The Dalai Lama

Sunday, September 29, 2019

About this Event

A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
A sharing of thoughts and experiences by the speaker with the audience. Some remarks about Tibet and about Buddhism, and about the history of both. Factors such as geography and relations with China which affect Tibet. Personal statements of philosophical thought about people, about human nature, and political situations. Standing on certain moral principals. Learning from lessons of history. Some suggestions for improving and dealing with the world situation. Comments about the Tibet-China relationship. Some public proposals.

A Peace-loving Nation Takes a World View


For those of us born, raised and educated in the West, there is often a fascination with things and people of the mysterious East. In spite of modern technological developments in travel and communications that have reduced our world to a global village, there is great ignorance about our fellow travellers on this small planet.

Early last summer, Dr. James Reed, of the Toronto School of Theology, told me of the impending visit of the Dalai Lama. As one who has grown up with images of this venerated soul from the pages of National Geographic, Life and Times magazines and American television, I had an uncontrollable desire to meet him. And so out of total self-interest I wrote the office of Tibet in New York and began the process that has brought our guest of honour to us today.

It has been an educational process. The Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader. He was born in a small village in North East Tibet in 1935. His name is Tenzin Gyatso. His Holiness was recognized at the age of two, in accordance with Tibetan tradition, as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the thirteenth Dalai Lama, and thus as an incarnation as a Aval Lokitserag Vera, or Chin Reeze, as they say in Tibet. And Abotis Sataba of compassion, a living Buddha.

As such, he has provided inspiration and guidance as the spiritual leader of his people. The Dalai Lama is also a temporal leader of the Tibetan people, and as such he has, since 1950, led his people in a non-violent struggle to have the government of China withdraw its forces of invasion from Tibet.

He has set up a government in exile in India, and Tibetan refugees have settled not only in India but in a number of countries around the world including Canada. His Holiness' visit to Canada is at least for two reasons: to bring a spiritual message of encouragement and growth to his people and to share with us his peoples' struggle for justice and democracy in Tibet. His patient and gentle leadership resulted in the Dalai Lama being named the recipient of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. We are honoured to have you with us on this day, sir, and we invite you to address us now.

Dalai Lama:

Friends, it is a great honour and also a pleasure for me to be with you here and have this opportunity to speak in this gathering and I would like to thank the organizations, the respected Clubs, for organizing this event. Normally, when I have the opportunity to meet my friends, I share my thoughts and experiences with them and today I would also like to do the same with you here. (spoken by an interpreter)

Now, I try to communicate with you through my own broken English.

Now, you know, as you mentioned, Tibet usually people consider as the roof of the world.

Historically, it is something like that. Tibet is surrounded by big ancient neighbours--South India, East China and also, on the western side, Afghanistan. So, as a result, the Tibetan civilization has had quite a long sort of history.

Since Buddhism flourished in Tibet, then many history writers were Buddhists. So there is more emphasis, or more stress, on the Tibetan history with Buddhism. So, according to that, about two thousand years. Then, according to the native Tibetan belief, another two thousand years of civilization. And recently, according to some Chinese archaeologist, the Tibetan beginning of civilization is between six to eight thousand years. In fact, I think in 1981 at Harvard University when I make some lecture on Buddhism there, I met one Chinese archaeologist. He said to me, according to his finding while the Chinese were constructing one hydroelectric project, the Tibetan civilization or Tibetan human development developed its own roots from its own roots. So I think as a result, some uni-culture heritage developed. Meantime they take some cultural aspects from the West, and from South India also we took some cultural heritage and the most important thing, the Buddhism. We accepted Buddhism, as to us something that was most suitable. Our ancestors, Tibetan, they felt Buddhism is something very suitable to us so they accepted Tibetan and Indian Buddhism, one of the Indian religions.

