His Holiness the Dalai Lama Spends the Day on Capitol Hill

March 7th 2014

Washington DC, USA, 6 March 2014 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s day on Capitol Hill began with his being invited to offer prayers at the opening of proceedings in the Senate. He was first welcomed and introduced by Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid who described him as an inspiration to others across the world. After reciting a short salutation to the Buddha in Tibetan, His Holiness read the following prepared verses, first in Tibetan and then in English:

With our thoughts we make our world.
Our mind is central and precedes our deeds.
Speak or act with a pure mind
and happiness will follow you,
like a shadow that never leaves.
-- from the ‘Dhammapada’

May there be joy in the world,
With bountiful harvest and spiritual wealth.
May every good fortune come to be;
And may all our wishes be fulfilled.

As long as space remains,
And as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain
And help dispel the misery of the world.

He pointed out that the last verse, from Shantideva’s ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’, is his favourite prayer, expressing a thought he tries to put into practice every day of his life.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting Senate Chaplain Barry Black, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on his arrival at Capitol Hill in Washington DC on March 6, 2014. Photo/Sonam Zoksang
Sen. Reid, in his appreciation mentioned His Holiness’s efforts to spread the message of peace in the world and quoted him as saying: “Be kind whenever possible; it’s always possible” and “The best way to solve problems everywhere is to sit down and talk”. Sen. Patrick Leahy, another old friend, took up the theme, praising the way His Holiness has worked long and hard for the Tibetan people. He recounted an incident several years ago in the streets of Lhasa, Tibet, as he was preparing to take a photograph and a local Tibetan insisted on posing for him holding a photograph of His Holiness at his heart.

“In doing this he risked imprisonment, so why did he do it? Because people elsewhere have to know the faith Tibetans have in His Holiness.”

Shortly afterwards His Holiness met with House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, telling them what an honour it was to be with them and reiterating his three commitments to human values, religious harmony and the preservation of the peaceful Buddhist culture of Tibet. He explained how Tibet had gained Buddhist knowledge from India in the 8th and 9th centuries, knowledge that at the time derived from the renowned Nalanda University.

“We have kept the Nalanda tradition alive and along with it knowledge of the mind and emotions that scientists are eager to learn from today. This is timely, since across the materially developed world, people experience too much stress. Fuller understanding of the mind and emotions can be very useful. An additional aspect of my concern for Tibet relates to the environment.”

Minority Leader Pelosi noted that support for Tibet is bipartisan and that His Holiness has been received by Republican as well as Democratic Presidents who regard him as a champion of democracy and freedom. In his reply, he said:


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Speaker of the House John Boehner during their meeting in the Speaker's ceremonial office on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on March 6, 2014.
Official Photo by Heather Reed

“Despite the challenges of the last 60 years the Tibetan spirit remains strong. Tibet is no longer a fresh issue, yet awareness of it remains alive thanks to people like you. Friends tell me that Xi Jinping is more realistic. He’s courageously tackling corruption and talking about the legal system and the needs of the rural masses. Some suggest there is a sense that existing policy on Tibet isn’t working so he is looking for a more realistic approach, but there may be resistance within the Chinese establishment. At such a time the support of the free world and particularly the US is significant. In the past, when China’s Most Favoured Nation status was being debated, I said they should have it. The free world has a responsibility to guide China into the mainstream of democracy. There is a Tibetan saying about one medicine for 100 illnesses; democracy in China will be the solution to 100 problems around the world.”

His Holiness stated that the Chinese people want reform. Wen Jiabao even said that China need American style democracy; activist Liu Xiaobo has said that there is both a need and a desire for reform. Therefore, His Holiness repeated, there is a need for more freedom and a relaxation of censorship. Mrs Pelosi noted that in addition to meeting with His Holiness, President Obama had expressed support for the Middle Way Approach. His Holiness concurred, noting that whatever happened in the past is past. Today, Tibet is materially backward and will receive help to develop within the People’s Republic of China, provided Tibetans are granted genuine autonomy, as guaranteed by the Chinese constitution.

