His Holiness the Dalai Lama lives in exile for over 60 years; having forfeited his active role as the spiritual and temporal leader of the over 7 million Tibetan Buddhists due to Chinese aggression. But he reflects the inimitable characteristic of a divine presence on earth, not losing his composure, his sense of humour, altruistic tendencies, the simple child-like nature and relentless hard work towards his global and national commitments. He is now celebrating his 87th birthday and what he has achieved on a global level over the period of his exile would need many pages history to record.
His commitments on global peace, the relevance and importance of Buddhist teachings to the contemporary world, individual peace and happiness, health of planet earth, the liberation of his motherland and its people, the importance of education and a reconciliation between Buddhism and science.
In his lectures, deliberations, discourses and meetings held in world capitals over the years, he has conveyed his messages very clearly on these issues, aside from establishing institutions in India for the propagation of these concepts.
His simple child-like nature, and the capacity to laugh aloud without any trace of concern or worry while engaged in grave global issues and threats, his unreserved pure, willful, sacrificial love that intentionally desires another’s highest good and his equilibrium and blissfulness at all occasions have all been clearly witnessed by people in the events that he attended or conducted over the years.
His remarks at a symposium at the Cambridge Union are worthwhile mentioning to ‘geeta’ glimpse of his simplistic nature: “I never think of myself as a leader, I think of myself as a simple Buddhist monk. It’s part of my practice to serve sentient beings as best I can. My body, speech and mind are dedicated to their welfare. If someone asks, I share my experience with them, but I don’t impose my views without a request or invitation.”
Hundreds of quotations, such as the one below, from his lectures and discourses in world capitals and at institutions of international repute can be cited to portray his outlook on fellow human beings and his approaches to the contemporary world:
“Brothers and sisters, I dislike formality. When I meet you I like to think that we are all human beings. Any idea that I am somehow different from you because I am Asian, Tibetan or Buddhist, or that I am somehow special because I am the Dalai Lama is nonsense. You are human beings, I’m a human being; you want a happy life, and I want a happy life. But I think that aim will not be fulfilled only on the basis of material values; what we all want is affection and what we all need is to be more warm-hearted. This is how we create the healthy mind that ensures our physical health.”
He has consistently advocated policies of non-violence, even in the face of extreme aggression. His Holiness has travelled to more than sixty-two countries spanning six continents. Since 1959, His Holiness has received over 84 awards, honourary doctorates, prizes, among others, in recognition of his message of peace, non-violence, inter- religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion. His Holiness has also authored more than 72 books. His Holiness describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk.
Three Main Commitments. His Holiness has three main commitments in life.
Firstly, as a human being, His Holiness promotes human values such as compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline.
Secondly, as a religious practitioner, His Holiness is committed to promoting religious harmony and understanding among the world’s major religious traditions. Despite philosophical differences between them, all major world religions have the same potential to create good human beings. Therefore, all religious traditions need to respect one another and recognize the value of their respective traditions.
Thirdly, His Holiness is a Tibetan and as the ‘Dalai Lama’ is the focus of the Tibetan people’s hope and trust. Therefore, his third commitment is to preserve Tibet’s Buddhist culture, a culture of peace and non-violence and protect the natural environment of Tibet. The institutions that he established range from educational institutions for the Tibetan refugee children to institutions dealing with controversial global issues.
At last, His Holiness has lately spoken of his commitment to reviving awareness of the value of ancient Indian knowledge among young Indians today. His Holiness is convinced that the rich ancient Indian understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions, as well as mental training such as meditation are of great relevance today. He is confident that ancient Indian knowledge can be combined with modern education.
As one of the most revered spiritual leaders, the 14th Dalai Lama is an icon who advocates democracy and freedom not only for his country but also for the world. He is a role model to everyone who wish to see positive differences in the world.
(Ven Prof Lenagala Sirinivasa is Dean of Faculty of Language Studies at the Buddhist and Pali University, Sri Lanka)