His Holiness tells overseas Tibetans to reach out to Chinese communities

New York: His Holiness the Dalai Lama has told Tibetans living overseas to reach out to the Chinese communities, underlining the importance of garnering the support and understanding of the Chinese people to resolve the issue of Tibet.

Over 4,000 Tibetans, including 50 representatives of Tibetans from 11 regions in North America, attended His Holiness’ address organised by Tibetan community of New York and New Jersey at the Riverside Church on Saturday morning. On his arrival at the Church, His Holiness was received by Mr. Pema Tsewang, President of the Tibetan Community. Also present were Mr Penpa Tsering, Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche, several former kalons and members of Parliament, and representatives of the Tibetan Associations.

In his remarks, His Holiness began by referring to the presence of the Speaker and the Kalon Tripa saying that the opportunity was being created to have good discussion on future course of action with representatives and members of the Tibetan community.

His Holiness said we have been in exile for more than 51 years. During this period, in Tibet, the Tibetan people have been witnessing an attempt to undermine their religion and culture, which they deeply cherish. When the Tibetan people display their dislike of this attempt they are being suppressed with force.

His Holiness said prior to 1959, the Tibetan people had tried to co-exist with the Chinese for nine years without any success. They then had to go into exile. He said Tibetans went into exile not because they did something illegal, or experienced starvation, or even on account of natural disasters. He added that the factors that have made the Tibetans become exiles still exist.

His Holiness said irrespective of whatever their current nationality, the people should not forget their basic Tibetan identity. They should also be mindful of their responsibility related to the just cause of Tibet. He said the main criteria for this is that they should be proud and confident of their identity.

His Holiness said the Tibetans have a long history with some archaeological findings tracing it back 30,000 years while others say the history is around 10,000 years old. His Holiness said if we look at the past 2000 years of Tibetan history, the powerful Tibetan empire of the period during the Choegyals gradually disintegrated. He said this happened not because of any external factor but because of internal discord. However, despite the vicissitude of history, the Tibetan Buddhist culture continued to develop even to this day. His Holiness then referred to the importance of Tibetan language and religion and the increasing interest in the Buddhism by scientists.

His Holiness talked about a Chinese journalist’s perception of a strong Tibetan character while going to Kyegudo to report on the earthquake. This Chinese journalist compared the positive attitude of the Tibetans affected by the earthquake in Kyegudo with the somewhat negative attitude of the Chinese who were affected by the earthquake in Sichuan in 2008. His Holiness said that there are signs that the Tibetan character, molded by our culture that promoted compassion and non-violence, may degenerate unless people are careful.

His Holiness talked about the importance of education saying the Central Tibetan Administration had been spending money in the establishment of schools while it has not allocated any money for the building of monasteries. His Holiness asked everyone, particularly the children, to pay special attention to the Tibetan language. He said the responsibility for this lies with each and every family. He also encouraged students to undertake specialised studies.

His Holiness called on Tibetans living in areas that have Chinese communities to reach out to them. He said that in order to resolve the Tibetan problem, it is important that we have the understanding and support of the Chinese people so that they can understand our point of view. Here His Holiness referred to the British journalist Felix Greene, who came to visit him in Dharamsala in the 1970s. Greene was known to be pro-China and had been to Tibet and shot films with Tibetans extolling the virtue of Chinese rule. He brought them to Dharamsala. His Holiness recalled seeing footage where two former Lhasa officials, Kashoepa and Lhawutara, were criticizing him. Greene wanted to show to His Holiness how the Tibetans in Tibet viewed him. His Holiness said he, however, told Green to look carefully to the eyes of those being interviewed, which were darting to the side indicating that “the teacher was at the side.” He said he told Greene that if these same individuals come to India and freely speak out their mind they would be saying something different. His Holiness said he had three days of discussion at the end of which Greene’s attitude had changed.

