His Holiness Meets Mary Robinson, Addresses Tibetans and Himalayans in New York City

His Holiness Meets Mary Robinson, Addresses Tibetans and Himalayans in New York City
Monday, May 04 2009 @ 03:56 pm BST

New York: His Holiness the Dalai Lama left Boston on May 3 morning for New York City. On his arrival in the city, His Holiness went straight from the airport to the venue of his first program, namely a 'Conversation on Wisdom and Compassion for Challenging Times' which he participated with Ms. Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The event, organized by the New York-based Tibet Fund, was moderated by noted writer Pico Iyer.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the WAMU theatre, Madison Square Garden, NYC, 3 May 2009, photo/Sonam Wangchuk/Phayul

In his opening remarks, Iyer thanked everyone for coming to the event that so many had waited for. He said, "We are delighted to have in our company two of the globe's greatest champions of conscience, of dialogue and peace, and, I think most important, of really rigorous practical work for change in the very, very real world."

He talked about His Holiness as an individual who is able to see lost as an opportunity saying he looked upon his exile life as an opportunity to implement such measures as giving women new rights, introducing science in monasteries, and providing democracy for his people.

Referring to President Robinson's steadfast interest in human rights, Iyer said that as President of Ireland she was beginning to frame this new vision of rights, namely the rights of children, rights of women, and to remind to us that rights were not just matter of belief, but were of freedom from fear and freedom from need. He referred to her long interest in Tibet.

His Holiness and President Robinson then discussed issues such as life in exile and what it meant for the community; about the gap between the rich and the poor, about how climate change was affecting humanity. Talking about the situation in Tibet, President Robinson said that the human rights situation in Tibet is unacceptable.

During the question and answer session, a question was posed, "I believe the human race is getting better, what do you think? "

In her response, President Robinson referred to an experience she had while interacting with the then President of China Jiang Zemin when she was the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. She said he asked her, "Do you the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights believe religion is important in this world given the advancement of scientific knowledge?" Ms. Robinson said she had responded that while there was indeed scientific advancement, religion and spirituality are extraordinarily important in our world and will continue to be. She felt President Jiang did not like the answer.

His Holiness responded to the question by referring to his interaction with the British Queen Mother in 1996. His Holiness said she was then 96 years old and since she had experienced most part of the 20th century, he had asked her whether humanity was getting better worse or remained the same. He said without hesitation she said humanity was getting better explaining her reasoning by saying that when she was young, there was no idea of human rights or rights of self determination, etc.

His Holiness said that he felt the 20th century was the most crucial century in human history. He said during the early part of 20th century, there were lots of killings during the world wars, civil wars, Vietnam War and so people had become fed up with war and violence.

His Holiness referred to the increasing desire for peace and mentioned that personally he felt the term 'nonviolence' is stronger than the term "peace". As an example, he said during the time of the Soviet Union that country used to say that all its military preparations were for peace. However, he felt that they would not have been able to say that all the military preparations were for nonviolence.

His Holiness then returned to the hotel.

In the afternoon, His Holiness went to WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden to talk on the "Essence of Buddhism" to a predominantly Tibetan and Himalayan audience altogether numbering over 6000.

In his overview of Buddhism, His Holiness gave a comparative explanation of the thoughts of the different religions on three fundamental questions related to human experience. The questions are, Is there a self? Does the self have a beginning? Does the self have an end? He said while theistic religions believe in the existence of self, Buddhists do not believe in the existence of an independent self. On the second question, theistic religions like Christianity believe that God created everything, including the person, and so the self can be said to have a beginning. Buddhists believe that everything came about due to cause and conditions and so there is no beginning to self. On whether there is an end to self, again the theistic religions believe there is an end, and do some school of Buddhism. However, the mainstream Buddhist thought is that there is no end to the self.

His Holiness said he was giving these explanations so that people can understand the Buddhist philosophical tenet of dependent origination.

At the end His Holiness gave a special message to the Tibetan and the Himalayan people in the audience. His Holiness said that he was encouraged by the renewed interest being shown in Tibetan Buddhism by people in the Himalayan region. He suggested that Buddhism is not merely having statues, but the important aspect of the study of the philosophy. He therefore asked the people to study Tibetan so that they can understand their heritage. His Holiness suggested that people should study Buddhist philosophy and also organize discussion sessions among themselves.

Addressing the Tibetans, His Holiness said that while in New York we are having a good time, we still are reminded the fact of the Tibetans being refugees. In Tibet, His Holiness said that the Tibetan people were suffering from a policy of suppression implemented by the Chinese authorities. His Holiness recalled his own earlier statements about how the current Chinese attitude towards the Tibetan people is like a death sentence is being passed on the Tibetan identity. He said the Chinese authorities seem to believe that the assertion of the Tibetan identity is a threat of separation.

His Holiness, however, said that Tibetans inside Tibet continued to reveal their commitment, courage and dedication to their identity.

His Holiness said that the determination of the Tibetan people will not falter. He recalled meeting a Tibetan from Tibet recently who informed him that the more the Chinese authorities oppress the Tibetans, the stronger will be the Tibetan determination.

His Holiness said that there was a positive aspect in that there is an increasing interest in Tibet among the Chinese people. Several Chinese writers have come out with articles in support of the just cause of the Tibetan people and being critical of the Chinese policies in Tibet.

His Holiness emphasized the importance of continuing to adopt non-violence as the vehicle for our struggle. He said in this approach having education is a critical factor and thus advised the younger Tibetans not only to study well and earn college degrees but to undergo specialized education and to be experts in different fields. Underlining the importance of the Tibetan language, His Holiness urged the parents to converse with their children in Tibetan at home so that they become familiar with the language.

His Holiness then referred to reports of some Tibetans in Tibet playing Mahjong with high stakes that he has been getting. He said this is a disgrace. He said he wasn't sure whether such a situation exists among Tibetans here and advised everyone to avoid such bad habits. He also said Tibetans, whether in Tibet or outside, should avoid excessive consumption of alcohols.

His Holiness advised the Tibetan people, particularly those in Tibet, not to become disheartened when they face challenges. He said China itself has been changing greatly in the past 60 years and that it will have speedier changes in the future. He asked the Tibetans not to be discouraged.

Following the talk, the Tibetan Association of New York and New Jersey Secretary Sonam Tsering gave a brief report of their activity and also presented an interim financial statement related to the event. The total estimated income was $ 300, 6590 and the total estimated expense was $ 150, 6590 with the balance being $250, 6590, which will be used for the proposed Tibetan Cultural Center.

His Holiness then returned to his hotel.

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