MANCHESTER, 16 June: As a light Mancunian drizzle fell outside, His Holiness began the day with a couple of extensive newspaper interviews. In the light of his specifically addressing youth later today, His Holiness was asked what he thought about the riots that took place in Britain last year. He replied,
“When I heard about those riots on the BBC I was surprised. I had always thought of the people of Britain as a mature people, a law abiding people. I wrote to your Prime Minister expressing my concern and suggesting that it was important to really look into the root causes of this violence.” Elaborating on the theme, he pointed out that although people are nominally equal under the law, sometimes the poor are treated less well. Therefore, their voice needs to be heard. If leaders fail to pay attention, it may be necessary to organize a protest or demonstration, with the stipulation that it must be peaceful and non-violent. If violence breaks out, it inevitably detracts from your goal. On the other hand, His Holiness said that while he was shocked by the violence that had taken place, he was impressed to learn that in many places people voluntarily came out to take part in the clean up.
A question about the Queen’s diamond jubilee prompted His Holiness to reveal that he had been familiar with the royal family even as a boy in Tibet through pictures he saw in Life magazine and a documentary film about George VI and his family. He was struck by evident joy with which many people were celebrating the jubilee.
Meeting leaders of a wide variety of youth organizations before lunch, His Holiness told them,
“I belong to the twentieth century, an era that has now passed. It was a time when many people thought that violence was the way to solve our problems. Although the motivation to solve problems was often positive and good, the method, the use of force, was wrong, because invariably violence creates more problems than it solves. What have we learned? that we need to employ non-violence and dialogue to solve our problems.” He went further to suggest that as war is really only organized and legalized violence we should aim to create a demilitarized world without arms, a peaceful world based instead on dialogue. This, His Holiness felt, is a realistic aspiration for the twenty-first century.
A member of the audience asked for his advice in encouraging youth to develop inner values and he drew attention to the biological link. We are all born from our mothers, we all survive because of our mother’s affection, indeed some scientists suggest that a mother’s physical touch in the first weeks of infancy is important to ensure healthy growth. This is our first experience of the affection we all need to thrive. His Holiness remarked that there are wealthy people in the world who seem to have all they need, yet are lonely and unhappy because they lack affection. What’s more, money and power sometimes give rise to distrust and fear. This is sad because as scientists learn more about the function of our emotions they are finding that fear and suspicion have the effect of eating into our immune system. Meanwhile as they explore the effects of developing a calm mind and cultivating compassion, they find they give rise to many benefits such as reduced blood pressure, improved digestion, greater social awareness and so on.
In the afternoon, His Holiness drove to the Manchester arena, where backstage he met Russell Brand, the popular comedian who was to introduce him to the 10,000 strong audience. This he did with boisterous aplomb, but before asking His Holiness to speak, invited him and the audience to watch two video messages from His Holiness’s friends and fellow Nobel Peace Laureates Guatamalan Mayan Rigoberta Menchu and South African Bishop Desmond Tutu.
His Holiness began,
“I don’t like formality, so Russell Brand, who is also very informal, was a fitting person to introduce me; thank you. Birth takes place without formality, as does death. If I think of myself as a Buddhist monk or as a Tibetan, that sets up a sort of barrier between me and others. In fact, I am a human being like you, who wants happiness and doesn’t want to face suffering and problems. I speak to you as just one of the 7 billion human beings in the world today. Physically, mentally and emotionally we’re the same; and we have the same potential for good as well as for bad.”
He continued to explain that one of the things that distinguishes human beings is our powerful intelligence. But if we don’t bring our destructive emotions under control that intelligence can be harmful. To counter that risk we need to be realistic and warm-hearted. We need vision, determination and will power to succeed. Those qualities depend on our developing self-confidence and that depends on our being honest and truthful.
His Holiness has great hopes that the world may become a better, more peaceful, more equitable place in the twenty-first century, and he looks to the coming generation, those who younger than 30 now, to achieve it. One of his reasons for hoping this is that while older people tend to be set in their patterns of thinking, young people tend to be more open and flexible. One of the external changes that has taken place is that our world and our lives have become increasingly interdependent, so when our neighbour is harmed, it affects us too. Therefore we have to abandon outdated notions of them and us and think of our world much more in terms of a great US, a greater human family. And as human beings this kind of transformation is within our grasp.
One of the most important factors is the development of self-confidence, which in itself will prevent us from giving up hope. His Holiness cited his own experience,
“At 16 I lost my freedom, at 24 I lost my country and for the last more than 50 years have faced all sorts of problems, but I have never given up hope. We have a Tibetan saying, ‘Nine times fall down, Nine times pick yourself up.’
Two more short videos were shown, one focussing on the gift of forgiveness, featuring a young Irish girl who was inspired by His Holiness’s words to forgive the boy who killed her father. Another featured a number of celebrities joining His Holiness is exhorting the youth of today to Stand Up and Be the Change. Finally, Tibetan Representative, Thubten Samdup, on behalf of Tibet House and the local organizers called on His Holiness to bestow an award on Sophia, a local schoolgirl for her extensive altruistic activities.
Tomorrow, His Holiness returns to the Manchester Arena for the first of three sessions of Buddhist teachings in the morning focussing on the Eight Verses of Mind Training and Nagarjuna’s In Praise of Dharmadhatu and a public talk on the theme Real Change Happens in the Heart in the afternoon.