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The Dalai Lama: Peace is possible

I recently traveled to Calgary, Alberta, where I was fortunate to attend an address by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso.

His Holiness opened his address by talking about connection, stating he was very happy to have this interaction.

At one point in the program prior to his address, we were asked to drape the khata (traditional white scarf) around our neck, and hold the ends of the khata of the person next to us, so we were all connected.

His Holiness began by saying that some come to see him out of curiosity, to see what this is all about, “and that is perfectly alright.” Another person, he said, may come with great expectations. “I have nothing to offer this person. This person may go away disappointed.\ Some think I have magic powers. That is nonsense! Some think I have healing powers. Myself, I am sceptical of (claims of) healing powers.” He described his gall bladder surgery last year, making the point, “This makes it very clear I have no healing powers!”

His main message was how to achieve peace in this 21st century:

What is true compassion? What is peace?

Peace is not the absence of violence. Peace is when you deliberately refrain from violence with a certain degree of determination. Restraint comes from respect. Willpower on the basis of self-confidence. Violence is an act of anger, of hatred. So, peace is an act of compassion. His Holiness emphasized that peace is a deliberate act of compassion, that begins with a true desire to respect one another. The Cold War, he said, may have looked like a kind of peace, but was maintained through fear, so it was not genuine peace

External, long-lasting, genuine peace must come through inner peace. Peace is very necessary.

It is the very nature of violence that once you commit to violence, it is irreversible. For example: a government such as the U.S. government under Bush. “I respect Bush,” said His Holiness, “I love him. I believe he had a sincere desire to bring democracy to Iraq, to Afghanistan, but war, the very method, is violence. Violent methods only give way to violent consequences”

Firstly, violence is contrary to human nature.

Secondly, violence is irreversible.

Thirdly, we must think of the whole world as “we.” Destruction of your neighbor is destruction of yourself.

So, war is outdated.

We need some method to tackle disputes and disagreements. This method is dialogue. For dialogue, we need willpower. To draw willpower, we must realize the whole world is part of “we.” We need a clear awareness that others are a part of “we.” Our own interest depends on “them.” With a compassionate attitude, you can conduct yourself transparently, openly, honestly.

Friendship. We are social animals.

How to develop inner peace? From self-confidence.

Once your own mental state is calm, there is not much effect from external situations.

Can we develop compassion? Yes. Because we all come from our mother, from tremendous affection. In our blood is the seed of compassion. We have by nature aggression; this is necessary for survival. But compassion is much more dominant in our life. Our intelligence, education, is sometimes also used for aggressiveness, not used properly.

Students and teachers, and parents, need to pay more attention to inner values, pay more attention to warm-heartedness.

This has nothing to do with religion. We must have universal ethics, secular ethics without touching religion. In India, secularism does not mean a rejection of religion, but rather respect of all religions, and also respect for non-believers. We are the same human beings. I want a happy life, you want a happy life. On that level we can work together, make a common effort for a better world.

Addressing the young people seated directly in front of him, he said, “You belong to the 21st century. Please think seriously about peace, inner peace. Awareness, materialize reality, compassion. Experiment in your life. Once you develop conviction, then practice seriously.”

He followed this theme in the question-and-answer session following his address.

A man who was awaiting the birth of his first child asked what would be the most important first lesson to teach his child. His Holiness blurted, “I don’t know,” then after thought, replied, “I would say it is too early. Your child is not yet born. At four or five years, you will see the nature of your child.” Upon further reflection, he added, “But please, provide the maximum affection.” He said it has been proven that touching, physical affection during the infant’s first months enlarges the brain capacity.

A 13-year old girl asked, “What do you do when you have to make difficult decisions in your life?” He responded, “First, think very carefully. Then, ask other people — friends. Sometimes, in my position, I also ask the opinion of state oracles. Sometimes, I use divination. In your case, it is probably not necessary to consult state oracles, probably not necessary to use divination. Think carefully, consider other opinions. Look from six dimensions, and you will make the right decision.”

Another question: “How are you not overwhelmed by the magnitude of the suffering we cause one another as humans?” His Holiness explained that Buddhists believe suffering is the nature of human beings. If you give up hope, that is the true failure. Always have optimism.

The final question posed was, “What is the one thing all of us here at this event can do? With his characteristic sense of humor, the Dalai Lama’s immediate response was, “More light would be nice — so I can see everybody’s faces. Then I feel I am communicating with human beings.” He beamed when the organizers finally requested the lights be turned up, and he could see the faces of the 16,000 people who came to see and listen to him.