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The Dalai Lama addresses joint session of California Legislature

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Note to Readers: The Dalai Lama is not always easy to understand due to his accent, and I hope this general overview helps people better appreciate the message he delivered to California's top politicians. I have added brackets to indicate omissions or additions of words required to make easily readable prose. The Dalai Lama begins to speak about 15 minutes, 30 seconds into the video. Shawn Hamilton

The Dalai Lama greets members of legislature, California capitol, 20 June 2016

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalia Lama, opened his June 20thaddress to the California legislature (15:30) acknowledging "respected leaders" and the general audience as "brothers and sisters". He kidded the legislators about their official formality before presenting a major theme of his talk--that we should concern ourselves with the welfare the 7 billion-member family called humanity. Mentally, emotionally, and physically, he said, we are all the same, and assuring others' happiness is key to our own.

"Since we are social animals, the best way to take care of oneself [is to] take care of others. Others--community--is the basis of our own happy future," he said. Throughout his talk, he stressed the common factor of the innate humanness behind people of all religions and ethnicities, indicating, specifically, various sects of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. "This religion, that religion," he said. "It doesn't matter."

Dalai Lama, California capitol, 20 June 2016

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Another of the Dalai Lama's themes involved the importance of children feeling parental love after their birth, and he made an interesting, and perhaps controversial, observation. In a graceful hand gesture, which conveyed that he was specifically addressing the assembled legislators, he noted that many successful people pursue ambitions tenaciously to compensate for their inherent lack of security.

He said he'd talked with scientists who had demonstrated that compassion is the natural state of humankind. Anger, jealously, and the other "poisons", as they're referred to in certain Buddhist teachings, arise out of "disturbance[s] of mind" rather than being innate qualities of a healthy human being. It's an important point. Anger and violence, greed, jealousy, etc. are not normal modes of being no matter how much we rationalize and justify the actions that spring from them.

This is a cause for hope, the Dalai Lama said, reminding us that happiness and peace are internal states, which external riches, titles, influence, etc. can't ultimately provide. Again he seemed to subtly let some air out of some inflated legislative egos when he said that even homeless people can be happy if they are surrounded by a community of friends who care about them--"happier even than successful businessmen or politicians," he said smiling. "My number one commitment is [the] promotion of human love and compassion, irrespective of whether someone is a believer or non-believer, or between this believer and that believer," he said.

A particularly interesting part of his talk comes at about 29:15. He specifically defends Muslims, apparently trying to coax listeners out of their prejudices.

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Unthinkable! Using religion as an excuse for killing, Dalai Lama

"More than five decades I spent in India. In India you can see [different types of] believers live together," the Dalai Lama said. He admitted that occasionally there are some problems, but he said (a twinkle in his eye) that it is understandable, considering there is over a billion people living there. There are bound to be a few problems. "India's not heaven," he said. "It's part of the world. Some mischievous people must be there." He went on to make his larger point that religious harmony in India is generally pretty good.

"Indian Muslims [are] wonderful. It is wrong [to persecute Muslims]. We create some bad impression [that[ "Muslims" [and] "Islam" are "militant. I have a number of friends from the Muslim community. Wonderful people! All religious traditions have [the] same potential--to create a sensible human being, a compassionate human being," he said.

The Dalai Lama also spoke about the importance of protecting the global environment. "This planet is the only place we can live happily, "breathe happily," he said, adding that the moon is beautiful, but we can't live there. Our only hope is to take care of Earth. "There's no other choice except [to] fully protect our own home," he said, taking the opportunity to say that those working for the benefit of the environment are engaged in something very important and necessary.

One controversial topic the Dalai Lama mentioned was gun control. "Real gun control must start here," he said, pointing to his heart. He said that in order to demilitarize the world, there must be inner disarmament, an inner demilitarization. He cites anger and jealousy as examples of two internal causes of external violence. He showed a serious and firm side of himself when he mentioned how people sometimes exploit religious faiths as a rationale for killing:

"Unthinkable! In the 20th century our way of thinking is [that] whenever we have some differences, some conflict, we always think [we can] solve this by force. That way of thinking is out of date," he insisted. "In this century, any problem [has to be] solved through talk[ing], meet[ing]--face to face. Now some of these people who create some sort of problems--so-called terrorists--these [problems] also have to be solved through human contact. [Keeping a] distance and using force, I don't think, is the proper solution. That's my belief," he said, adding, "It's our problem and our responsibility. Make some contribution for a better world, a happier humanity."

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(Article changed on June 22, 2016 at 11:11)

(Article changed on June 24, 2016 at 11:11)

(Article changed on June 26, 2016 at 03:51)

 

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Shawn Hamilton is a reporter and teacher in California. He began his teaching career in Taiwan in 1989 when large rallies were supporting the protesters at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China.

He returned to the relative calm of the (more...)
 

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