Talking about the political issue of Tibet, His Holiness reminded the people that his Middle Way of Approach in no way negated the past history. In terms of history, His Holiness said the Tibetan point of view differed from the Chinese point of view. However, we need to deal with the reality of the issue and make an effort to save Tibet from the critical situation. He said the Middle Way Approach was not about one side losing with the other side winning but was mutually beneficial.

Pointing to the members of the clergy sitting on the stage, His Holiness reminded them of their responsibility while transferring knowledge of Tibetan religion and culture. He said even while advising others to be kindhearted they themselves need to implement the same.

His Holiness asked the Tibetans to be friendly with each other and to help the less privileged. He said he had been meeting some sick people and his advice is that everyone should take precautionary medical checkup and undergo treatment before the illness becomes drastic. He said what is important is timely medical treatment saying even the Buddha had advised it.

His Holiness asked the people to look for ways to maintain the Tibetan spirit saying we should learn from the Jews on this.

Following his address to the Tibetan community, His Holiness went to the Radio City Music Hall to continue his Buddhist lecture. At the beginning, a group of Korean Buddhists chanted the Heart Sutra in Korean (on 22 May, it was chanted in Chinese by some Chinese Buddhists). His Holiness then spent a good portion of the morning session in explaining the basic principles saying the people should have the right understanding.

At noon, His Holiness attended a luncheon reception to raise funds for a Tibetan community center in the New York area. This was hosted at Le Bernardin Restaurant by its chef Eric Ripert. On his arrival at the restaurant, His Holiness was received by members of the Board of the Tibetan Community of New York & New Jersey.

Chef Ripert welcomed His Holiness. Thereafter, Representative Lobsang Nyandak spoke on behalf of the Tibetan community saying the overwhelming challenge of enabling the younger generation of Tibetans in the New York to preserve and promote their language, culture and tradition was the reason behind this effort to raise fund for the community center. He added that there were around 6000 Tibetans in the New York (with around 15,000 Tibetans in the Americas). Thereafter, a short documentary about the situation, impression and needs of the Tibetans in the New York area was shown.

In his remarks, His Holiness suggested that the proposed community center should not become just like a temple but be a learning center, with a good library. He talked about the need to study both Buddhist philosophy as well as western philosophers like Bertrand Russell. His Holiness then answered a few questions from the audience. There was a question about the earthquake in Kyegudo and the reaction by the Chinese Government to his idea of visiting the area to provide spiritual solace, and whether he was thinking of sending a delegation. His Holiness said as yet he had not received a clear response from the Chinese Government. He outlined his thinking right from the time when he heard about the earthquake and the reasons for expressing his desire to visit Kyegudo.

His Holiness then returned to teaching venue where he concluded the session by asking everyone to read the second chapter of A Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life that deals with the generation of Bodhicitta.

Mr. Richard Gere of Healing the Divide, one of the hosts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings, then expressed his gratitude to His Holiness for the teaching, thanked those who have helped in its organization, including Radio City Music Hall. Ven. Nicholas Vreeland of the Tibet Center, the other host, then read out a brief financial statement. He informed His Holiness and the gather that the total expense for the event was $ 1,805,000 while the income from ticket sales was $ 1,325,568. He said every day around 1,500 seats were donated to the community. As in other places members of the Sangha had free admission to the teachings.

On 23 May 2010, His Holiness will have a discussion with Chinese American scholars on “Education, Religion and Happiness” at Hunter College. Thereafter, he will address participants of The Bridge Conference dedicated to building positive relations and the free exchange of ideas between Chinese and Tibetan youth. This event will be webcasted on http://www.livestream.com/bridgeconference from 10:30 am Eastern Time (8:00 pm India, 10:30 pm Tibet time).

In the afternoon, His Holiness will be giving a public talk on “Awakening the Heart of Selflessness” organised by Healing the Divide & The Tibet Center.

–Report filed by Bhuchung K Tsering of ICT