His Holiness talks about Peace and Religious Harmony in Salzburg

May 21st 2012

Salzburg, Austria, 21 May 2012 - As the sun caught the peaks of the mountains around the city, His Holiness drove to the Salzburg Arena, where he was received by the Governor Ms. Gabi Burgstaller. They exchanged views privately for several minutes before she escorted him into the hall where he was to address an audience convened by Alpine Peace Crossing, an NGO that holds a major event annually to mark the plight of refugees.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama shaking hands with members of the audience before his address in Salzburg, Austria, on May 21, 2012. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
His Holiness began by saying, “When I meet people, I feel that as human beings we are just the same. We may have bigger or smaller noses or different coloured hair, but we 7 billion human beings are essentially the same. And now that we are so interdependent it seems to be out of date to think of this or that community as separate from the rest.” He expressed his admiration for the EU as an organization in which members keep their own identity, while taking account of their common interests. He said that we now face several challenges that cannot be solved unless we solve them together and cited the failure of the Copenhagen summit on climate change as an example of countries continuing to focus on their own narrow interests rather than the good of the world.

Nevertheless, we should not feel demoralized, because there is much  to be optimistic about. His Holiness recalled meeting the British Queen Mother when she was 96 years old and had witnessed almost the entire twentieth century in her lifetime. In reply to his question about whether the world had become better or worse in that time, she replied without hesitation that it had improved, because, for example, when she was young there was no concept of human rights or self-determination.

Before opening the discussion of World Peace and Universal Responsibility Dr Michael Kerbler of ORF Radio called on those present to observe a minute's silence in memory of Tibetans who have recently committed self-immolation in Tibet. Pressed to respond to these tragic incidents, His Holiness said that it is a very sensitive political issue and that he has devolved his political responsibilities to others. However, he said, we must look into the real cause of this tragedy. The stated aim of hard-liners in the Chinese communist leadership is to secure harmony in society, but the way they are going about it is both wrong and contradictory. Harmony cannot be achieved by force, it must be based on trust. The use of force arouses fear, which undermines trust. His Holiness suggested the Chinese authorities could adopt a more realistic approach, following Deng Xiao ping's advice to seek truth from facts. But they would have to be real and objective facts, rather than official propagandist reports.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking on 'World Peace and Universal Responsibility" in Salzburg, Austria, on May 21, 2012. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
He recommended his listeners to go to Tibet to see for themselves what has happened there over the last fifty years or so, and to investigate why Tibetans harbour such resentment. While not wishing to politicize the meeting, he quoted a young Chinese who came to see him, who pointed out that when he went to Lhasa he saw Chinese soldiers doing military exercises right next to Tibetan pilgrims performing prostrations outside the Jokhang Temple. Similarly, where pilgrims circumambulate in a clockwise direction, the Chinese military march round the other way. In His Holiness's informant's view it is the Chinese authorities and their military forces who are the real “splittists” in Tibet. On the other hand, many impartial Chinese once properly informed are very sympathetic to Tibetans.

In a world where the trend is towards democracy, freedom, and freedom of speech, His Holiness said, countries like North Korea and China can drag their feet, but they cannot resist the trend forever. In China itself, 1.3 billion Chinese people have the right to know what  is going on and the right to make decisions on that basis. Consequently, censorship is morally wrong. Censorship and distorted information must stop. Likewise, the Chinese judicial system must be raised to international standards. The rule of law must be established, because China belongs to the Chinese people, not to the communist party, just as the world belongs to humanity.

While his translator was translating his words into German, His Holiness signed many books proffered by people in the audience. Outside his hotel a small group of young school-children broke into song as he approached them to say hello. As children of the twenty-first century he advised them to study well.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama with long time supporter of Tibetan children in exile Ms Irmtraut Wager in Salzburg, Austria, on May 21, 2012. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
His Holiness invited Ms Irmtraut Wager and Alfred Stingl, former Mayor of Graz and his wife, to lunch. Ms Wager has worked long and hard to support the education of Tibetan children in exile. Afterwards he met Members of the Tibet Centre Advisory Board and commended their work. He advised that just as Christian brothers and sisters have done remarkable work for education around the world, what Buddhists may contribute is their understanding of how to develop peace of mind.

In the afternoon, His Holiness attended an inter-faith dialogue on Harmony in Diversity, moderated by Mrs. Doris Appel, with Archbishop Dr. Alois Kothgasser (Catholic), Mag. Luise Mueller (Protestant), Rabbi Mag. Schlomo Hofmeister (Judaist) and Dr. Fuat Sanac (Muslim). In his address, His Holiness drew attention to the example of India, where the world's major religions – Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Zoroastrianism – and indigenous traditions – Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism - live alongside each other in peace. The Zoroastrian or Parsee community are tiny in number and yet they have thrived in India.

He explained that although there are philosophical differences among our religious traditions, they all have the potential to help their followers to become more compassionate, better human beings. This is the ground for mutual respect that inspired His Holiness since 1975 to adopt three steps in his own quest to improve inter-religious harmony: meeting with religious leaders and holding discussions with them; meeting with spiritual practitioners to exchange experiences and visiting other traditions' sacred places and joining them in prayer.


Panelists Rabbi Mag. Schlomo Hofmeister, Mag. Luise Mueller, Archbishop Dr. Alois Kothgasser, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Dr. Fuat Sanac during an inter-faith dialogue on Harmony in Diversity in Salzburg, Austria, on May 21, 2012. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
He advised, “It's all right for an individual to think in terms of one truth and one religion, but when we think of the world at large, we must allow for several truths and several religions, mindful of the fact that the Buddha didn't attempt to convert everyone when he was alive, any more than did Jesus or the Prophet Muhammad.” In conclusion, His Holiness noted that basic human affection precedes our adoption of religion, and that human affection is the ground for developing concern for others, which in turn is the key to leading a meaningful life.

Tomorrow, His Holiness will fly to Trieste, Italy, to attend an inter-faith programme and a meeting with scientists in Udine.
 

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