Portland, Oregon, US: - "When anyone wants to investigate Buddhist thought today, Tibetan language is the best means through which to do it," said the spiritual leader of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He said besides the acquisition of modern education, the preservation of Tibetan language, culture and Buddhism is important.
Shortly after arriving in Portland on May 8, 2013, having flown from one side of the United States to the other, the spiritual leader of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama met staff and Tibetans students participating in the Global Leadership Initiative. He recalled that as early as the time of his predecessor, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, there had been efforts to introduce modern education in Tibet.
Then, soon after coming into exile in India, priority was given to setting up schools to educate children. Those have largely been successful, he said, but what is needed now is for Tibetans to acquire expertise and specialised training.
According to His Holiness the Dalai Lama's office, the 77-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke to the Tibetan students in their native tongue, talking to them about the value of education for Tibetan society.
"I would like to remind you that we have our own system of writing that is the most suitable language available today for expressing Buddhist ideas. When anyone wants to investigate Buddhist thought today, Tibetan is the best means through which to do it. The heritage of Nalanda University, the culture and knowledge it upheld as a centre of learning, are now only available in Tibetan.
"We may regret that the tragedy that befell Tibet was attributable to our lack of modern education, but as far as Buddhist science, logic and epistemology are concerned, they are presently only to be found in Tibetan," His Holiness told the students. "We are thus the custodians of a world treasure. Now, in addition, we need to produce specialized scholars who study up to PhD level and beyond. We may not need space technology, but there are many other aspects of knowledge and technology that would be of help to us."
He remarked that one of the great qualities of classical Buddhist training was the development of the heart and he counselled the students to remember the need for kindness and integrity whatever they do.
Asked what advice he had for students in Tibet, His Holiness expressed his admiration for the dedication with which scholars and writers, many of them in Amdho region, have worked to preserve and extend the use of Tibetan language. While acknowledging that vernacular language varies according to the different regions of Tibet, the literary language is something shared in common right across the Tibetan Plateau.
Recalling that in 7th and 8th centuries Tibet was a unified power that later fragmented, he noted that the unifying factors thereafter have been a common written language and a shared culture. He reiterated that what is important today, besides the acquisition of modern knowledge, is the preservation of Tibetan language, culture and Buddhist understanding.
His Holiness greeted about 6,000 people at the University of Portland's Chiles Center Thursday morning, offering a message of peace during a multicultural gathering.
The interfaith dialogue featured Muslim, Catholic, Jewish and Native American leaders who talked about the environment and spirituality. His Holiness joined the others with the message that people should not harm each other in the name of their faith. Though the summit is about the environment, he said part of that is respecting God.
"Compassion, affection — a biological factor," His Holiness the Dalai Lama told the audience. "So even an animal has that. But religious faith, only among human beings."
In the afternoon, the Tibetan spiritual leader delivered a speech at the University of Portland's Chiles Center called "Universal responsibility and the inner environment: the Nature of Mind."
"I was in Tibet until my age was 24. I think Tibet, some people call it the roof of the world, It was very clean, a small population, everything simple," the Nobel Peace laureate said. "Only after I came to India (did) I first hear, 'This water, you cannot drink.' I was very surprised...In Tibet, passing through waters, by a stream, we always enjoy. No problem. Then I began to learn."