At a meeting with several hundred Congressional Staffers in the Congressional Visitor Center Auditorium, His Holiness was asked if he ever feels sad and frustrated and if he does what he does about it.


Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Holiness's interpreter Thubten Jinpa during a talk to Congressional staff at the Congressional Visitors' Center Auditorium at Capitol Hill in Washington DC on March 6, 2014. Photo/Sonam Zoksang
“Firstly, as a simple Buddhist monk and a long-term friend of this country, a great admirer of this great nation, it’s an honour for me to be here. Sadness and frustration are experienced by all 7 billion human beings alive today, although maybe less among children. People ask me if human nature is destructive and humanity doomed. I tell them that when something sad happens, it is linked to many other factors. And whenever you feel frustration it always seems less significant if you look at the situation from a wider perspective.”

Sen. John McCain took the platform and spoke of Human Rights not being American, but universal. They distinguish us as human beings; they cannot be rescinded or granted because they belong to us. He said His Holiness has given his life to the struggle to fulfil the just cause of Tibet. In his determination he is an inspiration to all people. Saying that His Holiness inhabits Tibetan hearts and they inhabit his, he quoted John Donne’s Meditation XVII:

“Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Questioned about whether he would see change in China and Tibet in his lifetime, His Holiness mentioned the changes that have already taken place. He described China in a series of eras: Mao Xedong’s era characterised by ideology gave way to Deng Xiaoping’s era of economic development. Jiang Zemin’s era then extended the scope of the Party to include the better off and Hu Jintao, faced with growing inequality, sought harmony. Xi Jinping’s era will be the fifth. Over the last 40 years China has changed a great deal, but because of entrenched views within the established collective leadership further change may take time. He said:


Congressional staff members listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the Congressional Visitors' Center Auditorium during his visit to Capitol Hill in Washington DC on March 6, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“I am hopeful. We have had relations with China since 7th century. China is a Buddhist country and these days many Chinese Buddhists are showing an interest in Tibetan Buddhism. We Tibetans have our own language and script, which is the best language in which to explain Buddhism.”

When Nancy Pelosi, who had been delayed by business in the House, arrived and took the platform, she recalled visiting Dharamsala and meeting with Tibetans who had just come out of Tibet, with harrowing tales of what they’d been through. She reiterated the bipartisan nature of support for Tibet, noting Sen. McCain’s presence and the His Holiness’s meetings with both President Bush and President Obama. She said America’s relationship with His Holiness is long-standing, recalling that President Roosevelt sent a gift of a watch to the young Dalai Lama. Saying, “I thought you might bring that up, here it is!” His Holiness held up the watch for all to see.

Asked what his favourite lesson from his childhood was, His Holiness replied without hesitation:

“My mother’s affection. That’s the seed of any compassion I’ve been able to develop today.”

After lunch with seven Senators, His Holiness met with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over coffee and tea, followed by a meeting with Senators Reid and McConnell. His Holiness remarked that he had always known that United States was a great nation, recalling its action to defend democracy and the rule of law in World War II and the Korean War. The U.S. Capitol is filled with statues and busts of men who have contributed to that greatness. Their words, inscribed on the walls, include the following in Cox Corridor II from Franklin D Roosevelt, the President who long ago sent a watch to His Holiness:

“We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred is a wedge designed to attack our civilisation.

 

Latest News

Eight Verses for Training the Mind
October 31st 2014
Boston, MA, USA, 30 October 2014 - In bright, clear autumn light, His Holiness the Dalai Lama made a short drive this morning from his Boston hotel to the Wang Theater, a theater elaborately decorated in a renaissance style that is part of the Citi Performing Arts Center. He had been invited to teach by the Prajna Upadesa Foundation, a community of Vietnamese Buddhists interested in the Nalanda tradition established in 2009.

Talk about How to Develop the Heart and Discussion of Service
October 29th 2014

Audience for Tibetans, Interfaith Discussion and Secular Ethics Public Talk
October 27th 2014

Neuroplasticity & Healing in Birmingham AL & a Visit to 16th Street Baptist Church
October 26th 2014

Meeting with the Canadian Parliamentary Friends of Tibet
October 25th 2014

Explore