Then at the same time from China, through marriage with the Tibetan king and Chinese princess, some of the Chinese culture also came to Tibet. Then I think mainly, because Buddhism flourished in Tibet and as time goes through centuries, Tibetans themselves developed a certain more complete form of Buddhism. I think those ancient Tibetan scholars, I think their work is really something very precise and very clear, I think very, very healthy. I think very high standard.

Then somehow I think the geographical situation also makes one factor and then also is our relation with China. Sometimes, happy relations, pleasant relations, sometimes, fighting, not so pleasant relations. So time goes. Tibetan prefer remain isolate. So as a result, when this century started, you see, Tibet materially remained very backward. We see ourselves not prepared for this modern situation. As a result, now we've lost our own country. But at the same time, because of the deep spiritual heritage, generally speaking Tibetans, I think are quite nice people. They seem quite peaceful--a peaceful nature.

When we first came to India, we believe we are the same human being. Then we had more contact with different people, and especially the Western nations. It seems, you see, that our Western brothers and sisters, they are quite shop-minded. So they're always picking something from here or from there, which I like. I like it. It's creative. I may say I think that is the secret of human marvels, I think the human species.

So then, according to these, our Western friends, they quite often express to us, "Oh, you Tibetan, in spite lot of negative experiences, on your face some joie de vivre, some kind of happy expressiop is there." So then, I thought about it again and again, according to my own experience. I met some human being who escaped from Communist Chinese repressive policy, with the same cause and the same situation. Yet when we exchanged our different experiences, their attitude towards the Chinese is a more unfriendly sort of attitude, a more negative feeling. As a result, their own daily life, their peace of mind, it seems less. Then we eventually realized our Tibetan culture is something useful in modem time, in day-today life, especially when we are facing difficulties and tragedy. Even in some desperate situation, generally speaking, we can preserve, we can maintain, our mental stability. And then visit different places, meeting different people, like Canada, like this country, it is a material development--immensely developed. Of course, very useful the material comfort, the material facility gives us good comfort, very useful, very helpful.

At the same time, I think the human being is the product of our previous human being, or in other words, human beings come from parents, not from machines. So therefore, no matter how this machine is sophisticated, still a machine is machine--a human being is human being. So the complete satisfaction for human being. It is not possible to provide maximum satisfaction from machine. Therefore, as a human being, the material benefit, or material development, of course is necessary, very useful. At the same time, we need something else. That I always consider is human affection, human love, human compassion. If these two things are there--good heart, warm heart, human intelligence, human wisdom and the material facilities--that I think is the proper way to achieve real meaningful life and, I think, peace of mind.

So, then I, myself, say "I'm nothing special, just another human being." Then, on that level, I always believe that every human being have responsibility towards humanity, entire humanity. If you look from closely you can see only yourself--you cannot see others. But then the nature of humanity is a social element and also the structure of the modem economy is something that is beyond the national boundaries and also these new problems such as environment problems, these also are beyond the national boundary. So therefore, now the time has come where we have to think from a wider perspective--to look holistic view. So I feel then the key thing is human compassion, love. If you have genuine compassion, then your whole attitude towards other fellow human beings and also towards the planet itself will be more nicer. It will be more gentler. That we need.

Human ability, with the help of knowledge and science, has now become immense. So if that ability is used negatively, there will be disaster. That nobody want. There is no guarantee. The guarantee must come from the human heart. So, I usually express that now, today--this moment--we need a sense of universal responsibility on the basis of compassion and love.

Now on practical matters, I think today the world situation is, I think, much hopeful, much I think positive. The East/West relations are now much improved. Now, for example, after the Second World War there is some kind of peace achieved in Europe and the Continent. But that peace, if you look closely, not genuine peace because that peace come from fear--not genuine. Now today is another stage of peace. Now that is more genuine peace. Peace with mutual respect. Now that's genuine peace. Peace means not simply absence of war, absence of destruction. Peace means something more. Now I think today, now it is coming or eventually starting--the genuine peace is coming.

