Meeting with Tibetans, Vietnamese and officials in Montreal
At the Centre, His Holiness was greeted by the Mayor of Longueuil, Mrs. Caroline St-Hilaire, who offered him a plaque containing a welcome message. It read,
"The city of Longueuil expresses its most warmest welcoming wishes to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his visit to our city on Wednesday September 7, 2011. "The Mayor of Longueuil "Caroline St-Hilaire"
Thereafter, His Holiness addressed the gathering. His Holiness expressed his admiration to see Tibetans and Vietnamese people, wherever they are, continuing their traditional values. His Holiness said that his steadfast position is that it is always better for a community to keep to its own traditional religious faith. In the case of Judeo-Christian communities, it is more useful for them to maintain their own tradition whereas in many Asian countries people are Buddhist and would be useful for them to keep to it.
Therefore, His Holiness said that a Centre like the Manjushri Buddhist Centre was not only useful in the preservation of the Buddhist tradition but could also be used for learning from other traditions. He added that such constant effort could contribute towards religious harmony. Mere speech was not enough but there needs to be effort to understand and to generate mutual respect, he said.
His Holiness said that Tibetans and Vietnamese belong to the same Sanskrit tradition of Buddhism and recite the Heart Sutra. He then explained the meaning of the Heart Sutra Mantra, Gate Gate, Para Gate... saying that it is connected to the five stages in engendering Buddhahood.
The difference between Animals and Human Beings
Highlighting the difference between animals (who also have the Buddha nature) and human beings, His Holiness said that human beings have intelligence. But that intelligence has to be seen as the first stage in development. He asked the people therefore to not just be contented with mere prayers but also undertake deep study of the teachings.
His Holiness then addressed the Tibetans gathered there in Tibetan. Encouraging the Tibetan people to appreciate their rich heritage, he talked about the period during the religious kings being the high period of Tibet. Subsequently, there was a period of disintegration and the power diminished. However, at no time did the Tibetan people become extinct. He added that the Tibetans had a language, which was distinct from others (being the most comprehensive in Nalanda tradition scriptures) although it is a different matter if the people can continue to maintain it. His Holiness said that even though the Tibetan people faced vicissitudes over a period of time, their courage and determination have not waned.
His Holiness advised the Tibetans to really understand their Buddhist heritage. He said there was a time when the Chinese authorities dubbed Buddhism as superstition and that without modern education and scientific development it would fade away. However, His Holiness said that modern scientists are paying increasing attention to Buddhist thoughts contrary to the Chinese assumption.
His Holiness told the Tibetans about the increasing support to the Tibetan cause from the Chinese people saying he continued to meet many of such scholars and artists. He talked about the atmosphere in China today when the government lies to the people and the people in turn lie to the government.
His Holiness advised the older Tibetans to put their experience in writing so that the younger generation is aware of the reality of life, including under the Chinese authorities. He encouraged the younger generation to pay attention to their language. His Holiness recalled his experience in Germany when a young Tibetan boy was conversing to him in Tibetan whereas he has heard of Tibetan families in the United States specifically speaking English at home so that their children could practice the language.
Political Authority to an elected Leader
His Holiness also explained the recent development about his devolution of authority saying that now the administration formerly of lamas has transformed into an administration of people. His Holiness said that this had fulfilled his long-held aspiration and that after making his announcement and especially after the inauguration of the Kalon Tripa he even had very sound sleep. His Holiness said that there were some media reports that hinted that his action was inspired by the developments in northern Africa and said that this was not correct since he had an affinity for democracy since his childhood.
Buddhism and Communism
His Holiness also spoke about the issue of propitiation of Dholgyal and how the majority of the Tibetan people have been positive on his approach. He said there were some who seem to rely on the might of the Chinese Communists and to get their support on this issue. His Holiness said his approach was related to the broader good of all Tibetans who follow all the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.
