Students of Yakumo Academy, Tokyo, cheer His Holiness the Dalai Lama

November 18th 2013

Tokyo, Japan, 18 November 2013 - When His Holiness the Dalai Lama stepped out of his car into the sunshine and the grounds of the Yakumo Academy this morning a great cheer went up. He was audibly welcomed not only by the students on the quadrangle, but also those on the balconies and at the windows of classrooms on the upper floors. Many of them waved Tibetan flags in their hands. He was greeted personally by the President-principal Akira Kondo.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama is greeted by students as he enters the hall before his talk at Yakumo Academy, a girls' school in Tokyo, Japan on November 18, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
Once the students had gathered in the hall, His Holiness entered and again was met by 950 smiling schoolgirls, their hands folded in friendship. In his welcoming remarks the Principal told him that they were all looking forward to his meaningful advice.

“Respected principal, teachers and young sisters,” His Holiness began, “I am very happy to be here to share some of my thoughts and experiences with you. And I look forward to also hearing what concerns you. Wherever I go I just think of myself as another human being, physically, mentally and emotionally the same as you, although, of course, I am male and you’re female. Nevertheless, our brains are the same and we are all just some of the 7 billion human beings.

“Another small difference between us is that I am old and you are young. The Principal and I belong to the 20th century, while you girls belong to the 21st. The 20th century is past, whereas the 21st is just beginning. While we can only learn from the past, we can’t change it. However, the future is yet to come and we can still shape how we’d like it to be.”

He spoke about the violence and bloodshed he and his generation had witnessed in the 20th century and the immense suffering that had been the result. This was despite the great developments and innovations that had also taken place. He suggested that some of the unfortunate events that have taken place in the early years of this century are a result of mistakes made in the last.

“What’s important now is to ensure that the 21st century becomes an era of peace and non-violence. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any problems, there will, so long as sources of conflict remain, but we need to resolve them not by resort to force, but through dialogue. It’s not easy to establish peace, but look at what Japan and Germany achieved. After being completely destroyed, these nations rebuilt themselves out of the ashes of their destruction. What it took was vision, determination and will power.”

We have to ask ourselves, he said, whether it’s possible to achieve a peaceful world. In the early decades of the 20th century, many people felt that war was unavoidable, that it was necessary to maintain the national interest. When the first and second world wars were declared, citizens joined the war effort proudly and willingly; this kind of attitude has completely changed. People protested about the wars in Vietnam and Kosovo and at the time of the Iraq crisis millions of people all over the world demonstrated against it. War brings huge suffering and people opposed it. His Holiness said:


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at Yakumo Academy, a girl’s school in Tokyo, Japan on November 18, 2013. Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan
“I visit Europe quite often and I’ve asked young people there how they regard the people in neighbouring countries and they shrug and say, ‘They’re just our neighbours’. This is due to the existence of the EU and is evidence that human beings are becoming more mature. The desire for peace is very strong.

“In 1996 I met the British Queen Mother who’d been born at the beginning of the century and I asked her whether over that time the world had become better or worse. She had no hesitation in saying that it had got better. She said that when she was young there was no talk at all of human rights or self-determination, which most people now expect to exercise. These and the emergence of concern about natural ecology are indications that we have become more realistic and forward thinking. So there are grounds for hope.”

He admitted that there are those who argue that basic human nature is aggressive so war and violence are unavoidable, which requires serious and careful consideration, but he would say the evidence is to the contrary. Our mothers give birth to us; she cuddles and feeds us. We trust her, so long as we are in her arms we feel safe. Scientists say this physical contact is necessary for the proper growth of our brains. The child who grows up in an affectionate family, grows up happy and healthy.

Scientists have conducted experiments that show that children are naturally inclined to prefer kind responses, which suggests that human nature is essentially compassionate. Because others are the key to our own survival, compassion is an implicit part of our lives. As social animals we naturally show each other affection.

Looking into the audience, His Holiness laughingly said:

“Look, some of you are smiling, which is a natural human response, and which I always appreciate. I see that many of you have taken special care of your hair, but if you were to smile too, you’d look even better. I understand that students historically study English at this school and I think that Japanese students should do so, because like it or not English is the international language. Even my broken English has allowed me to reach out to others.”


A student asking His Holiness the Dalai Lama a question during his talk at Yakumo Academy, a girl’s school in Tokyo, Japan on November 18, 2013. Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan
He invited questions and the first student who came forward told him that she gets very tense before taking part in a big event and wondered what to do about it. He told her that when he was young he quite often felt nervous before meeting important people too. He advised her to be truthful and honest which will boost her self-confidence and reduce her nervousness. But he also suggested carefully considering the situation and setting herself realistic goals.

Another student told him that these days Japan is facing threats of trouble from other countries and she would like to know how they should cope with it. He laughed, saying:

“O, this is complicated. I always believe that a fundamentally positive approach is to take account of the oneness of humanity. Dividing the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’ might have worked in the past, but it doesn’t any more. We have to talk through our problems with confidence. We Tibetans, for example, have suffered a great deal, but we are committed to talking through our difficulties with our opponents, considering them our fellow human beings, to achieve our goals.”

The final question was about how to reconcile advice that runs counter to your own plans. He suggested consulting others, thinking deeply and taking all the options into account before making a decision. But once you reach a decision, he said, you should stick to it. This is what His Holiness says he tries to do himself.

One student then stepped forward and on behalf of her fellow students thanked His Holiness for coming to the school and for his talk. She told him they appreciated his thoughtful words and would not forget them. She hoped he would enjoy the rest of his visit to Japan.


Peter Barakan interviewing His Holiness the Dalai Lama in connection with an animated film focussing on the life of the Buddha in Tokyo, Japan on November 18, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
Back at his hotel, after lunch, His Holiness was interviewed by broadcaster Peter Barakan in connection with an animated film focussing on the life of the Buddha. He told him that a unique aspect of the Buddha’s teaching is its emphasis on developing wisdom. This is because the primary source of suffering is ignorance and if we want to reduce suffering we have to increase wisdom and reduce our ignorance. To a question about destiny, he replied that the destiny of every human being is death, so while you are alive it’s better not to create trouble for others.

Regarding asceticism, His Holiness clarified that the Buddha did for some time engage strictly in ascetic practices like fasting. However, he eventually concluded that the best course was to avoid the extreme of luxury and the extreme of asceticism. He discovered that to make best use of the potential of the mind requires a strong and healthy body. He thanked the team for their work to help people become more aware of the Buddha and what he taught.
 

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