Malmö, Sweden – Yesterday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama flew directly from Delhi to Sweden. The weather on arrival at Malmö airport was windy and wet; nevertheless he was given a warm welcome by Birthe Müller and Ann Svensén, Chair and Secretary General of IM respectively before driving into the city. IM is a development organisation fighting and exposing poverty and exclusion. It was founded in 1938 by Britta Holmström and now works in thirteen countries worldwide focussing on people´s right to education, good health and the ability to sustain a life in dignity.
During a brief meeting with members of the media this morning, His Holiness was introduced by Ann Svensén, who pointed out that this year sees the 80th anniversary of IM’s founding, but also 50 years of partnership with Tibetans. She mentioned IM’s launch in 2016 of Humanium Metal, a metal made from recycled illegal weapons. “We are very happy to have you here,” she said, “and look forward to hearing what you have to say.”
“Firstly our relations are neither political, nor related to money,” His Holiness began. “Our relations began in the way that when human beings find themselves in difficulties, others come to their aid. As scientists say, basic human nature is compassionate and IM is an organization that puts compassion into action. When we Tibetans first came into exile the future looked dark, but many individuals and organizations offered us help—IM was among them, which I appreciate.
“One of my goals is to create a better world by encouraging humanity to be more compassionate. On a mental level we can generate compassion, but if on a physical level we limit the availability of weapons it will be effective in reducing violence and harm. Therefore, our goal should be a demilitarized world. If we adopt a vision and make an effort at the start of the 21st century we can make this a happier era than came before without war and killing. Problems will still arise, but we need to address them differently. We need to engage in dialogue to resolve them rather than resorting to the use of force.”
The first question put to His Holiness sought his advice following the recent polarized election result in Sweden. He replied that to give such advice he would have to study the situation more deeply which he has been unable to do. He hoped that the impression of Sweden as a prosperous, peaceful country where the gap between rich and poor is relatively small would continue to prevail.
“I don’t admire the USA for its nuclear weapons but for its advocacy of democracy, freedom and liberty, I hope here in Sweden you can keep these values alive.
“Recently large numbers of refugees, many from the Middle East, have fled to Europe in fear for their lives. They have been given shelter and support, but the long-term solution should include providing training and education, particularly for their children, so they can return to rebuild their own countries when peace has been restored.”
Asked about the hate dispersed through social media His Holiness remarked, “We are all the same as human beings and I am trying to educate people in understanding that the ultimate source of happiness is a warm heart and a calm mind. We need to pay more attention to peace of mind.”
Another questioner wanted to know if His Holiness was disappointed that fewer Presidents and Prime Ministers were prepared to meet him as China has grown as an economic power. He answered that on the one hand he is not disappointed because his main interest is to meet ordinary people and on the other, since 2001, when Tibetans first achieved an elected leadership, he has retired from political responsibility. What’s more he has put an end to the tradition whereby Dalai Lamas serve as political as well as spiritual leaders.
Asked if he worries about climate change, His Holiness replied that he has observed the decline in snowfall where he lives. Challenged to say what we can do, he noted that at one time the river running through Stockholm no longer supported any fish because of pollution by factories. He pointed out that we can make a difference if we change our behaviour. Once the factories ceased polluting the river, fish returned. He stated that working together, as stipulated in the Paris accord, is essential.
His Holiness agreed with another questioner that cutting back on the manufacture and sale of weapons is crucial to world peace. He expressed the hope that Nobel Peace Laureates would give this their support. However, he recalled a resolution by fellow Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome several years ago to eliminate nuclear weapons and his own suggestion that a timetable be set and countries possessing these weapons held to it, but nothing happened. His Holiness mentioned that he has asked President Obama and Indian Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi to take up the cause.
In an auditorium known as Malmö Live His Holiness was welcomed and introduced to the audience of 1200 by Kattis Ahlstrom, a Swedish journalist and television presenter. She invited him first to listen to songs performed gently by Lisa Ekdal and with great zest by Rickard Soderberg, which he enjoyed. Before beginning his talk, he asked for more light on the audience so he could see the faces of the people he was talking to.
“Brothers and sisters, we are all the same in being human. Whether we are Swedish or Tibetan is of secondary value. We are physically, mentally and emotionally the same. We all want to live a happy life and yet many of the problems we face, bullying, cheating and poverty, are made by human beings. At the same time, as social animals, we depend on the community to survive. Therefore, we have a responsibility to solve such problems and have to work to ensure the well-being of others.