Now, recently I met one Russian economist. I participated in one symposium at Amsterdam a few weeks ago. The theme was, "Art Meets Science and Spirituality in a Changing Economy." There I met one Russian economist. At the meeting, he mentioned he wrote a book on economy, but economy with compassion--economy of compassion. Now, he explained at the meeting, and later, you see, we also had a personal discussion. He mentioned the market-orientated economy system is very important but there is a certain concept of interest in the larger community. So you see he called this the economy of compassion. So, then I thought, maybe our time has come to think seriously to find out the international relations of compassion, or the policy which is based on compassion, because, up to now, in spite of many experts, many great thinkers, in reality in international politics, or politics of even the national level, people openly say 'in that field the value of truth, the value of trust is very little.' I think that is a wrong conception. Because of that, always the weaker country, or within one country, the weaker section, suffers because of that. So the final decision will come based on power. That's wrong. That's basically against human nature.

And also I think the idea of democracy, freedom, equality, even with these concepts I think the real practice is something I think of a contradiction with these ideals. So I think I would like to appeal to our brothers and sisters to think more seriously now whether this present system, the political economy system existing, whether it is really sufficient or there are some drawbacks. If there is drawback, what's the best way to fulfil that gap.

The entire international community, I think, throughout the world, should stand on certain moral principals. And then, the field of business and weapons. At one time, I met one French lady. She told me that in Beirut on one comer was the people killing. At the same time, in the same city, some people making business from weapons and ammunitions. That's awful, isn't it? Not thinking about others' life, or others' misery--simply thinking, "if I sell instrument to kill human being, I get more money, this is the best opportunity, good opportunity." That's absolutely the wrong conception. So I don't know. I don't mean those big factories must sacrifice--not that way. Of course, I think there are plenty of items to turn from, like some factory, usually you see making tank. Now, they already transformed from making bulldozer. So something like that. I'm not an economist, but what you'll find is there is some other means to teach change. I think the temporary set-back may happen. Then, I heard in Yugoslavia they have already stopped the exporting of weapons. So the concept of eventual demilitarization, I think that concept should be there and world-wide to try. Human beings, human society, will never be a perfect one. Always some kind of mischievous people, always there.

Then, in order to check that--I think we can get some lesson from the present Gulf crisis. Now, although the United States have every use and means, every power, to check that, but because of the global situation, even if symbolic, the United States try the maximum way to get more representations from different countries. So, this shows the world changed, a situation much changed. Therefore, these countries, you see, work much better, much more meaningfully or effectively as a collective, rather than one nation, one powerful nation's action.

So eventually, we could build some kind of forces which are controlled by the United Nations, or some new international organization. Each nation would contribute an equal number of forces and that, controlled by some international organization wherever some problems happen, they can send. Then, you see less possibility to develop fear or to develop suspicion. So, I think we can call on something international, even international force on the basis of compassion. This is the new way of thinking about international politics on the basis of compassion. This is the first part.

The second part is, as a Buddhist monk, I always feel or consider the closer relation between various different religions because religion is the means or instrument to resolve human conflict. Now sometime, unfortunately, religion also can become another source of more complication, more conflict. That's very sad. In ancient time, for example, when we were in Tibet, due to level of knowledge, due to level of contact, sometime we feel our religion is the best--that other religion is something bit lower. But now, I realize clearly that is mainly due to lack of communication, lack of information and when we have some more opportunities to meet different people from different traditions and exchange the inner experiences of their tradition, then eventually we got a deep sense of respect for each different religion. In spite of their philosophical differences their main message is hitting on target of human heart. That's the purpose of various different religion. We can see many people through different religion; they are transformed, transformed in their way of thinking, way of life, and have become warm hearted person, warm-hearted human being. Now, that's the purpose of different religion.

