Rotterdam, Holland, 12 May 2014 – Meeting with groups of people interested in Buddhism and the cause of Tibet at his hotel this morning, His Holiness the Dalai Lama began by telling them:
“In the context of this real violation of religious freedom in Tibet, I’d like to mention the members of the pro-Shugden group demonstrating against me on the streets here. They are allegedly seeking religious freedom. In fact, when I propitiated this evil spirit, I forfeited my religious freedom. The practice and the spirit are very sectarian. It is said that if you are a follower of the Yellow Hat Sect and you so much as keep a text belonging to one of the Red Hat Sects in your room, he’ll punish you and do you harm.
“My Senior Tutor, Ling Rinpoche strongly opposed this spirit and the practice associated with it and yet when I wanted to receive a Nyingma teaching from another Lama, he cautioned me not to do so. Therefore, restriction of this practice actually protects religious freedom.”
His Holiness repeated that the Chinese crackdown on Tibetan language and the way they look down on Tibetan culture is the real source of separatism. He pointed out that if you beat a dog it will run away. If you want it to stay you have to treat it with affection. Tibetans are human beings, who are not to be fobbed off with new infrastructure, while not being treated with any respect. Tibetans are not animals and they are not the only ones to suffer. The other ethnic groups, the Uighurs, Mongolians and Manchus, indicated in the Chinese flag by the four smaller stars around the larger star for the Han, suffer too.
Talking to a separate group of Chinese students, His Holiness spoke of his interest in visiting the Buddhist sacred site of Wutai Shan. An earlier request was dismissed on the grounds of his alleged political activities. He has since made an agreement with a Taiwanese monk that should he be permitted to visit the Chinese Mountain associated with Manjushri, they would arrange to recite Nagarjuna’s ‘Fundamental Wisdom’ there in Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese. To a question about the ultimate goal of Buddhism, he answered ‘Buddhahood’, adding that his own practice focuses on developing the awakening mind of bodhichitta and an understanding of emptiness. He told the questioner that if he too does those practices the sun will shine in his life.
To remarks about the strong sense of being Chinese among Chinese youth, His Holiness said that in Mao’s day Han chauvinism was disapproved of, but these days does not seem to be discouraged. He felt that nationalist feelings should not be taken to extremes. In relation to the intense surveillance that takes place in China, he said that the 1.3 Chinese people have a right to know what is going on and have the ability to judge right from wrong on that basis. He added that it is important that the Chinese judicial system be brought up to international standards.
At the end of the meeting, one of the students stood up to say: “We love Tibet, we love His Holiness; Tibetans and Chinese are brothers and sisters.” This prompted His Holiness to remember an old Chinese man who had brought his son to see him saying that he wanted the next generation to meet His Holiness.
“We are very happy to have you here again after five years. We admire your work for peace and human rights. Many join me in welcoming you to the Netherlands again. I’d like to open the floor for you to speak to us.”
“Respected Members of Parliament,” His Holiness began. “I have been an admirer of the democratic system since I was a child. Before I took political responsibility for Tibet, my friends included sweepers and servants through whom I heard the gossip about this or that official’s bullying, exploiting and favouritism. Soon after I took responsibility in 1951 I set up a committee with the intention of instituting reform. However, since the Chinese wanted to make their own changes they didn’t approve of it. After arriving in India in 1959 I renewed my efforts to introduce democracy among Tibetans. Consequently, in 2001, after a political leader was directly elected for the first time I semi-retired. Then, after the elections of 2011, I fully retired.
“I have confidence in democracy. I believe a country belongs to the people who live there, not to their leaders. The Netherlands belongs to the Dutch people not to any of the parties represented among you.”
Describing himself as a 79 year old simple Buddhist monk, he said he considers himself just a human being like the 7 billion others on the planet, each of whom should think about the welfare of others. He said that all of us are born to our mothers and have grown up in her affection, which planted the seed of compassion within us. Nurturing this sense of compassion and human values he described as his first commitment. He said his second commitment is promoting inter-religious harmony, much as it has flourished in India for hundreds of years. As for his third commitment, he said he is a Tibetan and someone in whom Tibetans have placed their trust.
