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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Dalai Lama Speaks about Secular Ethics to 16,000 in Fribourg

April 15, 2013

April 15, 2013, Dharamsala - Over 16,000 people attended His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings and public talks during the two-day Forum Fribourg in Switzerland over the weekend, Swiss news portal, The Local, reported.

Speaking on secular ethics on Sunday, His Holiness said: “Dear brothers and sisters, I’m extremely happy to have this opportunity to talk to you. Please think of yourselves just as human beings, not as Swiss, Italian, Russian, German, French, Spanish or Tibetan. Every one of us wants to live a happy life and we all have a right to fulfil that goal. However, we face many problems because we insist on focussing on the secondary differences between us.”

He said he usually discusses secular ethics under three main points, of which the first is our common experience. We are all born from a mother’s womb and most of us grow up under her care. This is a biological source for our sense of affection. Our very survival depends on others’ care. Those of us who received the greatest affection when we were young tend to be happier later in life. Families bound together by affection tend to be happier.

The second point is that we all have the potential to develop a sense of concern for others. No matter how strong or how educated we are, we cannot survive without others, so how can we neglect their interests? Warm-heartedness and genuine concern for others earns friendship, on the basis of which we can act truthfully and transparently, which in turn is a source of confidence. Thirdly are scientific findings. Modern scientists are mostly concerned with matter and what they can measure. But today, increasing numbers of scientists are showing interest in the mind and emotions, concluding that a healthy mind favours sound physical health.

His Holiness asked: “How can we promote secular ethics? Through education – for which we need a map of the mind. Please think about what I have said.”

Later in the afternoon, His Holiness spoke to a gathering of Tibetans resident in Switzerland and the hall with a capacity of 8000 was filled once more. Accompanied by the Sikyong, Dr Lobsang Sangay, he was welcomed to the stage by a young Tibetan musical troupe. Everyone stood for the Tibetan national anthem and the Representative briefly presented a report. This was followed by children sweetly singing a patriotic song, after which His Holiness began his address: “Tibetans, monks and nuns, young and old, settled here in Switzerland, I have come here for a short time to teach and meet with you.”

He said that Tibetans have kept alive the spirit that thrived when Tibetan kings ruled all Tibet in the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries. They have kept the Nalanda tradition of Buddhism alive as well as the Tibetan language, which is the best medium for giving it expression. He talked about the origins of the Tibetan nation and its culture, noting that archaeological estimates for the dates of the first Tibetans vary from 4000 years ago to 10,000 years ago. He recalled a Chinese archaeologist he met at Harvard telling him that contrary to Chinese government accounts, his findings suggested that Tibetans evolved on the Tibetan plateau itself, not elsewhere in China.

He reminded his listeners that Buddhism is not just about prayers and rituals, but using your mind to effect an inner transformation. He urged them to become twenty-first century Buddhists, using their own intelligence to understand what Buddhism is about.

He explained how his retirement came about; how he semi-retired in 2001 when a leader was first elected and how in 2011, he decided the time had come to hand over all political responsibility to the elected leadership. He said:

“China has accused us of trying to restore the system as it used to be – but we are following democracy and they are not.”

He traced the evolution of the Middle Way approach, recalling that Tibet’s last appeal to the UNO in1965, after three UN resolutions, was still ineffective. Concluding that dialogue with China was the only option, the Middle Way approach began to evolve gradually from 1974 and the Chinese indicated some willingness to respond on several occasions since then. He emphasised that the Middle Way approach is based on non-violence. However, he also stressed that it had been made clear as early as 1954 that Tibetans did not consider themselves to be under China.

He assured the assembled Tibetans that the Sikyong would speak further about these important matters. Recollecting the honest, if innocent, impression the initial 1000 Tibetans had made when they first arrived in Switzerland so many years ago, His Holiness urged those living here today to continue to be careful to maintain their dignity and good reputation.

His Holiness gave a one-and a half days of teachings on Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (jangchup lamdron) and confer a White Tara Empowerment (drolkar jenang).

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