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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

The Dalai Lama's Practical Guide to Happiness

June 1, 2008

The Buddhist path to enlightenment and peace is attractive to
thousands in Britain
The Times (UK)
May 30, 2008

I had to come. This is the nearest thing to meeting a Buddha that's
going to happen in my lifetime," said Morag, 45, a science teacher
from Glasgow. For ten-year-old Gialbu Sherpa from Ashford, Kent, "the
Dalai Lama is like a god." For Lobsang Chodron, 80, a frail but
feisty Finnish nun ordained into the Tibetan tradition, the
pilgrimage to hear him speak always holds its own magic. "We should
learn from a teacher, not from a book. You can trust his spiritual
integrity absolutely," she said. Among the 28,000 people of many
faiths who bought tickets to hear the Dalai Lama speak at Nottingham
Arena over the May Bank Holiday, many doubtless see qualities in the
Nobel laureate that have made him one of the world's few global
spiritual teachers.

Admiration for him abounds at such events. But behind the
superlatives expressed by his followers is a quiet reverence for his
approach to the struggle for survival. His qualities have been tested
in the fire. He has been in exile for nearly 50 years and his people
face what he has reluctantly called the "cultural genocide" of Tibet.
In the past two months Tibetan resistance has been met with the kind
of crackdown reminiscent of the Chinese occupation that forced the
Dalia Lama to flee in 1959. Some Tibetans, including monks, seek to
defend themselves by force if necessary, but the Dalai Lama remains
immovable in his commitment to non-violent protest.

When he speaks of cultivating the twin pillars of Buddhist life --
compassion and wisdom -- he is clearly a man of humanity. Tibetans
believe him to be the reincarnation of the enlightened being
Avalokiteshvara. For Westerners, his "policy of kindness" offers hope
in a seemingly intractable conflict. Rather than meet violence with
violence, he teaches forgiveness.

He moved with laughter and clarity through the audience's questions,
from inter-faith harmony to an Oprah Winfrey range of personal
issues. His five days of teaching was essentially a practical guide
to happiness.

The fact that so many Westerners study his Buddhist teachings seems
unlikely. The Dalai Lama does not seek converts. Every day he
emphasised the importance of continuing in one's own faith. "It's
better to keep your own tradition, Catholic, Protestant -- better,
safer," he said. He urged Tibetans to study and practise Buddhist
teachings and praised the "great progress made by American Buddhists.

"These teachings are meaningful if they bring a more mature, more
compassionate heart," he said. The week culminated with initiation
into his suggested method to achieve this: a meditation on the
revered figure of Vajrasattva. Vajrasattva is one of the best-loved
Bodhisattvas or enlightened beings in Buddhism, associated with
health, long life and the after-death state. Crucially, Vajrasattva
represents primordial purity of the mind and heart, the state, His
Holiness emphasises, of our own true nature.

Paul Garden, from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, was once a Catholic altar
boy. "Catholicism taught me to project my faith outside," he said.
"But now I find it within. I feel clearer in my mind after the
Vajrasattva practice, calmer in my view and with a better level of
self-acceptance, so I can aspire to put others first."

The meditation involves visualising oneself purified through the
enlightened qualities of Vajrasattva. It involved three days of
detailed study of Buddhist doctrines such as "emptiness" and
"causality" drawn from the 14th-century Buddhist master Tsongkhapa.
These teachings, exquisitely translated by Thupten Jinpa, are
essential to tenderise the mind and heart so as to understand the
nature of reality. For example, Tsongkhapa's teaching of "dependent
origination" reasons that all things result from a web of conditions
rather than from the design of an omniscient creator god, willing the
world to be as it is. Such teaching enables people to see that they
are free to create more loving conditions.

With his wide-ranging command of Buddhist history, the Dalai Lama
quoted the great teachers of India's Nalanda monastery, the
precursors of Tibetan Buddhism. Their investigations into the nature
of the mind led them to challenge the human tendency towards the
extremes of absolutism and nihilism. Tsongkhapa's text, as
interpreted by the Dalai Lama, emphasises the value of the "Middle Way."

For several days Nottingham Arena's audience was treated to the
rigours of monastic discourse that promise a glimpse of a higher
state of mind. In truth many found this intellectually challenging,
and His Holiness often described his own efforts as just a step
towards deeper understanding. "I am just a simple monk," he said,
with his characteristic laugh.

For Annie Cullen, a grandmother from Glastonbury, Somerset, the Dalai
Lama's presence was enough. "It means a lot because I am being
initiated by the only enlightened teacher," she said. "All he wants
is more enlightenment so that we can live in peace."
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