Cobbled Streets, Protests and Words From The Wise
“You do realise he may be the last one ever, don’t you?” as the tube ‘clickity clacked’ towards Covent Garden, I pondered that question even though I actually had no idea whether or not my friend’s statement was true. “well people don’t know if there will be a new one voted in due to the differences of opinion……” so she went on to explain the reason this Dalai Lama may be the last, a real eye opener. I was just really excited and looking forward to the experience, come what may.
As we stepped into the hustle and bustle of Leicester Square (as much as I get fed up of the traffic, I fall back in love with London as soon as I’m in the heart of it all). So, we had a pretty good idea of the direction of the venue and off we walked…as we approached the street that the Coliseum is on, we were greeted by really loud chanting and drums…I liked the drums and being as curious as I am I wanted to know what the chanting was. We didn’t have to wait long to see the crowd on the opposite side of the Coliseum…the drums were making me do a little jig…so contagious! I felt a little sheepish making my way to the entrance of the venue as I realised the enchanting ruckus was in fact protest against the Dalai Lama. Something to do with him changing Buddhism for political gain, I made a mental note to self; find out more about that accusation. You and I both know that where there is religion, politics soon rears its head, and so the two become tangled!
Enough about that for now as I haven’t really got all the information on that to comment any further. Moving on now to the warm, fuzzy stuff of wise words, lovely messages and adults behaving badly
Once in our seats, we were greeted by the relaxing and soul cleansing sound of the sitar and the tablah. On it played, creating a wonderful atmosphere of calm whilst we all yo-yoed up and down as more people arrived wanting to take their seats. Some extremely polite individuals interrupted our conversation to announce their arrival and their need to get to their seats. My friend, ever the socialite, went off to say hi to someone she knew, I decided to use that time to read through the programme, there were some wonderful quotes in it. We all know I love quotes!
As I read, I started to feel slightly uneasy. Ever get the feeling someone’s drilling a hole in the back of your head simply through their stare? Well I felt that feeling only it was the top of my head. I looked up to find an expressionless couple just staring at me…how bizarre, so I smiled (I do that, can’t help myself), but they didn’t reciprocate…hmmm! My thought: “I am at a Dalai Lama event so I promise to be even more aware of my responses and actions towards others” still smiling (the forced kind of smile by this point), I continued to look at the couple, the lady stuck her ticket under my nose and being as intelligent as I am I gathered by that action that they had their seats next to us, so up I got muttering my apology, both continued to their seats with absolutely no acknowledgement of my existence at all…make of that what you will.
So we waited, waited and waited…a lady comes onto the stage to inform us that HH (His Holiness) the Dalai Lama was stuck in London Traffic…snigger…snigger…whoever organises that aspect of his trip really should have known about THAT…no? My friend gave me an unimpressed sideward glance when I happened to voice that opinion…whoops! I don’t think I was supposed to voice anything like that in this environment. I find expectations like that rather restricting, I cannot, not be myself, whatever the circumstance. I decided to keep my thoughts and opinions within the remits of my mind and notebook; whether I could stick to that decision was another matter altogether.
Not long after the announcement about HH being delayed, he was there! I wasn’t sure what to expect, I went with an open mind. After the introduction, HH looked at the chair that was ready for him, centre stage…he sat to one side of the chair which, now that he was sat on it, was enormous…he commented on the size of the chair…and wondered if he was sharing, he decided to stand…the audience laughed and the scene was set.
Understandably, we weren’t permitted to take pictures during the presentation so here’s one of the stage and the super huge chair and if you look closely, you can see the wonderful musicians to the left
HH the Dalai Lama, started his Buddhist training when he was just 6, he was recognised as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama when he was just 2 years old. He is known across the world for his ability to touch the hearts of people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and beliefs.
So the topic that was going to be presented today was Ahimsa – India’s contribution to the world, a talk to the UK Indian communities….at a point during his speech he asked all those who were Indian to raise their hands…I suddenly felt rather exposed as the imposter…but having read the programme which stated exactly who the message was for, I had done a ‘reccy’ of the audience and there were many others present who did not fit that description, so I was fine.
The meaning of Ahimsa is non-violence, HH then went onto likening it to the philosophies of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and many more, he called it “Compassion in Action” quite like promoting secular ethics (i.e. human ethics).
He went onto explain that non-violence means dialogue (take note of this point as it will come up again later). Dialogue means understanding each other’s rights, there is no outright winner it’s a 50-50 win.
We were then given an overview of HH’s three main commitments:
- Promotion of human values
- Promotion of religious harmony
- Work to preserve Tibet’s Buddhist culture
Promotion of human values
HH explained that we all possess constructive and destructive emotions. Human nature is about compassion because it is compassion that brings us together “Love is the basis of our survival…the basis of a joyful life is showing compassion…real friendships depend entirely upon trust, trust is based and reliant on love and compassion”.
