Shewatsel, Leh, Ladakh, India, 26th July 2023: As His Holiness the Dalai Lama took the short drive to the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) this morning, small groups of members of the public gathered on the road to see him pass. Once he had taken the turning to the school, children and then a line of adults dressed in traditional Tibetan attire, sang and danced to greet him on the side of the road. Close to the stage dancers in yak and snow-lion costumes welcomed him.
His Holiness and other guests and dignitaries, who included the Leh DC, Santosh Sukhadeve, the CEC of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Tashi Gyaltsen, Presidents of the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) and the Ladakh Gonpa Association (LGA) Thubten Tsewang and Ven Tsering Wangdus and the Chief Representative of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) Dhondup Tashi were assembled in a small marquee. This overlooked the school sports ground where sat a 5000 strong audience. Everyone stood while the Tibetan and Indian National Anthems were played.
CRO Dhondup Tashi welcomed His Holiness and thanked him for kindly taking the time to talk to this gathering of Tibetans in Ladakh. He mentioned that there are 5200 Tibetans in the Leh area and another 2000 nomads in the Chang Thang. He expressed gratitude to the Government of India and the local Union Territory (UT) administration for all the help they provide the Tibetan community. He also acknowledged the guidance and support the Tibetan community in Ladakh receives from the CTA headed by Sikyong Penpa Tsering.
The CRO mentioned that he had compiled a more extensive report that he had submitted to His Holiness in writing. He prayed that His Holiness live long.
The moderator announced that there would be presentations of singing and dancing—some old, some new. First a group of Tibetan school-children danced to a song that involved making offerings to Lamas and teachers. They were followed by 113 adults from the Leh and Chang Thang who danced joyfully to several modern songs with an insistent disco beat.
Another group of adults from Leh and Chang Thang performed a traditional song and dance from the Ngari region of Tibet that celebrated auspiciousness and prosperity. The dancers sang without accompaniment, lending rhythm to their song by stamping their feet.
His Holiness was invited to address the gathering.
“My Dharma brothers and sisters,” he began. “Today, you presented your songs and dances with delight, confidence and pride. More importantly, you have done so with heartfelt faith. I’d like to thank you.
“Tibetans have a special bond with Chenrezig, the Great Compassionate One. Since the time of King Songtsen Gampo we have had our own written language. Then, during the reign of Trisong Detsen, the great Abbot and foremost scholar of Nalanda, Shantarakshita was invited to the Land of Snow. He advised that since we had our own language, we should translate Indian Buddhist literature from Sanskrit and Pali into Tibetan.
“The collection of translations of the Buddha’s words and treatises of subsequent masters now comprise the collection of more than 300 volumes. It’s the material from these books that we study. In due course, when Tibetan scholar-adepts composed their own commentaries, they consulted the original sources contained in the Kangyur and Tengyur.
“There is an earlier collection of translations that belong to the Nyingma tradition, and a later collection on which the Kagyu, Sakya and Geluk traditions rely. The Tibetan tradition is the only Buddhist presentation that depends on logic and reason. For more than a thousand years we have kept alive an approach that involves study, reflection and meditation.
“We have preserved both teachings and realizations of Buddhism. On the basis of texts dealing with logic and reason Chapa Chökyi Sengé formalized the Tibetan system of debate. We rely on logic, not taking the written word at face value. We examine and investigate what has been written in a way comparable to a goldsmith’s testing the purity of gold.
“The Tibetan tradition uses reason as the yardstick for assessing whether what has been written can be relied on as it is. In the course of debate a challenger may cite scripture to support his assertion. His respondent will respectfully doff his hat while consideration the quotation, but if it does not prove the point, he puts his hat back on and states that the citation is not necessarily true and is not supported by logic.”
His Holiness declared that the emphasis on logic and reason in the Tibetan tradition is one of the aspects that makes it attractive to modern scientists. Growing numbers of them are showing interest in what it has to say about psychology and the workings of mind and emotions. He reiterated that Tibetans examine what the Buddha taught in the light of reason and then seek to integrate what they learn within themselves. For example, things may appear in a certain way, but it is explained that they do not exist that way.
“Many people today,” His Holiness added, “are not satisfied with material development alone. Aspects of the Tibetan tradition appeal to such people because they explain the different levels of subtlety of the mind. These include consciousness of the waking state, sleep, deep sleep and dream. Relying on explanations in tantric treatises Tibetans understand how the mind dissolves at the time of death and how the mind of clear light manifests.
“There are people who following clinical death remain in a state of meditative absorption known as ‘thukdam’. Having observed this phenomenon scientists are now seeking to understand the process.
“We have kept our traditions alive for more than a thousand years, but we are not keeping what we know to ourselves. We are happy to share it with others.
“Following the immense violence of the First and Second World Wars there is much talk about peace. But peace won’t come about as a result of government announcements or leader’s speeches. The foundation of world peace is peace of mind. This is another reason why there is interest in what the Buddha taught in countries that were previously unfamiliar with Buddhism. It is also true in countries where Buddhism once flourished but later declined. Jé Tsongkhapa refers to this at the end of his ‘Great Treatise of the Stages of the Path’.
Wherever the Buddha’s teaching has not spread
And wherever it has spread but has declined
May I, moved by great compassion, clearly elucidate
This treasury of excellent benefit and happiness for all.
“As a monk and a follower of the Buddha, I try to share what Buddhism has to teach with whoever may be interested, not so much as a religious practice but more as an exchange of knowledge. I am convinced that the traditions that flourished in Tibet stand the test of logic and reasoning and include knowledge and understanding that we can apply in our own lives.
“Study is important. In the past study was the province of monastics, but today, as general education has improved, lay people, young and old, can also engage in study. In schools we used to have Religious Teachers, now we have Philosophy Teachers. They explain the Buddha’s teachings in ways that allow us to rely on them to achieve peace of mind.
“The practice of Buddhism isn’t concerned with building temples or even reciting prayers and mantras. It’s about cultivating compassion for all beings, focussed on helping them however we can. I urge you young people to pay attention to this. Experienced masters of the past have passed these traditions down to us. We have a responsibility to keep them alive and to share them with others.
“There are people who follow other traditions, Muslims and Christians, for example, as well as people with little interest in religion. We are all the same in wanting to be happy and not wanting to suffer. Consequently, I try to promote harmony among these different ways of thought.
“The Tibetan language is important because it is the most accurate medium for explaining Buddhist philosophical ideas. Of course, in the past we didn’t have vocabulary that would allow us to discuss modern science, but we are developing it in order to enrich our understanding. I would like to encourage you young people to keep this in mind.”
Sonam Tsering, the chairman of the organizing committee for today’s function paid his respects to His Holiness saying:
“You have shown great kindness to Tibetans and their culture. I would like to thank profoundly for coming to speak to us today.”
He also thanked officials of the CTA and the LAHDC, the head of the Ladakh UT administration, the presidents of the LBA, LGA and the Ladakh Women’s Association (LWA)
He prayed that all His Holiness’s aspirations be fulfilled, that he enjoy good health and live a long life. The audience applauded.
As His Holiness came to the front of the stage to smile and wave to the audience, the school-children spontaneously broke into song in his praise. His Holiness, they sang, is the sun and moon of Tibet, the heart-jewel of all six million Tibetans.