May 24th 2012
Huy, Belgium, 23 May 2012 – Before leaving his hotel for the teaching venue in Udine, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave an interview to Dr Sandro Petrone of the Italian television channel RAI. Asked, in the context of an earthquake in Bologna a couple of days ago, what advice he would give people who have suffered natural disasters, His Holiness repeated what he told people he met when he visited Fukushima, Japan, after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident there.
“The tragedy has already taken place, but your energy should not flag as a result. You must restore your self-confidence and work towards recovery and rebuilding, just as Japan rebuilt itself from the ashes of the Second World War.”
He went on to say that people faced with financial crisis must not wilt and lose hope, because being a man-made problem, logically human ingenuity must be able to find a way to solve it. Those who have the support of an affectionate family, good friends and can take a more holistic view of the situation would not feel so desolate.
Regarding the tragic self-immolations that have taken place in Tibet, His Holiness said,
“This is politically very sensitive just now and the Chinese authorities choose to blame the ‘reactionary Dalai group’. However, it’s worth noting that such events did not take place before the Chinese came to Tibet. Chinese leaders should investigate not only what is happening in Tibet, but more important why it is happening.”
He recalled that when a famous Chinese Buddhist Monastery came under threat from the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, the abbot committed self-immolation to protect it and his gesture was effective. To a question about whether the hard-liners would prevail in China, His Holiness replied, “No”, citing the recent case of Bo Xilai, a hard-liner well-versed in hypocrisy, who mouthed socialist virtues, while preferring money and what it brought. He said he has been impressed by Prime Minister Wen Xiabao’s pronouncement’s about the need for political reform.
Welcomed to the Palasport Primo Carnera by Rector Prof Cristiana Compagno, His Holiness remarked how happy and honoured he felt to be addressing a group of young students who truly belong to the twenty-first century.
“My generation belongs to the twentieth century and that century is already over. The twenty-first century, to which you belong is still only eleven years old. Time moves on and nothing can stop it, but whether we put our time to good use or waste it is up to us.”
The twentieth century was the most important period in human history in terms of the developments and discoveries that took place, but it was also an era of immense bloodshed. Since His Holiness was born, he said, the second Sino-Japanese War was followed by the Second World War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War during which many tens of millions died. He mentioned being shocked during his visits to the sites of the nuclear bombings in Japan, where a wristwatch stopped at 8.15 and a bunch of needles melted into one piece by the instantaneous heat were among stark reminders of the suffering and destruction war brings.
“If war had brought about a better world, it might be justified, but it’s not clear that it did. Violence never really solves problems, which can only, in the end, be done through dialogue. Peace does not mean there will be no more problems, but when they arise, we must adopt a humane approach and enter into dialogue.”
His Holiness then drew the logical conclusion that since we will in future be able to solve our problems through dialogue, we should work towards a complete demilitarization, military forces dispersed and the arms’ industry closed down, with its resources put to more constructive use.
“I want to share this hope with people like you, who represent the future. I and my generation may not live to see this hope fulfilled, but from heaven or hell we’ll be watching to see how you get on.”
The basis for hope for such change is the restoration of ethics and human values, which needs to be done in a secular context. Here, secularism does not mean dispensing with or showing disrespect for religion and spirituality, rather – in the Indian tradition – it means showing respect impartially for all religion and all sentient beings.
His Holiness asked for questions and the first was whether it is possible that a future Dalai Lama might be a woman. He answered that since the purpose of the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation is to serve other people, as he told a Paris magazine in the 1980s, a female reincarnation was possible. He joked that if this happened she would be very attractive in order to be more effective. He also noted that whereas war heroes and dictators have tended to be men, our present time calls for different qualities, such as compassion and understanding, qualities that come more naturally to women. In other replies to students’ questions, His Holiness made it clear that from a social and economic point of view he still has sympathy for Marxism, but at the same time he strongly believes in the value of democracy.
The organizers of the three public events addressed by His Holiness in Udine expressed their gratitude to Geshe Lobsang Phende for his help in realizing their wishes and thanked His Holiness for his the inspiration he had brought. With regard to the financial arrangements for the events, because they wanted to offer people the chance to attend for free if they needed to, they asked for donations instead of a fixed fee. Expenses were met from those donations and what remained will be divided, with 30% being given to the organizers to use as they see fit, 30% to worthy local causes and 40% to the Dalai Lama trust.
His Holiness then drove to Centro di Accoglienza Ernesto Balducci, Zugliano, a centre that gives help to refugees, where he was given a warm welcome, with a choir singing, and offered a good lunch. From there he drove to Trieste to take a flight to Liège Airport in Belgium, where he was met by the Mayor of Huy, Mr Alexis Housiaux, the Mayor of Knokke, Mr Leopold Lippens, Ms Cristina Funes-Noppen, Mr Olivier Dupuis, a representative of the Embassy of India, Lama Karta and other representatives of Yeuntenling. On arrival at Yeuntenling, His Holiness was accorded a traditional Tibetan welcome with Lamas playing horns escorting him from his car to the door of the building.
Tomorrow, His Holiness will consecrate the new Prayer Hall at Yeuntenling and give a public talk, in addition to holding several private meetings.