August 25, 2005

A Biased Mind Cannot Grasp Reality: His Holiness

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s address to the inter-faith seminar,
organised by the International Association for Religious Freedom,
Ladakh Group, in Leh on 25 August.

I am extremely delighted to be able to attend this inter-faith seminar
on Preservation of Religious harmony, Co-existence and Universal Peace
organised by International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF),
Ladakh group. Thank you very much for the detailed explanation of the
association’s history, activities, objectives and their relevance in
the present century. I have nothing to add on what the speakers said
earlier. But I would like to say a few things.

We are now in the twenty-first century. The quality of research
on both the inner and physical world has reached quite high–thanks to
the tremendous stride in technological advancement and human
intelligence. However, as some of the speakers said before, the world
is also facing a lot of new problems, most of which are man-made. The
root cause of these man-made problems is the inability of human beings
to control their agitated minds. How to control such a state of mind is
taught by the various religions of this world.

I am a religious practitioner, who follows Buddhism. More than
a thousand years have passed since the great religions of the world
flourished, including Buddhism. During those years, the world had
witnessed a lot of conflicts, in which followers of different religions
were also involved. As a religious practitioner, I acknowledge the fact
that different religions of the world have provided many solutions
about how to control an agitated mind. In spite of this, I still feel
we have not been able to realise our full potential.

I always say that every person on this earth has the freedom to
practice or not practice religion. It is all right to do both. But once
you accept religion, it is extremely important to be able to focus your
mind on it and sincerely practice the teachings in your daily life. All
of us can see that we tend to indulge in religious favouritism by
saying, “I belong to this or that religion”, rather than making effort
to control our agitated minds. This misuse of religion, due to our
disturbed minds, also creates problems sometimes.

I know a physicist from Chile who told me that it is not
appropriate for a scientist to be biased towards science because of his
love and passion for it. I am a Buddhist practitioner and have a lot of
faith and respect in the teachings of the Buddha. However, if I mix up
my love for and attachment to Buddhism, then my mind shall be biased
towards it. A biased mind, which never sees the complete picture,
cannot grasp the reality. And any action that results from such a state
of mind will not be in tune with reality. As such it causes a lot of

According to Buddhist philosophy, happiness is the result of an
enlightened mind whereas suffering is caused by a distorted mind. This
is very important. A distorted mind, in contrast to an enlightened
mind, is one that is not in tune with reality.

Any issue, including political, economic and religious
activities human beings pursue in this world, should be fully
understood before we pass our judgement. Anyhow, the worldly things are
the results of so many cause and conditions. Therefore, it is very
important to know them. Whatever the issue, we should be able to see
the complete picture. This will enable us to comprehend the whole
story. The teachings offered in Buddhism are based on rationality, and
I think are very fruitful.

Today, a lot of people from different religious backgrounds
have made their presence here. You all might have a question mark in
your mind: anything, which can be felt and is possible, should be a
question of whether we can realise it by our mind or not. It is not
easy to answer this question. In every religion, there are transcendent
things that are beyond the grasp of our mind and speech. For example,
the concept of God in Christianity and Islam and that of wisdom truth
body in Buddhism are metaphysical, which is not possible for an
ordinary person like us to realise. This is a common difficulty faced
by every religion. It is taught in every religion, including
Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, that the ultimate truth is
driven by faith.

I want to emphasise that it is extremely important for
practitioners to sincerely believe in their respective religions.
Usually, I say that it is very important to distinguish between “belief
in one religion” and “belief in many religions”. The former directly
contradicts the latter. Therefore, we should resolutely resolve these
contradictions. This is possible only by thinking in contextual terms.
A contradiction in one context might not be the same in the other. In
the context of one person, a single truth is closely associated with a
single source of refuge. This is of extreme necessity. However, in the
context of society or more than one person it is necessary to have
different sources of refuge, religions and truths.

In the past it was not a major problem because nations remained
aloof from each other with their own distinct religion. However, in
today’s close and inter-connected world there are so many differences
amongst various religions. We must obviously resolve these problems.
For example, there have been a lot of religions in India for the past
thousand years. Some of them were imported from outside whereas some
have grown in India itself. Despite this, the fact is that these
religions have been able to coexist with each other, and the principle
of Ahimsa has really flourished in this country. Even today, this
principle has a strong bearing on every religion. This is very precious
and India should really take pride in it.

Ladakh has been a predominantly Buddhist area for so many
centuries. But other religions such as Islam, Christianity, Hinduism
and Sikhism have also flourished here. Although it is natural for the
people of Ladakh to have attachment to and love for their own
religions, yet this place has a very peaceful environment with no major
problems of religious intolerance. During my maiden visit to Ladakh, I
heard elderly Muslims using the phrase “community of sangha” in their
speeches. Although such phrases are not found In Islam, yet a reference
of this kind invokes a lot of trust amongst the Buddhists. Therefore,
people from different religious background in Ladakh are very close to
each other and live in harmony.

As far as the Muslims are concerned it is appropriate for them
to have complete devotion to Allah while praying in the mosques. This
is also the same with Buddhists who are completely devoted to the
Buddha when they pray in Buddhist temples. A society, which has many
religions, should also have many prophets and sources of refuge. In
such a society it is very important to have harmony and respect amongst
the different religions and their practitioners. We must distinguish
between belief and respect. Belief refers to total faith, which you
must have in your own religion. At the same time you should have
respect for all other religions. This tradition of believing in one’s
own religion and having respect for others is in existence in Ladakh
since your forefathers. Therefore you do not have to invent it. The
most important thing at the moment is to preserve and promote this
tradition. I would like to thank all of you for working hard regarding
this and request you to continue to do so in the future.

If a harmonious relationship is established amongst societies
and religious beliefs in today’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious and
multi-cultural world, then it will surely set a very good example for
others. However, if all the sides become careless, then there is a
danger of imminent problems. In a multi-ethnic society, the biggest
problem is that of between the majority and the minority. For instance,
in the capital Leh, Buddhists constitute the majority of the population
whereas Muslims belong to the minority community. The majority must
consider the minority as their invited guests. The minority, on the
other hand, should be able to sensitise with the majority. In other
words, both sides should live in harmony. In order to sustain this
harmony, both sides should not take lightly the sensitive issues
between themselves. Indeed, the majority should pay attention to and
appreciate the views and opinion of the minority. Both sides should
discuss and clearly express what they think about the other’s view and
opinion. The minority, on the other hand, should be careful about where
the sensitive issues of the majority lies and express whatever doubts
they have in their minds. If problems are resolved in such a friendly
manner, then both sides will gain. Suspicion of each other will only
harm both communities. Therefore, it is very important to live in
harmony and analyse where the opinion of the other lies. The best way
to do this is to engage in dialogue, dialogue and dialogue.

NB: Rough translation of the original in Tibetan.

Translated by Tenzin Nyinjey

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