concluding prayers and words of thanks not only to the spiritual leaders who attended, but also to the civic leaders, the Governor of Queensland among them.

The spiritual leaders processed down the nave and into the cathedral yard where they mingled for several minutes together, clearly enjoying each other’s company, before His Holiness left and they dispersed.