The Importance of Dialogue
The First Conference on Tibetan Buddhism in Europe
Zurich, Switzerland, August 2005
Slightly edited by Alexander Berzin
Now we are in the twenty-first century, and of course material development has reached a very high, very advanced level. Still, among humanity there are quite a substantial number of people who have a genuine interest in religious faith. There are some unfortunate disasters, so-called terrorism and such things, but these are obviously due to a lack of long-sightedness.
Therefore, in order to take countermeasures against these sorts of unhealthy things, we need to look at two levels. The first level is the temporary one, which various governments are taking. The second level is in the long run, to aim for a healthier, more compassionate society. Now, various educational institutions are paying more attention to nonviolence and dialogue. These are important concepts that need to be propagated. It is important for the younger generation to study them, so that the ideas of dialogue and nonviolence become a part of their lives.
The preservation of the Tibetan Buddhadharma and the cause of Tibetan freedom are very closely linked. Tibet was always a very vast land, and it was very difficult to communicate. Each lama or monastery remained in their own area and there was not much interest in the idea of a sense of community. Due to this lack of cooperation and communication, and due to a lack of a sense of common responsibility, I think today’s tragedy happened. Therefore from our past experience, we can see that a sense of community and having a close connection is very, very essential. It is important, independently and free of any central authority, for the small pockets of Tibetan Buddhist practitioners here and there in various countries to have meetings and discuss how to work more closely together.
We are followers of the Buddha, and of all the Nalanda masters. The Buddha’s teaching was taught according to reality, and all of the work of the Nalanda masters exists to help us understand reality. Why? Many disasters and unwanted things happen because of an unrealistic approach. Any wrongdoing or mistake actually arises because of not knowing reality, so a wrong method brings more unhealthy things. To expel this, we need to do this through frank discussion, which can only occur on the basis of dialogue, with closer communication and more cooperation among us.
Now, among the Buddhist countries where the vinaya tradition remains, like Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka , there are no longer bhikshunis (full nuns). In the Chinese case, some monasteries in Taiwan do carry out the ordination of bhikshunis, and in one meeting during my second trip to Taiwan, one Chinese bhikshu (full monk) stressed the importance of reviving the bhikshuni vow in other traditions.
This is the twenty-first century and everyone is talking about equality. I also recently expressed that among the Tibetans, Chinese or Europeans, we can find a much larger number of women who really show a genuine interest in any religion, and especially the Buddhadharma. Whenever I give teachings in the Himalayan regions, there are less men in the audience and more women.
So we need education and dialogue with senior bhikshus, and I think I prefer not to have Tibetan nuns carry out this work, but if Western Buddhist nuns undertake it, maybe it will be more effective. Naturally none of our bhikshunis are rich, and you need money, so I would like to make a donation from my royalties. I never wrote books aiming for money, but money automatically comes! So I would like to set up some kind of fund for this.
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