Ethics for the Young Generation and Strength through Compassion and Solidarity

September 20th 2013

Hanover, Germany, 19 September 2013 - This morning His Holiness the Dalai Lama was invited to visit the small town of Wunstorf twenty kms or so to the west of Hanover. The Mayor of Wunstorf, Rolf-Axel Eberhardt and his wife received him on arrival at the Town Hall, while a group of young music students played in his honour. In his words of welcome, the Mayor mentioned meeting His Holiness at a gathering of mayors in Berlin some years ago, but until Geshe Gendun Yonten, who lives nearby, suggested they extend an invitation, never imagined he would come to Wunstorf. 97 nationalities are represented in this small town of 40,000 people as well as all the major religious traditions. In his response, His Holiness said:


His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the Mayor of Wunstorf, Rolf-Axel Eberhardt (left) speaking during his visit to the Wustorf Town Hall in Wunstorf, Germany on September 19, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“Respected Mayor, I very much appreciate your gesture in inviting me here and your gift of this model boat to symbolise how religious brothers and sisters can work together. Promoting harmony among religions based on respect and learning is one of my lifelong commitments. The harmony and co-operation you have established here serves as an example to others.”

From the Town Hall His Holiness drove to nearby Steinhude on the southern shore of Lake Steinhude, where he was the guest of the local school meeting in a large marquee. Addressing a gathering of students, some of them, particularly those sitting directly in front of him, very young, teachers and parents, he said:

“Young brothers and sisters, the future rests on your shoulders. You need education, but you also need a vision for the future. Many of my friends point out that education based largely on material values is not sufficient. It should also involve instructions about our minds and emotions. The world has become smaller and what happens in one place has repercussions in another. Among the 7 billion human beings alive today we have many problems, including violence and war, which are man-made problems.”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama is welcomed by students on his arrival at Gymnasium Steinhude in Steinhude, Germany on September 19, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
Turning his attention to the small children before him, His Holiness asked:

“Many of you occasionally quarrel don’t you? When I was young, about 4 years old and my brother was 6, we often fought together. But even when we did that, we soon forgot about it and in minutes were playing together again. Older people have a greater tendency to nurse a grudge and to look for opportunities to pay it back. When we face conflict we need a human approach to a solution: dialogue.

“I would like to know how many children have been punished at some time by their fathers, raise your hands.”

His Holiness raised his own.

“My father was quite short tempered and occasionally gave me the ‘blessing of his hand’. And how many of you have been punished by your mothers. See, I’m not raising my hand, because I was never punished by my mother. Think, the days when your parents hugged and smiled at you felt much better than the days when you were punished didn’t they?”

He explained that ethics or moral values are related to positive behaviour and that we need to learn about them in the course of our education. We need values based on common sense, experience and scientific findings, which His Holiness refers to as secular ethics.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during his visit to Gymnasium Steinhude in Steinhude, Germany on September 19, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
Having invited questions, the first concerned what he does in his free time. The answer was mainly reading. Another wondered whether he hankers after an ordinary life instead of that of a spiritual leader. He talked about sitting in meditation retreat with his tutor when he was young and hearing the shepherds returning from grazing their flocks, thinking how happy they must be. But later he realised he was in a position to do something beneficial for them. Asked how he can feel sympathy in situations that make others angry, he said that even the angriest harmful person is still another human being. Finally, a student wanted to know if it is possible to imagine a world without war and His Holiness answered that it should be possible, but it will take real effort.

The entire audience sang together as His Holiness departed. A local restaurant made a gift of lunch to him and all his accompanying staff. Afterwards he drove to a small island in the Steinhude Lake called Badeinsel Steinhude where 4000 people had gathered in the open to hear him speak. He began:

“We are all the same as human beings, no differences among us. Mothers gave birth to us all and nourished us with their milk and affection. This was the first seed of compassion we experienced that we can strengthen and extend, by applying intelligence, to concern for the well-being of others. Simple, ordinary compassion tends to depend on how the persons concerned think about us. It doesn’t extend to our enemies. Trained compassion on the other hand can extend to all sentient beings, even those hostile to us.”


Some of the over 4,000 people attending His Holiness the Dalai Lama's talk in Steinhude, Germany on September 19, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
His Holiness explained how we can analyse the pros and cons of cultivating compassion to the extent that we can even come to appreciate our enemy’s harmful qualities because they provide us with the opportunity to develop tolerance and patience. And we need tolerance and patience to protect our sense of compassion.

“Sometimes people take these qualities to be signs of weakness,” he said. “But they’re not. Anger is a sign of weakness. Genuine compassion and self-confidence are based on deep inner strength, which is expressed through tolerance and forgiveness.

“Sometimes people have a misapprehension that love and compassion only benefits others. Again this is quite wrong; the benefit comes directly to the practitioner as self-confidence and peace of mind.

“Some people consider the practice of love and compassion is only related to religious practice and if they are not interested in religion they neglect these inner values. But love and compassion are qualities that human beings require just to live together.”

He pointed out that tolerance and forgiveness do not mean that you meekly accept someone else’s wrong doing; it is sometimes necessary to take counter measures.

“Once we have a firm practice of compassion our state of mind becomes stronger which leads to inner peace, giving rise to self-confidence, which reduces fear. This makes for constructive members of the community. Self-centredness on the other hand leads to distance, suspicion, mistrust and loneliness, with unhappiness as the result.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama answering questions from the audience during his talk in Steinhude, Germany on September 19, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHD
“Because of our natural compassion, when natural disasters strike, people come from near and far to offer help.”

Members of the audience came forward to ask questions. The first was how to make a better world and His Holiness replied that we need to train in warm-heartedness and a sense of global responsibility. When asked what he thought about Islam, he replied:

“Islam is one of the world’s major religions with more than 1 billion followers. Many Muslims emphasize the practice of love. When I attended a ceremony in Washington to mark the first anniversary of the September 11th event, I told the gathering that although the attack had been carried out by people with a Muslim background that was no grounds for condemning all Muslims. I pointed out that there are mischievous people in any religious community whether it’s Buddhist, Christian, Hindu or Jain. Consequently, since then I have often defended Islam.”

Asked whether we should not be kinder to animals, His Holiness explained that he is fully committed to encouraging vegetarianism, although for reasons of health he is not a complete vegetarian himself. To the question, what is a meaningful life, he said:

“I always say the purpose of life is to be happy. There are no guarantees about the future, but we live in hope. When our hopes are crushed, we’re really hurt.”

A woman explained that she had come from Poland 25 years ago, but now she is regarded as a German in Poland and as Polish in Germany. She wanted to know what you do when you have no home. His Holiness replied:

“I am homeless too. We have a saying, ‘Where people smile at you, call that home; where people show you love, think of them as your parents.’

A young girl asked if His Holiness likes peanut butter and he answered that his tongue likes it, but his doctor advises against it. Finally, a small boy asked why His Holiness fled his country for India. He responded:

“That’s a long story that you should study. A Chinese writer has recorded that the number of Tibetans killed in the early years of the struggle was more than 300,000. When I left my place it was 10pm Lhasa time on 17th March 1959. I left not knowing if I would see the next day or not.

“A communist Chinese military official reported that from March 1959 until September 1960, the number of Tibetans killed in military action around Lhasa was 87,000.

“Thank you.”

Tomorrow, His Holiness is to speak at the Vietnamese Vien Giac Monastery before boarding a flight back to India.
 

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