His contagious chuckle and humble demeanour bely the depth of his wisdom and the indelible impact he has had on our times. The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzing Gyatso has been a transformative ambassador for peace, following in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi and his spiritual master, the great Gautam Buddha. In a session commemorating the 29th anniversary of His Holiness receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, hosted by the Economic Times India Leadership Council, His Holiness spoke on an array of topics, including the poignant question of how a dangerously fragmented humanity could come together before it self-destructs. What followed was an insightful glimpse into the inner workings of one of our greatest living minds.
The Compassionate Mind
“Dear brothers and sisters”, the great leader tellingly began. With this greeting he explained he established on crucial truth, the importance of brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity. He talked about how except for natural disasters most of our troubles today were self-created. The basic nature of the human mind is compassion. We are all born from our mothers and in a few years that becomes our image of affection. Without this affection we cannot survive.
Even in our daily experience, he said, if one human being smiles, this action evokes a smile in response and creates happiness. We don’t need to know each other to respond to each other with love. His Holiness talked about how we come from one God, our father. And that father is infinite love. We all carry energy from this father. This he said was cause for great hope in spite of the divisiveness of our times. This was the essence of every religious tradition. And this basic human nature of compassion as opposed to anger is to him, the secret of connecting 7 billion people across the planet in one human fraternity.
The mind’s eye
Responding to questions from the audience the Dalai Lama also offered great insights and the mindful approach to several problems of our age, from disarmament to modern day stress. Offering a solution to dealing with anxiety he invited us to not be too close to a problem. To look at it from a wider perspective and from multiple points of view. The bigger picture often reveals a problem as an opportunity. He also said if a conflict or problem was unsolvable then after deeply analysing it the best recourse was to accept it, as sadness and worry were counterproductive.
The Dalai Lama explained how rigorous adherence to the principles of logic and the constant quest for truth were the very cornerstone of his faith. “The Buddha himself said, oh my follower, scholars and monks should not accept my teachings without investigation and experiment.” he stated. He said that the institution of the Dalai Lama was not as important to his faith as study was and talked about how he was exhorting every Himalayan monastery to become a knowledge centre. This constant questioning and analysis he said, allowed Buddhism to evolve and walk hand in hand with science.
On the motivation for war His Holiness said, “A weapon is harmless without someone to use it. It is merely kept like decoration. The need is for inner disarmament”. Talking about how narrow-minded thinking was at the root of religious and nationalistic wars, he exhorted educators to delve into their rich pasts to discover inner peace. Pointing to the example of the European Union, he said he hoped eventually common purpose would overtake nationalistic identity to create bigger continental zones.
Citing the common Nalanda tradition of Buddhism, the ancient past and large populations of China, India and Japan, he said that he dreamed of an Asian collective. He said India has great potential to create a lasting impact by reinstating the importance of internal education that is focussed on managing emotions and understanding philosophy. India, he said has a great lineage of tolerance where faith respected even Nihilists as sages. He said the lesson to be learned was to argue philosophically but to respect and recognise the humanity of different believers. In an interconnected economy, he said the time was now to come together in a common cause.
The great leader ended the conversation by reminding us of our own 3000-year old tradition of the permanence of the ‘atma’ or soul. He invited the audience to examine every tradition, whether that of self-creation through karma, or the Judeo Christian tradition of heaven and hell through the lens of it’s usefulness to our own moral principles. To him, non-believers who lived by a moral code are as spiritual as believers.