Dalai Lama: His Religion is Kindness

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Dalai Lama’s message of peace and brotherhood finds relevance amidst world fiasco

By: Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee

He said, “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” (Dalai Lama XIV, in The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Kindness: An Anthology of Writings By and About the Dalai Lama).

His parents were small farmers who mostly grew barley, buckwheat and potatoes. During his early childhood, his family was one of the twenty or so making a precarious living from the land in Tibet. As a very young boy he would visit the coop to collect eggs with his mother, and then stay to sit in the hens’ nest and make clucking noises. Another favourite occupation of his as an infant was to pack things in a bag as if to embark on a long journey. Once he was going to Lhasa, and he insisted that he be allowed always to sit at the head of the table. Later it was said to be an indication that he was destined for greater things. His predecessor, Thupten Gyatso, the thirteenth Dalai Lama, had died aged fifty-seven in 1933. During the mummification process, the head was discovered to have turned from facing south to the northeast. During the winter of 1940, Lhamo Thondup was taken to the Potala Palace, where he was officially installed as the spiritual leader of Tibet.

He was born on July 6, 1935 to a Tibetan farming family in the small village of Takster, located in the province of Amdo. He was named Lhamo Thondup which literally means ‘Wish fulfilling Goddess’.

A recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and the US Congressional Gold Medal in 2006, Time magazine named him one of the “Children of Mahatma Gandhi” and Gandhi’s spiritual heirs to nonviolence. In these days of physical distancing, he tweeted recently a few days ago which sums up his philosophy of life that he propagated all his life.

Dalai Lama expressed his faith in life in a beautiful way, “Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” The young Dalai Lama tried to evade a full-scale military takeover of Tibet by China on the one hand and placating the growing resentment among Tibetan resistance fighters against the Chinese aggressors on the other. He made a historic visit to China from July 1954 to June 1955 and met with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, including Chou Enlai, Zhu Teh and Deng Xiaoping. From November 1956 to March 1957, he visited India to participate in the 2500th Buddha Jayanti celebrations. On 17 March 1959 during a consultation with the Nechung Oracle, unfortunately he was given an explicit instruction to leave the country. Three weeks after escaping Lhasa, on 31 March 1959, His Holiness and his entourage reached the Indian border from where they were escorted by Indian guards to the town of Bomdila in the present day Arunachal Pradesh. The Indian government had already agreed to provide asylum to His Holiness and his followers in India. Soon after his arrival in Mussoorie on 20 April 1959, His Holiness met with the Indian Prime Minister and the two talked about rehabilitating the Tibetan refugees. On 10 March 1960 just before leaving for Dharamsala with the eighty or so officials who comprised the Central Tibetan Administration, Dalai Lama made a statement on the first anniversary of the Tibetan People’s Uprising. “On this first occasion, I stressed the need for my people to take a long-term view of the situation in Tibet. As to the future, I stated my belief that, with truth, justice and courage as our weapons, we Tibetans would eventually prevail in regaining freedom for Tibet”. The Chinese press has criticized the Dalai Lama for his close ties with India. His 2010 remarks at the International Buddhist Conference in Gujarat stating that he was “Tibetan in appearance, but an Indian in spirituality” didn’t go well with China. In 2008, the Dalai Lama said for the first time that the territory India claims and administers as part of Arunachal Pradesh is part of India, citing the disputed 1914 Simla Accord. He said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

The ‘My Spiritual Autobiography’ provides a vivid and moving portrait of the Dalai Lama’s life journey that is personal in tone but universal in scope. He explores three phases or commitments of his spiritual life – as a human being, as a Buddhist monk, and as the Dalai Lama – each of which has made him more dedicated to exploring and teaching human values and inner happiness, promoting harmony among all religions, and advocating for the civil rights and well-being of the Tibetan people. In The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama the Dalai Lama addresses children directly, sharing lessons of peace and compassion, told through stories of his own childhood. Following in the Buddha’s Footsteps – in his fourth volume of Library of Wisdom and Compassion he presents the substance of spiritual practice – topics that form the core of Buddhist practice. In Life of My Teacher: A Biography of Kyabjé Ling Rinpoché the Dalai Lama tells the life story of his remarkable teacher, Ling Rinpoché, who remained a powerful anchor for him from childhood and into his emergence as a global spiritual leader. John Dunne and Daniel Goleman explained his concept of Ecology and Ethics in the book His idea of Ecology, Ethics, and Interdependence: The Dalai Lama in Conversation with Leading Thinkers on Climate Change. The book explores the nature of climate, and humans actions that change it; the nature of our minds, which give rise to these actions; and the individual and collective behaviours that could shift our actions from destructive to regenerative. In Happiness the Dalai Lama opens a window into the attainment of absolute happiness in day to day life from the realization of mental peace to the experience of illness, suffering, death, pain, pleasure, desire and contentment, Science and Philosophy. In April 2015, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu met in Dharamsala for a conversation about joy. The Book of Joy chronicles that discussion, and spreads the underlying message that to experience joy, you must bring joy to others. This is recorded by Dan Goleman in the book A Force For Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World. He dreamt of a world that is beyond the boundary of religion. In Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World the Dalai Lama first proposed an approach to ethics based on universal rather than religious principles. With Beyond Religion he elaborates and deepens his vision for the nonreligious way-a path to lead an ethical, happy, and spiritual life.

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. Today the voice of Dalai Lama is most needed when China is trying to show its aggression forgetting the Panchsheel Treaty of 25th April 1954 emphasized by the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Premier Zhou Enlai in a broadcast speech made at the time of the Asian Prime Ministers Conference in Colombo, which focused on five principles: i) Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty ii) Mutual non-aggression iii) Mutual non-interference iv) Equlity and Mutual benefit v) Peaceful co-existence.

“Even in these days of physical distancing, Dalai Lama’s tweet is meaningful that stresses the need for closeness between humans, “Wherever I go, I always feel the people I meet are the same as human beings like me. Scientists have also discovered that we human beings are social animals. We have a sense of community. Right from birth we have the same feelings of closeness to those around us.”

(The writer is a Columnist and an Associate Professor and Head of Post-Graduate Dept. of English, Dum Dum Motijheel College. He can be reached at [email protected])

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