His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New York, NY - May 20, 2010

May 20th 2010

New York, NY, USA, 20 May 2010 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama first went to the studios of NBC TV to participate in their The Today Show, which is a morning news and talk program. On his arrival he was received by Ann Curry, news anchor on the Show, who was the interviewer. Ms. Curry introduced His Holiness to Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira, co-anchors, and Al Roker, weather reporter of the show. Seeing some problems with Mr. Roker’s eyes, His Holiness joked with him on this as he himself had some irritation with his eyes.

Ann Curry greets His Holiness the Dalai Lama as he arrives at the NBC studios. Photo/NBC

During the interview, His Holiness was asked for explanation about intolerance in today’s world in the light of his broader message that humanity was becoming gentler. His Holiness said that such problems affecting the world are temporary and that in the broader perspective the people in the 21st century are becoming much happier and compassionate as compared to those of the 20th century. Expanding on this, His Holiness said many of the problems in the world are man-made ones and so people would logically have the ability to resolve them, too. He said natural disasters were different.

His Holiness referred to the immense response by people all over the world to earthquakes in the world, including Haiti, and the Tsunami and said it was his impression that people in the early part of the 20th century, were not as considerate. His Holiness referred to these as positive signs.

Acknowledging the violence and disturbances that occur in the world, His Holiness said some mischievous people are always there. He, however, said he believes these are minority and do not reflect the broader human community who are positive. His Holiness said the media had a role in creating a different impression because they always tend to highlight the negative while taking the positive for granted.

Asked about his feelings upon learning of the earthquake tragedy in his homeland in Tibet and his desire to visit there to provide spiritual solace, His Holiness talked about reminding himself of the advice of an Indian master whenever he was faced with a problem or a tragedy. That advice is not to worry if there is a solution to a problem but knowing that there is no use worrying if there is no solution.

His Holiness called for the adoption of right attitude by people for a more positive world.  His Holiness said such an attitude could contribute to either elimination or reduction of negativities in the world.

His Holiness then left for the nearby Radio City Hall, the venue of his lecture on the Buddhist texts by Nagarjuna “A Commentary on Bodhicitta “and Shantideva “A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.”

As a symbol of his respect to the Pali (the “senior most tradition in Buddhism”) and Sanskrit Buddhist tradition, the teaching began with the recitation of the Heart Sutra in Pali and Sanskrit. 

The Dalai Lama teaching at Radio City Music Hall. Photo/Getty Images

His Holiness spent the major portion of the morning session on providing a broad overview about his perspective on religions throughout the world. He talked about the basic human desire for happiness whether one was a religious believer or a non-believer. His Holiness talked about his two commitments of promoting human values and religious harmony. His Holiness said whenever he gave Buddhist lectures in traditionally non-Buddhist societies, he always reiterated his view that it is always better for individuals to keep to their own traditional religion. At the same time people should make effort to learn from other religious traditions. Giving a case in point, he praised the role of Christian practitioners saying Christianity may have made the maximum contribution toward the promotion of education in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

His Holiness then dealt with the two texts saying the one by Nagarjuna was a sort of introduction to Buddhism while the one by Shantideva dealt mainly with Buddhist practices. His Holiness said he had received the oral transmission of A Commentary on Bodhicitta from the current Ganden Tripa, Rizong Rinpoche, and of A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life from Khunu Lama Rinpoche and subsequently from Trulshig Rinpoche.

His Holiness said he chose these two texts because they are original Indian texts. He added that he would not be able to touch on all the texts and suggested that since the people have the books they could study it. He advised that unlike a work of fiction that could be set aside once you have read it, such Buddhist texts needed to be read repeatedly to gain better understanding. His Holiness quoted a Tibetan saying that if you read it nine times you will get nine different understandings.

His Holiness then began his explanation of A Commentary on Bodhicitta. Before His Holiness began the afternoon session, he met with journalists and responded to their questions on issues relating to Tibet and the world. There were over 100 journalists present.

His Holiness speaks to the media after a news conference at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Photo/Rueters

He was first asked about his optimism despite the absence of any positive attitude from the Chinese side. The journalist quoted a report by the International Campaign for Tibet about Chinese police opening fire on villagers in Amdo protesting a factory as a case in point. His Holiness responded that while the dialogue process with the Chinese leadership is yet to provide any positive results, he was optimistic for two main reasons. First, he said the People’s Republic of China is the most populated part of the world and had to go along the global trend towards transparency, rule of law, democracy and independence of the judiciary. His Holiness said that the authoritarian system in China had the ability to adapt to changing times and referred to the PRC’s history as composing of four eras. He said the first is the Mao Zedong era during which ideology was the most important. Then came the Deng Xiaoping era in which money replaced ideology and capitalism was adopted. His Holiness said this brought positive developments to millions of people in China. The third era was the Jiang Zemin era during which the new reality was acknowledged by the Communist Party in the form of the Three Represents. His Holiness said we are now in the Hu Jintao era which has seen the drawbacks of the past policies and are trying to rectify that through the development of a harmonious society.

