Praising India’s democratic traditions, His Holiness said it was India which introduced him to the true meaning of democracy and young Indians should do everything to keep alive their rich traditions developed over thousands of years through overlapping of cultures.
“On non-violence and spirituality I have nothing to say to Indians, you already know these things for at least the last 2000 modern years,” he told a gathering here at a discussion on ‘non-violence and spirituality in India’ as part of a series of events at the Nehru Memorial Museum to mark the birth centenary of former president R Venkataraman.
“But to the younger generation of Indians, who have a lot of interest in technology and science, I feel it is worthwhile to remind them of their traditions, I would say develop your country and also maintain these traditions,” he said.
Recalling his meetings with India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said he found the fact that he could disagree with him without annoying him a testament to the tradition of healthy criticism in India.
“At a meeting with Nehru in Delhi (way back in 1950s), we disagreed on some issue at some point… after that when I met him I was a little scared but I found him completely normal,” he said, recalling the time.
“I thought in China, leaders were not like that, I have learnt this dealing with the Chinese leadership for nine years. Gen Mao (Zedong) though was an exception, but I later found his words were not reflected in reality or implemented on the ground,” he said.
The Dalai Lama quoted BJP leader L K Advani as telling him once that the success of democratic practice in India was the existence of a thousand year of tradition of criticism.
“So for thousands of years this country has developed different views and (imbibed) in its existing philosophies those of Buddhism, Islam Christianity and later Sikhism… at grassroots this tradition is centuries old and that is the real strength of India,” he said.
Calling himself a “messenger of India’s ancient thought” and describing his relationship with India as that of a “chela and guru”, he said Indians should take an active role in taking the message of non-violence inherent in their tradition to the world on a human level.
He also took a potshot at the rampant prevalence of corruption in India, saying though many Indians practice religion in ritual, they often don’t practice it in lives.
“In this country most people practice religion, they would recite shlokas (and pay respects to idols), but whenever they find opportunity they also take to corruption, when in reality true followers of religion have to be honest,” he said.
The Tibetan spiritual leader also asked young Indians to pay greater attention to eradicating the ills of their society — “like the caste system, the dowry system and other discriminations that are prevalent in your society”.
Noting that all major Indian rivers originate from the Himalayan glacier region, the Dalai Lama said the country should also play a role in raising concerns on the ecological degradation of the Tibetan plateau which is a very sensitive area.
“I am convinced with every major disaster, that things are turning bad due to global warming. The Tibetan plateau region is ecologically very sensitive and major rivers in north India flow from the Himalayan glaciers in the region.
“You, therefore, have reason to show concerns about the ecology of that region,” he said, pointing out that the administration of China too has in recent years become sensitive to the ecological conditions of the region.
He said while India might be behind China as far as economic progress in concerned, India has rich values of democracy and freedom which place it in a better position to play a positive and effective role in the world.
Talking about his visit to Bihar last year, His Holiness the Dalai Lama also recalled his meeting with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
“At the function, he (Kumar) said it is through Buddha’s blessings that the state is now prospering, but I said Buddha’s blessings work only through an able CM’s hand and karma,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister of Water Resources and Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid, wondered how secularism has often comes under a cloud in a country that has centuries of culture of tolerance.
“When secularism is such a part of our ethos one wonders why it often comes under the cloud in our country. It is our good fortune that our religious leaders have taken the lead in educating people, but their work is not powerful enough to prevent us politicians from bringing the idea of secularism under the cloud,” he said.
Meanwhile, speaking on the subject NCP leader P A Sangma, joked about cricket fever going pitch high in a country which faces a number of problems in society and politics.
“In spite of all our problems, India continues to be a spiritual country… In the middle east, people are on the streets but in India despite 2G, despite CWG and Swiss banks we are enjoying cricket, but how long can this tolerance persist is the question, we politicians have to wake up,” he said.