Newark, New Jersey, USA, 12 May 2011 – His Holiness the Dalai Lama left Fayetteville in Arkansas in the morning arriving in Newark in New Jersey around noon for the last part of his programs in the current tour of the United States. On arrival Prof. Robert Thurman of Tibet House, who is the co-convener in the Newark Peace Education Summit, which His Holiness is participating on May 13 and 14, received him.In the afternoon His Holiness attended a press meet where he was introduced by Prof. Thurman.
In his initial remarks, His Holiness dwelt on his two commitments of promotion of human values and promotion of religious harmony. He said in the past several days he had been touching on these themes at the different public talks, and joked that since he has been repeating them so much he seemed to have memorized them. His Holiness said that these values that he propagated were nothing new but ones that were promoted for long by India.
Talking about his first commitment of promotion of human values, His Holiness said that we are all the same human beings; we all want a happy life. He said that people mistakenly think that happiness can be achieved through material development. He added that we needed to realize that the source of happiness is within ourselves. He emphasized that these human values needed to be promoted through an approach that did not touch on religion to be inclusive of all human beings.
Referring to his commitment to the promotion of religious harmony, His Holiness said on a few occasion, and particularly yesterday’s development (May 11, 2011 when he heard a Christian nun and a gentleman at a panel in the University of Fayetteville in Arkansas talking about their Christian religion inspiring them in their work) confirmed his belief that all religions have the same potential to inner peace notwithstanding their philosophical differences. He said the real purpose of all religions was the same: to promote love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, and self-discipline.
His Holiness said that the people seem to agree with his line of thinking.
His Holiness said the reason why he was mentioning these today was because the media also have a special responsibility and role in order to build a happy democratic society. He repeated his comparison of the media to an elephant who should be using the long nose to investigate both what is in the front as also what is behind and to point them out. He said that the media should do this in an honest, truthful, unbiased and objective way.
His Holiness then answered questions from the media. The first question was whether he was ready to negotiate with the Chinese and whether he was ready to find his successor in the eventuality of his passing away.His Holiness outlined the history of contact with the Chinese leadership. He said direct contact began in 1979 and there was real hope in the early 1980s, but that things became difficult and contact ceased in early 1990s. He said, “again we renewed direct contact with Central Government” in 2002 and since then there have been nine rounds of talks but no positive result. He said even our sincere proposals under the Chinese constitution was described as disguised independence movement. In the meantime, His Holiness said the situation inside Tibet had been becoming worse and worse. Nevertheless, he said from our side always we are always open for talks.
His Holiness said there is problem in Tibet but that Chinese officials refuse to accept that. He suggested that journalists should visit Tibet to see the situation and to see whether there is problem or not. Sooner or later we have to tackle this problem, he added. “Once the Chinese central government really addresses the real situation we are always ready to help,” His Holiness said.
On the issue of his succession, His Holiness said that major Tibetan religious leaders in exile have been meeting occasionally in the past and this issue of successor of Dalai Lama has been a topic of discussion in the past few years. However, nothing has been finalized, he said adding that perhaps there could be another conference of top religious leaders within this year. He joked by asking the people at the press meet whether, by looking at his face, they could tell there was any need to hurry in deciding on his succession or not.
His Holiness also responded to questions about the approach the Japanese people should be taking with regard to their recent tragedy and how Mexicans should be dealing with violence resulting from the drug trade, etc. His Holiness said that people should try to understand the situation and to look forward by making efforts to build a new society. He talked of how the Japanese people were able to rebuild their society after the destruction from the Second World War. He said people have the potential to look forward. In terms of Mexico, His Holiness said the people should not feel hopelessness and lose courage and determination. Referring to the fact that the drugs in Mexico find users in the United States, His Holiness said the very use of drugs indicated that the people were missing something inside. He added that these people have not realized their inner potential.Asked for a message to the urban youth in cities like Newark that experience lot of murders amongst youngsters, His Holiness said that simply a message from him would not help. What was needed was a long-term plan, he said. He talked about the historical development in the United States when Lincoln abolished slavery followed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a “courageous and marvelous leader” who fought for civil rights. Now, he said, there is a Black American in the White House. These were positive development, he said.
