His Holiness the Dalai Lama Awarded Honorary Doctorates in Connecticut and New York
October 20, 2012 2:50 pmNew York, USA, 19 October 2012 – Steady rain was falling this morning when His Holiness the Dalai Lama drove to the O’Neill Center, Danbury, to attend a breakfast reception for University Faculty and organising members. He spoke briefly and outlined his life commitments: the promotion of human values to solve human problems and the fostering of inter-religious harmony. He said all religions convey the same message of love and compassion and that it is possible for religious practitioners to live together peaceably as India shows.
Among questions from the floor, His Holiness was asked what advice he gives world leaders he meets. He mentioned a Ladakhi student recently asking him about how the world should respond to Iran. He told him that it’s complicated and even if he had a view it might not reach them, and if they heard it they might not heed it, so it’s better to remain silent. He was asked can change take place in the world without a change of heart and he replied education about moral ethics, from kindergarten to university is the way to go. This materialistic society was built on the basis of education, so we should be able to build a system more concerned with inner values through education too.
In the auditorium of the same building, Richard Gere once again introduced His Holiness to an audience of 3500. He spoke of the fragility of our lives, the softness of our hearts, but also our great good fortune to have His Holiness among us. University President James Schmotter presented His Holiness with an honorary doctorate in liberal humanities for his work in spreading peace and compassion in the world. His Holiness responded,
“I appreciate this honorary degree, especially as I haven’t studied to earn it. The first time I received such a degree was in 1956 from the Sanskrit University in Varanasi, India.”
Beginning his talk on Advice for Daily Life, he said,
“I usually share with my friends the suggestion that we should not place all our hopes for a happy life on money, material development and its values. I know some very well-off, well educated people who have all they need, yet remain unhappy. I believe that to ensure that individuals, families and society are happy, we need to encourage a full education system that includes instruction about inner values.”
He explained that inner peace means you remain calm whatever is going on around you. It is linked to self-confidence and a calm mind. Without it we easily develop a sense of insecurity, fear and mistrust, to counter which we need a sense of concern for others instead.
“We need to think along these lines in our daily lives,” he said, “inner peace depends on warm-heartedness and concern for others’ well being. This is in our own interest. When you get up in the morning, promise yourself to follow this aim in mind. At the end of the day review how you did. If you did well, rejoice, if you made a mistake, criticise yourself and resolve not to repeat it. Over days, weeks and months these moral principles will become part of your life.”
He reiterated that love and compassion, tolerance and forgiveness are all based on having a sense of loving kindness. If we feel an urge to do harm, we restrain ourselves and practise self-discipline, which means we protect ourselves in our own interest.
Following lunch, His Holiness drove through heavy rain from Danbury down to New York City. At Hunter College, he was received by President Jennifer J Raab and escorted to the Kaye Playhouse where approximately 600 Chinese students, artists, academics and other professionals were waiting to hear him. He joined a panel consisting of Prof. Ming Xia, Professor of Political Science and Ho-Fung Hung, Associate Professor of Sociology and moderated by Prof. Peter Kwong. He began with his customary greeting,
“Brothers and sisters in general and Chinese brothers and sisters in particular, I’m very happy to meet such a large number of you once again. When I came before I still bore political responsibility for Tibet, but now I have completely retired. Although it’s not possible for me to retire from being Dalai Lama.”
He said he considers himself to be one among the seven billion human beings on the planet, none of whom want problems. All seven billion want to lead a peaceful life.
“I want a happy life and you want a happy life. The more you become concerned about others, the greater your inner strength. Too often we are beset by suspicion, mistrust, jealousy, fear and anger. But once you begin to regard others as your brothers and sisters you develop a sense of self-confidence. You can be more transparent, which brings trust, friendship and a more harmonious society. “
He remarked that China and Tibet have long and close links and that both have to live side by side. Tibetans need Chinese help to develop, but Chinese too need help. Tibetans have a rich tradition of Buddhism. The person who played the principal role in introducing Buddhism to Tibet, Shantarakshita, was a leading philosopher and logician. As a result Tibetan Buddhism consists of a very thorough understanding of Buddhist philosophy, logic, epistemology and the workings of the mind. It is on the basis of this knowledge that His Holiness considers Tibetans may be able to help Chinese.
He said that while Buddhism may make a contribution to creating a more truthful and compassionate society, religion alone may not achieve change. That also requires reliance on common sense and scientific findings, encouraging the development of warm-heartedness here and now. This approach His Holiness refers to as secular ethics, using secular to indicate impartial respect for all religion rather than its dismissal. He noted that the wonderful egalitarian values of original Marxism, focused on the uplift of the poor and equal distribution of wealth and the means of production had been spoiled by a lack of moral principles. Work needs to be done to restore them.
To a question about nationalism, His Holiness wondered if it isn’t too mixed up with attachment. He recalled the Chilean physicist who told him that he resisted attachment to his own scientific field because it involves bias and a biased mind cannot focus clearly on its object or see reality for what it is. A lack of healthy objectivity about feelings of nationalism or ideology is dangerous. His Holiness has noticed with admiration that in Germany and Japan, where people suffered terribly during the Second World War, there is no sense of resentment towards those who defeated them. In this context, regularly harping on about the Nanking massacre isn’t helpful. A television interviewer once asked His Holiness a question about the past and he told him there was nothing to be gained by raking it up.
Asked how to bridge the sense of mistrust between Tibet and China, His Holiness recalled that when Hu Jintao became President he proclaimed a slogan about a more harmonious society. However, the method he employed was based on the use of force, which brings fear and undermines the necessary sense of trust. The goal was good but the way of going about it quite wrong. His Holiness also said that too much censorship results in unrealistic views. The Chinese people have a right to know reality and once they know it are capable of exercising their own judgement. His second point concerned raising the Chinese judiciary to international standards.
Finally, a questioner wanted to know what His Holiness will do when democracy emerges in China, Tibet and China become freer and Tibetans return to Tibet. He said he will continue to promote human values and inter-religious harmony, adding that as a strict Buddhist he encourages others to become twenty-first century Buddhists not so caught up in rituals and costumes, but more concerned with what the teachings mean.
In the Hunter College Assembly Hall, President Jennifer Raab awarded His Holiness another honorary doctorate. Three students, one Tibetan, one Chinese, and one Indian participated in giving him the robes and presenting the certificate. He was fulsome in his response.
“I appreciate receiving this degree, not because I attach any importance to myself, but because it is a recognition of my small contribution to humanity, which gives me encouragement. Thank you. I assure you that for the next 20 or 30 years, my body, speech and mind will continue to be dedicated to the well-being of others. I will continue to try to spread awareness that warm-heartedness is important for peace; a secular approach based on common sense and scientific findings.”
Among questions he was asked was what compassion means in a cut-throat society like that in the USA. He replied that he usually advises that when you encounter a mad dog, saying ‘Compassion, compassion … ‘ won’t do much good; you have to run.
“I don’t think 300 million Americans are really ready to cut each others’ throats. Competition when it involves a wish to be first, to be the best is positive and good, but when it involves undermining and causing trouble for your opponent it’s a problem.”
Lastly, he was asked again how to bridge the gap between China and Tibet. He said,
“Try to reach out. After the Tiananmen incident many Chinese began to reach out to us. We have tried to dispel the impression put about by the authorities that after 2008 Tibetans are against the Han Chinese. I have advised Tibetans whenever they can to invite Chinese and make friends with them. Only when we have established friendly relations, can we discuss what needs to be done.”