“We need friends and friendship is based on trust, which comes about when you show concern for others’ welfare. From the simple point of view of self-interest we need to develop greater concern for others.
“In the course of serious talks with scientists over the last nearly 40 years about cosmology, physics, neurobiology and psychology, I have seen experiments involving pre-verbal infants. They are shown animations illustrating someone helping another person and someone else obstructing another’s efforts. The infants show clear approval of the helpful behaviour and regret when they see someone being harmful or obstructive. From this it is concluded that basic human nature is compassionate.
“The warm-heartedness of compassion dispels any sense of suspicion and instils that confidence that allows you to conduct yourself honestly and truthfully. All 7 billion human beings owed their birth to their mother and then depended on her kindness to survive. In my own case my first teacher of compassion was my mother.
“I always think of myself as just another human being, not as someone special or as the 14th Dalai Lama. Whoever I meet, I greet with a smile. In my day to day practice I think of all beings as dear to me, which is why I start my talks—‘Brothers and sisters…’ To emphasize differences of nationality, race or religion between us, just leads to problems, when we are fundamentally all the same.
“I also highlight the importance of inter-religious harmony. The fighting and killing we see today in the name of religion is unthinkable. In India, despite great diversity, we see religious harmony thrives.
“We can look to our own experience. Families whose members love and trust each other are happy, even if they are not well-off. Families whose members are suspicious of each other are unhappy even if they are wealthy. I’ve noticed that young women spend time and money on cosmetics to enhance their looks, but no matter how well made up, if your face is angry no one will find it attractive.
“In our early days in exile a Tibetan monk official I knew well disrobed and married. I once teased him about his new wife’s plain looks and he told me that her face might not be special, but her inner beauty was remarkable. I was left with nothing to say, but I learned that inner beauty, warm-heartedness, is the real key to a sound marriage.”
Kattis Ahlstrom read out questions submitted by members of the audience to His Holiness. The first concerned refugees coming to Europe and he reiterated what he had said earlier to members of the media that it is good to offer help in the short term. However, in the longer term most refugees want to return to the countries they have fled. What’s important is the restoration of peace there and giving them, especially the youth, training to be able to rebuild their countries, but also being realistic about what help you can give.
“We Tibetan refugees have been 60 years in exile, but our ambition is to return and restore our country. In exile in India we have worked to educate our children and to keep our language, identity and culture alive with the hope of restoring them in our homeland when conditions allow.”
Asked how to deal with hatred in society, His Holiness noted that human beings with their sophisticated language and marvellous intelligence are the only beings who engage in war, which is systematic violence. Predators like lions and tigers only attack other creatures when they are hungry. If, as in a zoo, they are well fed they are no threat to other animals.
He remarked that one of the inadequacies of modern education is its inability to teach how to achieve peace of mind. Since physical hygiene is taught to preserve physical health, learning to tackle our negative emotions by implementing emotional hygiene would help students become mentally fit and establish inner peace. He said the education system should take responsibility for inculcating inner values and moral principles in a secular way. He added that it is his belief that India has great potential for combining modern education with ancient Indian understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions.
Answering a question about optimism His Holiness declared that if efforts to create a better, more peaceful world were begun now with the education and training of the next generation real change might be seen in about 30 years. With regard to Tibet he mentioned that he is not seeking independence although in the past it was one among three independent empires—China, Mongolia and Tibet. Tibetans could benefit from remaining with the People’s Republic of China if the Chinese authorities respected Tibetan identity, culture and language as specified in the Chinese constitution.
Birthe Müller thanked His Holiness for coming, presented him with a gift and invited him to wave to her grandchildren watching from the balcony.
His Holiness joined supporters of IM for lunch. Ann Svensén spoke again about humanium metal and the beautiful things—bracelets and such ornaments, watches, spinning tops and other toys—it is being used to create. She also mentioned the symbol of non-violence, a pistol with a barrel tied in a knot that is to be made in various sizes from humanium metal. She welcomed His Holiness and all the guests.
In his final remarks His Holiness thanked his hosts for lunch. “Food generates physical energy,” he pointed out, “but physical energy without the guidance of inner peace can be dangerous. Since external disarmament needs to be accompanied by inner disarmament I really appreciate the efforts this organization, IM, is taking to bring about peace in the world.”
After posing for photographs with friends and supporters of IM, His Holiness retired for the day. Tomorrow, he will address students of Malmö University.