Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India, 3 May 2016
Today, His Holiness the Dalai Lama took part in a meeting with members of the Youth Leaders’ Exchange, young women and men from trouble-torn countries across the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia, dedicated to managing conflict in non-violent ways. The meeting took place under the auspices of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), which works to prevent, mitigate and resolve conflict around the world. His Holiness had invited two Indian Muslim leaders to join him in the meeting – Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, a retired civil servant and social activist and Dewan Syed Zainul Abedin, a Sufi and Spiritual Head of the shrine of Ajmer Dargah. Both are distinguished for their work to promote inter-religious understanding.
To start the meeting the Youth Leaders introduced themselves: Ahmed from Uganda, Amule from South Sudan, Doaa from Egypt, Didas from Kenya, Harry from Myanmar, Hassan from Somalia, Hastiar from Iraq, Ikhlas from Sudan, Imrana from Nigeria, Issa from Iraq, Khadija from Somalia, Mariam from Afghanistan, Miriam from Nigeria, Mahamed from Sudan, Mouad from Morocco, Nasro from Somalia, Nadia from Tunisia, Noria from Afghanistan, Rebecca from Nigeria, Scofield from Kenya, Shubey from Uganda, Silvio from South Sudan, Souhir from Tunisia, Soukaina from Morocco, Qutaiba from Syria, Thet from Myanmar, Victoria from Nigeria, Ye Htut from Myanmar and Younes from Libya.
After His Holiness had invited Dewan Syed Zainul Abedin to say a prayer to launch proceedings, moderator Nancy Lindborg, President of USIP asked His Holiness if he had any preliminary remarks to make. He began by saying how happy he was to meet so many young people. He noted that India is a living example that all religious traditions can live together in peace and friendship. He went on:
“I began to talk about the oneness of humanity during my first visit to Europe in 1973. That naturally led to my voicing a need for greater global responsibility. Now there is evidence of a growing sense of global citizenship among young people in particular, which is encouraging since this planet is our only home and we have to live on it in harmony.
“All 7 billion human beings have a common experience in that we all appreciate love. We all have a seed of love and affection within us and the potential to cultivate greater love and compassion. If we want to create peace in the world it has to start with the heart, with inner peace.”
His Holiness talked about the three aspects of religious traditions, the religious aspect, such as the practice of love; the philosophical aspect, such as whether or not there is a creator god; and a cultural aspect such as the Indian caste system or the sense of gender discrimination in Buddhism. He suggested that when such cultural aspects are no longer appropriate, they should be changed.
He also spoke of defending Islam, especially since the September 11th event. He regards the criticism that Islam is naturally militant and the suggestion that we are facing a clash of civilizations as misunderstanding the real situation. He quoted Muslim friends who have told him that someone who sheds another’s blood is not a genuine Muslim and that jihad is not about combat with others so much as a struggle with your disturbing emotions. He thanked the delegates and organizers for coming and making the meeting possible.
Dewan Syed Zainul Abedin spoke in Hindi, agreeing with His Holiness that India is a nation to emulate because this is where people of different faiths live together in harmony.
After a break for tea, the meeting was opened up to the Youth Leaders, inviting them to share their experiences or ask questions, which His Holiness answered. He mentioned that while members of the 20th century generation to which he belongs have created all sorts of problems in the world, it is going to be up to members of the 21st century generation to clear them up. However, he said that if they start now, towards the end of the century the world might have become a more peaceful, happier place. A crucial factor will be improving and broadening education to include a better understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions. He remarked that having a calm mind makes it much easier to employ common sense.
While expressing appreciation of the efforts of those countries that have extended help to refugees currently fleeing war and destruction, His Holiness reiterated that the real long-term solution is to restore peace in the countries they are fleeing. The first step towards that is to achieve a cease fire followed by encouraging the competing sides to begin to talk to each other.
“As a Buddhist monk and student of the Nalanda tradition,” His Holiness said, “I have been trained to use logic, to employ my human intelligence. Analysis is a powerful way to solve problems. The American psychologist Aaron Beck has told me that on the other hand when we are angry with something or someone, the object of our anger seems to be completely negative. And yet 90% of that feeling is a result of our own mental projection. We are faced with a gap between appearance and reality. We tend to grasp at the appearance at the expense of reality.”
His Holiness ended the day with thanks to everyone who had taken part in the meeting, telling them that he had felt really encouraged by what he had heard of the Youth Leaders’ activities in troubled and difficult circumstances in different parts of the world. The meeting will resume tomorrow morning.