By — Staff Reporter
His Holiness the Dalai Lama met 30 core members of the SEE Learning team in Ladakh. They told him that since the launch of the program in Ladakh just over a year ago, they have trained 500 teachers to implement social, emotional and ethical training in local schools. Yesterday, 150 teachers from Leh and Kargil met to discuss their experience of working with the program. Their spokesman thanked His Holiness for having had the vision to encourage the development of SEE Learning.
“I’m glad to meet you,” His Holiness told them. “When we Tibetans came into exile in India, we witnessed democracy at work and we discovered that there are people for whom religion has little attraction. Of course, religious practice can be very helpful, but it is also the case that people use religion as an excuse for stoking conflict with others.
“In my own life I have received teachings belonging to the Sakya, Kagyu and Nyingma traditions, as well as the Geluk tradition, and I practise them all. But religion is not for everyone and what’s important is that we find ways to encourage people to develop positive qualities like love and compassion on a secular basis.
“Right from our birth we are nurtured by our mother’s affection. We form a natural bond with her that has nothing to do with religion. In some ways this experience of love and affection is coloured by attachment, but in others it is simply a natural response.
“Despite the huge numbers of people who died violently in the first and second world wars, there are people today who seem to be driven by an urge to fight, even if it provokes a third world war. They persist in developing powerful weapons, oblivious of the fact that if they use nuclear weapons, they will be destroyed too. If we don’t put effort into building peace, the whole of humanity will suffer.
“Whether people follow a religious practice or not, we all need love and compassion. Basic morality follows from this. Indeed, wars are fought because of a lack of love and compassion.
“I’m a Buddhist practitioner, but I try to take the instructions for developing love and compassion and present them in a secular context. Implementing secular ethics enables us to build on and enhance the experience of compassion and affection we learn from our mothers. Look at animals, they show each other affection without the intervention of religion. Similarly, children reveal an affection for one another regardless of the religion, nation or race they belong to. Children display an open friendliness that adults would do well to emulate.
“We don’t need to focus on what might divide us. What we need instead is a sense of the oneness of humanity, an awareness of how we are all the same. We must put effort into building harmony throughout the world. As human beings we all have the same kind of face with two eyes, a nose and a mouth. If we were to meet someone with a third eye, that would be really strange.
“When we Tibetans came into exile and met all kinds of different people, we discovered that we were just like them. Although we have faced great difficulties as a result of the Chinese communist invasion, today, when the Chinese people are suffering widespread flooding, we can only feel sympathy and concern for them. Such disasters are a symptom of the climate crisis. As a mark of my solidarity with the people of China, I hope to be able to make a donation to the relief efforts.
“As Buddhist practitioners we pray,
May all sentient beings have happiness
And the causes of happiness.
May all sentient beings be free from suffering
And the causes of suffering.
“And although we only have a vague idea of what all sentient beings means, we can at least take all the beings on this earth into account.
“As I said, I have great sympathy for the people of China struggling with these floods and I hope they have the courage to surmount the challenges they face. Our scriptures mention that the world will eventually be destroyed by water, fire or wind and global heating seems to indicate fire.
“When I first came to Ladakh, one of my companions was distressed by how barren the hills were. Due to the steady efforts you’ve made to plant trees and so forth, things have changed.
“In Dharamsala and other places on the plains of India at this time of year, it’s humid and wet with rain. When I come to Ladakh I appreciate that the weather is dry and the temperature moderate. I’m also grateful for the affection that’s shown me. Thank you.”
Asked the difference between empathy and compassion, His Holiness explained that compassion is about working to free others from suffering. He mentioned that there are three kinds of suffering: the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change and the suffering that pervades the cycle of existence. He added that as long as we labour under the influence of karma and delusion, we will suffer. These are the circumstances from which we seek to find freedom.
He declared that he has meditated for years on the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the wisdom understanding emptiness. As a consequence, he has gathered experience of the path of accumulation and looks forward to reaching the path of preparation. Beyond that is the path of seeing, the attainment of true cessation and the first bodhisattva ground. From there it’s a matter of ascending the paths and grounds until the attainment of Buddhahood. When you see that achieving this really is possible, it brings great confidence that you have made your human life worthwhile.
Questioned about what can be done to reduce the abuse of drugs, His Holiness replied that this is a problem that derives from short-sightedness, People who turn to drugs see no other solution to their problems and are attracted to the short-term gratification drugs bring. Young people need to see their lives in a broader context. Parents and teachers would do well to advise those in their care to adopt a broader and more extended vision of what they can do.
Finally, His Holiness was asked what advice he would give a SEE Learning teacher who is just starting out in the program. He suggested that in the matter of education, there’s no need to introduce religious ideas such as the existence of past and future lives. It’s much more important to focus on more immediate issues here and now. Make secular ethics the basis on which to overcome problems.
His Holiness remarked that he has sought to cultivate the awakening mind of bodhichitta, as well as an insight into emptiness, throughout his life, but he recognizes that this kind of experience is not for everyone. Whatever he has achieved has been a result of effort.
He pointed out that praying to Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion is a means to accomplish inner growth. Similarly turning to Manjushri can help us improve our intelligence and wisdom by dispelling the darkness of ignorance from our minds.
He noted that growing numbers of modern scientists these days are paying attention to and learning from what the Nalanda Tradition has to teach about the workings of the mind and emotions.
He thanked the delegates for coming to see him.