Education Matters Says His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Sydney

June 13th 2013

Sydney, Australia, 13 June 2013 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama left Auckland in the quiet before dawn today, but it was a beautiful morning when he landed in Sydney at the beginning of an eleven day visit to Australia. A sea of smiling faces awaited him as he emerged from the airport to drive to the University of Sydney.

At the University he was introduced to an audience of 788 students and staff by Prof John Keane as a real leader, who stands for non-violence and compassion and shows a path for everyone.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to students and staff at the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia, on June 13, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“Brothers and sisters,” His Holiness began, “I’m happy to be able to speak to you bright, young people. People of my age belong to the twentieth century generation and the twentieth century has passed, nobody can bring it back. Most of you belong to the twenty-first century, of which more than 80 years remain. The future is open and you have an opportunity, a responsibility, to make this a better, more peaceful century than has gone before.”

He said that although the twentieth century was an era of wonderful developments, it was also an era of untold violence and bloodshed. He asked what we had learned and suggested it showed that violence is an unrealistic way to fulfil our goals. In the past, destruction of your neighbour might have been considered a victory, but today we are all interdependent. We live in a global economy; we face problems like climate change that affect us all. The 7 billion human beings alive today belong to one human family. In the context that others’ interests are in our interest and our interest is in their interest, the use of force is self-destructive.

The main point he wanted to make, he said, was that the twenty-first century should be a century of peace and non-violence. As far as he is concerned genuine peace is based on inner peace, because you cannot build peace on the basis of anger.

Turning to the topic of education, he said that everyone wants to live a happy life and has a right to do so. But the way we go about achieving it must be realistic. He suggested that there is often a gap between appearance and reality and the purpose of education is to reduce that gap. Many of our problems arise because we cling to appearances rather than depending on reality. When our minds are clouded by emotions, they are biased and obscured from seeing reality clearly. The purpose of education is to enable us to look the surface of appearances and see the reality beneath. He said:

“Many of the problems we face are man-made, which isn’t to say that women aren’t responsible for some of them. Perhaps I should say human created problems, for which incomplete education is responsible. In addition to basic education, we need to encourage warm-heartedness, concern for others and compassion. Otherwise, when our marvellous intelligence is led by powerful negative emotions, it invites disaster. The real source of trouble is in our mind and emotions.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama gestures as he responds to a question from the audience during his talk at the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia, on June 13, 2013. Photo/Rusty Stewart/DLIA 2013
He advised that we need to learn more about how the mind and emotions work; we need a sense of emotional hygiene. But dealing with mind and emotions is complicated; it is not like dealing with something solid. Working with the mind has to be done with the mind. Ancient Indian thought contains profuse and profound knowledge of these things, which over the last 30 years scientists have also become increasingly keen to know about. What we do need to do is to find ways to incorporate advice about warm-heartedness into our education system.

His Holiness observed that our world faces a moral crisis on many levels. However, some of his friends declare that ethics must be rooted in religion. The trouble with that is that no matter how wonderful a religious tradition may be it will not be universal and we need universal solutions to universal problems. There are 1 billion who say they are unbelievers, but even among the 6 billion who claim to believe many are not really serious. They piously attend their church, mosque or temple, but it has little effect on how they live their lives. They lack any sense that moral principles are the foundation of peace of mind; they have no conviction about ethics.

“We need to use education to create awareness of ethics and ways to work without emotions in order to lead a happy life. Our modern education system would be improved if it included training in how to deal with mind and emotions. And this should be done in a secular way. That is what I wanted to share with you.”

In answering questions from the audience, His Holiness reiterated that our education system should involve nurturing basic human qualities like warm-heartedness, which scientists show also contributes to our physical well-being. He pointed out that people who are insensitive to animals are often rough with human beings too. He sympathised with young people who do not always take their education seriously, recalling his own early teenage years when he had little interest in studying. This is something he regrets now that he appreciates the importance of education.

He concluded with an appeal to his listeners:

“Think about what has been said and if you find it interesting or useful explore it further, but if you don’t, then just forget it.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama being interview for ABC Television’s 730 Report in Sydney, Australia, on June 13, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
A meeting with the press shortly afterwards at his hotel and two television interviews after lunch touched on suffering and why we cannot neglect the welfare of others because we are all so interdependent. He referred to his commitment to promoting human values in the interest of greater human happiness. Asked about music and entertainment he admitted that early in his life as a refugee he used to go to the cinema and later watched television, but he has since stopped doing either. He derives greater satisfaction every day from engaging in extensive analytical meditation.

Questioned about the spate of self-immolations that have lately taken place in Tibet, he described the situation as very, very sad. These drastic actions are the symptom of a cause, he said, which the Chinese authorities should investigate and take steps to resolve. On the one hand there have been 60 years of development and yet there remains deep dissatisfaction, and on the other the people who have taken these steps could just as well have harmed others, but chose instead only to harm themselves.

There was more than one question about death and His Holiness said it was unnecessary to fear death, which is like changing your body for a new one when it becomes worn out. If you are prepared, are realistic and confident, there is nothing to fear because death is a part of life. This led to questions about whether the next Dalai Lama might be a woman and he confirmed that if it would be more useful, the Dalai Lama could certainly be female, but whether or not there is a fifteenth reincarnation will depend on the Tibetan people’s wishes.

Asked what he thought about social media, he replied unequivocally:

“They’re very important. They allow people to get a clearer view of reality. This is why we have to be objective and truthful, rather than manipulative, with the information we share.

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