The example provided to give these statements strength and clarification was one of a businessman, who has everything except another human to show him love and compassion. The business man didn’t feel he wanted for anything, his money could provide all that he needed. However, the question then posed was, will your money, your material things hold you when you are hurting, comfort you when you are unwell, love you when you need to be loved? We all need someone to show us compassion.
I believe the message to the audience was that we should show compassion as much and as often as we can. “Anger comes out of fear, this fear destroys your inner strength” implying that by showing anger towards others, we are, in fact, hurting and damaging ourselves…I already believe this to be true and the Dalai Lama just affirmed it for me. “Love and affection is very important at the beginning of life (when you are born) and at the end of life. In between those, we may feel a sense of independence, not needing anyone, but this will not last. Education, money cannot protect you from sorrow or pain so affection, love and compassion are very important for our lives”. The next thing he said really struck a chord with me as I believe the very same: “There’s too much formality, it can become a barrier….when we are young there are no formalities”
Promotion of religious harmony
“Most of the problems we are facing are our own creation…why? We place importance on secondary levels of differences: religious, race, colour, money…”
We are urged to consider the basic level that we are all human beings. HH explained that we are at an advantage. Animals can show compassion but they don’t have the ability to have sensible and respectful dialogue, yet they are less destructive than us.
Stating the obvious; if someone hurts you, you want to hurt them back ( immediate reaction) “I say, if they harm you, reach out to them, tolerance will come…destroying your neighbour (neighbouring country) is like destroying yourself because of our global economies, we are inter-reliant…so if anything happens at the secondary level, we must go down to the basic level and have successful dialogue…in this dialogue you must respect their rights and their interests to achieve a 50-50 win.” He went on to explain that in the “21st century, force is the ultimate method to solve problems…outward violence merely controls you physically, not in the mind…so whenever we come across problems we use a human approach towards violence, that is dialogue”.
So much of what was being imparted is something that we all know in some shape or form; such as all religions carry the same basic message of love, compassion, tolerance, and contentment. The sticking point in religion falls on the philosophical aspect (or level) of who our creator is, highlighting differences between religions. However, the goal of any religion is the same – to practice love and compassion. “Your own future depends on your actions…out of anger, fear, and suspicion, comes violence…a physical, verbal action judged and controlled by motivation”. The message here is that our motivation should be compassion, not violence, everything is driven by motivation; “kind words that come from unkind motivation is violence”. This refers to our thoughts and intentions, coming from within us, only we can control, change and develop the right motivation from within. In my opinion, achieving that requires motivation, focus and the intention.
The next view HH articulated really resonated with me, it touched my core as this is something that is close to my heart, it also made me feel just a little crestfallen as putting it right is a very big undertaking…how do we do it? HH pointed out that the modern education system does not have a place for moral teachings; it is very focused on external values and does not develop or nourish inner values. I can see this, however I can also see the many teachers I have trained over the years who are committed to the children they teach, take the time to teach some of these inner values…an approach that is taken on the individual teacher’s own initiative not as an explicit requirement of the education system. “The way to promote inner values should be from the educational field from kindergarten through to university education…” Research is currently being carried out to explore how ethics can be included in education. “In Tibet, we teach respect for other life, even insects…modern education is not adequate to create a healthy child, a healthy mind…” One comment that caused some altercation from the audience was HH’s comment that the “female should take an active role in teaching love, compassion” He went on to explain that as females, we are naturally more compassionate and therefore, perfect role models. I felt HH dealt with that little kafuffle rather well. By the way, HH has a quirky sense of humour which is very endearing, or maybe it just felt that way to me because it reminded me of my own father’s sense of humour…I felt right at home!
What I took from this entire education message is this: We have a duty to instil basic human and moral values into our children to make the world a better place, to create generations who respect all life, our ecology and each other; establishing a better, more peaceful world for our future generations…I’m in…are you? (did that sound familiar?). Surely this responsibility must first sit with the parent/s, the education system providing some semblance of continuity of that teaching…think about this for a moment, there’s a great deal of work required to truly realise this ambition, we are suggesting changing mind-sets, convincing the education system to incorporate more moral and ethical teachings into the curriculum. It would also suggest a need for re-educating today’s adults who are already or have the potential to become parents…this is HUGE! However I, like HH, believe that this is the way forward.
