Addressing the Tibetan Community and Meeting with Chinese Students

New York, NY, USA, 5 November 2014 – Under grey skies, the New York streets wore a sombre look as His Holiness the Dalai Lama drove to the Javits Convention Center for almost his last engagement of this visit to the USA. Inside it was colourful and 5000 assembled Tibetans were full of smiles as His Holiness took the stage before a backdrop of the Potala Palace. Everyone stood for the Tibetan National Anthem, and then the President of the New York & New Jersey Tibetan Association (NYNJTA) presented a report to His Holiness. He explained that the association began in 1979, that it is non-sectarian and acknowledges no regional bias either. Its objective is to provide a platform for all Tibetans to have a sense of community and to participate is a cultural life. It also concerns itself with offering opportunities for Tibetan children to study Tibetan and so on. The association meets the cost of such classes. By keeping up the Green Book contributions, members of the association contribute $200,000 per year to the CTA.

The President of the Tibetan Association of New York and New Jersey, Sonam Gyatso, offering a traditional white scarf on behalf of the Tibetan community before His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s address in New York, NY, USA on November 5, 2014. Photo/Sonam Zoksang

The association not only recognises His Holiness as the leader of Tibetans, but as a leader for the whole world, and while pledging to follow his advice, requests him to live long.

“My dear Tibetan brothers and sisters,” His Holiness responded, “today, when I have this opportunity to meet all of you, I wondered for a moment if I was back in Tibet, or in one of the large settlements in South India. You’re all working hard to retain your Tibetan identity and spirit and I thank you. Here on this new soil, it seems you have made a lot of children! Ensure that they grow up as Tibetans. They may learn to chant the verse for taking refuge, but that’s not enough. You can even teach a parrot to chant. We had one at the Norbulingka Palace that could recite ‘manis’ while nicely nodding its head. The children need to study and know what the Dharma is about. 21st century Buddhists need to study. Prostrating, chanting mantras and circumambulation are good, but they are not the main practice. You need to know how to transform the mind.”

He went on to explain that the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which derives from the Nalanda tradition, is impressive. It’s a culture of peace that has a contribution to make in a world riven by competition and conflict. Today, he said, even scientists take interest in its knowledge of the mind and emotions. It is peace of mind that is important and mere chanting isn’t enough to secure that.

His Holiness talked about his hopes for reclassifying the content of the Kangyur and Tengyur in terms of science, philosophy and religion. He pointed out that the Mind Only and Middle Way Schools of Thought have much in common with the approach of Quantum Physics and can be of interest to anyone, while topics like the Four Noble Truths are primarily of interest to Buddhists. Two volumes of science from these sources were recently published in Tibetan and will soon be available translated into English, Chinese and other languages.


After Buddhism came to Tibet, the collective values of society became more compassionate. Tibetans have their own spoken and written language, and it is the language best suited to expressing the Buddhist path including Tantra, logic and epistemology. His Holiness has encouraged the study of the classic Buddhist texts, even in monasteries and nunneries that were previously concerned only with chanting rituals. These days there are nuns who have studied well and are close to receiving their Geshe-ma degrees. Individuals who have an interest in Buddhism need to study. In Ladakh, laypeople have set up discussion groups to encourage this and His Holiness said he had heard of people doing the same in Tibet. It is not necessary to have a lama involved. This is how to preserve Tibetan religion and culture.

“I have studied in our tradition and whoever I meet, wherever I am, I’m proud and confident. I respect all the major religious traditions, but I am aware that of all the great religious teachers it was only the Buddha who gave his followers advice and encouragement to examine and question what he had taught.”

Changing the subject to what is happening in Tibet, His Holiness said:

“The 6 million Tibetans in Tibet are our real masters. They have been going through difficult times, not least because of the hard-line policies pursued by Chinese officials in Tibet. And yet Tibetans have not lost their spirit and character. Just as Chinese are proud and devoted to their culture, so are we Tibetans. The people of the three provinces feel a strong sense of unity as Tibetans and we in exile should give them our support.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the Tibetan community at the Javits Center in New York, NY, USA on November 5, 2014. Photo/Sonam Zoksang
“Whenever I can, I meet Chinese. Many years ago I encouraged the setting up of Sino-Tibetan friendship groups and they have been quite effective. Today, there are 400 million Chinese who call themselves Buddhists, many of whom have an interest in Tibetan Buddhism. Others concern themselves with preserving the natural environment and ecology of Tibet. Relations with ordinary Chinese have improved. The Tibetan issue appears to be a struggle between the gun, the use of force, and the truth. It may appear that in the short term the gun is more effective, and yet in the end the truth will prevail.

