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Home > Historical, Cultural, and Comparative Studies > Buddhism and Islam > Acceptance Speech by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the Award of an Honorary Doctorate Degree by Jamia Millia Islamia University

Acceptance Speech by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the Award of an Honorary Doctorate Degree by Jamia Millia Islamia University

New Delhi, India, 23 November 2010
slightly edited by Sean Jones and Alexander Berzin

[For the audio version: http://www.dalailama.com/webcasts/post/153-jamia-millia-islamia-university .]

Through the interpreter: I would like to thank the Jamia Millia Islamia University, the Chief Guest here [ Indian Human Resources Development Minister] Dr Kabil Sibal and the Vice Chancellor, the professors, deans and the students and all the guests gathered here. I would like to greet you all, first of all, and I would like to thank you, Jamia Millia Islamia, for conferring this award on me.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: After receiving this microphone, now I will try to speak in English. Of course, the audience should know my English is very, very broken, so sometimes I may use the wrong word. So therefore, I usually advise my audience, when I speak broken English, to “be careful.” I may create some misunderstanding due to my use of the wrong word. For example, I can mistakenly say “pessimism” for “optimism”; that’s a serious mistake. There is real danger, so be careful when you listen to my broken English.

I feel really greatly honored to receive this degree. Firstly, when I receive these degrees I usually respond by saying that I never actually spent any time for study, but receive them without having studied. For those students who are receiving their doctorates, I think you spent a lot of time and made a lot of effort, but I receive these degrees from various different universities without making much effort, so I feel very greatly honored. Now, here, especially, a degree from a famous Islamic University, this I really very much appreciate, because one of my commitments is promotion of religious harmony.

Since the September 11th event I stand firmly defending Islam, because due to the actions of a few mischievous people from a Muslim background, the whole of Islam has been generalized as something negative. This is absolutely wrong. Naturally and realistically speaking, Islam is one of the very important religions on this planet. For many centuries in the past, and in the present and the future as well, Islam has given, gives and will give hope, confidence and inspiration to millions of people. That’s a fact. And then, ever since my childhood I’ve had close friends who are Muslims. For example, I think it was at least four centuries ago that Muslim traders settled in Tibet, in Lhasa, and created a small Muslim community there. There was no record of any quarrel from this Muslim community, they were very gentle people.

And there again, I know some Muslims in this country who told me that genuine practitioners of Islam must extend love and compassion toward all creatures; also, that if a Muslim causes bloodshed then in reality he is no longer a Muslim. And the meaning of “jihad” is not “to attack others.” The deeper meaning of “jihad” is that inner struggle within ourselves [applause]: the struggle against all those negative emotions such as anger, hatred, attachment: emotions which create more problems in one’s mental state and then, through that, create more problems within the family or within the community. So, to struggle or fight against these negative emotions, these destructive emotions, that’s the meaning of “jihad” at a deeper level.

So therefore, despite its different philosophy, the essence of that religion is the same as with other religions. As a result of more communication and more contact with the followers of other religions, I have found that despite big differences in the philosophical field, at the practical level they all practice love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, self discipline and contentment. Therefore, whenever I have the opportunity I always tell people that we should not make generalizations about Islam due to a few mischievous Muslims. There are also some mischievous people among the Hindus; there are also some among the Jews, also among the Christians, also among the Buddhists – and there are also some mischievous among the small Tibetan Buddhist community, that’s clear. Therefore, to be granted a degree by an Islamic university, I feel really greatly honored.

So then, about my commitments. Till my death, I have two commitments. As I mentioned earlier, one commitment is the promotion of religious harmony; the other commitment, on the human level, is the promotion of inner human values, good human qualities that develop biologically, mainly human affection. As soon as we are born, from the mother’s side, the mother provides immense affection to the child. From the child’s side also, as soon as it is born, without knowing who is that person, biologically the child depends entirely on that person. When the mother takes the child like this, the child feels very happy; when they are separated, the child feels insecure. Even animals have the same sort of experience, so our lives start in this way. So a person who receives maximum affection at the time of birth, then for the next few years that person, for their whole life, remains a healthier and more compassionate person. But those people, at that sort of young age, at that time, if they suffer lack of affection or even if they are abused, then that experience remains with them for their whole life. No matter how they appear, deep inside they have a sense of fear and distrust. Distrust among human beings is actually against basic human nature: we are a social animal. For any social animal, full cooperation is very essential for the individual’s interest. The individual is a part of society and the individual’s future depends entirely on the society or community.

