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Global Buddhist Summit 2023

By   — Shyamal Sinha


His Holiness the Dalai Lama welcomed by Dr Abhijit Halder, Director General of the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) and Ven Dr Dhammapiya, Secretary General IBC. Photo/OHHDL

New Delhi, India, 21st April 2023: in a cosy atmosphere His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived at the Ashok Hotel, venue of the Global Buddhist Summit 2023, this morning, he was welcomed by Dr Abhijit Halder, Director General of the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) and Ven Dr Dhammapiya, Secretary General IBC. The Summit organizers had provided a golf-cart to carry His Holiness to the auditorium. The congregation rose to their feet when he entered the room.

His Holiness walked onto the daïs and bowed before a statue of the Buddha set up there. Next, he greeted the various Buddhist dignitaries he was joining on the stage as he made his way to his seat, but before he sat down, he saluted members of the congregation gathered in the hall.

To His Holiness’s left on the daïs sat His Eminence Rev Khamba Lama Gabju Choijamts Demberel (Mongolia), Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa (Tibet), Ven Bhikshu Dhamma Shobhan Mahathero (Nepal), and Most Ven Thich Thien Tan (Vietnam). To his right sat Most Ven Waskaduwe Mahindawansa Mahanayake Thero (Sri Lanka), Most Venerable Abhidhajamaharahthaaguru Sayadaw Dr Ashin Nyanissara (Burma), His Holiness 43rd Sakya Trizin, Khöndung Gyana Vajra Rinpoché (Tibet), His Eminence Padma Acharya Karma Rangdol (Bhutan), His Eminence Kyabjé Yongzin Ling Rinpoché Tenzin Lungtok Thinley Chöphak (Tibet) and Ven Dr Dhammapiya (India).

Ven Dr Dhammapiya opened the morning’s proceedings by welcoming His Holiness, the venerable guests and members of the audience. He noted that yesterday, the summit had heard about the different Buddhist traditions that have evolved in different parts of the world. Each of these is like a different coloured flower growing from the same stalk, which is the teaching of Buddha Shakyamuni. The Buddha gave different teachings to different people of different capacity in different places so, he said, it is good to remind ourselves of what is said in verse 194 of the Dhammapada:

Happy is the arising of a Buddha;
happy is the exposition of the Ariya Dhamma;
happy is the harmony amongst the Sangha;
happy is the practice of those in harmony.

He suggested that all communities of the Buddhist Sangha need to step forward to address the challenges before us in the world today. We are all human beings, he observed. We are not that different from one another. We share the same air and the same water. Therefore, we have to adopt a global point of view to promote world peace, protect Mother Earth and practise compassion. We need to implement the universal values implicit in all religious traditions to help us all.

“Let’s join hands,” he said, “to work in harmonious unity to promote the Buddha’s teachings for the welfare and happiness of all sentient beings.”

Colonel Rajesh Jindal, the moderator, introduced a group of Theravadin monks who chanted auspicious verses in Pali. They were followed by monks from the Sanskrit tradition chanting in Tibetan.

Jindal explained that Most Venerable Abhidhajamaharahthaaguru Sayadaw Dr Ashin Nyanissara (Burma) had been invited to speak, but had been unable to attend. His message was read on his behalf. In it he emphasized the importance of cultivating a good heart and its implicit qualities of love, compassion and forgiveness.

He observed that if there is no peace in individuals’ hearts, there will be no peace in the world. And the only way to achieve that peace is to practise insight meditation. Such meditation can help us achieve a balanced mind; just as cultivating compassion enables us to change a negative mind into one that is positive. The Most Venerable’s message concluded with the wish may peace and harmony prevail throughout the world.

Col Jindal introduced Prof Robert Thurman, a very old student of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to represent the academic study of Buddhism at the summit. Thurman began with a plea that he felt a little intimidated to be speaking in front of His Holiness, but made up for it by reciting a prayer to Avalokiteshvara. He noted that His Holiness also declares that world peace comes from inner peace and that people need to be educated in the ways to achieve such tranquillity.

Thurman recalled that in his address to the summit yesterday Prime Minister Modi announced that India has historically been dedicated to ‘ahimsa’, non-violence or doing no harm. This is important when it comes to people being willing to die rather than take life. Thurman noted that the Buddha was born into a warrior family, but abandoned that kind of life in order to overcome the obscurations in his mind.

Great Indian universities such as Nalanda developed an approach to education that enabled participants to come to understand the nature of reality and, in terms of psychology, how to transform the mind. The core curriculum of Nalanda has been preserved in the great monasteries of Ganden, Drepung and Sera, which are currently re-established in South India.

Thurman mentioned the importance of Buddhists engaging in discussion with scientists. He suggested that a common scientific and materialistic view of life such that we become nothing when we die is an error with ethical implications. If, at death, we become nothing, it’s easy to believe that we will not need to face the consequences of our actions. Instead, he concluded, we have to find ways to take care of everyone.

Next, Col Jindal invited His Holiness to address the Global Buddhist Summit 2023. His Holiness spoke in Tibetan, which was translated into English by Dr Thupten Jinpa, and began by reciting a verse of salutation to Buddha Shakyamuni.

“One thing that defines the Buddha’s teaching,” His Holiness declared, “is his explanation of dependent arising. Of the two syllables of the Tibetan term for this, ‘ten-jung’, the first means dependent and the second, arising. This gives us an insight into reality. Everything is dependent. Nothing is independent. Things arise in dependence on other factors. Since nothing is independent, everything comes about through dependent relationships.

