His Holiness the Dalai Lama Attends the One World Concert in Syracuse, NY

October 10th 2012

Syracuse, NY, USA, 9 October 2012 - This morning His Holiness the Dalai Lama received a group of spiritual leaders, local and other dignitaries for breakfast, among them Andrew Brown, Martin Luther King III and A.R. Rahman. In response to keen questions he spoke about the importance of what he calls secular ethics: the values, like love, compassion, forgiveness and tolerance that are common to all religious traditions, but not limited to any of them. Considering these the real source of lasting happiness, he said he is eager to find ways to bring these to the attention of as many people as possible. Asked what the short cut to inner peace is, His Holiness said “There isn’t one,” “What is the long one?” he said, “Training.

In the late afternoon, His Holiness drove to the Syracuse University Carrier Dome, venue of the One World Concert. There he met backstage with the artists who were to perform; all of them evidently excited to meet and speak with him. He told them,

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with spiritual leaders and other local dignitaries together during a breakfast meeting in Syracuse, NY, on October 9, 2012. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“We face all sorts of problems for which we ourselves are responsible. Because of suspicion and jealousy we develop insecurity, which leads to frustration and loneliness. We can reduce these by thinking about how no one actually wants problems and seeking the source within ourselves.”

He said that everyone is motivated by self-interest to some extent, which is only right and natural, but this kind of self-interest needs to be wise not foolish. And the wise course is to take account of others’ well-being, which will in the long run benefit us too. He said,

“If I talk about these things, I think I will only have a limited effect, but people like you, through your songs and music, can spread a much wider message that the ultimate source of happiness is warm-heartedness and concern for the well-being of others.”

He confessed that he does not know much about music because, since he was a child, his training has involved the mind and reasoning rather than sensory awareness, but he expressed great admiration for the work musicians do. When one singer told him how hard it had been to lose her father, and still have to sing for others, His Holiness shared his own experience of losing his senior tutor, who he described as the ‘solid rock on whom I could lean’. He said that he realised that rather than feeling downcast and discouraged he should try to find ways to fulfil his tutor’s wishes and so transform the potential for sadness into an opportunity to develop greater determination.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama meets with members of the press in Syracuse, NY, on October 9, 2012. Photo/Stephen Sartori/Syracuse University
Meeting the press shortly afterwards, His Holiness explained his three life commitments: that as a human being he is committed to trying to educate people to the idea that the source of peace and happiness is within ourselves; as a Buddhist monk he is committed to promoting inter-religious harmony; and thirdly, since retiring from political responsibility for the Tibetan cause, he is committed to encouraging Buddhists to become twenty-first century Buddhists, people who understand what Buddhism is and so able to put what it teaches into real practice.

Asked about the self-immolations that have taken place recently in Tibet, he described these tragic events as a symptom of a situation created by Chinese policy. He suggested the Chinese leadership should investigate why these actions are taking place, much as Hu Yaobang did in the past. Although totalitarian systems have trouble accepting reality, they should, as Deng Xiaoping recommended, seek truth from facts.

Onstage at the Carrier Dome, Whoopi Goldberg had been warming up the 24,000 strong audience, the Voices of Afghanistan played to loud acclaim and Sam Nappi, founder of World Harmony Productions, introduced His Holiness to the crowd. A momentous cheer went up as he walked out in front of them.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting the audience on his arrival at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY, on October 9, 2012. Photo/Stephen Sartori/Syracuse University
“Dear brothers and sisters,” he said, “I’m extremely happy to have this opportunity to speak to all of you. I want to thank the organizers, the Chancellor of the University and all the concerned people who have made this event possible. Although I don’t know much about music, I have great admiration for the singers and musicians who will play for you tonight.”

“Whenever I talk in public, I always tell people we are all the same. Mentally, physically and emotionally, we are all the same kind of human beings. I stress the oneness of humanity, the fact that we all have the same potential for affection and that affection is the basis of happiness whether on an individual, family or national level.”

He explained that often people who are not interested in religion, which is their choice and their right, also dismiss the need for values in our lives. But human beings are social animals, who need values in order to live together. We all have the potential for affection, because of the affection we are shown by our mother when we are born. And there is evidence that those who receive the maximum affection when they are small are more secure later in life. His Holiness explained this basic inclination to show and respond to affection is the basis of what he calls secular ethics. He said,

“I want to tell you that the ultimate source of peace and happiness is warm-heartedness. It’s within us. Of course, like animals we have sensory awareness of what we see, what we hear and so on, but what distinguishes human beings is our intelligence. When that intelligence is combined with warm-heartedness, it brings happiness.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks onstage at the One World Concert at Syracuse University on October 9, 2012 in Syracuse, New York. Photo/Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Syracuse University
His Holiness went on to say that although we have this marvellous intelligence we have to educate and train it. We have to use it to take action to, for example, address the huge gap between rich and poor.

“Many of the unfortunate things that are happening today are the result of mistakes we made in the past. Now the time has come to act as global citizens, if we are to build a twenty-first century that is happier and more peaceful than what went before.”

The Carrier Dome was filled with a great roar of appreciation for His Holiness’s words. Dave Matthews then introduced his friend Venerable Tenzin Dhonden, who expressed his heartfelt thanks to His Holiness for coming to Syracuse, as well as to everyone else who had contributed to making the event possible. He ended, saying with a smile,

“Now it’s time to rock!”

The assembled artists from many different countries gathered for a spectacular rendition of John Lennon’s anthem for a better world, Imagine. His Holiness shook hands with them all. Dave Matthews played his first song, after which, waving to the crowd, who responded with an affectionate cheer, His Holiness left the stage.

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