To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child , a garden patch, or a redeemed condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Aphorisms of Dalai Lama

Just came back from our corporate annual day event, addressed by His Holiness Dalai Lama. With some previous indication that Dalai Lama was very down to earth & humble (and humorous!), got a first hand glimpse of the personality.

The theme of Dalai Lama's talk was the traditional harmony between various religious groups in India, since thousands of years. He said that this was true not only of home grown religions like Buddhism, but also those coming from outside like Islam, Parsis, Zoroastrians and Christianity, the influence of all of which India had absorbed in itself. Dalai Lama made a reference to his visit to New York on the first anniversay of 9/11, when he had made the point that the WTC bombings could only be attributed to some 'mischievous' characters in the Islamic commnity, and that the whole community could not be branded as terrorists.

A second theme of the address was how India was inherently democratic, as it had through ages promoted and protected the 'debate' culture and not tried to put down any thought. So even while the ideas of people adhering to Nihilism (those who don't subscribe to any religion or god) were vehemently debated, the adherents themselves were still regarded as 'Rishis' (ascetics). This tolerance for different ideas had, in turn, nurtured the spirit of democracy in the country, as contrasted with many surrounding countries. In this context, Dalai Lama made a reference to the various contrasting ideas propounded by Buddha himself, which (far from arising from any 'confusion' in Buddha's mind, as Dalai Lama humorously remarked) was designed to kickstart the spirit of inquiry among people.

Then came the questions from participants. One question was about how to calm the mind and get over anger and frustrations. Dalai Lama's reply to this was that since frustrations and anger mostly arise due to some problem, it's advisable to think about the problem deeply and try to look for a solution and other opportunities, rather than manifesting the frustration outwardly through anger which doesn't solve the problem. Such meditative inquiry, while it may not directly lead to a solution of the problem, can calm the mind and prepare it better to find a solution. In this context, Dalai Lama made a reference to how he had lost his country, but how this had in turn opened other avenues and how he had been able to learn so much by interacting with people from different backgrounds, religions,etc.

Another question was as to whether there was any one blessing that Dalai Lama would want everyone to receive. To this, first Dalai Lama replied humourously that he didn't have any response. Later, he went on to explain that just asking for blessings didn't solve any problems. He made a reference to his participation at the opening of a Budhist Vihara (monument) at Patna, the capital city of the Bihar state in India. Apparently, at the function, the Chief Minister of the state had remarked that now the blessings of Budha will lead to exemplary development of the state. To which Dalai Lama had (humourously) responded that since Budha's blessings had already been there for the state since hundreds of years (it is said that Budha had attained enlightenment at a place in Bihar), the state should have been very highly developed, instead of being one of the poorest in India! To wit, just blessings are not very useful, and what was required was action. Even Buddha went from house to house explaining the meaning of Buddhism (something the Dalai Lama said he had advised the monks of Ladakh to do, when he had perceived a 'gap' between the monks and the people of the surrounding communities). Same was done and emphasised by Jesus. So instead of just praying for blessings (while that may be something you do anyway), focus on action, was the message.

An 'out of the box' question was raised regarding the 'violence' supposedly involved in the medical profession. To this, Dalai Lama (after referring humorously to two incidents - one where a person had accidentally closed his mouth to speak while a doctor was examining his tooth, and another where Dalai Lama's cook had 'boxed' a dentist who tried to pull out a bad teeth!) said that violence depends on the intentions. A person saying good things and giving gifts may not mean well, which would be mental violence. On the other hand, since a doctor performs a surgery with the intention to cure a person, this cannot be called 'violence'.

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