“The people of this country and the EU have for decades shown great concern for Tibet and its people. Along with the USA and Canada you have generously offered us support and I’d like to thank you.”
The first question from the floor was about the possibility of renewing dialogue with the Chinese authorities. His Holiness remarked that Tibetans and Chinese have had relations for about 3000 years; sometimes they have been happy and sometimes less so. In the early 1950s he met Chairman Mao with Tibetan Communists who felt that under Chinese Communist leadership they could build a better Tibet. However, after 1956 or 57, these Tibetan Communists were removed and the Party became more leftist and inflexible.
“Today,” he said, “the new leader, Xi Jinping seems to be more practical and realistic. What I can say is that over the years the Chinese Communist Party has shown an ability to act according to changed reality.”
Another questioner asked what else he and his colleagues could do for Tibet and His Holiness repeated what he had said elsewhere that it is important to express concern for Tibet’s natural environment and for continuing violations of human rights. He also mentioned that Liu Xiaobo needs their support. Asked whether the continuing self-immolations in Tibet are an expression of protest, anger or despair, His Holiness replied: “Despair.” He said:
“We Tibetans love our culture, as I’m sure you do, but the control and oppression it is presently under upsets many Tibetans to the point that they are prepared to take their lives. This is a sensitive political issue because Chinese hardliners accuse us of instigating these drastic steps, much as they blamed us for the protests in 2008.”
“I have the freedom to speak up for Tibet. The spirit of Tibetans in their homeland has not diminished and we have their support for our Middle Way Approach. I think things are changing. China must follow the world trend towards greater democracy and freedom.”
When a young father among the members asked what values he should be thinking of sharing with his now six month old son, His Holiness at first said that parenthood was something he has no experience of, but on reflection he said:
“You have a great opportunity in bringing up your young son. Scientists have found that physical touch is an important factor in children’s development, especially the development of the brain. It’s important that you share your love and affection with him. In my own case, my mother was really warm-hearted, we were not very well off, but she treated us all with immense kindness. She was my first teacher of compassion.”
Angeline Eijsink concluded the session:
“Thank you for bringing your wisdom to our parliament.”
In the sunshine in the yard outside the parliament reporters and schoolchildren were waiting to catch a glimpse of His Holiness. He moved among them laughing, exchanging greetings and shaking hands.
“Firstly, it’s a great honour for me to participate in this seminar with you. I’m especially happy to see all these young people here because meeting young people makes me feel younger too. But also these are the people who embody our hopes for the future. Those of us here who are more than 60 years old belong to the 20th century, a time which has passed. We can learn from it, but we can’t change it. The future, however, is more like an open space which is full of potential and which could go this way or that. You young brothers and sisters, who belong to the 21st century, have the opportunity to shape the future and make a better world.
“Don’t follow the example of the 20th century in resorting to the use of force at every opportunity. When problems arise try to resolve them in other ways. The use of force and violence is out of date. First of all think in terms of what will most benefit humanity as a whole. Climate change and the global economy are nudging us towards seeing humanity as one family. We are interdependent as never before and yet we still tend to think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’, which makes our outlook unrealistic and likely to fail. Meanwhile, in too many parts of the world there is a huge gap between rich and poor.
“We need to exert efforts to focus humanity on moral principles, but if they are to be based on religious faith we run into complications. There are limits to each religious tradition which mean that none of them has universal appeal, while 1billion of the 7 billion human population have no interest in religion at all. The solution is to introduce secular ethics into the education system.”
In the grounds of the university His Holiness participated with several children in the planting of a tree. Having tied a silk scarf loosely round it he made the wish that as the tree grows tall and strong, the seed of compassion may grow widely in the world.