Bodhgaya, Bihar, India – It was another chilly, foggy Bodhgaya morning today as His Holiness the Dalai Lama took a short drive to the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) on the campus of Magadh University. He was received by the Director, Dr Vinita Sahay, and her colleagues, who invited him first of all to plant a sapling to commemorate his visit.
Before a gathering of 180 students, faculty and invited guests seated in an enclosed outdoor area, His Holiness was formally welcomed by one of the students, who summarized his four commitments. He was offered a shawl, a traditional token of esteem. He then released a souvenir book about the Institute. Signing the first copy, His Holiness wrote: “Knowledge combined with compassion leads to progress”.
In her opening remarks, Dr Vinita Sahay noted that the Institute is still relatively young, having been launched by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in 2015. She observed that each of the 20 IIMs in India has its own distinct identity. She described His Holiness as someone who conveys a message of peace, non-violence, religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion. She revealed that as India becomes an increasingly important player in the global economy, IIM Bodhgaya is working to expand the pool of managerial talent that will be needed in the future. She defined education as a tool for changing the world and achieving sustainable progress. She remarked that in today’s frenetic world, practices like mindfulness are very valuable.
“Your Holiness,” she said, “your teachings give us guidelines for what to do. You are the one setting us an example by cultivating warm-heartedness, compassion, forgiveness, and tolerance and sharing it with everybody. Of late, you have been talking about the value of ancient Indian knowledge. We are privileged to have you among us to address young Indian minds about their ancient traditions.”
His Holiness responded that he was very happy to share some of his experience with the young members of the audience.
“Firstly,” he observed, “we are all human beings. Like other sentient beings we want to be happy and don’t want suffering and yet many of the problems we face on this planet are own creation. Why? due to short-sightedness and narrow mindedness. However, it is basic human nature to be compassionate. We are social animals dependent on others, so it’s natural for us to show concern for others.
“Each individual’s future is dependent on others. In today’s modern world, technology has brought us together like one family. However, we persist in seeing each other in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’, despite our all belonging to one human community. It’s our responsibility to eliminate man-made problems like war. Although it is now the 21st century, an era of unparalleled communications, we still seem to think that the use of force is the solution to our problems. This is a mistake.
“There is widespread conflict in the Middle East. The world is full of poor people, yet vast amounts of money are spent on weapons. This is really very sad. Genuine peace and harmony will not be established by force. The growing gap between rich and poor could be closed if less money were spent on arms, which are only tools of destruction. Across the world people talk about peace, but peace will not be achieved just by praying for it. We have to make an effort to reduce violence and the use of weapons.
“We need to learn from Gandhi-ji’s use of non-violence. Problems must be solved through dialogue, taking a non-violent approach. This is India’s longstanding tradition. Great thinkers of the past like Mahavira and Buddha Shakyamuni upheld India’s ancient traditions of ‘ahimsa’ and ‘karuna’. These qualities are very relevant in today’s world. Gandhi showed the world how we can employ non-violence in everything we do; this is something the world needs to learn.
“India is the only nation that can combine modern education, which is largely oriented towards material goals, with ‘ahimsa’ and ‘karuna’ and an ancient understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions. The more compassionate your outlook, the more you can lead your life with transparency, self-confidence and inner strength.
“All major religious traditions carry a similar message of the importance of love. When people are motivated by loving-kindness, fighting between them is unthinkable. India’s admirable tradition of religious harmony is an example for others to follow. We may adopt different positions on a philosophical level, but, as India shows, all major religious traditions can live together peacefully and respectfully.
“India’s practices for cultivating a calmly abiding mind—shamatha, and insight into reality—vipashyana, have produced many great thinkers. Today, our conduct needs to be guided by non-violence and motivated by compassion. Because ancient Indian philosophy and psychology is driven by reason and logic there is resonance with physics, especially quantum physics, today. This approach, exemplified by the Nalanda Tradition, is being kept alive in Tibetan seats of learning re-established in South India.”
Before inviting the students to put questions to him, His Holiness urged them to examine how ancient Indian knowledge could broaden and enrich their studies today.
He was asked to explain what meditation is about and replied that ‘shamatha’ is concerned with developing single-pointed concentration. It focuses and strengthens the mind, which is commonly distracted by the sensory input. This is important because destructive emotions like anger, frustration and fear, as well as positive emotions like compassion, are part of our mental rather than our sensory consciousness. ‘Vipashyana’ or insight into reality involves analysis, steadily thinking things through.
His Holiness went on to explain that frustration comes about when we entertain unrealistic expectations. Therefore, he recommended analysing situations from many different angles to understand what is actually feasible. It’s a matter of using intelligence. He conceded that desire can be a positive force because without it there’d be no progress. However, it’s necessary to be realistic about what you can achieve and be contented with that.
He noted that self-centredness gives rise to anxiety and other problems. It reduces our sense of compassion and with it our peace of mind. He advised his listeners to read the eighth chapter of Shantideva’s ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’, which provides a wonderful explanation of altruism.
His Holiness stressed that while it’s helpful to regret your mistakes, to be regretful to the point of becoming demoralized doesn’t help. Regret has its place. Recognizing your mistakes is good and regretting them is also good. But it’s important to retain a sense of self-confidence. Once you feel you’re useless and good for nothing, you’re likely to waste the opportunity of this precious human life.
Dr Sabyasachi Mohapatra offered words of thanks. Before he left the stage, His Holiness once again advised the students that if they can revive ancient Indian knowledge of the mind in India first, they’ll be able to set an example of how to bring about a more peaceful world.