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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."

His Holiness in Japan: November 5, 2009

November 6, 2009

Tibet House in Japan
November 5, 2009

His Holiness began his sixth full day in Japan
standing before an eternal flame, which flickers
in front of the ocean, while a series of
reflecting walls all around list the names of
some of the 240,000 people who lost their lives
on the island during World War 2. Again and
again, as the day went on, His Holiness expressed
his admiration for the fact that American and
British soliders were listed on the wall, along
with Japanese, because they, too, were
individuals who suffered as the Japanese did.

"In human history," he said, before a circle of
people assembled around the Okinawa Peace
Memorial Park to hear him, "there used to be some
kind of belief that differing interests could be
solved through violence or war. But in the latter
part of the 20th century, the Berlin Wall
collapsed, not through violence, but through
popular peaceful movements." Besides, violent
methods always bring unforseen consequences.
Beyond that, he said, "Japan, as the only nation
that has suffered nuclear bombs, should lead the
peace movement on the basis of its past immense suffering."

Then, with five Tibetan Buddhist monks (and one
nun), he led prayers inside the nearby Okinawa
Peace Hall, in front of a huge statue symbolizing
the universal longing for peace. "The more we
help others," he said, in a brief address to
those gathered in the hall, "the happier we are.
The more we think of ourselves, the more suffering we feel."

Returning to his hotel, he conducted a long
interview with Okinawa Television. Talking about
how "you may be materially a billionaire, but
inwardly very poor," and asked to offer a message
to Okinawa, he noted that "whenever we enjoy
sufficient material facilities, we must pay more attention to inner values."

Following lunch at his hotel with his hosts, His
Holiness traveled to the Okinawa Buddokan in the
city of Naha, where he was met by a Mongolian
sumo champion, offering a yellow scarf, and a
full crowd so appreciative that it began by
clapping enthusiastically after every paragraph.
With great feeling in his voice--and in English,
after seeing quite a show of hands in answer to
his question, "How many here speak English?"--His
Holiness began his talk on "Peace and
Compassionate Mind" by saying, "At the age of 16,
I lost my freedom. At 24 I lost my country. The
last 50 years I've lived as a refugee. And during
that period, a lot of heart-breaking news has
come to me and my life. But these last 50 years
have been the best period of my life. Plenty of
opportunities to meet with different
people--people from different traditions, people
from different fields, including scientists and
businessmen, leaders, politicians, ordinary
people, even beggars." All these experiences had
led him, he said, to see how much we are the same
human beings, in our wish to overcome our
suffering and to achieve a happy life.

Compassion, he stressed, does not depend on
having a religious life. It is, in fact, more
basic and essential than religion. "You can be a
good person without religion. But you cannot be a
good person without compassion." Emotions, he
went on, "just like external matters, are
sometimes very helpful, sometimes very harmful.
So, as with external matters, we should
deliberate carefully: trying to multiply the
emotions that are good for us, to get rid of
those that are bad. Scientists have found that a
peaceful mind, a compassionate mind even has good
effects on our physical being. But "compassion is
not the same as pity; it is a genuine sense of
concern that comes out of respect." Compassion,
he said with feeling, is not just good for
others, a kind of service; it's good for us. It
makes us happier, more fulfilled. And so we must be taught warm-heartedness.

A thousand years ago, he ended by saying,
educational institutions were created to cover
the world of matter, while ethics were covered by
the church, or family. "But now the influence of
churches is waning, and the family system is
sometimes collapsing. No one takes care of
teaching ethics. So it's left to educational
institutions to teach both mind and warm-heartedness."

When His Holiness invited questions from the
floor, a long stream of mostly young listeners
came up to the front of the hall and, as he
answered each question, the large audience sat in
absolute silence, motionless (many of Okinawa's
most prominent citizens seated in the front
rows). A young woman asked him what he would
advise when our dreams are crushed, and he said
that "before we undertake any project, we should
analyze the objective that we seek. Sometimes,
right from the beginning, your goal is
unrealistic. Then it will be difficult to
achieve." We need to investigate many dimensions
so we can carry a "realistic aspiration."

You may have differences on a small level, he
told another questioner, concerned about
relations with her children, but if you look from
a broader perspective, you see that this division
isn't so serious. Overall, you're in agreement
with the other person. Knowing of all that
Okinawa has suffered and its difficult relation
to its U.S. bases, he emphasized again how much
he admired Japan's capacity to forgive America
after the dropping of nuclear bombs, and German's
willingness to welcome American leaders today.
And he spoke once more of the Okinawa Peace
Memorial Park, and its large-hearted inclusion of
soldiers from the so-called enemy.

"Love of one's own country, of one's own
nationality: that's good," he concluded, "but it
must be realistic. Extreme, radical nationalism
is not good. Now the time has come when we must
think of all parts of the world as `we.' In some
ways, His Holiness might have been saying that he
was a part of the Okinawan community now--their
concerns were his--and they were a part of the
Tibetan, or rather the human family. The crowd
rose to its feet as he ended--some audience
members whistled, some roared out their
approval--and even in this faraway southern
Japanese island, it seemed that the seeds of a
larger sense of belonging had been sown. Okinawa
was part of the world, His Holiness had reminded
his listeners, more than once, during the day;
and the world was part of Okinawa. Forgiveness
was almost a form of kindness towards
oneself.           
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