Thursday April 26, 2018

Dalai Lama’s tête-à-tête with Tibetan diaspora in US

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Minneapolis, USA: His Holiness the Dalai Lama journeyed through a nearly 90-mile drive from Rochester to Minneapolis on February 21, where the local Tibetan community had invited him to teach and interact with the Tibetan diaspora in the city.

Welcomed by the Tibetan community representatives, Mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges and State Representative Carolyn Laine, he spoke to scores of the audience gathered at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Dr Tsewang Ngodup, President of the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota, while briefing the gathering, thanked the spiritual leader for accepting the Foundation’s invitation. Affirming the intention of Minnesotan Tibetans to be active members of the Tibetan diaspora, Dr Ngodup said they desire to contribute to their local communities and conduct themselves as global citizens.

Tibetan community members greeting and offering His Holiness the Dalai Lama a traditional welcome drink
Tibetan community members greeting and offering His Holiness the Dalai Lama a traditional welcome drink.

We give a brief view of Dalai Lama’s speech and other activities that enveloped the event:

  • Seated before thangkas of Chenrezig, the Medicine Buddha, and Guru Rinpoche, His Holiness began his talk by appreciating the efforts of the Tibetan diaspora who are trying to maintain their Tibetan values and ethics outside the country as well:

“I always start by greeting my brothers and sisters. That’s how I think of you and how I think of all 7 billion human beings, so I’m never lonely. Two years ago we celebrated Losar together and I’m happy to see you all again…”

“I’m glad to know that you are trying to preserve our traditional values. It’s 57 years now that we’ve been in exile while the turmoil in Tibet began 60 years ago. Nevertheless, you’ve kept your spirits up, which is praiseworthy, and maintained our cherished values, for which I’d like to thank you all. The Tibetan spirit is strong and we’ve kept our culture and religious traditions alive, which is important because they have a contribution to make to the world at large. That’s something to be proud of.”

  • He then spoke about his experience as a human being and not as a Buddhist or as Dalai Lama:

“The key is to develop a concern for others’ well-being; a sense of compassion. If, instead of anger, hatred and suspicion, we were moved by loving-kindness, we would naturally have greater respect for others and our actions would be non-violent.”

“In my experience, what we need is a calm mind and warm-heartedness provides a basis for that. I believe that if we can train those who are young today in these qualities the world will be a more peaceful place later in this century. This is not something we can hope the government or the UN can do, real change starts with individuals. We each have to make a contribution. I request you to do so too.”

Upon hearing this, the feedback from the 3000-strong audience was a heavy applause.

His Holiness speaking before the 3000-strong audience
His Holiness speaking before the 3000-strong audience.
  • The spiritual leader went on to explain his second commitment of promoting inter-religious harmony, declaring that all religions carry a common message of love, forgiveness and tolerance.

“Those of us who follow a religious practice ourselves have a responsibility to work to foster inter-religious harmony.”

  • Gratifying the nurturing he received from the Tibetan culture while growing up, His Holiness referred to the Tibetan culture as a culture of peace and non-violence:

“I’m also a Tibetan and since I’ve been nurtured by Tibetans since I was small, I can never give up the cause of Tibet. In 2001, I semi-retired from political responsibility and in 2011 completely retired. I did this to promote democracy. Still, Tibetans both in Tibet and outside have placed their hopes in me…”

“Tibetan culture can contribute to making the world a more peaceful, compassionate place.”

He further praised Tibet’s Buddhist traditions as a complete transmission of the traditions of India’s Nalanda University, including logic, psychology and a range of philosophical views.  Translated mostly from Sanskrit into Tibetan, the traditions are contained in the more than 300 volumes of Buddhist literature.

  • Continuing to speak about Nalanda’s tradition, he spoke of the great Nalanda scholar Shantarakshita. He told how Shantarakshita gave the first monastic ordination in Tibet, helped found the first monastery at Samye, and explained the great treatises. He also encouraged the translation of Buddhist literature into Tibetan.
  • Talking about the ‘Eight Verses for Training the Mind’ by the disciple of Potowa, Geshe Langri Tangpa, His Holiness explained all the verses one by one:

The first verse is about altruism and the need for compassion and affection for others. The second is about humility. The third is about being mindful in daily life while the fourth verse is to not give in to anger but showing compassion upon encountering reckless and unruly people. The fifth suggests accepting defeat and giving the victory to others while the sixth verse recommends cultivating patience around people who mock or despise you. The seventh verse deals with the practice of giving and taking. The final of the eight verses advises not to give in to the eight worldly concerns and to see everything as an illusion, something which completely lacks independent existence.

