Here in Dharamshala everything is done spontaneously. I was at a meditation center and we were told that the Dalai Lama would give foreigners an audience in 3-days time. We were asked to go register at the security office down in Mc Leod Ganj in the next few days and then turn up at the Main Temple on Monday morning with no phones, cameras or anything that looked like a gun.
When we got there it seemed that all the foreigners staying in Mc Leod, Bhagsu & Dharamkot were there for this rare chance. After getting in and finding a seat, we were separated into continents, than countries. Our country, Malta, which was represented only by my friend Emily and me, was joined up with some people from Greece and Spain. The Dalai Lama then went round every group for group photos.
He then gave a short talk, and this is a short summary of some of the wisdom that he passed on.
He said that he is committed to three things, being a human and teaching human morals, being a Buddhist monk, and thirdly being a Tibetan.
He said we are all the same human beings, we all want to be happy and we all want each other’s affection. We should see this when we look at each other. He talked about the importance of not letting religion separate us. The core of every religion preaches the same thing, basically, love, compassion & tolerance.
The philosophical side of every religion differs, but it leads to the same destination. And thirdly he mentioned the cultural aspect of every religion, which is subject to change as times go by. Here he mentioned that we should strive for equality in cultures where this is still lacking, like cultures where the woman does still not have the same rights as a man, or the caste system in India.
He talked about how important it is to teach moral education in schools and how most of our present education systems are materialistic. They don’t equip us with the tools to be good human beings. He said that these things should not be thought just in temples, but put into the curriculum of our schools, from primary to university level.
We need to learn how our mind works and what it means to live a happy life, instead of distracting ourselves with stuff that is meant to make us happy but apparently is not working so well as we can see when we look at the state of the world.
If we were thought this at an early age and through our lives, we would be equipped to go through life having sound moral standards, and then even our businesses and all aspects of our lives would be directed by love and compassion instead of greed and competition.
He spoke of teaching morals without religion attached to it, just teaching on how to be a good human being. Religion might deter some people away from learning these simple concepts. He asked if anyone wanted to lead a miserable life, and nobody raised his or her hand, cause the fact is that everyone wants to be happy. Nobody really creates misery because they want to, but it comes from the lack of knowledge we have on how to live.
He also praised India for the way it has long been a country that accepts all religions and all people can live together side by side, each living their own way of life.
He said his second commitment is on being a Buddhist monk, and spoke on what that means. Buddhism preaches non-violence, therefore it is accepting of all other religions. The philosophy behind it is the theory of dependent origination, which says that nothing exists independently, but everything is dependent on everything else. From the moment we are born, if someone had not shown kindness and compassion to us, in most cases our parents, we would not be alive. And through our whole lives, we are dependent on each other, on nature, and so on. Everything is interconnected.
The Dalai Lama seems to always mention that Buddhism is not a religion where you are told to just believe something, but to put it to the test and find your own truth. He even asks his monks and his followers to not just follow ritual blindly, but to find meaning in it. Being a good Buddhist, a good Christian or a good Muslim is not about following ritual, but about practicing love in daily life, with every person you encounter.
Another interesting thing he reminded us was that religion should not be used as an excuse for our actions. Like saying “this is my karma”. He reminded us that Karma means action, and that we are each responsible for the Karma we create through our actions. When we act with sound morals we create happiness, and the opposite creates misery.
The third commitment is to being a Tibetan. He is living in exile from his country due to the Chinese invasion of Tibet, and has been living here in India for a long time. He said that the Tibetan culture is a culture of peaceful and non-violent people. He spoke on how Tibet needs to preserve their culture and their way of life. We also can help with this by spreading the message. He urged Tibetans to not lose sight of their way of life and not get sidetracked by materialism.
He commented on a scene he saw in Delhi, where he saw a big construction and when he asked what it was, thinking it was a temple or spiritual building, he was told it was a marriage. He asked people to instead of spending money on things like this when getting married, spend it on buying nice sweets, fruit and cheese and give it to the people, maybe the poorer people and to your guests. You would have many more people grateful to you.
At the end he said that one environmentalist had also gave him the responsibility of saying to people in the Himalayas to preserve the trees and plant more trees, cause the eco system of the Himalayas is so important to the whole world. So he still does this, and by this way he was telling us to preserve nature.
He urged us that if something he said struck us well, then it would be a good idea to spread this knowledge in our homes and with whomever we meet. If each one of us talks to ten people about kindness and compassion, and those ten people tell another ten people, the effect can eventually become global and reach many lives.
I felt lucky that I was here in this time. In the month I’ve been here I had the opportunity to listen twice to the Dalai Lama, the first time being in his annual teaching on the first full moon of the Tibetan New Year. That was in Tibetan though, and we had to listen to a translation through a radio. This time he spoke in English, and more informally. It is always a great opportunity to be around such a positive and energetic human being.