The Dalai Lama is a huge charmer, knowing how to say things that will please an audience in his gentle avuncular manner. Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com reports on Mumbai's encounter with His Holiness.
There's so much the 14th Dalai Lama can give Mumbai. And so much Mumbai can learn from the Dalai Lama. But that may not happen.
The Dalai Lama is everything that Mumbai is not.
Patient, unhurried. Non-materialistic. Full of humour. Deep-thinking. Humble with no airs. Non-me-me.
The Dalai Lama is so different from many residents of Mumbai it must be a culture shock both ways.
That was evident at the Y B Chavan auditorium, south Mumbai, where he addressed a gathering on the 107th birthday of the Indian Merchants Chamber Thursday even as Chinese President Xi Jinping was at Rajghat in Delhi.
Nearly half the audience could not wait for the amiable Tibetan leader to finish as he expounded affably and philosophically on the themes of life, and shockingly left before he was done.
Concentration was also missing as some chatted among themselves or spoke on the phone or forgot to turn their phones off.
When His Holiness finished and got up, the blue curtains were pulled across past him.
He requested them to be re-opened so he could meet people who swarmed onto the stage and were warmly welcome by the unflappable monk posing for selfies even with policemen -- much to the annoyance of some dowagers muttering how the people should have given him respect and not crowd the stage; the Dalai Lama's stress on love and humanity over the previous 120 minutes sadly not really understood.
Earnest questions about the existence of god were greeted by unfathomable deep mystical answers that seemed to go above the heads of practical Mumbaikars for whom the instinctive weekly circuit of the city's many shrines is a must.
Although references to India's ancient treasures and civilisational superiority were applauded.
Like when he said: "When India's light reached Tibet, then Tibet became bright."
The Dalai Lama is a huge charmer, knowing how to say things that will please an audience in his gentle avuncular manner.
Although he initially in an armchair in the middle of the stage the Dalai Lama insisted on heading to the podium to speak, hurrying across to retrieve a hankerchief mid-speech to mop his head, and generally cracking jokes at himself and life in general and gently correcting the pronunciation for his name.
Though totally fluent in English -- he speaks in a lilting manner -- at his side was a Tibetan translator at whom he threw any question about a fact or an English word.
Although he did not want to spend time on questions about Xi's visit, he said, "When Hu Jintao (the previous general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party) visited India, I asked him to borrow India's practices," he said, referring to democracy.
"I admire and support Xi Jinping, he uses more common sense -- unlike some hardliners who function like machines! I believe that good Sino-Indian relations, based on mutual trust and harmony are very important, not only for Asia, but for the world, as we have a combined population of around 2.5 billion!"
What were the 4 most important things the Dalai Lama told Mumbai?
1. None of us are special or better
"This huge gap between rich and poor is not only morally wrong but practically also a problem. Human beings matter. They are of the same human family. I think that's very important. Wherever I go and wherever I meet people I always talk about this. (When I meet other people) I always consider I am talking to another human being."
"I also consider myself another human being. I never consider myself something different. (Don't consider myself) as a Buddhist or as a Tibetan. And especially, I never consider myself His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Just a simple human being (his voice takes a higher emotional pitch)."
"There is too much emphasis on distance and then automatically we distance each other. We need trust... Trust is very much a base for sense of oneness... Otherwise within the same faith, same region, same nationality (there is still the difference of) rich and poor, educated and uneducated..."
2. Gods cannot provide inner peace
"Indians (today) have the opportunity, and ability and potential. Combine modern knowledge, through modern education, and ancient Indian knowledge about the inner world.... A lot of problems we are facing is about out lack of knowledge about our inner value system."
"Everybody wants peace. What is peace? Peace is not an external object. Peace is here (pats his heart)... Without inner peace, how can they understand the peace of ahimsa. Full of anger here, here (pats his heart), how can they have inner peace of ahimsa... When we say emotion it is all over the world, vast thousands of different emotions. In order to tackle destructive emotion -- like anger and fear -- we should have fuller knowledge of the map of emotion."
"Most Indians are very much fond of praying to god. Ganesh, Vishnu, Shiva. But these gods cannot provide peace of mind. Who destroys peace of mind? Not god. But our destructive emotions (like) fear, anger, jealousy, too much pride. These things destroy inner peace. So the proper method must develop within the mind, for emotions like karuna, maitri and forgiveness. Modern Indian should not neglect these values."
3. Material comfort, materialism is temporary
"Material facility, material values, mainly provides physical comfort. The Buddha (also had) a begging bowl (laughs)... But he act like a normal human being.. we also need material values. At the same time materialism provides satisfaction and pleasures for the organs (ear, eyesight...) relaxation or happiness... Including sex. All these through the sensorial way bring some sort of satisfaction."
"These are not long lasting... it only brings physical level comfort and not mental level comfort... Once we have some sort of knowledge we want a happy life. Happy life is very much about peace of mind. If you are full of anger and hatred how can you have a happy life... constant anger eats our immune system... in a family, maybe a rich family, if there is suspicion and distrust how can that family, everything depends on mental level comforts... We are negligent about these inner values..."
"Basically, as far as social economy theory is concerned, I am Marxist. In the eyes of many people I am a dangerous person (the audience laughs). Original Marxism, my attraction is for that, is very much concerned about equal distribution. That's a moral principle. Whereas capitalism only concerned about profit."
"Free democratic country make more balance, like India. I feel Lenin took power at the time of civil war and threat from outside... Too much fear, too much distance. That is not a part of Marxism Too much emphasis on class struggle, too much emphasis on hatred rather than love. (Love) is about one class."
4. Non-violence is the only way
"Since I know George (W) Bush, from the first meeting we have become very close friends. I wrote a letter to President Bush because we know each other. On 9/11, I expressed my condolences and my sadness. I hope dealing with this problem should be non violent... I also said then 'Today one Bin Laden, after some years again a Bin Laden, after that eventually 100 Bin Ladens'."
"That exactly happened."
"One book (I have read) indicates some kind of clash between Western civilisation and Islam. Such an impression is dangerous."
"Islam is a very important religion. Genuine Islam practitioner is wonderful."
"I have some Islamic friends: They told me genuine Islamic practitioner if create bloodshed then no longer genuine practitioner. (Audience applauds)."
"Jihad is a destructive emotion. In that way as a Buddhist monk I also practice every day jihad (struggle against non-believers). (Audience laughs)..."
"Too much attachment to your own faith. When attachment there, then there is a bias in mental attitude. Attachment causes distance and hatred... Genuine religious practitioner must be realistic, honest, compassionate... So therefore these problems in Iraq (ISIS), fighting, mercilessly killing... Sometimes, I tell the Shia community better come to India, much safer (the audience laughs, applauds). No record of Indian Shia and Sunni (bloodshed). One of India's (greatest treasures) is religious harmony."