Dalai Lama Brings Message of Compassion and Happiness
Jeff Langevin, May 11th, 2009
Most people head to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA to watch large men chase an oddly shaped ball while violently throwing each other to ground in a game commonly known as... football. But on Saturday, May 2nd, a much kinder, gentler event played out on the 50-yard line. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet was in town to give two public talks on Eastern religion and philosophy. The first on the Four Noble Truths (the basic tenets of Tibetan Buddhism) and the second on the Path to Peace and Happiness. Wrapping tightly into his robes in the chilly morning air, he was sheltering under an umbrella from the hot sun by afternoon.
His quick wit was readily apparent throughout his talk as he oscillated between serious and amusing topics. Poking fun at those who believe he has healing powers, he called the notion "silly". He referred to himself as, "just a human being," just like everyone else and joked that had he healing powers he wouldn't have needed a gall bladder operation last year. He described the only difference between himself and most other people as his calm mind which brings peace of mind and good physical health.
"90% of negativeness is mental perception", he explained. "Nowadays scientific research find indications that peace of mind, calm mind, is very crucial factor for health." His doctor describes his physical age as somewhere in his mid-sixties even though he's almost 74. His Holiness attributes his good physical state to his calm mind and feels that by changing our own mental perception, we can make our lives easier and more enjoyable.
Also important is helping others to achieve happier life through compassion, non-violence and the service of others. "I think every one appreciate warm-heartedness, compassionate attitude, friendly attitude," he explained. "If you do good for others you get benefit. If you do harm on other, then you get negative consequences. So therefore if possible help other, serve other as much as you can. If not, restrain from harming. At least restrain harming others."
Perhaps the most surprising thing His Holiness had to say during his talks came while discussing the current situation between China and Tibet. After describing how people in Tibet are often afraid to express their true feelings for fear of reprisal by the government, he went on to suggest that remaining as part of the Peoples Republic of China under certain circumstances might actually be in the best interest of Tibetans.
His Holiness went on to list those circumstances which are not insignificant, however. China would need to continue investing in infrastructure which Tibet would not have the finances to build on its own. Second is autonomy in local governance. Lastly is the opportunity to preserve their heritage, culture and religion without fear of oppression from the Chinese government.
While this part of his talk was probably the most sobering, it was also quite interesting considering the souring of relations between China and Tibet in the past couple of years. The Chinese government claims that over the past 50 years people are happier under Chinese rule. However, His Holiness counters that if this were true, the government of China should be proud to show this off to the world and invite people to come see it first-hand.
Unfortunately, the Chinese government's claim appears to be propaganda. In fact, most foreigners must be accompanied by a government-appointed guide while traveling in Tibet. And information flowing out of the Tibetan plateau is highly restricted by the government. However, His Holiness strongly urged people to go there, to study not only the people and their desire for autonomy, but also their thoughts about the infrastructure newly-built by the Chinese government. His Holiness went so far as to state that if it were determined that local people honestly were more happy now than they were 50 years ago before the Chinese took over control, he would give up his cause of a separate, free Tibet.
At one point, while speaking about the ramifications of violent response to others, he explained that "hatred, anger, violence can defeat others physical, but never their mind." It will be interesting to see if China eventually comes to this realization with regards to Tibetans. His Holiness did offer some hope when he suggested that even someone's worst enemy can eventually become their best friend if you build a happy society based upon warm-heartedness, respect and compassion for others. In order to achieve this ideal, change must start with the individual he explained. "We can change our world. I think change must come from individual level, then family level, then community level, then national, then… global level."
While preservation of Tibetan heritage and culture within the People's Republic of China may be a tough goal for the time being, the Tibetan Association of Boston is well on their way to doing just that locally. The proceeds from the Gillette event will be used to build a Tibetan Heritage Center in the Boston area where classes, meetings, and events can be held. While proceeds from the event will not cover the entirety of costs for the project, the approximately $440,373 generated (after expenses) should greatly aid the Center in becoming a reality. For information on how you can get involved or contribute to the project, contact the project secretary Tenley Palsang at email@example.com.
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