At the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Australia, July 14, 2007, the 14th Dalai Lama spoke to a capacity, 15000 audience. Several large screens throughout the auditorium meant that people were able to see him close up. I had the privilege to be there.
Someone remarked that the Dalai Lama was “radically informal”. It was true – he had a great naturalness, straightforwardness and simplicity. There were also large crowds outside watching on a large television screen outside the Brisbane Entertainment Center.
Forgiveness does not entail forgetfulness
First, I shall single out one of the points he made, because it can throw light on the motivations of many former devotees of Sathya Sai Baba around the world. Most are not motivated by hatred against Sai Baba or leaders of his Sathya Sai Organization but believe it important to state their case as best they can, if in very difficult circumstances.
This point of the Dalai Lama’s – about forgiveness – is made, like all of his points, in many wisdom traditions, yet it seems to forever need to be raised and clarified, simple a point although it is.
Anyone who knows those individuals around the world who have dissented from Sai Baba – many of them having been deeply committed to his work for decades until they resigned or simply walked out – knows that most of those individuals speak out decidedly not because of hatred and revenge. It is a simplistic notion that speaking out about crimes and other wrong-doings has to to equate to hatred and revenge. Even if, since none of us is perfect, we err, it is important for us all to look for some better resolution of the issues. Some of the insights gained in the ‘Truth Commission’ processes may afford a guide for groups who are ready to reform themselves and seek compassionate solutions. See e.g., http://www.truthcommission.org
A society in which serious allegations are not brought out will remain a terribly crippled one. It will be one of secrecy, and lack compassion. It will not address the difficulties that so sorely need to be raised. China is far from alone in this, and we each need to address our own country’s failures to be a genuinely just society. However, China, as many cults do, has a long record of severe suppression, secrecy and violation of human rights. It has strongly protested to the Australian government, attempting to get it to stop the Dalai Lama’s visit. It would like us to forget him, and forget its atrocities, including enforced colonization and genocide. It can no more say sorry for these and make amends – to name but one of many Chinese government human outrages, for its violent mass killings in Tienanmen Square in 1989 (see Wikipedia reference HERE) than my own country’s government of John Howard can say sorry to our own wonderful, but tragically decimated indigenous people. Howard and the federal Opposition Leader, a former diplomat, Kevin Rudd, who speaks fluent mandarin Chinese, have both vacilated severely about whether they would meet the Dalai Lama. Most suddenly and curiously, neither appeared to know what their diary was doing but in fact, according to various media reports, they were both locked in consulting their realpolitik options – namely the trade issue, since China is Australia’s biggest trading partner. (I have dealt with this issue, from the perspective of our own interfaces with a number of governments in relation to Sai Baba HERE. Many so-called ‘democratic’ governments prefer narrow pragmatism over humanitarian conscience).
What the Dalai Lama has succeeded in doing, and what a few others like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mary Robinson and so on have so powerfully sought to do is to rise above hatred and vengeful, violent retaliation. (It may be good if we all start making a list and add still many more role model names, such as the Myhero project has sought to do at this page HERE). They have struggled on the great scale just as the rest of us have to struggle on the smaller scale. Not one of these leaders failed to speak out against the evils that had been perpetrated – such as those of war, empire, colonialism – and the disgraceful and terrible means used to realize them. Remembering evils can be graceful, especially when we have community support, and personal methods of self-discipline and induction of genuine calmness – such that we do not visit them on others as doctrine.
Forgiveness: Not losing compassion for the other person
Answering a question from the audience, the Dalai Lama distinguished between forgiveness and forgetfulness. He said that forgiveness is logically not possible with the absence of forgetting. To forgive, you need to remember what it is that you are forgiving. Forgiveness means not losing compassion for the other person. Sooner or later that individual, if they have have committed an offence, has to face the consequencies. Forgiveness does not mean taking no action. The important thing is that you do not let hatred overtake you.
The Dalai Lama said he had nothing to offer but common sense. His own religion was his own private matter. His thoughts expressed publically may be termed ‘secular ethics’. He had not much to offer, except commonsense.
He was now nearly 72 and since 16 years of age has had lots of difficulties, like the loss of his country. As he tours the world there is always sad news. But it is important to find a way, although recognizing the sadness for what it is, not to detain oneself with it but instead to establish a calm mind. To some, this attitude seems like being careless. But it is not, because a conflicted mind will bring still more troubles. Take problems seriously by all means, of course, but on the objective intellectual level rather than on the emotionally conflictful level. One needs to look at things objectively, and handle things more realistically, being neither over joyful nor over sad.
Happiness is the very purpose of life
Feelings of compassion and kindness need to be implemented through action. People need to feel a part of society, and self-confident. We are social ‘animals’. Survival depends on a sense of community. Positive emotions are very good for us, and negative emotions very bad and destructive. The more compassion the better is society’s functioning. This recognition does not belong peculiarly to any religion.
Religious answers often divide
Compassion is very commonly shared by people everywhere since we received it from our time in the mother’s womb and from her as we developed as we developed from our earliest stages as human beings. If morality and ethics were based on adhering to this or that religion, serious questions arise. For example – what religion? Many answers to this are very divisive of humankind. What? Six hundred million human beings should all follow a just one religion and no other. It is not possible. The secular teaching of values is the commonsense solution.
Force has been the typical answer
Compassion cannot be a weapon. If you try to eliminate people’s viewpoints by force the hatred will pass down the generations. Today, one Bin Laden, in ten years 10 Bin Ladens. The Dalai Lama told this in a letter of condolence to President George W. Bush on the day after 9/11. He got a strong laugh from the audience when he said that he has met George Bush and is scheduled to meet him again soon, and finds him individually a very nice man but that “his philosophy and mine are – different”.
Destroying another person is destroying yourself
External disarmament is important but the real need is for internal disarmanant. We need to make these notions familiar to children in school, so that they can confidently say to their parents – this trouble needs to be solved through dialog, not through conflict. Consider the other person as a part of yourself. Destroying another person is destroying yourself.
A questioner asked the Dalai Lama what have been the his greatest joy and and greatest sadness. He replied that there have been so many such moments that it is hard to pick but that two of those that stand out that taken together were very important revelations to him came close together. When he was sixteen he was overjoyed to have obtained his Ph.D. Even as this happened, the Chinese occupation of Tibet was proving very difficult for his people. There was terrible fear of the Chinese soldiers. Over half a million people died, many of starvation, many killed. In March 1958, many Tibetans, including himself, escaped. The experience felt very “Up. Down” but it enforced a sense of reality.
The Public Petition
Information on the Public Petition for Official Investigations of Sathya Sai Baba and His Worldwide Organization
About the Petition For Official Investigation Into Sathya Sai Baba Cult
(Note: You may prefer to proceed straight to the Petition): Public Petition For Official Investigations of Sathya Sai Baba and His Worldwide Organization