“When I was young in Lhasa, the servants used to keep me informed. I became aware of the shortcomings of too much power in too few hands. Everything depended on who you knew. I wanted to change it, but my attempts at reform were thwarted. We began democratization in 1960 and when a new leadership was elected in 2011, I retired. It took time, but eventually we have reached a point where our leaders are elected.”

His Holiness explained that the Vinaya or monastic discipline functions on a democratic basis too. An example of this is the issue of the full ordination of women that he says he fully supports. A lot of people, especially people from the West, ask him simply to issue an edict about it and say that because he doesn’t he is obstructing progress. In fact, changes related to the Vinaya require a group of at least five qualified individuals to be legitimate.

His Holiness spoke at some length about the matter of Dolgyal. He said:

“I was at Dromo, Nechung and Gadong were not with us, but there was a medium there, who although illiterate, was reputed for giving good predictions. This is how my relationship with Dolgyal began. I am also a custodian of Pabongka’s tradition, so from 1950-70, I propitiated Dolgyal. In the 60s Nechung mentioned that is was not good to propitiate the vagabond, Asay Khenpo. I told him to keep quiet and he did and I continued the practice.

A member of the Tibetan community listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s address at the Javits Center in New York, NY, USA on November 5, 2014. Photo/Sonam Zoksang
“Then the Yellow Book came out suggesting that for a Gelugpa to practise other traditions would arouse Dolgyal’s anger. I consulted Nechung again and he told me a long story. Consequently I did a divination involving special offerings to Palden Lhamo, attended by the Abbot of Namgyal Monastery. He didn’t know what it was about, but when I told him he remarked that it had been a powerful ritual. The questions were whether I should stop the practice, whether immediately or gradually. I stopped. I informed Ling Rinpoche who was pleased, having earlier been very apprehensive about my relations with Dolgyal. I also explained everything to Trijang Rinpoche, who said divination involving Palden Lhamo was infallible. He cast no doubt over it and said that Nechung was very reliable too. He said there must be reason for what we had learned, but he was not annoyed or anything like that.

“The pro-Dolgyal demonstrators shout about religious freedom, but my religious freedom was restricted while I did that practice. I wanted to receive teachings of the Guhyagarbha from Khunu Lama Rinpoche, but because he was apprehensive about Dolgyal, Ling Rinpoche advised against it. I was only free once I gave Dolgyal up and was able to receive many teachings from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

“Dolgyal is a mundane deity. Some say he is a manifestation of Manjushri, but we could also say that Nechung is ultimately something transcendental too. The 13th Dalai Lama warned Pabongka Rinpoche that relating to Dolgyal as he did he risked breaching his refuge, which is recorded in Rinpoche’s own biography. The 5th Dalai Lama said Dolgyal arose from distorted prayers, that he is a ghost of the dead and his function is to do harm. Many other great Gelugpa masters like Trichen Ngawang Chokden opposed this practice. These protestors are mistaken and full of ignorance, but I don’t feel angry towards them.

Younger members of the Tibetan community attending His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s address at the Javits Center in New York, NY, USA on November 5, 2014. Photo/Sonam Zoksang
“They say, ‘Stop Lying, stop lying’, but you stood behind me; I thank you. The thing is it’s harmful, but whether people listen to this or not is up to them. My responsibility anyway is to warn people and to make the situation clear. I have never said anyone has to listen to me.”

His Holiness also made reference to the work that is going on in Vancouver and British Columbia to introduce secular ethics in schools. He concluded his talk by offering transmission of the mantras of the Buddha, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Vajrapani, Tara, Hayagriva, Vajrakilaya and the Medicine Buddha. He said it had been 20 days since he left India, that there had been some benefit and that his health was good.

“Be happy, Tashi Delek.”

After lunch at his hotel, but before leaving for the airport, His Holiness met with a group of Chinese students studying in New York and nearby areas. Addressing them as brothers and sisters he made reference to the long standing relations that exist between Tibetans and Chinese, which have often been good, but have sometimes been difficult.

