New Delhi: - 'The Indian secularism a realistic approach and also relevant in today's world,' the spiritual leader of Tibet His Holiness the Dalai Lama said during the opening ceremony of the two-day National Seminar on, 'Nalanda Tradition of Buddhism in Asia' held New Delhi, on November 13, 2013.
Shortly after his arrival in the Indian capital New Delhi from Dharamshala Wednesday, Nov. 13, His Holiness the Dalai Lama drove to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) where he had been invited to inaugurate a two day national seminar on the Nalanda Tradition of Buddhism in Asia.
His Holiness then was received by Geshe Dorji Damdul, Director of Tibet House, and escorted through the IGNCA grounds by the convenor of the event Benoy K Behl and his old friend Dr Kapila Vatsyayan.
President of the IGNCA, Chinmaya Gharekhan in his welcoming address praised His Holiness as a “guide for humankind”, as a living example of the Nalanda tradition that had spread across Asia.
In his address, Geshe Dorji Damdul, asked, “How is it that Nalanda is so widely spoken of today? It is because of His Holiness’s proclaiming its qualities and its having been a thriving centre of knowledge.”
Inaugurating the national seminar on, 'Nalanda Tradition of Buddhism in Asia', he called for universities and colleges in the country to pay more attention to ancient Indian Buddhist teachings and view these as academic topics and not just religious teachings.
His Holiness congratulated the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and Tibet House for organising this event focussed on Nalanda. He recalled that when he first had the opportunity to come to India in 1956, he made a pilgrimage to various sites including Nalanda.
"The name Nalanda was very familiar to me as the source of the tradition we follow in Tibet. First we memorize the root text, then study it word by word and then debate it with our fellow students to penetrate the depths of its meaning. I began this process myself as a child of 6 or 7 years old, reluctantly to begin with. However, in due course, I became more interested and developed a great admiration for the works of the Indian masters who are part of this tradition," His Holiness said.
"Modern Indians are westernised. Science and technology is important, and you must catch up. Look at China, it is rapidly catching up with the world... but you should not neglect your thousand years of ancient knowledge," he said. The Nalanda school of thought, which stresses on the need for reasoning before accepting, might be ancient but was still relevant in the 21st century, His Holiness added.
"Buildings of the Nalanda University might be in ruins but the knowledge is still alive in the 21st century. We Tibetans for 1,000 years have preserved Nalanda knowledge, through memorising, reading and debate," he further said.
"The great Buddhist institution of Nalanda now lies in ruins, yet the knowledge it fostered, based on the Buddha's teachings, contributed immensely to Buddhist understanding, particularly in its Sanskrit tradition," he added.
The 78 year old Nobel peace laureate has also said that "this was the tradition that spread to China and later to Tibet. Only insects and pigeons live in the ruins today, but the knowledge that flowed from this place survives. Through rigorous study and practice, the Nalanda tradition was kept alive in Tibet."
The spiritual leader of Tibet also praised the Indian concept of secularism, which he said was based on the practice of respect for not only other religions but for non-believers as well.
"My friends in the West have some sort of reservation with the word secularism, for them secularism means distance from religion. "But the Indian understanding is respect to all religions and also the non-believers. This is a realistic approach and also relevant in today's world," His Holiness said.
“We Tibetans regard ourselves as chelas of Indian gurus, ancient Indian gurus. And although much of the knowledge I speak of is to be found in Buddhist literature, it is not strictly Buddhist, but has a secular basis. India is multi-religious society and has long maintained a profound respect for different religious traditions," he added.
"As an extension of this we should pay more attention to our inner values; if we are slaves to money, for example, we’ll have no peace of mind. As human beings, we have to look after one another. We have to think and analyse, which gives rise to self-confidence and overcomes fear. I’m not talking about the next life, but about ensuring our minds are healthy now. In trying to create a better world, we need to have less emphasis on ‘them’ and ‘us’ and more sense that everyone is part of ‘us’,” he added.
Relating an anecdote, His Holiness said that even Chinese leader Mao-Tse Tung had praised his scientific approach to teaching.
"In 1954, when I was in Beijing, Mao told me 'your thinking is very scientific'. "But, then, he said 'Religion is poison'", His Holiness the Dalai Lama revealed. He said he felt that had Mao-Tse Tung got a chance to learn about the Indian masters of thought, he would have followed their teachings.
“I’m proud to be a chela of those great ancient India thinkers,” His Holiness reiterated. “I call myself a son of India because while my brain has been filled with ancient Indian thought, my body has been nourished for decades by Indian rice, dal and chapattis," he added.
“I hope meetings like this will serve to remind us of the value of what Nalanda represented. Some scientists have asked me if we can apply Nalanda’s logical approach to study in other fields, and I can’t see why not. We need analysis, taking a broad view of whatever it is we’re investigating, looking at it from many angles." he said.