Manchester and Leeds, 15th June 2012
His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived for his second visit to Manchester yesterday after a smooth flight from India. He was met at his hotel by the Mayor of Salford Ian Stewart and his wife.
This morning he began the day by meeting the press, who he greeted as follows,
“I’m very happy to be in England once more, a country with historic links to Tibet. I want to tell you that as human beings we are all essentially the same in our physical, emotional and mental make-up, we all want to find happiness and avoid suffering, so I consider it one of my purposes to talk about how this might be achieved. Secondly, as a Buddhist monk I recognise that all our religious traditions carry similar messages about compassion, forgiveness and so forth, so I’d like to do what I can to foster respect among them. My third purpose, until I retired last year, was to inform people about what is going on in Tibet.”
Inviting questions from the gathered journalists he was asked to clarify his relationship with the CIA. He said that Tibetans initiated resistance of the Chinese of their own accord and that his own escape from Tibet in 1959 was an entirely Tibetan operation, the CIA coming into the picture later.
Regarding the present global economic crisis, His Holiness said it was important that people should not lose hope and become demoralized. He cited as an example the way that Germany and Japan had rebuilt themselves out of the ruins of the Second World War. In connection with his talk to young people tomorrow, he described himself at the age of nearly 77 as belonging to the twentieth century, an era that is now over. Acknowledging the great achievements of the twentieth century he also noted that during that period about 200 million people died as a result of bloodshed. Therefore, he hopes that those who are young now, who will shape the twenty-first century, will learn from the past and work to make it an era of dialogue in which conflicts and problems are resolved through non-violence. To show that such positive change is possible he recalled the physicist and philosopher Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker telling him that when he was young in the eyes of most Germans the French were enemies, but that had later entirely changed and was no longer true. Although there have already been some unhealthy developments in the early years of this century, their causes lay in the mistakes of the last century, and anyway there are still almost nine decades left.
Questioned about whether he was disappointed about diminishing support for Tibet His Holiness remarked that Tibet is now an old issue when there are so many other crises attracting people’s attention, noting that Tibet has no oil and is far away.
“Nevertheless,” he said, “interest in Tibet and support for basic human rights there is actually quite good, even at government level.”
He concluded with an appeal for support for the protection of Tibet’s natural environment, which, because the majority of Asia’s rivers rise there, is of concern to more than a billion people.
His Holiness’s next engagement took him across the rolling green hills of the Penines to Leeds where he had been invited to address the Yorkshire International Business Convention. He was visibly delighted by a group of singing school children who welcomed him. Taking to the stage in a purpose built marquee at Wellington Place to warm applause, he began,
“Mentally, emotionally, physically we are all the same; we are all human beings. I’m happy to have this opportunity to meet you and share some of my experience with you.”
He said that in the 60s and 70s there did not seem to be much room for talk about ethics in business, but that changed in the 80s and 90s, when, despite people’s dedication to making money, the seeds of the present financial crisis were sown. His friends told him that among the causes were greed, speculation, ignorance and short-sightedness. He returned repeatedly to the gap between rich and poor that he described not only as morally wrong, but also as mistaken from a practical point of view. He warned that the levels of poverty that exist in the world today, if left unaddressed, were likely to lead to violence.
“Ethics is important in business, because business, even that of multi-national companies involves human beings, therefore there is room for human values. Moral principles are relevant as a source of trust and respect, which in turn lead to transparency, all of which contribute to the good reputation that most companies value. If you live your life and conduct your business on the basis of truth and honesty, it gives you a sense of satisfaction and self-confidence, which is also a source of inner strength. If, on the other hand, you set out to cheat and deceive others you will necessarily be tense and anxious in case you are found out.”
His Holiness reminded his listeners that when we come to die, our investments and savings, our friends and family are no longer of any use.
“However, if you live honestly and find inner peace, you will have a calm mind; and if you have a calm mind you will work better and will employ your basic intelligence better.”
When a questioner asked how His Holiness himself remains so calm, he replied that even when he receives heart-breaking news from Tibet, he remembers the advice of the 8th century Indian Buddhist master Shantideva. He counselled that in the face of hardship it helps to analyse whether there is anything to be done and if there is, there is no need to worry. Instead, employ your energy in pursuit of the solution. On the other hand, if there is nothing to be done, worrying won’t help. His Holiness concluded with an appeal to the well-off to take the opportunity to use their good fortune for good, to help the needy, which he described as a fitting legacy.
Meeting the press, mostly the broadcast media, after lunch, he was again and again asked his response to the Chinese lobbying to have the events he was addressing stopped and their threats of sanctions if they went ahead. His answer was that such attempted interference had become almost routine, that it emanated from officials who, whatever they feel personally, are compelled to act in this way. He drew a distinction between the Chinese government and the Chinese people, observing that China is the world’s most populous nation so it is important to remain open to them, but also to remain firm about such universal issues as democracy and human rights.
In conversation with a gathering of students before leaving Leeds, His Holiness said, “ In our interdependent, globalized world, we need to stop thinking in terms of them and us; if we think of others as part of us, it will put an end to violence between us. We need to think of the entire world as our family. This twenty-first century, that will be your century, should be an era of dialogue and peace; that will be the fruit of your efforts.”
To a final question about whether he is a Bodhisattva, His Holiness said, “Maybe I can say I’m a candidate; I can say I’ve worked hard at it; it is my ambition.”