Speaking on the Wisdom of Compassion at the Anniversary Event of a Liver Transplant Program

November 30th 2013

New Delhi, India, 30 November 2013 - The Apollo Hospitals welcomed His Holiness the Dalai Lama to an open air event today to mark the 15th anniversary of their Liver Transplant program. It was attended by 200 transplant recipients and members of their families, who represented the 15300 liver, kidney and heart transplant recipients who have benefited from the program since its inception. Founder and chairman of Apollo Hospitals, Dr Prathap Reddy remarked that in the 30 years of their existence they have treated 37 million patients. Voicing his delight at His Holiness’s presence among them, he said:

“Pranams from the Apollo family. How can we express our joy and exhilaration that you are with us today?”

His Holiness laughed, observing that often when he speaks in an auditorium he is under strong lights which are hard on his eyes and the audience is in the dark. Today, he was in the shade on the stage and his audience were in the sun. He greeted them:


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking on "The Wisdom of Compassion" at Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, India on November 30, 2013. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
“Brothers and sisters, I too have occasionally been here for treatment, so like you I’m an old patient. I’d like to thank our hosts for organizing this opportunity for us to meet. I always consider myself as one of you; with no differences between us. I’m one of the 7 billion human beings alive today, mentally, physically and emotionally we are the same. I often say that what we need is a keener sense that we all belong to one human family, because in forgetting that sameness, we face a lot of problems.

“Everyone has a right to lead a happy life. If I stress that I am different, or special in some way, that I’m His Holiness the Dalai Lama I create a distance between us. I isolate myself. As a human being I know the anxiety, attachment, greed that lead to suspicion, mistrust and anger. But since a mother gave birth to each of us and showered us with affection, we each have the potential to express affection for others.”

He noted that when it comes to good health, an important factor is peace of mind. Medical treatment of course has its place, but scientists are increasingly finding evidence that a healthy mind is important to physical health.

His Holiness suggested that we try to make every day meaningful. As he said, time moves relentlessly forward and we cannot change the past, but we can shape the future.

“To young people who belong to the 21st century I say, you have the opportunity to make this a happier century. The future is open and depends on what we do in the present. So what we have to do now is to lay a sound foundation for a happier, more peaceful future.”

“Towards the end of the 20th century,” he pointed out, “scientists began to show more curiosity about compassion and peace of mind. Anger, hatred and fear, by contrast, derive from our having a self-centred attitude. If we can reduce this, we can reduce anxiety, stress and suspicion. So, cultivating a concern for others is a way of automatically reducing our destructive emotions.”

He distinguished between the mental and physical experience of comfort and pain, pointing out that mental experience is superior. He gave the example of someone who donates a portion of their liver to someone else. It’s not physically easy, it takes courage and depends on being a voluntary donation, but in the end it provides immense satisfaction. On the other hand, it’s because poverty leaves people demoralized, mentally as well as physically weak that we need to tackle the gap between rich and poor.

Staff members of Apollo Hospital listening to His Holiness the Dalai lama speaking on "The Wisdom of Compassion" in New Delhi, India on November 30, 2013. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
He mentioned that the appearance of corruption across the world is like a cancer due to a lack of moral principles. It seems to lead people to forget that there is more to life than money. When there is a lack of basic moral principles, even religion can be misused. He said people talk about politics as being dirty, yet it’s not the politics but the people involved who are dirty. Similarly, religion becomes dirty when the people involved are not pure.

“All religions teach love and compassion, tolerance, self-discipline, which is why we need to follow the 1000 year old Indian example of secularism. Education that encourages warm-heartedness does so on the basis of ethics. Whether we accept religion or not, we all need to cultivate compassion and concern for others, because we are social animals. Human intelligence allows us to expand that sense of compassion, extending it beyond our immediate family and friends.

“Some of you here are patients or recipients and some of you are donors. You have really put ethics into practice, whereas I just talk. It seems the best offering to god is to follow moral principles. If you are corrupt, your morning prayers and offerings have little meaning. Indian people are very religious minded and yet corruption thrives. How can this be? Instead of prayer, it would be much more effective to put love, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness into practice.”

As he so often does, His Holiness welcomed questions from the audience, the first was ‘What is the purpose of our birth, of our life?’ to which he answered that the purpose of life is to be happy. A liver transplant recipient asked how to return the priceless gift he’d received. His Holiness advised:

“Lead your life in a way that the donor feels that making the gift has served to provide great benefit. Lead a meaningful life; help others but don’t harm them.” he added, “World peace doesn’t fall from the sky, but begins when individuals like you generate inner peace, helping and serving others.”

Asked how different the world would be if the Buddha were alive today, he said the Buddha was simply a teacher who showed the right path. Whether you live a happy or a miserable life is up to you. Indeed, the Buddha’s teaching remains available today. He explained his own routine:

“Every morning as soon as I get up I recite a prayer of praise to the Buddha, then I reflect on his teachings of compassion and dependent origination.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Dr Prathap Reddy, Chairman of Apollo Hospitals, answering questions from the audience at Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, India on November 30, 2013. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
Another enquiry, while acknowledging that His Holiness looks very fit, wondered how he does it. He replied:

“As a Buddhist monk, I take no dinner. Every day, in the morning, I do about 5 hours meditation; not just closing my eyes, but doing analysis. I meet people, I talk and if there isn’t anything else to do, I read, study and think. There is some mediation in the evening. Then from about 7 pm, I sleep. I follow the practical advice of the eighth century Indian Buddhist master, Shantideva, who said that when you face trouble, you should think about it. If it can be solved, there’s no need to worry, and if it can’t be solved, worry is of no use. “

Asked how to renounce attachment, he said, if you think about it, you’ll find that there’s a limit to material values, but mental wealth has none. He said that in India today, there are sadhus who observe complete simplicity. There is such dedication among some Jains too, and many Christian monks and nuns live lives of generous simplicity.

Asked if he had any advice for health professionals he said that in his experience when a doctor smiles, he feels safe. As to how he maintains peace of mind in the face of continual bad news, he replied that as far as Tibet is concerned, now is the time to keep the Tibetan spirit strong.

“Otherwise, always look at things from a wider perspective; be honest and truthful. This is important, because it is a source of self-confidence and inner strength. No matter what challenge you face, keep up your enthusiasm. If you are transparent, it leads to trust, which yields friendship, so you’ll never feel alone.

Finally, someone asked what His Holiness loves about Delhi.

“It’s the capital of this great country, the world’s most populous democracy, the source of a remarkable example of religious harmony. Compared to its neighbours, India is very stable.  Ancient Indian knowledge of reality and the functioning of the mind are marvellous. And I tease my north Indian friends by saying there seems to be something quite special about the south Indian brain, because Nagarjuna, many of his disciples, and other masters at Nalanda, came from the South.

“Because of these qualities, India can make a significant contribution to creating a better world. If I may be allowed to make a small criticism, it’s that it would be better to pay a bit more attention to studying ancient knowledge rather than engaging in ritual, which seems comparatively superficial. And instead of so many temples, it would be good if there were more centres of learning, where the views of the ancient schools of thought could be studied. Please see if you can do this, thank you."
 

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