“One of the problems between us is ignorance. For too long, too many have thought of Tibetans as backward and barbaric. But now they have the opportunity, more Chinese are finding things to admire in Tibet. Spiritually, China and Tibet are very close. Today, there are said to be 300-400 million Chinese who call themselves Buddhists, many of whom have some interest in Tibetan Buddhism.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama meeting with Chinese students in New York, NY, USA on November 5, 2014.
Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
In answering questions from the audience he gave a survey of relations between China and Tibet over the last 50 years or more, of how at times hopes of a solution have been raised only to be dashed again. He mentioned how he had tried to introduce reforms and faced obstructions, but then reforms were imposed by others by use of force.

He said that since Tibetans would like to see material development too, it was in their interest to remain part of the PRC, expressing his admiration for the voluntary way European countries had put the common interest ahead of national interest within the EU. He also drew attention to the way diversity flourishes in India without any risk of the country breaking up. He also mentioned his wish to make a pilgrimage to Wu-tai-shan.

Leaving the hotel, His Holiness drove to JFK airport and boarded a flight that will take him to Frankfurt on the way back to India.

Sikyong to attend prestigious international forum with world leaders

DHARAMSHALA: Honorable Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay will attend the sixth annual Halifax International Security Forum taking place in Halifax, Canada from 21 – 23 November.

The forum will be attended by over 300 world leaders and security experts including the largest US congressional delegation to set foot in Canada, led by Senators John McCain and Tim Kaine. Other prominent participants include John Baird, Foreign Minister of Canada; Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister of Israel; Abdulla Gul, former President of Turkey; Hideshi Tokuchi, Vice Minister of Defence, Japan, and M.J Akbar, Spokesperson of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India.

Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay will participate in the discussion on ‘Hong Kong, China: One City, Two Visions’ on Friday 21 November.

Halifax International Security Forum is a non-profit, non-partisan organisation based in Washington, D.C. It brings together informed leaders and engaged decision-makers from governments, militaries, business, academia, and the media to consider international security threats and build democracy, creating opportunity and promoting peace.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama leaves for Germany (updated)

DHARAMSHALA: His Holiness the Dalai Lama left Dharamshala today for a visit to Germany.

During his visit, His Holiness the Dalai Lama will lead a discussion on ‘Secular Ethics – Human Values In Our Lives’ at Hamburg on 23 August.

His Holiness will give teachings on Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (chodjug) on 24 – 25 August and confer an Avalokiteshvera Initiation (chenresig wang jigten wangchuk) on the morning of 26 August.

Following the teachings, His Holiness will attend the 25th founding anniversary of a German Tibet Support Group and will address the local Tibetans residing there.

On 26th August afternoon, His Holiness the Dalai Lama will address the celebrations of the 30th and 25th anniversaries of the Tibetan community in Germany and the Tibet Initiative Deutschland respectively in Hamburg.

His Holiness will address a Sino-Tibetan conference in Hamburg on 27 August. Intellectuals, officials, activists, writers, Sinologists from Europe, US, Asia and Australia will be participating in the conference.

3 more Tibetans die of injuries, Tibetan Parliament calls for end to China’s atrocities

August 20, 2014 2:50 pm

DHARAMSHALA: As three more Tibetans died of injuries sustained during police firing in eastern Tibet, the Tibetan Parliament in Exile has urged the international community to press the Chinese government to end its crackdown and address the grievances of the Tibetan people.

The three Tibetans – Tsewang Gonpo, 60, Yeshi, 42 and Jinpa Tharchin, 18 – died due to gunshot wounds and torture by the Chinese authorities. It is not known when they died, but their bodies were handed over to their families on Monday, sources said.

The sources also earlier reported that Lo Palsang and an unidentified 22-year-old Tibetan youth succumbed to their injuries.

Dozens of Tibetans suffered severe injuries after the Chinese police shoot at Tibetans calling for the release of their leader in Shugpa village in Shersul county in Karze prefecture in eastern Tibet (incorporated into China’s Sichuan Province) last Tuesday. The village leader, Wangdak, was arrested for complaining against the mistreatment and harassment of Tibetans by the Chinese authorities.

Expressing deep concern over the situation in the region, the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile yesterday condemned the shooting of peaceful Tibetan protesters by the Chinese security.

