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15october20097This morning, Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama began his public teachings in Dharamsala, to an audience comprising about 6000 followers from around 50 countries including Taiwan, France, Vietnam, Japan, US, Korea, Tibetan communities in exile and around the world. The subject was the Diamond Sutras, chosen at the request of the Taiwanese Buddhist community, about 1100 of whom enjoyed a rare opportunity to attend the teachings. His Holiness welcomed his Taiwanese Buddhists followers, thanking them for traveling such a long way to attend.

In his teaching, His Holiness explained the following:

"This planet has a population of six billion, divided into three groups: those who follow a religion, those who practice no religion, and those who are antagonistic towards religion. But all three groups want the same thing: happiness and an end to suffering. The religious amongst us have always tried and will always try to solve the world's problems by internal contemplation and following a spiritual path. The non-religious and the anti-religious think the world can be improved by addressing only 'external' factors, like hunger, disease and economics.

The three groups have very different outlooks. The non-religious have no strong faith in the concept of truth and trust. The anti-religious show more anger. The religious, whether practicing or not, have their faith and belief in truth and trust. As human beings, but the religious look lead a better life.

Those who follow a religion simply because it is a part of their community's culture and tradition are not truly religious. True religion requires that we examine and question our beliefs.

The world has many different religions. Some have strict hierarchies, dogmas and rituals - what I term the 'ism' religions. Dating back in time, these include Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Jainism. These religions can be split into two categories - the theistic, which teach that one god created the universe, and the non-theistic, like Buddhism and Jainism, which do not believe the universe was created by a single entity.These non-theistic religions can, in turn, be divided into two - those that believe in interconnectedness and lack of self; and those that believe in the importance of the body, the individual and the ego.

15october200916All religions are connected by three important questions, which are: How to define the self? Does the self have an origin in time? And does the self ever cease to exist? Buddhism advocates that there is actually no such thing as a discrete self; that nothing in the universe is discrete; that everything is interconnected and therefore there can be no true distinction between the 'subject' and the 'object'. Other religions advocate the opposite; that the self exists in independence, and that the universe is governed by an omnipotent, discrete entity, which creates all other individuals. Thus, these religions propose that the 'self' has a beginning in time.

Christians believe that the self comes into being in the mother's womb. In ancient India, some religions expounded a belief in a creator, in the self, in cause and effect and in reincarnation.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the self has no beginning and no end, and there is no distinction between the body and the mind. Further, our bodies are made of many atoms which, prior to our existence, belonged to other matter, dating back to the birth of our planet and even the beginnings of the universe. Meanwhile, our minds and the sensations they experience have no origin in time. We refer to ourselves as though as though only human beings and animals have a self and a consciousness, without sharing these attributes with all things in the world; when, in fact, consciousness is universal.

Our bodies come from our parents - they are our physical source. But there is no way of deducing the origin of our consciousness and sensations."

Translated by Mathew and Sangay Dorjee, The Tibet Post International

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