In conclusion, His Holiness again addressed the entire gathering by telling them that they should be 21st century Buddhists and not be contented with mere prayers in the old fashioned way. Rather, he suggested that they should have fuller knowledge of Buddhism for which study was important by using human intelligence.
Religious Harmony and Human Values
Thereafter, His Holiness left for the Palais des Congres, the venue of the Second Global Conference of World's Religions after September 11. He first addressed a press meet. His Holiness said he had fond memory of his previous visit to Montreal when he interacted with teachers who were participating in a training program. He then expanded on his commitments to promote human values and religious harmony. He said even though the media may not be directly connected to these issues they had a responsibility to promote the values for the greater good of the society.
His Holiness talked about his own personal experience of hearing only about negative issues like murder on the radio or reading in the papers mostly about such things as well as money. He said there was the need to draw the people's attention on promotion of moral ethics adding that his way was to do so through a secular approach.
His Holiness said that in recent months he had been reiterating that corruption seems to be some kind of a new disease inflicting human society. He added that there was a need to make the people realize that corruption is not part of human nature. He said that he was shocked to hear a student mention to him at an event in the Indian city of Jodhpur that unless one indulged in corruption there was no way to succeed. Similarly, he talked about another person at an event in Mumbai who said that without corruption one could not succeed in business. His Holiness referred to the movement launched by the Indian Gandhian Anna Hazare saying that irrespective of the rightness or the wrongness of his method, his message was timely.
Calling Canada "My country" because of the status of honorary citizenship granted to him, His Holiness said that there was a role for the media to investigate the society here, including politicians and leaders, and to inform the public so that there is a healthy and clean society.
His Holiness recalled a recent event in New Delhi where he met a delegation of students. They told him that they were distancing themselves from "dirty politics." His Holiness said that he told the students that this was not correct. He said politics was necessary and itself was not dirty. It was the people who indulged in it who may be the cause. His Holiness said that instead of distancing from politics there was the need for more effort to clean up the dirty things.
In response to a query about climate change and Canadian mining companies involved in Tibet, His Holiness said the ecology was a serious issue. If there were some political errors these could be rectified, but if there is an ecological damage then the destruction is done and there is no rectification. His Holiness said that some Chinese scientists had highlighted the importance of the environment on the Tibetan plateau by calling it the Third Pole. He said while the rate of global warming the world over was 0.1 it was 0.3 on the Tibetan plateau. He said global warming could have a role in the unusual floods in the world or the water scarcity in Africa and India. His Holiness said Mrs. Danielle Mitterrand, wife of former French president, was involved in a global movement on water.
He said the then Chinese prime minister Zhu Rongji had issued instructions halting deforestation but that later on account of corruption and connivance with local authorities and businessmen, deforestation went on.
Peace Through Ethics
On the issue of Canadian mining companies involved in Tibet, His Holiness said that the companies should take ecologists and scientists to do on the spot study of the region and to minimize effect on the ecology. If the companies do not take adequate action it would be a disgrace to Canada, he said.
His Holiness also explained the reason for his devolution of authority and his call for religious institutions to be separate from political institutions.
His Holiness then met organisers of the event as well as speakers at different panels of the conference before he began his address to the conference on "Peace Through Ethics."
He talked about his life long commitment to promote religious harmony. He said wherever he visited he participated in some sort of interfaith events and said they seem to have an impact. Some time back he was participating in an interfaith event in Australia, which included representatives of different Christian denominations. He said they told him that until that event they had not been interacting with each other.
He said there was the need for closer interactions among different religious traditions. There were conflicts that have erupted in the name of religion, which was sad. A religion, which is the source of moral ethics, is becoming the source of trouble. It was like the medicine becoming the cause of illness rather than curing it, he said.