  • Quoting the renowned Indian Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna, he said:

A person is not earth, not water,
Not fire, not wind, not space,
Not consciousness, and not all of them.
What person is there other than these?

He said that while a person is designated on the basis of the above six elements, these elements exist only as designations.

  • Dalai Lama then led the gathering, including around 2000 Tibetans, in reciting three verses meant to awaken the mind. He concluded his speech by explaining the ‘five paths’ which led him to the ‘Heart of Wisdom’ with the first ‘gate’ indicating the path of seeing and the last gate ‘bodhi svaha’- the attainment of enlightenment.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama accepting a gift of flowers at the conclusion of his teaching.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama accepting a gift of flowers at the conclusion of his teaching.
  • Being offered a white silk ‘katas’ as a token of respect, Dalai Lama left the stage smiling and waving to the happy crowd, and afterward was driven back to Rochester. (With picture courtesy and Inputs from tibet.net)

Also Watch this video about how Tibet is Burning:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ao5NxasryxA

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Know Your India: How Well Do You Know Hindu Wisdom?

Our rich past must remain our greatest inspiration and inform our engagement with the world

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Hindu wisdom and the broader framework of Eastern philosophy talked in the same language as modern physics was beginning to do. Wikimedia Commons
Hindu wisdom and the broader framework of Eastern philosophy talked in the same language as modern physics was beginning to do. Wikimedia Commons

By Bikash Sarmah

No matter how our self-styled secularists vilify ancient Indian or Hindu wisdom, there is an element of eternity and universality about that treasure trove. It is a great work of reason and analysis. And there is no confusion in the discourse. Such is its universality that the intelligent Westerner woke up to it long ago and discovered the wealth therein. Such is its practicality that when Albert Einstein deconstructed the long-held Newtonian worldview in the early part of the 20th century, and when quantum mechanics from the other side revolutionized the whole course of physics and brought about a paradigm shift in our perception of matter and energy, the founding fathers of the evolving field had already taken resort in Hindu wisdom, and to their utter surprise found that Hindu wisdom and the broader framework of Eastern philosophy talked in the same language as modern physics was beginning to do. And it was not restricted to physics or mathematics alone. Even Western writers and philosophers began to appreciate Hindu wisdom, but not without struggling to comprehend the non-Newtonian Hindu worldview — used as they were to a discrete, Newtonian notion of fundamentalism, both in the material and non-material world.

As an acclaimed physicist and thinker Fritjof Capra says in his classic The Tao of Physics, ‘‘The picture of an interconnected cosmic web which emerges from modern atomic physics has been used extensively in the East to convey the mystical experience of nature. For the Hindus, Brahman is the unifying thread in the cosmic web, the ultimate ground of all being… In Buddhism, the image of the cosmic web plays an even greater role. The core of the Avatamsaka Sutra, one of the main scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism, is the description of the world as a perfect network of mutual relations where all things and events interact with each other in an infinitely complicated way.’’

In Buddhism, the image of the cosmic web plays an even greater role. The core of the Avatamsaka Sutra, one of the main scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism, is the description of the world as a perfect network of mutual relations where all things and events interact with each other in an infinitely complicated way.’’ Says Fritjof Capra. Wikimedia Commons
In Buddhism, the image of the cosmic web plays an even greater role. The core of the Avatamsaka Sutra, one of the main scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism, is the description of the world as a perfect network of mutual relations where all things and events interact with each other in an infinitely complicated way.’’ Says Fritjof Capra. Wikimedia Commons

