Indianapolis, IN, USA — Meeting Tibetans from Colorado and New Mexico Friday morning, June 24, 2016, His Holiness the Dalai Lama urged the younger Tibetan generation, to carry forward their linguistic and cultural identity, avoiding "falling into the traps of sectarianism and regionalism".
"We Tibetans are an ancient nation. The Emperors of the past were kind and far-sighted. Some say that a Tibetan written script existed beforehand, but what Thönmi Sambhota composed is still in use today," the spiritual leader told a group of 650 Tibetans gathered in front of him.
"In 7th century Songtsen Gampo married a Chinese and a Nepalese princess, who each brought Buddhist images to Tibet. The statue of the Buddha that came from China was housed in the Ramoche Temple, which sparked an interest in the Buddhadharma. Then in 8th century, Trisong Detsen had a Chinese mother so he could have furthered connections with China, but he chose instead to create links with Buddhism in India, particularly with the Nalanda Tradition.
Trisong Detsen invited Shantarakshita, whose writings, such as the 'Adornment of the Middle Way' (Madhyamakalankara) and 'Compendium of Principles' (Tattva-samgraha), with its two volume commentary by Kamalashila, reveal him to have been a top scholar. It was Shantarakshita, assisted by Guru Padmasambhava who overcame obstacles, who established the Nalanda Tradition of Buddhism in Tibet.
"It was Shantarakshita too who instigated the translation of Indian Buddhist literature into Tibetan. And although he is said to have been 70 years old when he came to Tibet, he apparently made an effort to learn Tibetan. At that time it was just developing as a literary language, with new terms being coined to express new ideas. Today, if we want to know about the Nalanda Tradition, Tibetan is the best vehicle for studying it. The introduction of Buddhism enhanced and enriched the Tibetan language. This is something for us Tibetans to be proud of."
His Holiness explained that he is able to hold his own in discussions with modern scholars and scientists because of his training in the Nalanda Tradition. He went on to explain that the main treatises concerning Buddhist logic and epistemology are now only available in Tibetan. "The existence of such literature has been crucial to the preservation of Tibetan traditions."
Speaking about other indigenous peoples he has met who struggle to preserve their own traditions because they have no system of writing, His Holiness has urged them, like the Scandinavian Sami, to create one.
"Tibetan Buddhism is the most comprehensive transmission of what the Buddha taught available today. This is something Tibetans should be aware of. As a nation we going through very difficult times, yet we have been able to keep our heritage alive.
"The 13th Dalai Lama recognised the need to adapt to the modern world. He sent students to Britain to study, where Lungshar looked after them. However, the monasteries resisted the study of English and undermined the 13th Dalai Lama's efforts at reform. Then the British invaded so their misgivings appear to have been fulfilled.
"After we escaped from Tibet in 1959, with Nehru's help we established modern schools for Tibetans. We also searched for land on which we could set up Tibetan communities. The most fulsome response came from the then State of Mysore and its leader Nijalingappa, who was a strong supporter of Tibetans. Consequently we were able to re-establish the Three Seats, Sera, Ganden and Drepung, as well as Tashi Lhunpo and several other important monasteries.
"In the early days, school students learned to debate. Gen Lobsang Gyatso, the teacher who was murdered, started teaching it. But after some time the custom declined. Today, I have suggested that those who teach these topics should be called Philosophy Instructors rather than Religious Teachers.
"When we talk about studying the Dharma, we are talking about transforming the mind. We need to study what is contained in the 300 volumes of the Kangyur and Tengyur in terms of science, the nature of reality, the nature of the mind and philosophy.
"We've been in exile 57 years and as the older generations pass away, the younger ones have to carry the torch forward. At the same time we have to avoid falling into the traps of sectarianism and regionalism."