Secondly, His Holiness said although his faith in the Chinese Government has been thinning, his faith in the Chinese people had not reduced. He talked about over 1000 articles in Chinese, with several hundreds written by Chinese intellectuals in China, since the 2008 demonstrations in Tibet and all of these articles were supportive of his approach towards the resolution of the Tibetan problem.

In answer to another question why some of the ticket prices to his teachings were high, His Holiness suggested that this issue should be taken up with the organizers. He said it has always been his position to encourage the organizers to provide tickets at the cheapest rate as possible. He also clarified that he never accepted money for his teachings.

His Holiness said teaching organizers did donate money received for worthy causes. He gave the example of the organizers in Indiana allocating leftover money from his recent teaching there for a hunger project in the state as well as for earthquake relief work in Tibet.

His Holiness recalled a development many years back when he accepted to bestow the Kalachakra Initiation at the request of his brother, Taktser Rinpoche, in Bloomington, Indiana. His Holiness said subsequently he learnt that the money raised from the teaching went into the pockets of a son of Rinpoche. His Holiness said he had then openly criticized this as wrong and added that he still felt sad about this. His Holiness said he told the son frankly that he had not come to raise money for them.

Another journalist asked him whether or not people should boycott the Tibetan pavilion at the ongoing Shanghai Expo. His Holiness said it was up to individuals. He said those who know something about Tibetan culture could visit the pavilion and if they found something wrong or distorted they could point them out. To a question on a report by the International Campaign for Tibet about Tibetan intellectuals being persecuted, His Holiness said unfortunately those narrow minded Communist officials see the unique Tibetan cultural heritage as a source or threat for separation. His Holiness spoke about a Chinese official in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Chen Kuiyuan, telling a party meeting more than 15 years back about the Tibetan Buddhist faith being the ultimate source of threat for the Party. His Holiness also talked about Chen Kuiyuan not allowing genuine study of Tibetan texts at Tibet University. Those Tibetans who are intellectuals know the value of Tibetan culture and when they express their feelings they become target, His Holiness said.

His Holiness said when he was in China in 1954-55, the Communist Party of China was really wonderful, and the Party members were really dedicated to the service of the people. His Holiness said he was very much impressed and told Chinese officials about his desire to join the Party. His Holiness said he still is a Marxist (although some of his friends ask him not to mention that) and he admired its objective of equal distribution (“this is moral ethics”). His Holiness however talked about the clampdown after the Hundred Flowers Campaign in China itself and said any authoritarian system always subdue any force that has the potential to stand up to it.

His Holiness was asked about his optimism about the world, which he had mentioned during the Today Show in the morning. His Holiness said he was born in 1935 just before World War II. He said although Tibet was a little bit isolated he would learn about developments in the world through a Tibetan newspaper published in Kalimpong in India.

He then talked about his impression of the attitude of the German and Japanese people towards the United States on account of the history of suffering under American military power during World War II. He said in general there is no sign of hatred or ill feeling. His Holiness said he specifically asked his Japanese and German friends about any negative feeling towards Americans and they said they had no such feeling. Similarly when President Obama went to Berlin while he was a presidential candidate over 100,000 Berliners came to welcome him, which is an indication of the absence of negative feeling. His Holiness said before the Iraq war began many people went on the streets to oppose war. He said in the 1950s and 1960s people had the feeling that war was ultimately unavoidable. At that time the Warsaw Pact and NATO Pact countries had nuclear weapons ready to shoot at each other, he said. That kind of situation had now completely gone, not by force but through popular peaceful movement, His Holiness added. He said these are developments within one century.

On the ecological front, too, in the early part of the 20th century nobody paid much attention to it, while in the latter part, there was a growing ecological movement, he said. His Holiness talked about the role of the Green Party and jokingly suggested that Americans should start a Green Party and he would join it. He recalled telling some Green Party members in New Zealand if ever he wanted to join New Zealand politics he would join the Green Party.

On people’s attitude toward science and religion, His Holiness said at the end of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, people had the feeling that science and spirituality were separate. He said now people are beginning to appreciate a closer relationship between the two.

He said when the Tsunami and the disasters in Haiti happened, the response was immense.

His Holiness referred to these developments as signs of human beings becoming more mature. He felt these were signs of human beings becoming more sensible and added that these are sources of his optimism. He said if these sources are wrong, he would like to be corrected.

His Holiness then said whenever he met the media he talked about the role of the media in the promotion of human values and religious harmony. His Holiness said the media should be honest, truthful and unbiased.

When asked whether he felt the election of President Obama was another indication of the positive change in the world that His Holiness was talking about, he agreed. He recalled his experience when he was with a group of Indians in a meeting in Pune when President Obama’s election was announced. He recalled the positive reaction of the people there and said that President Obama’s election had impact not only in the United States but also throughout the world.

His Holiness left for his residence following the afternoon teaching.

On May 21, 2010 morning, His Holiness will be participating in his first-ever Twitter interview, at the invitation of Chinese writer Wang Lixiong, before continuing his Buddhist lectures. This interview will begin at around 8:00 am Eastern Time in the United States (8:00 pm in China) and will be twitted in Chinese by Wang Lixiong.


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