His Holiness the Dalai Lama Meets Indians, Chinese and Sotoshu Monks in Tokyo

April 16th 2014

Tokyo, Japan, 16 April 2014 - Having arrived in Tokyo yesterday evening, His Holiness the Dalai Lama had meetings with several quite different groups of people today. The first was a group of business people from India. He began by telling them how he praises India all over the world for its religious harmony, the way different faiths, some originating in India and others coming from abroad live peacefully side by side. He suggested Indian communities overseas should make more of this wherever they are. In the 21st century, the secular approach exemplified by India is increasingly relevant all over the world. Expressing appreciation of his host country he said:

“For the last 55 years India has been my home. I think of myself as a son of India. All my knowledge is derived from India. My brain is filled by Nalanda thought. The importance of this was articulated by Je Tsongkhapa who composed a verse saying: ‘In the Land of Snow, The snow is a bright white, Yet until the light of India reached this land, Tibet was covered in darkness.’”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with members of the Indian business community during his visit to Tokyo, Japan on April 16, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
His Holiness added that over 55 years, his body has been nourished by Indian dal and chapatis. What’s more, Tibetans have for long regarded India as the gurus and themselves as disciples since Shantarakshita introduced Buddhism to Tibet in 8th century. He mentioned that some Western writers have referred to Tibetan Buddhism as Lamaism, which is a mistake. It actually represents the pure lineage of Nalanda University. This is not just a matter of religion, but of philosophy and logic too. He said he would go so far as to describe the Buddha himself as a scientist who encouraged his followers to investigate and experiment with the mind.

“Today, I hope the younger generation of Indians will pay more attention to the knowledge of the mind and emotions to be found in ancient Indian literature and combine it with the qualities of their modern education. I sometimes complain to my Indian friends that there too many temples and not enough places of learning. However, I am impressed at how India, the world’s most populous democracy, has grown, nearly 70 years after independence. Didn’t Nehru compare India to an elephant, taking time to stand up, but having done so being strong and stable?”

When this group said they just wanted His Holiness’s blessing, he told them what he told a wealthy Mumbai family who asked the same thing. He said he had nothing like that to give them, but they had the source of blessing in their hands. They were wealthy and lived in Mumbai where there are thousands of poor and homeless. He told them that if they were to employ some of their wealth helping the needy with health and education they would create their own blessings.


The second group His Holiness met today were Chinese and he offered them warm greetings, reminding them that China today has the world’s largest number of Buddhists. A survey by a Peking University put the number at more than 300 million, most of them educated people. Recently Premier Xi Jinping has declared Buddhism one of China’s important traditions. It is significant that after trying to destroy Buddhism during campaigns against the Four Olds during the Cultural Revolution, the fifth generation of Chinese leaders now acknowledge its importance.

“Today, there is a huge gap between rich and poor in China. I have met farmers from the villages who tell me how hard things are for them and that there is no one for them to turn to for help. The local authorities are only interested in their own money and power. Therefore, I felt encouraged when, during the 3rd Plenum, Xi Jinping talked about the needs of the peasants and reforms to the Chinese judiciary. A Chinese scholar I met in New York told me that in an atmosphere of declining ethics, Buddhism has a lot to contribute.”

His Holiness recalled a piece of propaganda from the early 1960s that stated that Buddhism was just a matter of blind faith that would vanish with growth of scientific knowledge. Whoever wrote it would be astonished today to see the interest and respect that renowned modern scientists, particularly those with an interest in the mind, show for Buddhism and ancient Indian findings about the mind and emotions.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to a group of Chinese during his visit to Tokyo, Japan on April 16, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“These days I advise Buddhists to be 21st century Buddhists, which means they need to study to find out what Buddhism is really about. Tomorrow, I’ll be teaching a couple of Buddhist texts and you are welcome to attend.”

Among questions from those avidly listening to him, His Holiness was asked about organ donation. He mentioned one Khangsar Rinpoche who had specifically asked that his body be fed to the birds rather than cremated because he wanted it to be of benefit to others. While admiring the principle of organ donation, His Holiness felt wary about organs being taken before the donor was properly dead. He has heard reports of this happening to imprisoned members of Falun Gong.

To those anxious about approaching death, he said, death will come. If you have lived a good life, putting your body, speech and mind to meaningful use, you can be confident of a good rebirth. He quoted a Tibetan saying that the best Buddhist practitioners welcome death; the middling ones are not sad and even the lowest practitioners meet death without regret. Therefore, it’s best not to worry about death, but live a good life.

A woman who told His Holiness that she works as well as studying, while her employers are scathing about it, asked what to do. First of all he advised her to recite Manjushri’s mantra and then decided to give those assembled before him an impromptu blessing of Manjushri.

He told them to visualise Manjushri, wielding a flaming sword of wisdom in his right hand and holding the stem of a lotus supporting a book in the other, on his head, with light pouring forth from his brow, throat and heart and filling them up. He asked them to repeat the mantra after him, telling them that it would help them develop extensive, clear, profound and swift wisdom. He advised them to recite the mantra every morning and to say as many syllables dhi as they can on one breath. He told them this was a practice he had done since childhood to good effect. In addition he advised them to cultivate mindfulness by observing the inhalation and exhalation of their breath, counting rounds of 21 or 100.

