NEW DELHI: His Holiness the Dalai Lama yesterday met with the editors of three Urdu language newspapers. He began by outlining his two major commitments: the promotion of human values to enable as many people as possible to find peace and happiness in their lives and to encourage active moves to foster inter-religious harmony. In their questions the editors wanted to know what influence, if any, His Holiness might have in Burma, where Rohingya Muslims are reported to be facing great difficulties. He told them it would be next to none because where Burma follows the Pali tradition of Buddhism, Tibetans follow the Sanskrit tradition. What’s more, he said he had had no contact with the Burmese leadership since the time of the first Prime Minister U Nu, whom he had met in China in 1954 and in Delhi in the 1960s.
After lunch His Holiness drove through a heavy rain squall to the Jamia Millia Islamia University, where he was welcomed on arrival by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Najeeb Jung and Registrar, Prof. SM Sajjid. They led him through the university corridors to the meeting hall, while His Holiness stopped here and there to wave to students who had gathered on the balconies of several floors to see him. In his introductory words, Prof. Najeeb Jung expressed great pleasure that His Holiness had come to speak on the Importance of Non-violence and Ethical Values, two topics of great significance today.
His Holiness greeted the students and staff in the audience as brothers and sisters, reminding them that we are all human beings.
“The way we are born is the same, whether we are born into a royal family or that of a beggar. This is the same for all human beings. Similarly we all want happiness and don’t want trouble, and what’s more, we all have a right to be happy.”
He explained that as social animals we are biologically equipped to get together with others, something that our destructive emotions interfere with. Here in the 21st century, we face a variety of problems that, apart from natural disasters, are mostly man-made. And yet none of us wants these problems; no one gets up in the morning looking forward to the problems he or she might face. We need to find ways to deal with this.
Each of our lives begins with our mother. Her physical touch is an important factor in the development of our brains. Those people who grow up in an atmosphere of love tend to have a greater sense of security and can deal with trouble when they are faced with it. His Holiness added that having a calm mind strengthens this ability.
“To be contented human beings we need trust and friendship, which tends to develop much better once we realise that all beings have a right to happiness, just as we do. Taking others’ interests into account not only helps them, it also helps us. Warm-heartedness and concern for others are a part of human nature and are at the core of positive human values.”
His Holiness clarified that genuine non-violence is not the mere absence of violence. The demarcation between violence and non-violence depends less on the kind of action involved and more on the motivation or attitude with which we act. He referred to the 20th century as an era of bloodshed that created as many problems as it solved.
“If we are to learn from that,” he said, “when we are faced with conflict we have to find peaceful ways and means to resolve it. Whatever kind of problem we face, we need to address it through dialogue, by sitting down with our opponent and talking it through. Remembering the tragedies of the 20th century, we need to make this a century of dialogue.”
Among questions from the floor, His Holiness was asked how non-violence might be appropriate for the coming generation. He replied,
“Non-violence doesn’t mean we have to passively accept injustice. We have to fight for our rights. We have to oppose injustice, because not to do so would be a form of violence. Gandhi-ji fervently promoted non-violence, but that didn’t mean he was complacently accepting of the status quo; he resisted, but he did so without doing harm.”
Asked about the reports of gross human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslims in western Burma and why he seemed to have been silent about it, His Holiness responded,
“Yes, it’s very unfortunate. But no avenue of communication with the Burmese government is open to me. Although I am a Buddhist, very few Buddhist countries, apart from Japan, have given me permission to visit them on pilgrimage. In fact you could say I have greater freedom to visit Christian countries or even a Muslim country like Jordan, than I do to visit most Buddhist countries. The situation with Burma is the same. My only channel is through Aung San Suu Kyi, with whom I had some contact while she was under house arrest and who I recently met in London. Accordingly, I wrote to her about this matter, but have had no reply. Likewise, I asked my representative in Delhi to approach the Burmese Embassy here, but after several weeks we’ve had no response. So, there’s little I can do but pray.
“If allegations that Buddhist monks have been involved in assaulting these Muslim brothers and sisters turn out to be true, it is totally wrong.”
Another questioner wanted to know how His Holiness manages to stay so calm and happy, always with a smile on his face. He told her that we all have the same potential to tackle the problems that confront us, but we have to recognise it and put it to use. Looking back over his life he said,
“At 16 years old I lost my freedom, at 24 I lost my country, so over the last 60 years my life has been difficult. However, the challenges I faced have given me the opportunity to become stronger. Similarly, although India has been free for more than 60 years, I feel there is still a need today for the kind of spirit that motivated the freedom fighters.”
Finally, asked if there was not a need for a corresponding outer expression of inner strength if we are to be successful, His Holiness agreed, saying that determination, will-power and a sense of self confidence based on a clear understanding of reality are essential.