His Holiness the Dalai Lama Begins his Winter Sojourn in Delhi

November 29th 2013

New Delhi, India, 29 November 2013 - Between his return from his trip to Japan and his departure to South India, to resume his teaching of the great texts of the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has elected to remain in Delhi.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama is greeted by Dr Devindra Sood on his arrival at Eye-Q Institute of Glaucoma in New Delhi, India on November 29, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
This morning, acceding to an invitation from an old friend, ophthalmologist Dr Devindra Sood, he made a short visit to express his support for the recently opened Eye-Q Institute of Glaucoma. He has known Dr Sood, and before that his father, for many years. At the door, he duly cut the ribbon and scattered flower petals in benediction. Dr Sood then introduced him to members of the Institute’s staff and showed him the premises and equipment, while describing the up to date treatments the Institute can provide to relieve glaucoma in particular.

After lunch, His Holiness met a group of students from Namgyal Institute of Buddhist Studies in Ithaca, NY. He told them:

“Here in India there has been religious harmony for the last 3000 years or so. There is a general respect for all spiritual traditions and even for those people who have none. This is something relevant and admirable in today’s world. Among the 7 billion human beings alive today, 1 billion assert that they are agnostic or non-believers. However, it is not clear that the remaining 6 billion are sincere in their faith. When I visited the Pontifical University of Mexico not so long ago, I suggested that our faith seems to hang on our religious robes and vestments. It is strong so long as we’re wearing them, but once we take them off, we seem to set our faith aside too.”

In response to a question about the link between Kalachakra and world peace, he pointed out to begin with that world peace will only come about if people have inner peace. He observed that Kalachakra is an important and profound tantric system, but something that distinguishes it from other tantras is that whereas they were mostly given to individuals, Kalachakra was given to a country. He joked that while the initiation has undoubted benefits, he views the teachings that precede it as being even more valuable. To some extent his giving the initiation attracts people to the preliminary teachings that they might not otherwise attend.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama with a group of students from Namgyal Insitute of Buddhist Studies during their meeting in New Delhi, India on November 29, 2013.
Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL

His Holiness informed the group about a book currently under way that is a compilation of materials about Buddhist science drawn from the Kangyur and Tengyur. He told them that scholars have been working on it for two years or more, that several editorial meetings have been held to finalise the contents and that plans are afoot to publish it in Tibetan and several translations, including English, in the coming year. He asked them to prepare themselves to study it so that next time he and they meet they’ll be able to discuss it.

Next, he was interviewed by Mrs Dorothea Riecker for Focus, the third largest weekly news magazine in Germany. She began by teasingly asking if His Holiness was aware that he has a rival for popularity in the spiritual world. He replied:

“I really feel that in Pope Francis we have a practical, realistic spiritual leader. It’s wonderful; it’s what we need. I think some religious leaders seem to function inside a cocoon, which is out of date. In today’s reality we have to be sincere. Whether we accept religion or not is an individual choice, but if we do, we should be sincere about it. The new Pope’s simplicity has been widely reported. When he recently took action over the excessive luxury a German bishop was indulging in, I wrote to him to express my admiration. I believe he acted to protect the church.”

On the issues of religious tolerance and world peace, he said:

“Whether or not we can solve the problem of world peace, we must at least try. It’s not in our interest to neglect or exploit the community; we must create a compassionate society instead. As a Buddhist monk, I have observed that all religious traditions teach tolerance and forgiveness in addition to love and compassion, which is why we need to promote harmony between them. The 1986 ecumenical meeting in Assisi was a great opportunity to do this and I told Pope John-Paul II that I hoped it wouldn’t be a one-off occasion, but would lead to subsequent meetings.”

Questioned as to why religions become radicalized, His Holiness answered that it was due to lack of knowledge. He remarked that in some countries people are used to living among people of other faiths, while in others there appears to be only one faith. It is fine to think of one truth, one religion on an individual level, he said, but on a community or global level the reality is that there are several truths and several religions.


Dorothea Riekcer (left) interviewing His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the German magazine Focus in New Delhi, India on November 29, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
Mrs Riecker asked about the selection of the next Dalai Lama and His Holiness made clear that if Tibetans don’t want another Dalai Lama after him, the institution will cease. If they do want one, the question will be about how to select him or her. He said he made it clear in a written statement in 2011 that when he is nearer to 90 years old he will convene a meeting of Tibetan spiritual leaders to decide the course to follow. He confirmed that for the time being his three prime commitments include the promotion of human values, the fostering of religious harmony and working to preserve Tibetan culture and Buddhist knowledge.

Pressed to speak about China, he mentioned the 400 million Chinese Buddhists, many of whom have an interest in Tibetan Buddhism. About Xi Jinping he remarked that he is courageously tackling corruption and in the recently completed Third Plenum expressed concern for the rural poor and referred to the judicial system.

“Although the situation in Tibet has shown little improvement, the Tibetan spirit is high and strong among the 6 million Tibetans in Tibet. Change may take generations, but despite being scattered here and there, our community remains strong.”

Asked what he considers his biggest mistake, His Holiness was forthright, stating that he took responsibility for Tibetan affairs at the age of 16 and devolved it to the elected leadership when he was 76. Looking back, he felt confident that all the decisions he took during that time were correct.

Did he regret that Mrs Merkel, the German Chancellor didn’t meet him during his recent visit; he replied that he has no wish to inconvenience anyone. He recalled meeting her when she was still in opposition. That was around the time that some Chinese hardliner criticized His Holiness as a demon, apparently also referring to Mrs Merkel as a witch. He said:

“I feel this kind of critical approach is childish. China has a role to play in the world, but to do so fully it has to earn the world’s trust and trust grows out of truth and openness. At the moment, 1.3 billion Chinese are prevented from exercising their right to know what’s going on. They have the ability to judge right from wrong on a realistic basis, so the internal censorship prevailing in China amounts to trying to hoodwink the people. Censorship like this is harmful. Even a dictatorship needs public support. When the internal security budget is higher than defence, something’s not right.”

Finally, asked how long it may take for China to change under its new leadership, His Holiness said it was still too early to say, but we’ll see.
 

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