Staying with the subject of religious harmony, HH went on to say that “you have to change according to the current situations” broaching the current situation with ‘Islamophobia’ and the distorted messages that are going out to the wider world. He said this: “I went to meet with a true practitioner of Islam…he explained to me, as a Muslim, if you shed blood then you are no longer Muslim” pertaining to the current wave of seemingly unjustified violence that goes on around the world connected with the faith or practice as he put it, I much prefer the latter term. “We don’t need to change religiously or philosophically, but, culturally we must change…combine heart and head to achieve Ahimsa…share Ahimsa individually and then share with your family, friends, and spread Ahimsa in this way, HH placed a responsibility on the UK Indian community to be the beacons for this type of intervention of love and compassion. “Prayer won’t solve all problems…god gave us free will, so if we create the problems then it’s up to us to sort the problems out ourselves, with compassion and intelligent dialogue”
On the preservation of Tibet
On this topic HH started by saying that a Chinese ecologist described Tibet as the third pole (the North and South being the other two). The reason being that Tibet is very important to the ecology and climate in that part of the world i.e. Asia. Here’s an excerpt from the China Tibet Online:
The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is not only the source of some of Asia’s major rivers, such as the Yangtze, Yellow, Lancang-Mekong, Ganges and Indus, but it’s also one of the world’s most concentrated areas of biodiversity, so its ecological status is very important. In recent years, due to the combined effect of global warming and human intervention, the ecological environment at the Yangtze and Yellow River source areas has shown signs of serious damage and deterioration. The Source of Rivers Ecological Protection Zone was established to restrict environmental degradation and to restore and conserve the ecological environment.
If you want to read the whole article, here is the link:
…and finally a very interesting question time
I had so many questions going on in my mind…what were HH’s views on the Shaman philosophy? The teachings of Dr Hew Len? The Philosophy of Eckhart Tolle? Sufism? …what could we learn from all of these and other teachings? What, in his opinion, was the purpose of this life? How could we begin the work of making the positive changes he had suggested?
All this stuff was racing around my mind like a bunch of bumper cars being driven by the minions, in a way that only they can drive. Alas! No chance, questions were emailed prior to the event and had already been selected.
To set the scene for what was about to occur; twice during the presentation a lady in the block of seats to the right of me shouted out “Your Holiness I have a question” then nothing further as he was still in full conversational flow…
Questions were read out and HH responded thoughtfully and occasionally with a dash of humour if the question allowed. Then it was time…the lady got up, audience members looked at her “your Holiness I have a question, I have a question your Holiness…” security started to filter towards her but HH wanted to hear her question so everyone just stopped…a bit like a freeze frame if you can visualise that. This lady had no microphone and HH was quite far down, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go, but boy, was I in for an interesting moment. So she began “why are you allowing the people following Dorje Shugden to be discriminated against…I myself have been a victim of this type of treatment…you have talked about compassion…why are you lying?” and that last statement/question…caused near anarchy; people boo-ing and hissing…some trying to get off their seats to launch themselves at her at this point. I was annoyed at the crowd, calmly annoyed (all in my head), I couldn’t hear the point she was trying to make, she was clearly a supporter of the protest that was going on outside and I wanted to hear what she had to say. Security were now upon her trying to get her to turn around and go back to her seat…but HH tried to answer the question despite not having heard much of it, so the woman remained glued to spot from where she asked her question. His response to her question (the parts I could just about hear) was simply that everyone should be respected; he did not instruct people to discriminate. HH pointed out that you can deliver a message, a teaching but if people don’t listen, there is nothing that can be done about that. On that note I couldn’t help but think, that a large proportion of the audience was a very good and timely example of that…did you remember to note that point at the beginning? no? here it is:
…the meaning of Ahimsa – non-violence, likening it to the philosophies of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and many more, he called it “Compassion in Action” quite like, promoting secular ethics (i.e. human ethics).
He went on to explain that non-violence means dialogue (take note of this point as it will come up again later). Dialogue means understanding each other’s rights, there is no outright winner it’s a 50-50 win.
Comments that this woman should have gone through the correct (i.e. formal) channels are warranted but do you really think that question would have got through the powers that vet and select them? Nah!!! She did what she did because it was going to be the only way she could have had a semblance of dialogue with HH the Dalai Lama…we do what we have to do and she was using non-violence, so what was the problem? Surely there are always many facets to any story? (as an NLP practitioner, I don’t believe there are only ever two sides to a story) and surely based on the wise words that were imparted here today, we ought to show respect for her right to have her view and voice her opinion, more importantly to get the response she took this risk for in the first place? Once the general response had been given, the woman was quickly vacated from the building. The irony amused me, after the whole talk, people still decided to react in way the Dalai Lama had just rebuked, and they had behaved that way in front of him!
If you, like me, want to learn more about the protestors and the Buddhism controversy here are a couple of links for you:
To conclude this very long blog, my longest blog ever! I just want to add that we all seek some kind of guidance. Many of us (myself included), in a bid to live our lives in the best way possible, will read and listen to a variety of figures that have something to share, a learning for those who want to take it. Why would we spend almost half a gorgeous sunny day inside a (beautiful) building and not take anything from what was presented to us?
This is why making all of the positive changes that so many of us hope for, aspire to and implement in our own personal, individual lives seems like a gargantuan task in the context of the wider society, country and world. My belief is this: if each of us was true to ourselves and did a little of all of the above teachings, we may not make an impact in the wider context but we will make a difference somewhere, to someone and this will create a domino effect, “small steps lead to big changes” that’s my mantra as a coach, my advice to my clients and I completely believe it.
Oh yes, for those of you reading this and wondering…I am not a Buddhist, I’m just exceptionally curious.