“Why is understanding dependent arising important? Because when we don’t have this insight, we grasp at self as something substantial and real. This in turn can lead to our drawing distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them’ that feed conflict. We develop attachment to those like us and aversion to others who we see as different.

“Compassion too is at the heart of the Buddha’s teaching. Chandrakirti indicates this when he pays homage to compassion at the opening of his ‘Entering into the Middle Way’. He compares compassion to a seed, to the moisture that allows the seed to grow and to the eventual fruit.

“The heart of the Buddha’s teaching is a combination of compassion and wisdom and as Buddhists our task is cultivate these two qualities.

“Many of the problems we face are to do with how we view reality. We tend to accept that things exist in the way they appear. We project a sense of reality onto what appears before us. The Buddha’s teaching of emptiness helps us see that what we perceive does not reflect reality. Then we can overcome our feelings of attachment and craving. And when we do that, the mind becomes pure.

“As Buddhists we need to pay attention to the process by which we grasp at the reality of things. If no solution to our problems was presented, to focus only on suffering would be demoralizing. When we achieve insight into reality, we can also see that it is possible for us to attain enlightenment. So, as a result of deep reflection we gain a sense of freedom.

“I struggle with this, but feel I am making progress. Chandrakirti says when you are able to gain deep insight into reality, compassion for suffering beings arises naturally. He states that on the two wings of insight and compassion we will soar to the further shore of enlightened liberation. I’m now in my late 80s, but I continue to practise and aspire to reach the path of preparation.”

His Holiness mentioned that the Tibetan tradition also includes tantra and meditation on deities, but he feels that what really has an impact on the mind is the cultivation of wisdom, insight into reality, and compassion for all beings. These are the practices that have most enabled him to transform his mind.

He revealed that because this was a gathering of followers of the Buddha, he had shared his own experience to show that if we take our Buddhist practice seriously, pursuing deep inquiry into reality and nurturing compassion, while also refining the practices of resting and analytical meditation, it will make a difference to our day-to-day lives. He advised that we can all aspire to higher levels of realization. Therefore, he urged his listeners to make the appropriate effort.

“Rituals are not important,” he continued. “What we need is the cultivation of resting and analytical meditation, an understanding of reality and the practice of compassion. These are the sort of teachings that come alive within you, therefore they’re worth the effort.

“I can also assure you that paying attention to the courage of compassion enables you to transform adversity into opportunity.

“I was born in north-east Tibet and came to Lhasa where I studied the works of Buddhist masters who presented ways to develop wisdom and compassion. Their advice had a deep impact on me. Another factor that distinguishes Buddhism is the wide collection of means to effect inner transformation. It’s very rich in meditation practices that have an impact on our day-to-day conduct. Incorporating the Buddhadharma into our lives is a way of expressing gratitude to our teachers.”

Shartsé Khensur Jangchub Chöden offered a vote of thanks. He thanked His Holiness for his eloquent and uplifting address. “You are an inspiration to many people on this planet, something that will continue into future generations. We need your advice and guidance—please live long.” He went on to thank Prof Robert Thurman and Sitagu Sayadaw for their contributions. He thanked the other guests on the daïs, as well as the other participants in the hall, for coming.

In a meeting with the Heads of International Buddhist Delegations that continued into lunch His Holiness mentioned the growing interest in Buddhism across the world. Part of its attraction at this time, he said, is its use of reason.

Dr Dhammapiya asked His Holiness to come back again and again in the future for the benefit of sentient beings. His Holiness replied that this accords with prayers he makes every day, especially one of the verses from Shantideva’s ‘Entering into the Way of the Bodhisattva’:

As long as space endures,
And as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain
To help dispel the misery of the world. 10/55

His Holiness made a point of emphasising the importance of study and investigation. He revealed that the Buddha encouraged his followers not to accept what he taught on the basis of blind faith but to examine and investigate it well.

He recalled that in 8th century Tibet King Trisong Detsen convened a debate between Chinese Hvashang meditators and the Indian master Kamalashila. When the king declared Kamalashila the winner and requested the Chinese monks to leave Tibet, he ensured that the Indian tradition became the mainstream presentation of Buddhism in the Land of Snow.
His Holiness declared that Tibetan Buddhists are grateful to Shantarakshita, the great philosopher and logician from Nalanda, and his disciple Kamalashila for the weight they gave to logic and debate.

Reaching back to his own experience once more His Holiness explained that when he was studying in Tibet, he received valuable help not only from his tutors but also from a team of diligent assistants. When he thinks back now, he feels really indebted to them all.

Before the meeting dispersed, and His Holiness left the Summit, he presented each of the Heads of Buddhist Delegations with a statue of the Buddha.

Sourced from dalailama.com

His Holiness the Dalai Lama arriving on the stage. Photo/ OHHDL

Prof Robert Thurman addressing the gathering. Photo/OHHDL

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the gathering. Photo/OHHDL

Senior members of the Tibetan Buddhist Traditions sitting on stage. Photo/OHHDL

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the gathering. Photo/OHHDL

Shartse Khensur Jangchup Choeden delivering the vote of thanks. Photo/OHHDL

His Holiness the Dalai Lama offering statues of the Buddha to the guests. Photo/OHHDL