What does His Holiness the Dalai Lama mean to you?
By: Tenkyi Gyaltsen
His Holiness the Dalai Lama was born in the small village Takster, Tibet to a farming family and now is influential to millions of people across the globe. He is one of the most recognisable faces of Buddhism and the winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. To Tibetans His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s importance is much deeper. He represents the light to our nation and us Tibetans respect His Holiness the Dalai Lama so highly for countless reasons. As for what he means to me, there are thousands of words that I could have chosen, but I felt these words truly encompassed him: hope, guidance and commitment.
Hope: psychologists state it is positively correlated with life satisfaction and is vital for our well-being and happiness as well as motivating positive action. His Holiness the Dalai lama is the epitome of hope to not just me, my parents and grandparents but also to many millions all over. On many occasions he has shone his bravery and positive outlook to light a sense of hope within us. Just one example of this is when Tibet was unjustly annexed in 1959. His Holiness the Dalai Lama as well as 80,000 Tibetans were exiled and forced to leave their homes. Full of responsibility for the Tibetan nation, politically and spiritually, His Holiness the Dalai Lama led the Central Tibetan Administration to appeal to the United Nations to consider the question for Tibet. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has continued to strive for Tibet by proposing the “5 Point Peace Plan” in 1987. This acted as a template for a peaceful solution to the worsening situation in Tibet. More currently during this unknowable and challenging time, His Holiness has provided us with a vast array of online talks ranging from teachings, to conversations. For thousands of people especially during the Covid 19 pandemic, he has provided us with hope and helped us to benefit from our time in lockdown. Even on a much smaller level, throughout the years listening to his teachings take place in Dharamsala to performing to him in Manchester Arena, His Holiness has always included a few funny stories from his past that bring out his full and hearty laugh. This itself brings comfort and hope to his captivated audience.
The next word His Holiness the Dalai Lama means to me is commitment. This is his commitment towards benefiting humanity and additionally my commitment to strive to follow them. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has told us his three principal commitments numerous times. The first is to cultivate human values such as being compassionate, forgiving, tolerant and demonstrating self-discipline. These are more fundamental and impactful compared to physical and immaterial traits. I believe that this is a paramount lesson as being a teenage girl, it is hard to not compare yourself to others. But by hearing this commitment it reminds me that all humans beings are the same, in that we all want happiness and to avoid suffering. The second principle is the idea of religious harmony. As a spiritual religious leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is committed to promoting religious harmony between all religions. Although all religions have different philosophical and ritual differences, they share the same foundations and potential to create good human beings. His Holiness the Dalai Lama asks why there is division among religions. It is vital that all religions have respect for each other and therefore recognise the values and diversity of each other’s traditions. Sadly in today’s society, religion is increasingly becoming a source of hatred rather than happiness and comfort. So, if we are to create a more peaceful world, we need to practice warmheartedness and secular ethics. However, His Holiness states that this involves every individual person doing so, so that we can really create a safer and more peaceful world. A famous quote which he has stated, proves the power of an individual “if you think you are too small to make a difference try sleeping with a mosquito”. This is why I try to carry this message with me, and by everyone doing so it will bring us to a better world of religious harmony. The third principal commitment is to preserve the culture and language of the Tibetan people. Not only these but also the heritage Tibetans achieved from the masters of India’s Nalanda University. Having visited Nalanda University on a pilgrimage, and seeing the ruins of the university, I learnt the importance it has to Tibetan Buddhism. The name “Nalanda” originated from a combination of three Sanskrit words: “Na”, “Alam” and “Daa”, which means “no stopping at the gift of knowledge” and emphasises the use of logic and reasoning. The Nalanda tradition is the basis on which Tibetan Buddhism is formed as the Tibetan tradition is derived from the works of great masters from Nalanda University, including Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, Aryadeva and Shantarakshita. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is committed to preserving this as Nalanda tradition is the pure lineage of Buddhism.
During times when there seems to be so much racial, religious and gender division, His Holiness the Dalai Lama represents guidance to me. He regularly emphasises the importance of oneness and states that the terms “us” and “them” are too prevalent and that these terms only lead to conflict and division. We constantly should be reminding ourselves of the oneness of humanity, and if we were to one day achieve this then bloodshed and hostility will be no longer. Humanity has the gift of a complex brain but with this gift we use it to create new science and technology for war and destruction. Therefore, with the precious guidance of His Holiness we should strive for the oneness of 7.8 billion people by firstly making decisions to show loving kindness and compassion towards others. From his countless teachings discussing the power of compassion, mindfulness, not self and many more as well as his vast array of books, his inspiring quotes have been plastered on t shirts, mugs, bags and many more objects. My father has a t shirt which he always wears that has the quote “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible”. This quote has now been engrained in me and has provided comfort and guidance to me. However, it has not only guided me but also strangers who have asked to take pictures of the t-shirt when my dad is wearing it. These messages have not only benefited Tibetan Buddhists but also people of every age, race and faith, which adds to the concept of oneness and the benefits it creates for humanity. Another example of His Holiness the Dalai lama’s guidance is his promotion of a clean environment. Tibet, a naturally beautiful country with snow topped mountains, meandering rivers and thick, healthy forests has now lost many of its richly forested mountains, with a reporter stating it has become “bald, like a monk’s head!”. Additionally, according to Chinese statistics, Tibet is home to over 126 minerals and when these resources where discovered by China, they were extensively mined without proper environmental safeguards which devastated Tibet’s natural environment. Climate change is occurring all over the world and everyone is affected by it. In 1992, His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited the Green Peace’s rainbow Warrior during the UNCED Rio Earth Summit and discussed the future of our environment with volunteer groups and politicians. His aspirations for a clean environment have guided me to make better small choices regarding the environment such as only using a reusable water bottle and reducing the amount of fast fashion clothes I buy.
In conclusion, these three words: hope, commitment and guidance are what His Holiness the Dalai Lama means to me. As a Tibetan, I are extremely fortunate and blessed to have such an inspiring and loving spiritual leader to guide and comfort us during Tibet’s difficult situation. I believe that he has made every one of us a better human being by teaching us compassion and loving kindness. For decades, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has provided comfort and security to the Tibetan people. Ever since I was born, I have listened to his teachings through the mouths of my grandparents and parents as well as being fortunate enough to attend a few of his teachings live and feel the positivity and wisdom radiate from him.