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In Frankfurt His Holiness the Dalai Lama Meets the Lord Mayor and the Tibetan Community of Germany Celebrate His Birthday

Frankfurt, Hesse, Germany, 13 July 2015 - Arriving at Frankfurt City Hall this morning, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was received by the Lord Mayor, Peter Feldmann, who escorted him into the building and up to his office. After a short private meeting, they emerged for a reception in a hall lined with portraits of former German kings. Joined by other members of the Municipal Authority, the Lord Mayor welcomed His Holiness to Frankfurt:

"It is a great honour for our city to have you here as our guest, especially during the celebrations of your 80th birthday. Frankfurt is a global city, home to people of more than 170 different nationalities, but it is a city that wants more than mere tolerance, we want dialogue."

He presented His Holiness with a porcelain chalice, from which he pretended to drink.

"This is indeed a global city because in the more than 200 languages you tell me are spoken here it reflects the rest of the world," His Holiness replied. "Despite these distinctions we are all fundamentally the same as human beings. We all want a happy life and we all have a right to achieve it. Last year, I was here visiting Tibet House, which can also make a contribution to this rich tradition. There are books and teachers there who uphold what we call the Nalanda Tradition, a tradition of Buddhist philosophy, logic and epistemology derived from ancient India.

"These demonstrators you can hear shouting outside are raising an issue that has been controversial for almost 400 years. It relates to the worship of something the 5th Dalai Lama dismissed as an evil spirit. Out of ignorance I myself took part in this practice from 1950s to 1970s, until I investigated it and discovered it was not a good thing to do. I stopped the practice and explained what I had learned to other people. The people protesting here formed their organization in opposition to that advice."

His Holiness made a gift to the Mayor of a statue of the historical Buddha and explained to him briefly who he was.

"The Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was a great thinker and philosopher of ancient India. He taught about the oneness of all sentient beings and how all phenomena lack intrinsic existence. Of particular importance, he stressed that his followers should not accept what he taught simply because he had taught it, but should examine and reflect on it carefully."

He also gave the Mayor copies of two of his books; 'A True Kinship of Faiths' in which he discusses what is common in the world's major religions and 'Beyond Religion' that deals with secular ethics.

At the nearby Museum of Applied Art, His Holiness was warmly welcomed by a group of small children and the Museum Director. He then sat down with students from secondary schools in and around Frankfurt to answer their questions.

The first was whether he would mind not being so famous. He laughed and replied that the important thing is to lead a meaningful life, to be able to bring joy to others. In relation to a question about how many people's only aspiration is to be rich he remarked:

"I've met billionaires, but do you think they are the happiest people? I've met people who have everything they could want in material terms, but who still remain unhappy. This is because happiness actually has to do with the mind. We experience lasting happiness on a mental not a sensory level."

Another student stated that many young people are depressed and asked what they can do. His Holiness replied that the cause of depression was mostly related to our own mental attitudes.

"When you're in a bad mood and you meet your friends, you don't take pleasure in their company. When you're in a good mood, even if things go wrong you cope with them without difficulty. Depression seems to be related to fear, anger and frustration. I have a friend, an American psychiatrist, author of a book about managing disturbing emotions called 'Prisoners of Hate'. He told me that when we are angry, we tend to view whatever or whoever we're angry with in completely negative terms. And yet 90% of that is our own mental projection, an exaggeration. On the other hand if we make a point of developing a sense of loving kindness it will give us greater inner strength."

Asked whether he really had no bad thoughts towards the Chinese government, His Holiness described the occasion in 2008 when he heard on 10th March that Tibetans were demonstrating in Lhasa. He was concerned about the suppression that was likely to follow under the prevailing totalitarian system.

"I visualized the Chinese who would give orders about this and imagined taking away all their anger and hatred. Then I imagined giving all my sense of forgiveness to them. This mental exercise didn't make any difference to the actual situation on the ground, but helped me maintain my peace of mind."

His Holiness agreed with a student who expressed frustration about the exploitation of other creatures and the natural world. He told her that human beings have a unique brain that can be very useful when it is concerned with others' well-being, but is destructive when motivated by greed and self-centredness.

After lunch, Karin Steinberger, Features Editor of the Suddeutsche Zeitung, Germany's leading national newspaper interviewed His Holiness, principally about the prospects for his future reincarnation. He told her that he had completely retired from his political responsibilities, but retained his spiritual role. He spoke of how Tibetan settlements were established in India that allowed for the stable re-establishment of the great monasteries. As a result there are scholars who can take the religious tradition forward. He suggested that there are institutions that belong to the past feudal system that need to change. He pointed out that the institution of Dalai Lamas is not necessary for the preservation of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Laughing, he added that if he were to be the last Dalai Lama, at least the institution would end with someone who had a lot of friends.

