Hanover, Germany 18 September 2013: When His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived at the IGS School Hanover this morning he was met by the Principal and a member of the City Council who gave him a small bust of the philosopher Leibnitz, who lived in Hanover in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Noting the hand-painted flags over the school door he entered the lobby to a musical accompaniment. Schoolchildren eagerly awaited him and some stepped forward, each to offer him a rose. They seemed completely unprepared for the fact that he wanted to shake their hands and talk to them and their faces were filled with pleased surprise when he did so. Children from other local schools, such as the Bismarck School, had also been invited for the occasion and many lined the way between the school buildings, where His Holiness met them.
As he entered the assembly hall to the sound of a song in his honour, the faces of assembled students and parents were filled with delight and excitement. A short video clip was shown of students working together on projects to raise funds to donate to the support of Tibetan schoolchildren. The Principal then asked His Holiness to speak.
“Young friends, brothers and sisters, I am extremely happy to be here. On my way in just now, some of you gave me chocolate to satisfy my tongue, music to satisfy my ear, then the sight of your beautiful faces filled with smiles, and excited good spirits were a joy to the eye. Whenever I meet young people like you, seeing your freshness I forget my own age.
“The important thing is that we belong to the 7 billion human beings alive today. We all want an untroubled happy life and we all have a right to achieve it. Do you agree?”
“Ja!” they exclaimed.
Now the purpose of education, His Holiness explained, is to deliver our common goal of a happy life. But education is like an instrument that can be used destructively or constructively. Historically there have been people who brought about disaster because although their brains were brilliant they were not balanced by warm-heartedness and concern for the rights of others. After the Second World War and the immense damage and suffering it brought, through hard work, confidence and German spirit you recreated a great nation.
“My generation belongs to the twentieth century; most of you young people here belong to the twenty-first century. The past is past. We can learn from it, but we can’t change it. However, the future is still open; it can be reshaped. I often point out that, despite the progress and innovation of the twentieth century, it was an era of violence and bloodshed during which 200 million died violently. You have the opportunity to build a more peaceful century. When you face conflict you need to resolve it through dialogue and compromise. To do this you need to respect others’ rights, views and humanity, considering them as brothers and sisters. You need to think of humanity as one family. Please do give this some thought.”
Students presented questions to His Holiness. The first was, which is more important the inner or outer world? He replied that they were both important, but that to find peace in the outer world we need inner peace, which depends on cultivating warm-heartedness. Physical well-being, individual well-being and the well-being of our families all depend on warm-heartedness. In our conventional education we accept the need for physical hygiene. Now we also need to introduce emotional hygiene.
His Holiness was asked if he is afraid of death. His answer was that death is a natural part of life. As a Buddhist monk he said he goes through the process of death in visualization about five times a day in order to prepare for death whenever it actually takes place.
To a question about Syria he said what is happening there is very sad but everyone feels helpless. One cause of the situation is the amount nations spend on weapons. He suggested we should aim to achieve a demilitarized, disarmedworld in which military resources were employed for creative peaceful purposes instead.
He was asked to explain inner peace and described it as an ability to remain calm in the face of turbulence and stress. Inner peace is related to the self-confidence that arises from warm-heartedness and concern for others’ well-being. It is a humble, confident peace of mind.
Pressed to say whether he was happy with the present state of the world, he said that if he was a lot of what he’d already said would be irrelevant. However, he noted that great change took place in people’s attitudes and actions between the early and later parts of the twentieth century. There are grounds for optimism.
A student wanted to know if there were people who really impressed His Holiness and he mentioned President Havel, who he greatly admired, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, who taught him about quantum physics and Willy Brandt, who as Mayor of Berlin during the Cold War strove to achieve reconciliation between West Germany and the countries of the Soviet bloc.
The Principal stepped forward to thank His Holiness for his impressive words that he thought everyone listening would remember long in their hearts and minds. The musical students on the stage then brought the event to a close by leading a rousing rendition of the anthem ‘We are the World’.
Driving to the historical Hardenbergsches Haus His Holiness met the press. He reiterated his childhood sympathy for defeated Germany and his great admiration for the nation that had been built out of the ashes of the Second World War. Asked why he was making this visit, he retorted that he had been invited and felt it would have been foolish to decline. He explained his main message to children was that while he belonged to the generation of the twentieth century, they belonged to the twenty-first, a new era. Instead of resorting to the use of weapons they need to employ peaceful means like dialogue to resolve conflicts and problems.
Asked to describe his job, he said he had retired from his former political responsibility for Tibet since Tibetans now had an elected leadership. Consequently, he finds himself jobless as well as a homeless refugee.
Interviewed for ARTE TV by Nazan Goeckdemir he told her that he felt it important to speak to young people because they have the potential to change, whereas older people are more set in their ways. In the light of next year’s elections she asked about his vision of Europe. He told her that what impressed him about the European project wasthat while individual countries’ interests remained important here were a collection of nations who understood that the best way to fulfil them was through taking each others’ interests into account. He said he hoped Europe would take a lead in introducing secular ethics into education.
His Holiness opened his afternoon public talk before a 5000 strong audience with remarks about his sympathy for Germany saying:
“Let me first congratulate you on building a peaceful, healthy, democratic nation. Now, wherever I go I speak about two things: the importance of human values in the achievement of happiness and the need to cultivate inter-religious harmony. We are social animals. We need friendship, trust, openness, truth, honesty and transparency.
“If your mind is overcome by destructive emotions, you can no longer think clearly. When you’re angry, your mind is filled with the negativity of the object of your anger, which is in fact largely your own mental projection. This is why tolerance and forgiveness serve to protect your sense of warm-heartedness. Some people think these qualities are signs of weakness and that aggression is a sign of strength. But aggression follows from anger that deep inside is rooted in fear. When you have the confidence that you can deal with whatever arises, you don’t get angry.”
His Holiness explained that basic human nature is gentle. Our first experience of love and compassion is the affection our mother shows when we are born and without which we would not survive. By using reason and intelligence we can train ourselves to extend our compassion even to include our enemies. The effective way to develop our human values is through education and training. He was asked how to overcome deep sadness and suffering. After joking about using tranquillizers and a jug of wine, he replied that tragedy may indeed bring sadness, but it need not last long depending on the strength of your mind.
In the midst of their warm applause many in the audience stretched out hands to His Holiness as he completed his talk. He left the stage and climbed into his car, but at the gate stepped out again to talk to a group of Tibetans waiting for him there. He encouraged them to keep up their spirits, to study to preserve their language and culture. He shook hands, posed for photographs and embraced them, before waving goodbye and returning to his hotel.Tomorrow he will address young people again in the morning and give a public talk on ‘Strength through Compassion & Solidarity’ in the afternoon.