Chennai — Presenting the Abdul Kalam Seva Ratna Awards 2015, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, organised by the Dr Abdul Kalam Vision India Movement, the spiritual leader of Tibet His Holiness the Dalai Lama said the spirit and vision of Kalam lived on in the minds and hearts of the people. "It is your responsibility to fulfil his dreams."
"Although he is no longer physically among us, Dr Abdul Kalam's spirit lives on in our admiration of him. We should all work to keep it alive. I offer my greetings and good wishes to all those who have just received awards."
"I remember, when I received the Nobel Peace Prize, I said I accepted it as recognition of the small contribution I may have made. But I realized that it meant I would have to keep up my defence of peace and dialogue. I request all of you too, 'Don't slacken your efforts, try harder to fulfil people's hopes. Keep up the good work.'
"Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character. When there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world," said the Nobel peace laureate who was the chief guest at the event.
He compared it to something His Holiness has said, "there is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness." He said that India is an ancient nation that has produced many great thinkers and philosophers.
"I first visited Chennai, Madras as it then was, in 1956 when I came to India for the celebrations of the 2500th anniversary of the Buddha, so this famous city is familiar to me. I came again in 1959 or 1960 when I remember Rajagopalachari welcomed me. This time I notice what a lot of heavy physical construction is going on. We see this happen all over the world, and yet it is at least as important that people also experience joy and peace of mind. You may have a big house, but if it is full of stress and tension, you won't be happy living there. Physical comfort by itself doesn't bring us peace.
"This country has gathered a deep awareness of the function of our emotions and how our minds work. Understanding of how to tackle our destructive emotions gave rise to the concept of ahimsa and the tolerance that has allowed India to be the only country where all the world's major religions live together in harmony. I know this occasionally breaks down, but that's because there are mischievous people who make trouble in any society.
"In general, India presents an example to the world that different religious traditions, despite their different views, can live together in mutual respect. I often tell my Indian friends that you have an opportunity to combine the ancient understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions with contemporary scientific knowledge and development."
His Holiness recalled that Dr Abdul Kalam was a spiritually minded man, whose background was Muslim. When he visited his residence recently a photograph reminded him of an occasion when the former President had been reading Shantideva's 'Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life'. He expressed a great fondness for a couple of verses and asked His Holiness to sign those pages. The verses read:
His Holiness remarked that he often draws a distinction between the generation of the 20th century, to which he belongs, and whose time is gone, and the generation of the 21st century. He half-jokingly said:
"Those of us of the 20th century have created a whole host of problems, including damage to the environment, that has left a lot of work for those of you who belong to the 21st century to clear up. However, I believe that if we make an effort now, by the end of this century, but within your lifetimes, we could create a more peaceful, harmonious, compassionate world.
"We are all physically, mentally and emotionally the same. We all have the same desire to live a happy life. However, strong self-centredness drives us to see others in terms of 'us' and 'them', which leads to divisions that can even spill over into violence. The environment is telling us we live in one world," he said.
"Technology is making that world smaller. Even the global economy is showing us how interdependent we are. We all belong to one human family. Secondary differences of faith, race or status are not important in the broader context that we all have the same right to achieve a happy life," he added, saying "as social animals we all depend on one another."
"Nowadays, many scientists are recognising the importance of our inner world. They are interested to know how we can set about reducing our destructive emotions and increase those emotions that are positive. Evidence is being found that our basic human nature is compassionate."
His Holiness said that "this is a basis for hope; it lends confidence to the idea that we can build a happier world. So my advice for young people today is to think about these things, not to relax, not to give up and not to just rest content with things the way they are. We can surmount our problems and build a better world."