His Holiness the Dalai Lama Addresses the IFSO Medical Conference
OHHDL, 13 September 2012
New Delhi, India, 13 September 2012 – Invited to address the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders conference in New Delhi today, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was received by Dr Pradeep Chowbey.
His Holiness opened his remarks with the observation that as human beings we are all the same, physically, mentally and emotionally. We all want to be happy and successful, a wish we share from birth. He said it is on this basis that he always emphasises the oneness of humanity. In the face of this, differences between us are secondary. Violence seems to be part of human history, but it does not arise because of the things that unite us, rather it arises because we make too much of the differences between us. These become exaggerated to the point where we divide people into “them” and “us,” and it is this division that leads to bullying, cheating, lying and war. His Holiness said that when he was in Hawaii earlier this year he heard a local saying that contrasts with this division into “them” and “us” – “Your blood is my blood and your bone is my bone.” He liked it because what it means is, “Your suffering is my suffering and your happiness is my happiness.”
This kind of concern for others is not something sacred, but a practical source of peace and friendship. A real sense of concern for others breeds trust, which in turn leads to friendship and a sense of security. On the other hand the fear and unease that arises when we are beset by mistrust and suspicion because of our sense of “them” and “us” is not easily overcome by just closing your eyes or saying a prayer.
“We need to think about how we are all the same on a human level. Many of you are doctors and I think that when a patient comes to see you, you don’t concern yourself with his or her background, nationality or faith, you regard him or her as a patient, someone who needs treatment.
“My Tibetan physician, who treated me in Tibet, and who was a very nice person, spent 17-18 years in a Chinese prison after 1959. There was one prison warder who was particularly cruel to the Tibetan prisoners and he came to my doctor for medical advice. He later told me how he considered turning him down because of his bad conduct, but relented when he reminded himself that even this man was another human being in need.”
His Holiness remarked that all religious traditions talk about cultivating love, compassion and self-discipline and they are all intent on helping us try to become more responsible human beings. With regard to the delegates medical skills, he said,
“I have experience of your work. In the late ‘60s I fell ill with jaundice and my whole body turned yellow. This was the beginning of my gall stone problem. And although I have great faith in Tibetan medicine and take it regularly, I tried to deal with them this way, but after 15-20 years I gave up, that’s when Dr Chowbey here decided to operate. I really appreciate the relief it has given me and I really appreciate the relief and new life that all of you have given to thousands of others. This is the true implementation of love and compassion. The work you do, your use of modern technology, is wonderful, but please also pay attention to developing inner peace. If your mind is calm you can put your human skill and intelligence to good use, but if it is clouded with emotions you cannot function as well.”
His Holiness said he wasn’t familiar with the word obesity but understood that it was about being overweight. He joked that because he is a Buddhist monk he doesn’t eat dinner, so doesn’t face this problem. But he recalled a time years ago when he was giving a series of teachings at Harvard and that the American who drove his car was very overweight and complained about it. His Holiness couldn’t help noticing that he was constantly eating.
His Holiness concluded his talk, saying, “I am honoured to have been able to speak to this gathering of people dedicated to the welfare of others. Dr Chowbey asked me to come and I told him ‘I am at your disposal’ so I came.”
He then answered questions from the audience. Asked to define tolerance and to advise whether we should tolerate injustice, he said it was very important to understand that tolerance and forgiveness don’t mean that we should accept what is unjust. However, it is important to distinguish the agent from the action. Awareness of injustice doesn’t mean we should allow ourselves to develop negative feelings towards the perpetrator, as the story of His Holiness’s Tibetan physician shows. We must oppose injustice and take appropriate action to put a stop to it while retaining respect for the other human beings involved.
Another questioner asked what was the greatest challenge he had faced as Dalai Lama and he replied that right after coming into exile resettlement of Tibetan refugees and ensuring the education of their children took priority. However, after some time three clear purposes emerged. The first was the promotion of human values, secular ethics, with a view to the contribution they can make to increasing human peace and happiness. The second, as a Buddhist monk, was to work to encourage greater respect and harmony among the world’s religions, he said,
“Wherever I go I tell people that in India different religious traditions have been living together side by side in respect and harmony for 2-3000 years. And this is a reality not a dream, something in which India can lead by example.”
He said that his third purpose or commitment, as a Tibetan, was to the Tibetan struggle. However, since the first election of a Tibetan leader in 2001 he had been semi-retired. Then, after a new leader was elected last year, a young man, who was born and educated in India, then trained in law at Harvard University, he thought it was appropriate to retire. Accordingly, he not only devolved all his political responsibilities to the new leadership, but also brought the involvement of the Dalai Lamas in political affairs, a tradition started almost four centuries ago by the 5th Dalai Lama, to an end too.
At the conclusion of the function His Holiness was called upon to bestow his blessings on the assembly. He replied,
“I am a bit sceptical about what we call blessings. I believe the ultimate source of blessings is within us. A good motivation and honesty bring self-confidence, which attracts the trust and respect of others. Therefore the real source of blessings is in your own mind.”
After lunch, His Holiness left Delhi and flew to Dehra Dun, where he was met at the airport by Sakya Dagtri Rinpoche, representatives of the local Tibetan monasteries, Tibetan settlement officers and representatives of various other institutes and organizations. Arriving at Clement Town the local Tibetan population turned out to welcome him. He went first to the Mindrolling Labrang where he offered a scarf before the remains of the late Minling Trichen Rinpoche. Then he was welcomed in the temple of the great Lhabab Chorten at Mindrolling Monastery by Khorchen Rinpoche before retiring for the night.
Tomorrow, in addition to a busy programme of visits to local monasteries and other institutions, he will be teaching the first chapter of Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland in the Norling Park of the Dekyiling Tibetan Settlement.