Dharamshala — Explaining the young people belong to the generation of the 21st century, His Holiness the Dalai Lama told them that "with vision and determination" the younger generation can contribute to making a "better world."
A group of students and faculty members from Emory University were given the privilege of meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his residence as part of their Tibetan Mind/Body Sciences Summer Abroad Program. He took out time from his many commitments to warmly greet them, answer any questions they had and share with them his thoughts on the values of ancient Indian discourses on knowledge.
He started with a disclaimer, telling his young proteges that India has been his second home for well over five decades and his experience with Indian philosophical thought goes back even further. "Since the age of 6 when I began to study, I have been immersed in ancient Indian knowledge. We are stateless refugees, but India is the source and home of what we know. And the freedom India has afforded us the opportunity to meet and get to know many different people, spiritual leaders and scientists among them.
According to His Holiness, using analytical and reasoning skills to overturn traditional injustices was first taught by the Nalanda school as a means of alleviating suffering. "Buddhism, especially the Nalanda tradition, has taught us to apply reason, to experiment, to analyze and use our intelligence. The practice we follow aims to free all sentient beings from suffering and bring them happiness. However, there's little we can do directly for beings elsewhere in the universe, and little we can do to help the insects, animals and birds of this world. Those we can help are our fellow human beings with whom we can communicate. Human beings have such intelligence, what a pity that so often it is used to make trouble.
He proclaimed his admiration for the educated youth of today, whom he sees as the beacon of hope for a more peaceful and intelligent planet. "You young people belong to the generation of the 21st century. With vision and determination I believe you can contribute to making this a better world."
His Holiness also praised the efforts of the Emory Tibetan Mind/Body Sciences Summer Abroad Program for facilitating the special connection between Tibetans living in India and the students of Emory University. A shining example of the benefits of this partnership can be seen in the great monasteries re-established in South India, where over a thousand monks have been trained to be proficient in science and English. For context, Drepung Loselling Monastery in Karnataka has been involved with the program since 2014. There, students from Emory can engage with the monastic community and interact with Tibetan monastics pursuing an education if the fields of neuroscience, biology, and physics.
He was visibly proud of the fact that Tibetans have managed to preserve a command of logic and a holistic understanding of the workings of the mind taught by the Indian philosophers at a time when modern India has mostly forsaken these teachings in favor of adopting western practices of development. Despite falling out of favor in its land of origin, this knowledge remains relevant and vital for leading a happy and meaningful life in the present. Therefore, he stressed on the importance of working to revive this ancient knowledge in the India of today.
Emory Tibetan Mind/Body Sciences Summer Abroad Program is a six-week immersion experience that offers students the opportunity to interact with leading members of the Tibetan exile community—including Emory Distinguished Presidential Professor His Holiness the Dalai Lama—while participating in the growing dialogue between modern science and the Tibetan Buddhist contemplative tradition. Students who are selected for this program get to spend their summer studying meditation, Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan medicine, and the culture of Buddhist Tibet from institutions such as the Norbulingka Institute, the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Men-Tsee Khang, the Tibetan Medical Institute and Gyuto Tantric Monastery in Dharamshala.
Professor Lobsang Tenzin Negi, the co-founder and director of the Emory-Tibet partnership, was tasked with introducing the group to His Holiness, a meritorious group consisting of 25 students from Emory University, two from colleges nearby and four faculty members. The students had many important questions for the respected spiritual leader who addressed their queries with characteristic patience and imparted wisdom as and when he saw fit.
When asked about the various challenges and obstacles facing humanity in its quest of establishing an era of peace, His Holiness spoke of his admiration for the spirit of the European Union, which allowed for erstwhile enemies to come together and work for their mutual benefit. He said the current reality is that nations are no longer isolated and self-sufficient as they once were and to navigate a world that has become much more interdependent, there is a need to be more aware of the oneness of humanity.
"One factor that could contribute to making the 21st century an era of peace," he remarked, "would be a wider appreciation of the failure to resolve problems by force. The use of force may control people physically, but it won't change their hearts and minds. You can only do that on the basis of trust and friendship."
On being asked about the ethics of pursuing success in a capitalist society, His Holiness firmly stated his belief that there is nothing wrong with creating wealth or functioning within a dynamic market economy as long as the wealth generated by the market system is distributed fairly or put to beneficial use for the entire community. He added a personal anecdote of his meeting with a wealthy Bombay family who came to ask him for his blessings. He told them that if they were to spend their money on providing educational facilities for the children of the Bombay slums, that would be a much more effective source of blessings than he could ever hope to provide.
Arguably the most important question he faced was about the impact and relevance of non-violence. "Before Buddhism came to Tibet," His Holiness explained, "we Tibetans were nomadic. If we encountered an obstacle, we crushed it. Once the learned Nalanda master Shantarakshita established Buddhism in the country our way of life changed and we became a more compassionate, non-violent society."
He stated that after coming into exile following the Chinese occupation, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru warned him that the USA would not go to war with China to defend Tibet. Appeals to the UN were in vain. In 1974, Tibetans decided that they would not seek outright independence, which led to the eventual formulation of the mutually beneficial Middle Way Approach. Fundamental to this is the principle of non-violence, which has attracted widespread moral support even among informed Chinese.
The interaction ended with His Holiness reminding the students about the universal fraternity they shared and urged them to continue the dissemination of knowledge by sharing their experiences and expertise gained in India with their friends and family back home in the US.