Religion and Conflick
He said the conflict in the name of religion could be categorized into two: 1) Not due to religion itself but on account of power and politics; and 2) On account of belief in the concept of One Truth, One Religion. He said that in today's multi-cultural and multi religion world such a concept was narrow-minded. He said that with more contact people will become aware of the value of other religious traditions. Citing the Tibetan experience, he said in the past there were some Muslims in Lhasa but Tibetan Buddhists knew of them as good businessmen but had no knowledge of their religion. He said that after coming to India and after visiting Kashmir and meeting Muslim scholars he himself had a better awareness of Islam.
He also talked about his interaction with a Catholic monk in Barcelona in Spain who had been meditating on love for five years in the mountain. His Holiness felt much affinity with the objective of the monk.
His Holiness talked about the commonality of the different religious traditions. His Holiness religious traditions share the same common values of love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and self-discipline. He said Buddhists meditate on selflessness in order to reduce self-centered attitude. In the case of theistic traditions, tremendous faith is placed in God that brings about intimacy leading to total submission. He said this reduced the self-centered attitude of the individual.
He said the concept of One Truth, One Religion may seem contradictory with the concept of Several Truths, Several Religions. However, in the case of individual One Truth, One Religion was relevant whereas in terms of the community the concept of Several Truths, Several Religions was necessary on account of the reality of the situation. He said that it could be that followers of different religious traditions were attending the conference.
Problems Facing the World Today
During the Question-Answer session, His Holiness responded positively to a question on whether religion is a source for good. He said it was not necessary to have a faith but if one sincerely followed it would be useful. He said there was no way for one to be half corrupt and half praying to God. When asked whether he felt discouraged sometimes, His Holiness responded that there were times when he felt one individual may not be able to do much but on such occasions he thought over the matter. Problems are created by individuals and the moral ethics to overcome these start with an individual expanding to one's family to other families and the community at large. Thus looking at it from a wider perspective, he said an individual could feel that he can do something.
When asked the best way to promote the perception of religion after September 11, His Holiness said that a conference like the one he was participating in was useful. He recalled his participation in an event in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the first anniversary of September 11 during which he said that there was the impression that due to activities by some Muslims the whole Islamic tradition was being targeted, which was unfair. He said there were mischievous individuals in every religious tradition and human beings everywhere stumble on the same emotional obstacles - fear, anger, jealousy, suspicion and hatred. He said that through awareness, long term interest and wider perspective and the use of human intelligence we could overcome destructive emotions.
His Holiness also talked about how simple things individuals could do to highlight environmental preservation. Talking of his own approach he said he did not bathe in a tub full of water but only took showers so that some water could be conserved. Similarly, he said he made it a point to switch off lights whenever he exited a room to conserve electricity.
The conference was organized by McGill University and Universite de Montreal with the following organizations being partners: The Dalai Lama Foundation Canada; 2011 Youth Chess Tournament for Peace; Canadian Centre for Ecumenisme; the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations; Brian Bronfman Family Foundation; Radio Ville Marie; Tony Blair Faith Foundation and Circle of Peace.
Global Citizenship Through Universal Responsibility
His Holiness then returned to his hotel for lunch. In the afternoon, His Holiness went to the Uniprix Stadium the venue of the public talk organized by the Canada Tibet Committee (CTC). On his arrival at the open-air stadium on a somewhat cool afternoon, CTC Executive Director Dermod Travis and other staff members received him.
In his talk, "Global Citizenship Through Universal Responsibility" His Holiness talked about his commitments of promotion of human values and religious harmony.
His Holiness recalled the then BBC journalist Mark Tully asking about the reason for embarking on his first European trip in 1973 and he had responded that he was a citizen of the world and wanted to see more places. He said that at the fundamental level we were all human beings, being same emotionally and mentally. He said too much emphasis on the secondary levels of identity like race, religion, etc. may have been okay during ancient time. But in today's world when global economy had not national boundary and ecological impact crossed national boundaries, there was the need to understand the new reality.