Another issue he touched on in response to a question was sectarianism among Tibetan Buddhist followers. He described it as the result of ignorance citing a number of Tibetan masters who took a broad minded, ecumenical approach including Je Tsongkhapa, Gendun Gyatso, the 2nd Dalai Lama, and more recently Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Trulshig Rinpoche. He remarked on the fact that all Tibet’s Buddhist traditions are ultimately sourced in the Nalanda tradition.


The third group His Holiness met with were monks and supporters of the Soto Zen tradition, a socially conscious group who in addition to their Buddhist practice function as chaplains to people in prison. They have also been active in their support for people whose lives were wrecked by the Great Tohoku Earthquake and its consequences. Their slogan is: ‘Respect for human rights, the establishment of peace and protection of the environment’.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with senior monks of the Soto Zen tradition before his talk to member of the Soto community in Tokyo, Japan on April 16, 2014. Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan
They invited His Holiness to meet them at a Tokyo hotel, greeted him on arrival and escorted him to a room where he could be introduced to a group of senior monks. The Vice-chairman of the Soto tradition, Abe Ekai accompanied him personally. The monks introduced themselves, the Chairman offered His Holiness a gift of a traditional Japanese tea bowl and they posed together for photographs before sitting together over lunch.

In a hall configured like a temple, His Holiness first paid his respects before the image of the Buddha. The Chairman and Chief Priest led the assembly likewise in paying their respects and they all recited the Heart Sutra in rhythm. Short introductory speeches were made before His Holiness was invited to speak. He began:

“Venerable Chairman and guests, I am honoured to be here with you. Let me first pay tribute to this elderly monk who has been kindly looking after me since I arrived, despite my being the younger at 79 years old to his 90. On this visit to Japan, I went first to Sendai to show solidarity with the earthquake victims there and participated in a Shinto prayer ceremony. In Osaka I addressed students in school and in Koyasan I created a link to the tantric tradition there.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Vice-Chairman of the Soto Sect Abe Ekai speaking to the Soto community in Tokyo, Japan on April 16, 2014. Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan
“I come here as just one among 7 billion human beings. We are all the same in not wanting suffering and we all have a right to fulfil this goal. The main factor is creating peace of mind within ourselves. All religious traditions contribute to this by fostering the practice of love and compassion, so it is important that while maintaining faith in our own tradition we cultivate respect for others. As you recited the Heart Sutra, I was moved by gratitude to the Buddha and prayed accordingly.”

His Holiness’s own address was brief but he continued to speak in response to questions. He remarked that in Buddhist tradition the root of suffering is ignorance, because of which we are attached to our friends and relatives. While we may not wish to harm others, anger and suspicion drive us to do so. Our ignorance is grounded in the way we cling to the appearance of things as intrinsically existent. Cutting through this is wisdom. As the Heart Sutra says, ‘Form is empty, emptiness is form.’

Regarding meditation, he described the physical posture to adopt and how to place the mind on the object, as well as the variety of objects that may be used. He cautioned not only against giving in to distraction, but also giving in to more pernicious laxity, citing friends who at the end of extensive meditation retreats felt their intelligence had declined. He also extolled the benefits of cultivating analytical as well as focussing meditation.

Recalling the Soto tradition’s dedication to human rights, His Holiness informed them that he is a signatory to Amnesty International’s declaration in favour of abolishing the death penalty. He said this is consistent with Buddhist teaching on causality and the fact that things change. You may make mistakes in your early life, but you can later change for the better.

A member of the audience asking a question during His Holiness the Dalai Lama's talk to the Soto community in Tokyo, Japan on April 16, 2014. Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan
As to whether the world is getting better or worse, he noted that there is a steady movement to seek peace, growing opposition to the existence of nuclear weapons. Where no one used to talk about the environment, it is now on everyone’s lips. Scientists who once only paid attention to material things are now paying attention to the mind and its functions. His Holiness expressed optimism that people are generally becoming more mature. In connection with the disasters that have taken place in East Japan, like the flooding in Queensland, and even the difficulties in Tibet, he mentioned Nagarjuna’s advice that if you allow yourself to remain depressed you will never overcome the trouble that afflicts you.

In the context of education he encouraged efforts to understand the Buddha’s teachings through listening and reading, reflection and meditation. This will yield knowledge, conviction and insight. He repeated what he had said earlier in Koyasan that Buddhism is Japan’s religion, but chuckling asked if he might repeat the observation that Japanese engage with Shintoism when a child is born, Christian ceremonies for weddings and Buddhist rites when they die.

As the meeting came to a close, His Holiness offered a statue of the Buddha to the Sotoshu tradition and another to the Vice-chairman personally. In his words of thanks, the Chairman declared himself brimming over with joy that His Holiness had come. He referred to his embodying love, compassion, tolerance and contentment and expressed the wish of everyone present to emulate those qualities. On his part His Holiness said:

“I have a great affinity for this elderly monk who has shown me such kindness. He even gave me a massage to ease my fatigue. The day after tomorrow I will return to India and I’ll miss his company.”

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