The salvation, the final judgment, the British call nirvana, these things something very far away. I am more concerned about today's business. At that level, every religion teach us the same message. Be a good human being or compassionate one. We should practice more forgiveness, tolerance. There are different ways to presentation of these things, but the same effect. So there is real opportunity for us to come together, work together for a common goal--better world, happier world, more harmonious world. That is all our responsibility. Each religion has potential to do that, to contribute on that. I'm very happy to mention that in the recent years much positive development as far as Tibetan Buddhist and our Christian brothers and sisters is concerned, now much healthier close relations have developed.

Then third subject, as a Dali Lama, as a Tibetan, I will explain to you about Tibet, the situation. Now you know, firstly, Tibetan more peaceful nature. The overall picture of the Tibetan nation is a peace-loving nation. Now, today since Chinese occupation, beside some positive development, the immense human suffering, human sacrifice. More than one million of Tibetan has died under Chinese occupation and more than six thousand monasteries and temples have been destroyed. And basically, you see we Tibetan, as I mentioned earlier, is geographically, culturally, linguistically, historically, racially, separate from China, from Chinese. Therefore, when Chinese, in the name of liberation, when they come, in our mind, in our eye, the Chinese is something alien, alien people. So they come as the ruler of our country and on top of that in their eye, every Tibetan aspect is something negative. So, therefore, creating this problem.

Now, almost the entire Tibetan population is against the Chinese rule, the Chinese occupation and of course, we legitimate right to demand complete independence. Meanwhile, even day-by-day, inside Tibet the immeasurable human rights violations always happen and to us the marshal law is just another form. In reality, since Chinese occupation, some kind of marshal law always there. You know communist countries, communist system is police state. Some form of emergency is always there. It's always there, some really unthinkable human suffering always happening there. The most serious threat is large number of Chinese population transfer. Now, already the Chinese population number is greater than Tibetan population. (Our population is around six million, we believe.) So, that really is a serious matter. Therefore, outside, I thought I have to speak out from realistic point of view. I always believe the best solution about human conflict is through human understanding. That I believe is the best way. Even you may not achieve 100 percent satisfaction, whatever you achieve, that achievement remain long last.

So, therefore I made two proposals in public. I've no other choice except to turn to the world community. So then 1987 and 1988, I made two proposals in public. Then at the initial stage the Chinese government, they rejected my idea, but at the same time they indicated their willingness to discuss about the future of Tibet. Then somehow after last year the Tiananmen Square massacre happened. Then the situation changed. Now they're following a more hard-line policy. So still no formal response to me. So, my part I still stand by on those two proposals. Although on a few occasions I stated, that from our part, we made the maximum concession. Even that was not satisfied with the Chinese leaders. Then from my part now, nothing else to offer. And instead, we have every right to say some new demand. So that's the situation.

So, finally I much appreciate people here. I think very attentively that you listen. So I much appreciate. So as a human, brothers and sisters, we Tibetans are really passing through a most difficult period. This moment we need your help. Thank you very much.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Mr. Roland Lutes, President-Elect of The Canadian Club of Toronto.

Your Holiness, it's my pleasure and honour to thank you today. Before you spoke, just as you were about to be introduced, you thought that we might need to do this--(taps spoon on the table). During your speech, I could have heard a pin drop throughout the entire presentation.

1 want to thank you first for what you represent and what you are. You've dedicated your life to the enhancement of the spiritual and general well-being of the individual person. Many of us work with community organizations--small things perhaps, but things like the Children's Aid, the United Way, the Association for the Mentally Retarded. The primary purpose of each of these organizations is to function as strong advocates for human dignity and individual freedom. Your contribution in this regard has been simply outstanding. We thank you.

Secondly, we thank you for your efforts in fostering peace, goodwill and understanding in today's global economy and very interdependent world.

Last, we thank you for being with us and sharing with us today human love, human wisdom, human understanding, a better world, a happier world, compassion. It has been a great pleasure for all of us to be with you today. Thank you very, very much.