His Holiness the Dalai Lama Attends the Inauguration of the 80th Sivagiri Annual Pilgrimage in Kerala

November 25th 2012

Varkala, Kerala, India, 24 November 2012 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama began the day with an interview at his hotel with Mr PP James for Doordarshan. Asked what he thought of Indian spirituality, he replied,

“I always say that India is a living example of the possibility of all religions living together in harmony; an example that others could learn from. And for us Tibetans, India is our guru. One great master observed that although Tibet was known as the Land of Snows, until the light of wisdom arrived from India, Tibet remained in the dark.”

Mr. PP James from Doodarshan interviews His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Varkala, Kerala, on November 24, 2012. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
Concerning his regard for Kerala, he said, “Don’t you have 100% literacy here? Wonderful! When I first visited I was impressed to see even barefoot people reading newspapers.”

Challenged to agree with Sree Narayana Guru, founder of the Sivagiri Mutt, who spoke of one caste, one religion and one god, His Holiness said that whatever other differences we may have, we all belong to the caste of human beings. As for religion, the essence of them all is compassion, love, tolerance and respect for others. Their different philosophical views reflect different approaches to the same end. He advised that we should be faithful with regard to our own religion without becoming attached to it, for attachment blinds our ability to be unbiased and appreciative of other traditions.

Regarding his hopes that the new Chinese leadership will adopt a fresh approach to Tibet, His Holiness said that many Chinese friends had noted that Xi Jinping seems to reveal in his body language that he is more human and more relaxed compared to his predecessors, who were prone to look like statues. However, he cautioned that the Chinese system is tough and hard to change. Nevertheless, he expressed confidence that China will steadily become a freer, more humane society, and that once it becomes more open, the Tibet problem can easily be solved.

About the series of self-immolations that have taken place in Tibetan areas, His Holiness made clear he sees them as a symptom of problems that Tibetans did not create. He repeated his appeal that the Chinese authorities investigate why they are taking place, saying,

“As Deng Xiaoping said, ‘Seek truth from facts’ and act accordingly. What’s happening is very sad; it brings tears to my eyes. People are not doing this because they are drunk or have family problems, but because they live in constant fear.“

Questioned about the Chinese assertion that they will control the search for his reincarnation, His Holiness conceded that Chinese authorities might have taken an interest in the matter in the past, because at that time they were Buddhists, received Buddhist teachings and believed in rebirth; there was a certain logic to it. Therefore, if the communist Chinese want to be involved, they should show that they accept rebirth and recognise the reincarnations for Mao and Deng.

Finally, as regards capital punishment, His Holiness clearly stated that he is a signatory of Amnesty International’s petition against the death penalty. He rejoices when another country abandons this measure. He feels that convicts should be imprisoned and have the opportunity to develop and express remorse, but concluded that it all depends on the country’s legal system.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama is welcomed to Sivagiri Mutt with with his feet bathed and sprinkle with flowers in Varkala, Kerala, India, on November 24, 2012. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
Nearly an hour’s drive along palm lined roads brought His Holiness to the Sivagiri Mutt at Varkala. He was granted a formal welcome in which his feet were bathed and sprinkled with flowers, before being led to pay his respects at the samadhi or tomb of Sree Narayana Guru, at Sarada Mutt, the Temple to the Goddess of Knowledge and at Vaidik Mutt, where Guru Dev met Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, etc. He was also invited to plant a tree in the grounds to commemorate his visit.

Next was the day’s main event, the Inauguration of the 80th Sivagiri Annual Pilgrimage. In his welcome address, Bh. Shree Rithambharananda Swamikal paid tribute to Sree Narayana Guru as a revolutionary and leading social reformer. In 1928, he gave his approval for the first Sivagiri Pilgrimage, advising that pilgrims engage in 10 days of austerity or self-purification observing the Buddha’s principles of the five purities of body, food, mind, word and deed. He also recommended that pilgrims wear yellow clothes, emulating the Buddha’s saffron robes and keep 8 goals of the pilgrimage: education, cleanliness, devotion, organization, agriculture, trade, handicrafts and technical training.

The 85 year old Bhrama Shree Prakashananda Swamikal pronounced his blessings on the occasion, followed by an address by Guest of Honour Shri G. Karthikeyan, Speaker of the Kerala Legislative Assembly. Both spoke eloquently in Malayalam. His Holiness was invited to light the lamp and formally inaugurate the pilgrimage, after which the Chief Guest, His Grace Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom, Marthoma Valiya Metropolitan, spoke at some length, amusing his audience with his remarks. When it came to His Holiness’s turn to speak, he said,

“It’s a great honour for me to participate in this 80th annual pilgrimage, recalling Sree Narayana Guru, who led such a meaningful life. Historically, in the 7th and 8th centuries, the great philosopher and logician Shantarakshita brought Buddhism to Tibet and we became chelas of India. As such I feel it a great honour to come here and participate in this meeting.”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the inauguration of the 80th Sivagiri Annual Pilgrimage in Varkala, Kerala, India, on November 24, 2012. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
He spoke about the great developments humanity has made, how many problems such as disease have been reduced by technology and science. However, if we look back on the twentieth century, we also see that science and technology also brought trouble, for it was an era of violence and bloodshed in which more than 200 million people met violent deaths. He suggested that here in the twenty-first century we have the opportunity to achieve peace instead. However, peace doesn’t fall from the sky, nor does it arise from nice resolutions at the United Nations, peace must come from inner peace in the hearts of individuals. Technology cannot by itself yield inner peace. There is, as yet, no medication for anger. Anger is rooted in fear and mistrust. Trust is something that can exist between individuals, communities and nations - how can we develop it? His Holiness suggested the key is the development of concern for the welfare of others.

“Once we develop empathy, compassion and concern for others, openness, trust, transparency and respect for others arise spontaneously. Once we develop concern for others, mistrust and suspicion vanish of their own accord.”

“I always try to share with others the idea that in order to become compassionate it is not necessary to become religious. Your Guru-ji spoke of one religion; I too say that compassion is the universal religion.”

He suggested that compassion is also the basis of ahimsa, for too great a stress on our own interests at the expense of others is the basis of bullying, cheating and corruption, which is rife in many places, including India, and which is a form of violence. India has a wonderful tradition of ahimsa based on concern for others’ well-being. Moreover, he said, India is a world leader in the field of religious harmony, setting an example for others to follow.


Members of the audience listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the inauguration of the 80th Sivagiri Annual Pilgrimage in Varkala, Kerala, India, on November 24, 2012. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
“As a chela of India, I am very happy to see you uphold these great traditions of ahimsa and inter-religious harmony and respect. To come here and sit among these various religious leaders makes me very happy. But as your Guru has taught, it is not enough to recite Sanskrit verses; we must reach out to the poor who need help and bring them education and health.”

His Holiness was requested to release logos related to the pilgrimage and was presented with mementos of the occasion, before joining the Swamis and other guests for lunch. After bidding his hosts a respectful farewell, he began the long drive up the coastal road to Kochi. When he broke his journey at Alappuzha he was met by a contingent of police who presented arms to the sound of a bugle. Arriving in Kochi, he found his hotel decorated with Tibetan prayer flags with young Tibetans on hand offering an enthusiastic and traditional welcome.
 

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