When Steinberger wondered whether the Tibetan people wouldn't feel afraid to be without the Dalai Lama, he replied that it may be time for the system to change. He told her he was impressed with the Roman Catholic system of electing their spiritual leader.

"Anyway," he said, "we're going to have a meeting to decide what to do when I'm 90 years old."

At Frankfurt's Jahrhunderthalle, the Tibetan Community of Germany (TCG) had organized a program to celebrate His Holiness's 80th birthday attended by more than 2000 people. Lobsang Phuntsok, President of the TCG, gave a welcoming speech in which he confirmed that members of the older generation have been making special efforts to teach young Tibetans born in Germany about Tibetan language and culture. On behalf of the Tibetan Community he made wishes that His Holiness live long and that all his wishes be fulfilled.

The program began with music from a group of Mongolians who filled the hall with haunting strains evoking the great open spaces of Central Asia. This was followed by a speech from Prof Shwarz-Schilling, a former German MP who is a longstanding supporter of Tibet. He thanked His Holiness for the opportunity to celebrate his birthday with him. He expressed his admiration for His Holiness's having devolved his political responsibilities to an elected leader, suggesting that it was an example others should follow. He described His Holiness as beacon of hope for all humanity, mentioning how appropriate was the theme of the celebrations - Gratitude.

Next, a song was performed by members of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts that expressed thanks for His Holiness's kindness, describing him as the source of hope for the Land of Snows. Thomas Mann, who has been Member of the European Parliament for Hesse since 1999, quoted His Holiness as saying that wherever we come from we are all the same as human beings. We all want happiness and freedom.

He informed the gathering of a photo exhibition illustrating His Holiness's life in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 6th July. He mentioned that the Tibet Interest Group there has recently held its 100th meeting. He added that they supported the Middle Way Approach and have passed many resolutions about human rights in Tibet. He reminded the audience that the European Parliament had welcomed His Holiness n 1988, 1996 and 2001 and the Tibet Interest Group would like to invite him again.

Michael Brand, a member of the German Parliament thanked His Holiness for the inspiration he gave him and his colleagues in difficult times. He reaffirmed their firm stand beside the peaceful Tibetan people. A group of musicians from Senegal, who claim that Africa is their identity while music is their message, played and sang a moving version of John Lennon's anthem 'Imagine', adapting the lyrics to "Imagine Tibet will be free."

A Chinese painter Meng Huang described travelling to Tibet and the inspiration he had gained from painting the Tibetan landscape. He offered a painting featuring pagodas and a Tibetan chorten which he said was entitled 'Sorry'.

"As a Han Chinese, I would like to express my sorrow for what the Tibetan people have had to suffer," he said.

A large cake was wheeled out and a group of children accompanied by the Senegalese musicians and members of the audience sang "Happy birthday" in English, German and Tibetan. His Holiness cut the cake and took three mouthfuls before pronouncing it, "Delicious". Saying that he preferred to speak in Tibetan, he addressed the audience.

"Tibetans from across Europe have gathered here today. Your devotion and spiritual bond with me is unwavering. Several long-term friends and supporters have spoken on this occasion. We've known and trusted each other a long time. I'd like to thank you all. Supporters of Tibet are not just biased towards us; they are supporters of truth and justice. The clearest evidence of that is the way increasing numbers of Chinese brothers and sisters are giving us support. Over the last five years they have written a growing number of articles supporting the Middle Way Approach and criticizing the People's Republic of China's policy over minorities.

"Today, in China there are at least 300 million Buddhists, many of them intellectuals. China is historically a Buddhist country and when I meet Chinese brothers and sisters they tell me they now number 400 million. Many of them want to learn more about Buddhist philosophy and are taking an interest in the Nalanda tradition. So, today, when changes are taking place in China I'd like to ask our friends here to keep up their support."

His Holiness told the Tibetans that it is not enough just to have faith, when it comes to preserving the Nalanda tradition it's important also to have understanding. He promised to do what he can, as long as he lives to preserve Tibetan language and culture, and added that when he sees friends who are growing old, he realizes that he is growing old too.

"However," he said, "although we're physically aging, our determination is as strong as ever."