His Holiness termed the 20th century as a century of bloodshed when nuclear weapon was used and the unhealthy events in the beginning of the 21st century were a result of the negligence of the 20th century. His Holiness said that the 21st century should be a century of dialogue and that this was possible. He said hopefully within this century we could build a world without armament and without military force. We have learnt that violence would not solve problems and that there was the need to respect the views of each other. We should be ready to share each other's problems and have better awareness for which education was important, he said.
He said peace will come through action and genuine constructive action depends on will power. Will power, in turn, depends on self-confidence, which depends on compassion, he added. He recalled an event in the Indian state of Bihar to inaugurate a Buddhist temple during which the state Chief Minister had remarked that due to the Buddha's blessings his state would develop. His Holiness said when the time came for him to speak he mentioned that if mere Buddha's blessings were sufficient, the state should have developed long time back as the blessings were there for thousands of years. What was needed, His Holiness had said, was that the blessings had to come through the person of an able Chief Minister.
His Holiness said that in the later part of the 20th century people in the affluent societies began to realize that material development did not bring inner peace. Scientists also began paying deeper attention to emotion as they saw a connection between it and the brain. For the past 20 to 30 years, scientists have been conducting research in mind.
Women and Compassion
Drawing attention to the role of women in the development of the society, His Holiness referred to the history of leadership. He said in ancient human history, there was no concept of leadership with everyone being equal. As population increased and farming began to be introduced, the idea of leadership emerged. At that time there was no concept of education and men dominated leadership by sheer strength of power. Gradually, as education began to play an important role, the need began to be felt for special effort to promote certain values of compassion. His Holiness said here biologically women are better placed as they have shown a stronger response to, and be more sensitive to others' pains than men. His Holiness talked about an incident he witnessed on an overnight flight when a couple initially took care of their two children but gradually it was the mother who fended for them the entire flight whereas the father slept. He also talked about the compassionate nature of his mother from whom he had received his first experience of compassion. His Holiness also said he had mentioned to members of the European Parliament (where there were several women) that they needed to take a more active role in promoting compassion.
The Four Eras of China
His Holiness also said the younger generation had a responsibility in determining the direction of the future society as his generation was becoming old. He said the younger generation needed to think more seriously on building a better and healthier society.
Thereafter, former Canadian ice hockey player George Laraque went to the stage to ask questions collected from the public. To a question on changing things when being overwhelmed, His Holiness said that one had to be optimistic no matter how difficult the situation was. He said reasonable goals need to be set and these should be based on truth. He called for the need to have a wider perspective. Giving the Tibetan example, His Holiness said we lost our country, which was sad, but that from another perspective it helped wake up the Tibetans from our narrow thinking. It provided the Tibetans with an opportunity to learn new ideas, he said.
To a question about the indigenous population and the Tibetan people, His Holiness said that in general he thought that communities like the First Nation in Canada or the Maori people in New Zealand might be faring better than indigenous people in other countries. In Tibet, he said before 1959 there was no issues on account of racial discrimination but that now Tibetans and Han Chinese faced issues, whether in the schools, offices or even in prisons.
His Holiness said he usually divided China into Four Eras. Under Mao Zedong era, ideology was prominent, under Deng Xiaoping era, becoming rich was stressed, under Jiang Zemin era, the Communist Party membership was expanded to include other sectors of the Chinese society, and under Hu Jintao era, harmonious society was stressed.
Today, he said China had undergone a big transformation with Communism becoming Capitalist Communism. His Holiness added that this development showed that in certain fields the Chinese leadership could be realistic.
Following the talk, Mr. Laraque invited Canadian Tennis player Aleksandra Wozniak and figure skater Joannie Rochette to the stage. They presented His Holiness with a tennis racquet and invited the gathering to think about actions they could take as they depart. They asked the people to "Commit to standing up for freedom, for human rights in Tibet, in China, in Africa and wherever there are those who are oppressed or live in fear." They concluded by saying, "Be the voice for one voiceless Tibetan."
His Holiness returned to his hotel thereafter. On September 8 morning His Holiness departs Montreal for Mexico to continue on his next leg of his tour of the Americas.