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Lions Roar : March 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 39 me and said, “You could write him a letter.” “Because I’m not a part of the family?” I asked. “Also”—the famous, infectious laugh—“not Japanese!” For those most inspired by the Dalai Lama’s temporal, universal wisdom—the “secular ethics” and scientific principles he brings audiences who have no knowledge of Buddhism—the Hiroshima conference was surely a highlight. After paying a visit to a small Tibetan temple in the hills outside Hiroshima, where a rinpoche has been steadily offering instruction for twenty years—the climb up the steep path through the trees making one feel that one was in Dharamsala, the bare Japanese temple at the top flooded with the rich colors and symbols of Tibet—Tibet’s global leader went to a large conference hall for a day and a half of discussion with his old friends and fellow No- bel Peace laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Betty Williams of North- ern Ireland. All three of them have been through harrowing challenges and have seen suf- fering, warfare, and bigotry firsthand, and yet—this was their message—all three of them had come to the city that is a byword for nuclear destruction to share a steady, warming sense of community, delight, even excitement. When one young woman from Mexico got up—much of the audience was interna- tional and college age—and spoke through sobs about her concerns for a wall being built along the U.S.–Mexico border to keep Mexicans out of America, urging the three laure- ates to help her, Williams sent an assistant up to give the girl a hug. Bishop Tutu offered words of commiseration drawn from his own struggle against apartheid and the tempta- tion toward revenge. And the Dalai Lama shared a typically realistic and practical distil- lation of Buddhist thought that at once transmitted sympathy and presented a vision of Buddhist self-reliance. “You have to work,” he said. “There are thousands of people who will help you. You are never alone. But the main work is on your own shoulders. You should not lose hope. You should be optimistic and have self-confidence. In our own example, in spite of overwhelming challenges, we have never lost our confidence.” Over and over, in fact, the Dalai Lama always found ways to share his characteristic gift for finding a positive, some potential, in everything. The current war in Iraq, he said, was a “symptom of a great mistake, some negligence in the past, even in the nineteenth century. Therefore, on the other side, if we start some effort with vision now, then some positive result may happen even at the end of this century, beginning of next one.” For those who turn to the Tibetan leader for instruction in the great Sanskrit and Maha- yana tradition of Buddhism—the “Nalanda tradition,” as he often calls it—the six days in Miyajima were no doubt the high point. The small island forty minutes away from central Hiroshima features a shrine that sits on the water like a golden dream, with temples all along its hills, as well as two thousand deer grazing among its shrines, as if to bring back the park where the Buddha gave his first discourse. The central shrine dates from the sixth cen- tury, just as Buddhism was beginning to arrive in Japan. And Daisho-in, the hillside temple where the Dalai Lama was giving teachings, was celebrating its 1,200th anniversary, having been founded by the Japanese monk Kobo Daishi after he returned from Chang’an in the year 804, bringing a tantric Buddhism that he called Shingon and that, with its mandalas, its mudras, and its Vajrayana thinking, is very close to Tibetan Buddhism. Every morning, great streams of pilgrims climbed up the narrow, stone steps that lead to the temple, the polished stillness of the Japanese landscape giving a haunting shine and quiet to the scene. One room in the main temple, where a flame is said to have been burning for more than a thousand years, had been turned into a piece of Tibet, with a great new Japan, to longtime visitors like myself, has a sense of discipline, of community, even of instinctive egolessness that makes it seem at times a kind of Buddhist teacher. ➢ page 110