Nagpur, Maharasthtra, India, 9 January 2014 – People beside the road waving Buddhist and Tibetan flags and scattering rose petals over his car welcomed His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Nagpur yesterday. After arriving at Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport he drove directly to the Buddhist training and conference centre Nagaloka. Donning his saffron coloured Dharma robe he paid respects before the 36 feet high statue of the Walking Buddha, an image that Dr Ambedkar favoured as personifying the expression of compassionate activity for the benefit of all. His Holiness scattered flowers at the foot of the statue before circumambulating it. He recommended that it would be beneficial if quotations from the Buddha’s teachings could also be displayed in the vicinity. Next, His Holiness paid his respects before the statue of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, architect of Independent India’s secular constitution, of which he regularly speaks in praise and admiration.
During the morning and early afternoon today, His Holiness met with representatives of Indian Buddhist communities from several states and Buddhist students who are studying at Nagaloka.
“I’m just another human being,” he said. “Wherever I go I talk about how to create a happier humanity. If we educate people to live more compassionate lives, there will be no place for exploitation, bullying and deceit. Our approach should be based on our common experience, that we all receive affection from our mothers when we’re born, without which we would not survive. This experience of affection enables us to show affection to others, which is the basis of the kind of secular ethics that can benefit all humanity.”
He said that in addition to fostering such human values, there is a need to develop self-confidence. He told a story of visiting a black African family in Soweto, South Africa and talking to them of the great prospects for improvement they had in their newly democratised country. He said he was taken aback when the teacher he was talking to shook his head and said, “We can’t compete with the white people, our brains are not as good as theirs.” His Holiness told him how sad it made him to hear that and insisted that there is no such difference in the quality of the brains among this or that group of human beings. The important thing, he said, is to develop self-confidence keeping in mind our equality as human beings.
His Holiness stated that in addition to his commitment to foster basic human values, as a Buddhist monk he is concerned to promote inter-religious harmony. He noted that even at the time of the Buddha not everyone became a Buddhist. The Buddha engaged in respectful dialogue and discussion with followers of other traditions. He reiterated that secular ethics express the values of love, compassion, tolerance and self-discipline that all the major religions have in common.
His Holiness pointed out that one unique aspect of the Buddhist tradition is the advice the Buddha gave his disciples not to accept his teachings at face value or on the basis of faith, but to analyse, investigate and experiment with them as a goldsmith examines the quality of gold. The Buddha, he said, taught on the basis of what he had learned from his own experience and told his followers, “You are your own master.” His Holiness repeatedly mentioned the value of education and study, stressing that as 21st century Buddhists practice will be more effective if based on knowledge and understanding rather than simply on faith.
“It’s important to look back to how Buddhism was studied and practised in places like Nalanda, which embodied the original Indian tradition. The Buddha made it clear that we should not rely on a person, but on the teaching, not on the words alone, but on their meaning, and not on a superficial or provisional meaning but on their profound, definitive meaning.”
In the afternoon, His Holiness spoke to an assembly of the public that although hastily convened overflowed the Nagaloka hall. From there he went to Diksha Bhumi in Nagpur city, the place where on 14th October 1956 Dr Ambedkar and 5,00,000 followers embraced Buddhism, to pay his respects.
(Abstract from the official website of HH The Dalai Lama: https://www.dalailama.com/news/2014/his-holiness-the-dalai-lama-warmly-welcomed-at-nagaloka)