Dalai Lama takes part in dialogue with Pico Iyer

On May 19, His Holiness hosted an online conference from his residence in Dharamsala, India.

Celesta Billeci, Executive Director of Arts & Lectures, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), introduced the occasion. “We’re living in a moment that calls for optimism, resilience, courage and vision,” she said. “Who better to spark these qualities in us than the Dalai Lama?”
Henry Yang, Chancellor of the University welcomed everyone and addressing His Holiness declared, “It’s an extraordinary honour to welcome you today.”

“I am delighted to share this message of hope from His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” he continued. “This is the fifth time we’ve had the privilege of welcoming him here. And it is now twenty years since we established the 14th Dalai Lama Chair of Tibetan Studies. The Dalai Lama is an incomparable Buddhist teacher and a champion of reconciliation. He radiates compassion and peace.”

With that, he called on Pico Iyer to open a conversation with His Holiness.

-Welcome Your Holiness, it’s nice to see you again. We are turning our focus to hope. What does hope mean for Buddhists?

“To put it simply, our life is based on hope, a desire for things to turn out well. Even in the womb, their mother’s peace of mind affects the unborn child. Hope is concerned with the future. Although nothing about the future can be guaranteed, we remain hopeful, which is much better than being pessimistic. On a global level too, we have grounds for hope.

“We all come from our mother. We grow under her care. Appreciating her kindness, without which we would not have survived, is a basis on which to cultivate compassion. Experiencing our mother’s kindness gives us hope.

“If we investigate cases of children whose mothers pass away when they are young, I think we’ll find some emotional scars.
“Our lives depend on hope. If you have hope, you’ll be able to overcome problems you face. But if you’re without hope, your difficulties will increase. Hope is linked to compassion and loving kindness. In my own experience. I’ve faced all sorts of difficulties in my life, but I never gave up hope. Also, being truthful and honest is a basis for hope and self-confidence. Being truthful and honest is a counter to false hope. Hope founded on truth and honesty is strong and powerful.”

-Is hope not connected with religion?

“Generally, religion is a question of faith, but when we bask in our mother’s affection, there’s no faith involved. Faith is something human beings have created. All the major religious traditions teach the importance of kindness and love. Some say there’s a God, others deny it. Some say we go on for life after life, others assert that we live only one life. These traditions propound different philosophical points of view, but they share the message of loving kindness.

“Theistic traditions like Christianity teach that we are all created by God, who, like a father, embodies infinite love. It’s a powerful idea that can help us recognise the importance of being kind.

“We are social creatures, dependent on our community. And as members of a community, even people with no faith or belief can keep their peace of mind by being considerate, truthful and honest. Being honest and compassionate are not necessarily religious qualities, but they contribute to our being able to lead a happy life. Being concerned about our own community lends to our own survival. The key factor is compassion. Anger is its opposite. Anger destroys happiness and harmony.

“We need a sense of the oneness of humanity. It’s because I cultivate this that wherever I go and whoever I meet I regard as just another human being; a brother or sister. We seven billion human beings are essentially the same. We do have differences of nationality, colour, faith and social status, but to focus only on them is to create problems for ourselves.

“Imagine you’ve escaped from some catastrophe and find yourself all alone. If you see someone in the distance coming towards, you won’t care about their nationality, race or faith, you’ll just be glad to meet another human being. Desperate situations encourage us to recognise the oneness of humanity.

There’s been enough war and violence in the past. Nowadays, when we face serious problems as a result of the climate crisis, we have to help each other. We have to make an effort to live together happily while we can.”