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Tibet-Dharamshala-Foreigners-2015Dharamshala -- On March 30, 2015, His Holiness the Dalai Lama met with an estimated 1,100 people from 56 different countries across Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America and Africa. Among them were more than 100 Indians. His audience gathered in groups according to nationality and His Holiness posed for pictures with them before he sat down to speak to them.

"Some time ago I thought it would be good," he said, "if, when there are quite a number of visitors here, I could meet with them and share with them some of my thoughts and experiences. So, you can not only see my face, but also hear about what I think."

He mentioned that all of us, regardless of our place of birth or nationality, are first and foremost human beings. We all seek happiness and we all value each others' affection. It is the care and affection we receive at the start of our lives that equips each of us to show affection to others as we grow older. He pointed out that scientists today have found that harboring feelings of anger and hatred is, in fact, injurious to our health, whereas showing affection is beneficial.

Addressing particularly the Indians in the audience, he said that Tibetans have historically regarded Indians as their gurus because it was from them that they gained their knowledge. He quoted a great Tibetan teacher of the 14/15th century who said that although Tibet is a Land of Snow and the color of snow is white, until the light of wisdom came from India, Tibet had remained in the dark.

He also spoke of his admiration for India's longstanding tradition of secularism, its unbiased respect for all spiritual traditions and even for the individual's right to adhere to none.

"We should adopt such a secular approach to inner values and moral principles, which should be taught in schools, where everyone can hear them, not just in temples, churches and mosques."

His Holiness went on to discuss three aspects of religion: First, the values of love, compassion, tolerance and contentment that all religions have in common. Next, he referenced the ways in which philosophically they differ. He compared the traditions that believe in a creator god with those that believe in the principles of causality, the notion that good actions yield happiness while unwholesomeness yields sorrow. He joked about how people lazily blame their circumstance on 'karma' as if their destiny is beyond their control. They forget that 'karma' in fact means action and that they are its agents.

Finally, he mentioned the cultural aspects of religion and customs that are subject to change. He cited the general principle of equal opportunity that the Buddha granted to men and to women and yet men are predominant.

"It's time for this to change," he said, "We should have more real equality. Similarly, the Buddha disregarded India's caste system and today it's time for an end to caste discrimination. This is a cultural aspect of religious tradition that spiritual teachers should speak out against."

Lastly, His Holiness spoke about the importance of preserving Tibet's culture of peace, non-violence and compassion; values that can be of benefit to everyone. He touched on his concerns about Tibet's natural ecology, noting that in terms of glaciers, Tibet should be considered a third pole. From these sources flow all the major rivers of Asia that are crucial to the water supply of a billion people.

He closed the gathering of earnest listeners with a final appeal: "If anything I've said has been of any interest, think about it some more and discuss it with your family and friends. Thank you. The day after tomorrow I'm leaving for Japan. See you again."

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