It urged the Chinese government to immediately release the detainees, provide medical treatment to those injured and compensation to the families who lost their relatives in the police firing.

“The Chinese authorities have talked about eradicating corruption to help the people. But more grave offence than corruption is the suppression of people’s freedom and political rights in Tibet, and it must be stopped by the Chinese government,” the Tibetan Parliament said.

“We call for the urgent intervention of the international community, including human rights organisations, governments and parliaments, to end the ongoing Chinese government’s atrocities in Tibet. We also reiterate our appeal to press for visits by the international media and fact-finding delegations to assess the real situation in Tibet,” it said.

The Politics of History: India and China, 1949-1962

13 May 2014, 5 PM

By Nirupama Rao,

Meera & Vikram Gandhi Fellow in International Studies, The Watson Institute, Brown University

History, Howard Zinn once said, is an empty vessel and you can fill it in whatever way you can. My view is that we should have a sense of proportion about history, what is significant, and what not so significant. When we study the history of our relations with China in the decade until 1962, the debate often fixes on causation, the contributory and decisive causes leading to our defeat or, humiliation. But, of these, what is relevant to the living, and not the dead? What does that history teach us about today? How does it connect to us, today, and how we shape our future? There can be infinite meanings attached to what caused the war between India and China, but, what is the purpose for which we seek that meaning, or understand the cause of what happened? The purpose of asking this should be to seek answers that are relevant to us, today. What lessons are to be learnt about leadership, about public opinion, about logistical and military preparedness, about narrowing differences, and about negotiation? How can we deduce a new history for the future?

The historian, David Stevenson recently drew our attention [“Learning from the Past: the Relevance of International History”, International Affairs 90: I (2014) 5-22], to an interesting anecdote concerning Boswell and Johnson. In that story, we are transported to the rain-soaked, desolate moorland of the Hebrides, in which these two eminent persons are travelling. Boswell is peevish, imagining that Macbeth’s three witches would emerge from the murky surroundings. Monboddo House, their destination is a tumbledown ‘wild and naked place’. But the conviviality of their Hebridian host, Lord Monboddo, provides comfort to these tired travellers, and the evening conversation turns to history. Says Monboddo: “The history of manners is the most valuable. I never set a high value on any other history.” To this, Johnson says, “Nor I, and therefore I esteem biography, as giving us what comes near to ourselves, what we can turn to use”. Boswell meanwhile, interjects to say, “But in the course of general history we find manners. In wars we see the disposition of people, their degrees of humanity and other particulars.” Johnson is still skeptical, saying “Yes, but then you must take all the facts to get this, and it is but a little you get.” And then, Lord Monboddo, the host has the final say, “And it is that little which makes history valuable”. History, any history, is about the book of life, as Samuel Eliot Morison once said. It is a jungle and a jumble of facts and impressions, and the history of the India-China relationship, is no exception.

Making history valuable: relating it to the “book of life”, is then the challenge and, defining the historian’s essential vocation the even greater one. How do we extract that “little” that makes history valuable and relevant to our present and future lives, from the passage of relations between two large Asian nations in the last mid-century? The India-China relationship in its early mid-20th century phase is a history of politics, of ideologies, of the disposition of leaders, and a history of war, the study of whose conclusions reminds us that it is we, us, who are exactly mirrored in those events and decisions, for we have not as yet, distilled the import of those events. That history has confined us in many ways, and if we are to build a secure future, we must untie our minds about it.

I am indeed honored to deliver the third S. Gopal Memorial Lecture at King’s College, today. The topic I have chosen, elicits more emotion than reason, especially in India. In S. Gopal’s own post-1962 writing, there is no personal account of his own role in those crucial years leading up to the war. In the service of the Indian Constitution and his government, he strengthened the policy brief on our border with China. It may, as some have argued, been a maximalist stand, but in consonance with his acknowledged reputation as a good historian, it was impeccably researched, a focused marshaling of fact, and imbued with certitude. It was a task, as Srinath Raghavan puts it, that stood at the intersection between history and foreign policy-making –where frontier history met foreign  policy. Under Gopal’s stewardship, the Historical Division of the Ministry of External Affairs, which did the research for the Officials Talks of 1960 with China, rose “to the peak of its performance and influence”. [Raghavan: “Imperialists, Nationalists, Democrats: The Collected Essays of Sarvepalli Gopal, 2013: 21] Read the rest