New Delhi, India – When American philanthropist Bobby Sager first met His Holiness the Dalai Lama 19 years ago he asked for a project to undertake and His Holiness suggested he help facilitate science education in Tibetan monasteries. This morning they met again when Sager accompanied 47 Youth Global Leaders to meet him.
Addressing them as respected brothers and sisters, His Holiness told them he was honoured to meet people committed to the common goal of human happiness.
“Yesterday, I mentioned that things change. It’s part of nature. Things that are bad don’t stay that way, but neither do things that are good. Things change due to the causes that brought them about, as well as other factors. No matter how serious things are, if we use our intelligence and think properly about them, not letting our intelligence come under the sway of our destructive emotions, our intelligence has the ability to see reality. When emotions interfere, we see only one aspect. When our minds are calm, our intelligence can see the whole reality.
“I am just one of the 7 billion human beings alive today and as such I try to promote human compassion based on a sense that all human beings are one. This way of thinking is of immense benefit to me. When I meet someone, with two eyes, one nose and so forth, I recognise them as physically, mentally and emotionally the same as me. I feel they are my sister or brother.
“As a Buddhist monk, I feel a responsibility to promote religious harmony. Killing each other in the name of religion, as we see these days, is unthinkable. All religious traditions convey a message of love, taking different approaches to suit people’s different dispositions. Their aim is for people to become more honest and more truthful. In India we see harmony prevail among all the religious traditions that flourish here. I’ve never heard, for example, of conflict between Sunnis and Shias in this country and in June Indian Muslims are convening a meeting to make that clear.
“I’m also a Tibetan, someone in whom the Tibetan people place their hope. But as far as political responsibility is concerned, I retired in 2001. Since I was a child, I’ve been aware that leaving all power in the hands of a regent or the Dalai Lama was wrong. After I accepted political responsibility in 1950 I set up a reform committee, but its success was limited because the Chinese wanted any changes that were made to be done their way. In 1960, after we arrived in India, we started to work to establish a democratic system and our first entirely elected leadership was achieved in 2001.
“Meanwhile, I speak up for the protection of the Tibetan environment, which, because so many great rivers rise on the Tibetan plateau, is important to the peoples of South and South-east Asia. But what most concerns me is the preservation of Tibetan culture, which essentially preserves the Indian Nalanda Tradition established in Tibet in the 8th century at the behest of the Tibetan King, Trisong Detsen. We have kept this tradition, with its focus on philosophy, psychology and logic, alive for more than one thousand years. This is an approach not found in other Buddhist countries.
“The 13th century Tibetan master, Sakya Pandita wrote about logic and we Tibetans studied this and the works of Dignaga and Dharmakirti. I attribute my present sharpness of mind to my training in logic.
“I am committed to trying to revive ancient Indian knowledge in modern India, because I believe this is the only country that could combine this learning with modern education. In the monastic universities re-established in South India we have about 10,000 monks and 1000 nuns trained in this age-old understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions.
“Science as we know it was not studied at Nalanda, but today it has assumed a great significance. Meetings between scientists and Tibetan Buddhist scholars and practitioners have been mutually beneficial. The Buddha taught two truths, conventional and ultimate truth, that scientists accept. Within the more than 300 volumes of translated Buddhist literature there is much more that scientists find of interest.”
When a member of the audience mentioned karma in her question, His Holiness responded that to blame what happens on karma, as if nothing can be done about it, is a lazy attitude. He told her, we should ask who makes this karma—the answer is, we do.
“Even if we’ve made bad karma, we can change it by creating good karma. We tend to make problems by being short-sighted. Human beings have a marvellous intelligence that enables us to change as a result of education. We need to look at things from different angles. We understand things by taking a scientific approach and investigating and analysing how they arise. People adopt different philosophical viewpoints because of their different dispositions. Even within Buddhism there are an array of philosophical point of view.
“These days, in democratic societies, people have a right to choose what religious tradition to follow. We can’t say that Buddhism or any other tradition is best any more than we can say that a particular medicine is the best.”
His Holiness was asked about artificial intelligence and he replied that there are many applications in which it is very helpful. However, since artificial intelligence is ultimately created by human intelligence he doesn’t envisage it taking over as some people fear. Consciousness is not limited to sensory functions; mental consciousness is sophisticated, subtle and powerful.
Finally, His Holiness was asked how to nurture kindness and gentleness.
“We can strengthen and enhance natural human qualities like these through education and training so that ultimately we develop the altruistic awakening mind of bodhichitta. As Shantideva writes in his ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’:
“Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy,
And whatever suffering there is in this world
All comes from desiring myself to be happy.
“If I do not actually exchange my happiness
For the sufferings of others,
I shall not attain the state of Buddhahood
And even in cyclic existence shall have no joy.
“Altruism is the ultimate source of happiness; self-centredness only yields anxiety and stress. Think of enemies as potentially your friends; think of all 7 billion human beings as part of one community.”