Continuing a series of public and spiritual engagements during his landmark visit to the far northern Indian territory of Ladakh,* His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Saturday accepted an invitation to meet with members of the Muslim community in the predominantly Buddhist Zanskar District, during which he shared a message of compassion and interfaith harmony.
His Holiness was welcomed by community leaders, while the local Imam offered a prayer to bless the gathering.
“As a Buddhist monk, wherever I go I encourage people to cultivate inter-religious harmony,” His Holiness shared with those congregated on Saturday. “All religious traditions counsel their followers to develop love and compassion and work for the benefit of others. Therefore, whenever I can, I visit different places of worship, just as I have come to this Eid Gah this morning.
“While it is sad to see conflict breaking out between followers of different religious traditions, it’s even more saddening to witness quarreling among the members of different denominations of the same faith, as we see between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Afghanistan. Although our various religious traditions assert different philosophical points of view, their common purpose is to encourage their followers to be kindhearted.” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
The Dalai Lama recalled the good relations he witnessed between Tibetan Buddhists and the small Muslim community in Lhasa, noting that Muslims were always welcomed at all Buddhist festivals.
“I am pleased to see that here in Zanskar, Muslim and Buddhist communities live in close harmony with each other, for which I would again like to thank our Muslim brothers and sisters today,” His Holiness continued. “Harmony in the Himalayan region as a whole is important because of the close relations the region has had with Tibet, where flourished a profound Buddhist culture derived from the historic Nalanda tradition that we are striving to keep alive.” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
The Dalai Lama also shared words of wisdom for more than 4,000 assembled students and young people on the need for Social, Emotional, and Ethical Learning (SEE Learning), which emphasizes educating and developing the heart together with the mind:**
“Time is always moving on. Nothing can stop it. We cannot change the past, but we can shape the future,” His Holiness explained. “The more compassionate you are, the more you will find inner peace. However, education systems today tend not to adequately enhance basic human nature. Nevertheless, since human beings have a natural ability to think things through, education is a key factor in creating a better future.
“Whether you believe in religion or not is a private matter. However, we have a collective responsibility to create conditions that are conducive to peace in the world. Since conflict cannot be settled by force, our target should be a demilitarized world.
“It is our essential nature to be compassionate. From the moment we’re born, our mother takes care of us. Without this care we would not survive. This experience is our first opportunity to learn that compassion is the root of all happiness. However, this natural appreciation of compassion seems to fade once we go to school. We need to be reminded that good health and a peaceful state of mind are founded on love and compassion. Modern education would be more complete if it were to incorporate ancient Indian knowledge, including the long-standing principles of karuna (Skt: compassion) and ahimsa (Skt: nonviolence), from the standpoint of secular ethics.” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
His Holiness concluded with an oral transmission of the mantras of Manjushri and Arya Tara, noting that reciting Manjushri’s mantra would help the students to learn and, in the long term, lead them toward buddhahood.
Perched high on the Tibetan Plateau, Ladakh, which translates as the Land of High Passes, extends from the mountains of the Himalaya to the Kunlun Range and includes the upper valley of the Indus River. Much of the region stands at elevations in excess of 3,000 meters. In 2019, Ladakh became the largest union territory in India after the government reconstituted the former state of Jammu and Kashmir.*** Spread across more than 59,000 mountainous square kilometers, much of which is arid and inhospitable, the culture and history of Ladakh is closely interwoven with that of Tibet—so much so that Ladakh is sometimes known as “Little Tibet.”
Ladakh’s population is divided between the districts of Leh and Kargil. In Kargil, 76.9 per cent of a population of about of 140,800 are Muslims (mostly Shia), according to census data for 2011, while in Leh, 66.40 per cent of a population of roughly 133,500 are Buddhists, the majority of whom practice Tibetan Buddhism. Overall, Muslims account for 46.4 per cent of Ladakh’s populace, while Buddhists make up 39.7 per cent, according to the same data. Hinduism represents 12 per cent, and Sikhism, Christianity, and other religions each stand at less than 1 per cent.
According to local media reports, the Dalai Lama may extend his time in Ladak until September as a result of heavy rains in Dharamsala and in response to the enthusiastic public welcome His Holiness has received from Ladakhis.
“When we landed on 15 July, the entire road from Leh to Shewatsei Monastery was lined with people and it took his Holiness nearly 90 minutes to make what is normally a 15-minute ride,” a close aide of the Dalai Lama was quoted as saying. “His Holiness asked the driver to go slow so that he could see his people and they in turn could see him.” (Hindustan Times)
Addressing a large public gathering in Zanskar, Kargil, last week, the Dalai Lama stated that he would do what he could to help local residents.
“Because the people of Zanskar and Ladakh have placed their faith and trust in me, I have a responsibility to do whatever I can to help them,” His Holiness said. “And the best way I can do that is by giving teachings for their benefit. However, listening to teachings is only helpful if we also try to put them into practice, which is what I have tried to do throughout my life. The key point is to cultivate a warm heart and achieve peace of mind.” (Hindustan Times)
* Dalai Lama Journeys to Ladakh to Spread Buddhist Teachings and Interfaith Solidarity (BDG)
** Dalai Lama Presides Over Global Launch of Emory’s SEE Learning Program in New Delhi (BDG)
*** Ladakh Becomes India’s First Buddhist-majority Union Territory Following Kashmir Bifurcation (BDG)
Meeting the Padum Muslim Community and Talking to Students (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Visit to Shah-e-Hamdan, Masjid Sharif at Shey, Ladakh (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Dalai Lama meets Muslim community in Zanskar (Phayul)
Dalai Lama meets with the Muslim community of Padum Town, Ladakh (Tibetan Review)
Compassion is the root of all happiness: His Holiness the Dalai Lama (The Tibet Post)
Muslim community hosts lunch to Dalai Lama (Daily Excelsior)
Dalai Lama may extend his trip in Ladakh (Hindustan Times)
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