ALSO READ: Future of Hinduism in US: An Analysis

Such worldview brings a lot of discomfort to the typical Western mind brought up in a culture that emphasizes only rigid fundamentals and overlooks the varied possibilities beyond the confinement of fundamentals, unlike in the Hindu system that rejects such fundamentalism and espouses a notion of the world, both material and spiritual, that jells wonderfully with the implications of the theories of modern physics. But how well is this known? It is in this context that a compilation of Western thoughts on India and its ancient wisdom, titled ‘Great minds on India’ compiled by Salil Gewali and published by Academic Publications, Shillong, is pertinent. It captures the best of comments by Western intellectual giants on Hindu wisdom and its timelessness, reflecting also on the parallels between modern physics and Hindu wisdom. Let us hear some of them. Werner Heisenberg, one of the founders of quantum mechanics and celebrated for his epoch-making Uncertainty Principle in quantum mechanics that rejects the Newtonian assertion of predicting the position and momentum of matter simultaneously, glorifies Hindu wisdom thus:

‘‘After the conversations about Indian philosophy, some of the ideas of quantum physics that had seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense.’’ If Einstein says that ‘‘we owe a lot to Indians who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could be made’’, Julius R Oppenheimer, the father of nuclear bomb, goes further: ‘‘What we shall find in modern physics is an exemplification, an encouragement and a refinement of old Hindu wisdom.’’

‘‘Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys.’’ Says TS Eliot. Wikimedia Commons
‘‘Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys.’’ Says TS Eliot. Wikimedia Commons

Coming to TS Eliot, who needs no introduction. He says: ‘‘Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys.’’ What Eliot means, in other words, is that when it comes to subtlety — that is, to the delicate refinement of ideas — most of the great European philosophers should rather be huddled in a classroom with an Indian philosopher teaching and guiding them. That is why Francois M Voltaire, one of the greatest French writers and philosophers, admits thus: ‘‘I am convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganga — astronomy, astrology, spiritualism etc. It is very important to note that some 2,500 years ago at the least Pythagoras went from Samos to the Ganga to learn geometry… But he would certainly not have undertaken such a strange journey had the reputation of the Brahmins’ science not been long established in Europe.’’ And that is why Ralph Waldo Emerson, great American author, and essayist, confesses to having been ‘‘haunted’’ by the Vedas. ‘‘In them (the Vedas),’’ Emerson says, ‘‘I have found eternal compensation, unfathomable power, unbroken peace.’’ And hence the candor, again, of Arthur Schopenhauer, one of the greatest German philosophers and writers: ‘‘In the whole world there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads. It has been the solace of my life, and it will be the solace of my death. They are the product of the highest wisdom.’’

ALSO READ: Hindu Americans are role models for Hindus in India: Dr. David Frawley

Perhaps the best eulogy for India, as it truly deserves, has come from Frederich von Schlegel, acclaimed German writer, critic, philosopher, and one of the founders of German Romanticism: ‘‘There is no language in the world, even Greek, which has the clarity and the philosophical precision of Sanskrit, and this great India is not only at the origin of everything, she is (also) superior in everything, intellectually, religiously or politically, and even the Greek heritage seems pale in comparison.’’

The booklet, ‘Eat minds on India’, is doubtless a unique venture, and the publishers deserve kudos for having accomplished such an onerous task as to compile comments on India and Hindu wisdom by a galaxy of Western intellectual giants and then to choose the best and the most relevant ones. The tragedy, however, remains: a pseudo-secular dispensation as we are blessed with at the Centre would hardly initiate any move to popularize ancient Indian wisdom, which is essentially Hindu, and call upon the youth of the country to rediscover their past and marvel at the sheer effulgence of Hindu wisdom — stemming not from any dogmatic, fundamentalist and conditioned worldview, but from a holistic way of life and its liberating experience. This is so because the word ‘‘Hindu’’ will invariably echo in any discourse on ancient Indian wisdom and the country’s perverse, self-styled secularists will discover a ‘communal’ agenda there — ‘against our pluralist ethos’. These poor souls do not realize — nor do they want to — that whatever pluralist ethos the country today takes pride in and will sustain for all times is due solely to the Hindu way of life, a preponderant way of life in India. Why, look at how the other by-product of Partition, including Bangladesh, has evolved.

Our rich past must remain our greatest inspiration and inform our engagement with the world. Even quantum mechanics and all of its later avatars recognize that fact of life. Let us all be proud of it all.

(The writer is the former consultant Editor of ‘The Sentinel’, a Guwahati-based
daily. He currently resides in Guwahati)