Then, regarding the basis of your own successful life, if you develop some kind of distrust and fear, if you remain distant, how can that individual person be happy? It’s very difficult! So therefore, in order to develop genuine cooperation, friendship is very essential. The basis of friendship is trust. The basis of trust is openness, transparency; then trust can develop. The basis of that is warm-heartedness, a sense of concern of others’ well-being. When that sort of sense is there, there is no room to exploit others, to cheat others, to deceive others or to bully others, because you really take a genuine sense of care of their well-being. So that does not necessarily come from religion, but through biological factors.

Therefore one of my main commitments is telling people, sharing with people the fact that “we are a social animal.” Now, particularly in today’s world, due to the global economy and also the environment issue and the whole world now having almost seven billion human beings, the interests of each person are interrelated. So, according to that reality, the concept of “we” and “they” is not relevant. Now, we must consider the human race as one human family. So I often tell people that we must develop the attitude that the entire world is part of me, part of us. When there is solid demarcation between “we” and “they,” then violence comes. If we develop the sense of the entire humanity as a part of “me,” a part of “us,” then there is no room for using violence.

So my main effort, along with many of my other friends, we are thinking now that the past century, the 20thcentury, became a century of violence. During that century, over 200 million people were killed through violence. I just returned from Japan, from a gathering of some Nobel Laureates at Hiroshima where the first nuclear bomb was used on human beings. Really terrible! That century even used nuclear weapons on human beings! So that century, despite a lot of development, in one way that century became a century of bloodshed. Now, if that immense violence, immense bloodshed really solved some human problems and brought some benefit, then alright, there might be some justification for it; but there is none. So therefore, on the basis of our past experience, now we must make every effort to ensure that this 21 st century should become a century of dialogue. So there, we need a sense of oneness to pervade the entire human race. Different nationality, different culture, different race, different religious faith – these I feel are secondary. What is important is that at the fundamental level we are all the same human beings.

So sometimes I think the number of problems that we are facing today is essentially our own creation. These, our own created problems, happen because we over-emphasize the importance of the secondary level, forgetting the fundamental level. So now, the time has come; in order to build a happy world, a peaceful world, we must stress the importance of the human level. We, everybody has the same right to be a happy person; and the interests of each individual person depends on the rest of the people. So we have to take care of others’ interests. That’s the proper way to gain maximum benefit for oneself.

So that’s my second commitment. My first commitment is promotion of religious harmony; my second, promotion of basic human values. So, till my death I have committed myself to these things.

So you people, young people, those of you who are students, firstly, I want to express my congratulations. I think as the result of your immense efforts, now you have received the degree. Perhaps, I think, the last few days you may have lost some sleep; too much excitement. Now, tonight I think you can have a sounder sleep, I think. Anyway, I want to offer you my congratulations, and then also I want to tell you this, I want to share it with you: Life is not easy; there are no guarantees. You will face a lot of problems; but then, we are part of human society. So no matter what sort of problems we face, we have the ability to overcome these problems. So self-confidence and optimism are very essential. And to young people, you also need more patience. Young people, sometimes all those things you want, you want them immediately. When you face some hindrance or some obstacle, then you become demoralized. There is a Tibetan saying: “Nine times failure, nine times effort.” So that is important, please keep this in mind.

And then another thing: you are the generation that really belongs to the 21st century. I belong to the 20th century, and also some of these professors and ministers, I think we belong to the 20thcentury. So, of the 21thcentury, only 10 years have passed, 90 years are yet to come. So the people who will really be making the new shape of this century is you; so you must prepare for that. And in order to create a better world, a peaceful world, a happy world, you must have vision, and you need not only education but moral principles. I think a lot of the problems we created in the 20thcentury and even in the beginning of this century were due not to a lack of education, but to a lack of moral principles. So, in order to develop and create a happy, peaceful world, education and moral ethics must go together.

Now regarding ethics, there are many levels. One level is that of religious belief. At the more fundamental level, without religious belief, simply using common human experience and common sense and then the latest scientific findings, you get the conviction that warm-heartedness and more openness have immense benefit, even to one’s own physical health. Everyone takes care about their own health. The major factor for good health is one’s peace of mind. Therefore, greater efforts to develop more compassionate feelings is actually one of the most important factors for one’s physical health and very important for creating a happy family.

Therefore, on the education side, you already received a higher degree. Now, please pay more attention to your inner values: that is, real human values and ethics. The Vice-Chancellor already mentioned ethics, the humanistic sort of approach; these are very, very important and that I want to share with you. So, that is all, thank you very much.