His Holiness said there was a need for a long-term strategy. He said people should seriously address the issue of gap between the rich and the poor, not just in the United States, but also in India, China, etc. This gap is leading to feeling of discomfort among the poor who then become frustrated. Frustration leads to anger, which in turn leads to violence, he said.
His Holiness said education was important in changing the situation. The education system needed to incorporate moral teachings through a secular way. His Holiness explained that secularism does not mean disrespect of religion but respect of all religions, as well as for non-believers, as was the case in India.
He said such an approach would help bring about a calm mind adding that a calm mind will lead to a healthy individual, which will in turn help bring about a happy
family and a happy community.
To a question about the appropriateness of violence in the name of justice with regard to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, His Holiness reiterated his long standing opposition to death penalty and said that he was a signatory to a campaign by Amnesty International to abolish the death penalty. He said right from his childhood when he learnt of the hanging of German leaders after the Nuremberg Trials he felt sad, as these people were already defeated. He also referred to the hanging of Saddam Hussein, who was already defeated. He said death sentence in such cases appeared to be out of revenge and not preventive. His Holiness said there were different views on the issue of the killing of Bin Laden. Some support it while others say it was wrong. He said he was among those who think it was wrong.
His Holiness recalled that during the commemoration of the first anniversary of the September 11 tragedy in Washington, D.C., he had the opportunity to mention that we should not be against a whole community just because of the mischievous action of a few people. He said mischievous individuals were in all religious communities.
When asked about his view on Tibet House USA, His Holiness said that he knew Prof. Robert Thurman from a long time. His Holiness said he appreciated the founding of Tibet House to bring awareness to Tibetan culture. While saying that Prof. Thurman was living his life in the spirit of Tibetan Buddhist culture, His Holiness drew attention to the difference between Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhist culture. He said Tibetan Buddhism was for the individual while Tibetan Buddhist culture was for the community. He talked about a community of Tibetans who were Muslims but still their way of life was Tibetan Buddhist culture.To a question on the Indian Government’s position on Tibetan independence, His Holiness said that in the late 1940s and the 50s there seemed to have been serious discussions among Indian leaders, including Sardar Patel, which resulted in the formulation of a policy on Tibet. He said the successive Indian governments have consistently followed this policy. His Holiness clarified that we were not seeking separation and that Tibet had been materially backward and Tibetans wanted modernization. Therefore, it was beneficial to remain with the People’s Republic of China but that Tibetan Buddhist heritage as well as our language and script were such that needed preservation through meaningful autonomy for Tibet. His Holiness expanded on the fact that Tibetan Buddhism is richer than other Buddhist traditions, including Chinese Buddhism. For example Buddhist logic was something that was present in Tibetan Buddhism and not in Chinese Buddhism, he said. He said Tibetan Buddhist culture was of concern not just to the six million Tibetans but for many million more people in the Himalayan region as well as Mongolia and in the Russian Federation, who follow Tibetan Buddhism.
His Holiness also responded to a question about reports that the Chinese were banning Indian pilgrims from visiting Mount Kailash from 2013 by saying that as a sacred place to the Hindus it should be open to all pilgrims.
When asked for a message to the teenagers in the Newark area who indulge in violence (who will not be able to attend the peace summit), His Holiness said that he understood their frustration and that in some case there was sufficient reason to face frustration. However, the causes will not go away through violence, he said. Instead, people should have determination, be optimistic, work hard and educate themselves. He said these youth had the potential and the responsibility to make this society better and happier. Saying that everybody is bound to have challenges, His Holiness cited his own personal experience. He said at the age of 16 he lost his personal freedom (when he was entrusted with temporal responsibility over Tibet) and that at the age of 24 he lost his country (when China completely took over Tibet). Thus he faced a lot of difficulties and there were sufficient reason to be angry. However, he realized that anger would not solve anything. He said the injustices could not be resolved through violence. His Holiness concluded by saying that when he was young, he too was impatient, like these youngsters who are impatient today, but now knew that on bigger issues people need to maintain patience and have he energy to find solution step by step.
More than 50 journalists were present, including those representing American, Japanese, Mexican, and Indian media as well as some representatives from China’sXinhua news agency (who, however, did not ask any questions).