The ancient city of Rho bestowed honorary citizenship on His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Saturday, at a gathering of an audience of 12000 cheering people, inside the Rho Fiera Milano hall in Milan, Italy. Mayor of Rho, Pietro Romano conferred the freedom of that city on His Holiness and Richard Gere was called upon to introduce His Holiness.
“I’ve been here listening to His Holiness’s teachings on compassion, love and acceptance. Wherever he goes he creates an atmosphere of inclusiveness. He makes everyone feel welcome. Thinking about this reminded me of a verse from the Persian poet Rumi:
‘Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come."
Stepping forward to the podium, flanked by his Italian and English interpreters, the Nobel Peace Prize winner thanked the ancient city of Rho for making him an honorary citizen. “I’m extremely happy to be able to be with you. We are all human beings. We may have slightly different faces but otherwise we are physically, mentally and emotionally the same. We all want to live a happy life, but we don’t always know how it can be done," the spiritual leader said.
"In a materialistic society we look for joy in material goals and yet they don’t seem to bring complete satisfaction. I meet a lot of affluent people who are also full of stress and anxiety. They need to pay more attention to inner values," His Holiness stressed.
“I too could be subject to doubt, worry and anger, but I’ve learned that peace of mind is not just a matter of dullness, but of being alert and using my intelligence to the full. If we only look at problems we face close up they seem very grave, but looked at from different angles our attitude becomes more realistic. The mind remains calm, which we need if we’re going to be able to exercise our intelligence.
“When I was growing up I was enveloped in formality. When I went to China in 1954-55 and to India in 1956, formality prompted me to feel nervous. After I became a refugee, however, I left all that formality behind and feel much freer for it.
“On a more serious note, while we are enjoying being together here in peace and contentment, right now in other parts of the world people filled with fear and anger are killing each other. Too often violence arises because of our focus on secondary differences between us. We allow ourselves to see others in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’. But, since we are all equally human beings, we have to promote a greater sense of the oneness of all human beings. On that basis we can solve whatever problems we face. We can enter into meaningful dialogue and resolve conflict in a human way.”
The Nobel Peace prize laureate outlined his three commitments; promoting human happiness, and the oneness of humanity, concerning inter-religious harmony on the basis that, despite differences of approach, all religious traditions share common goals of love and compassion, and keeping Tibetan culture and identity alive— a culture of non-violence and peace, he always says it’s worth preserving.
“These days,” he remarked, “whenever a terrorist attack takes place there is a tendency in the media to refer to it as an act of Muslim terrorists, or, as recently happened in Burma, Buddhist terrorists. This is a mistake because a terrorist is just a terrorist. By committing bloodshed these people cease to follow the appropriate Muslim or Buddhist conduct that would qualify them as proper Buddhists or Muslims."
“I am a Tibetan, but since I retired I no longer have any responsibility for political affairs. What’s more, I’ve put an end to any future political role for the Dalai Lamas. My concern now is with keeping Tibetan culture and identity alive. A culture of non-violence and peace, it’s worth preserving," His Holiness told the crowd.
"Our rich tradition of Buddhism includes thorough knowledge of the workings of the mind and emotions that is of interest to scientists today. In addition I’m concerned to protect the fragile environment of Tibet, the source of many of Asia’s great rivers, on which more than a billion people depend,” the Tibetan leader added.
He invited questions from the audience which touched on topics as diverse as consciousness, dreams and how to raise happy children. He urged his listeners to think about what had been discussed and, if it seemed practical, to put it into effect. “Change in the world,” he said, “doesn’t take place because of government directives, but because of the actions individuals adopt.”
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is known throughout the world as a leading advocate for world peace and non-violence. His message is one of kindness and compassion to all sentient beings. Over the past 50 years, he has travelled around the world spreading a message of Peace and Universal Responsibility. He believes that the common aim of all religions, an aim that everyone must try to find, is to foster tolerance, altruism and love. He retired from politics in 2011. But, as one among six million Tibetans, His Holiness said he will continue to serve the cause of Tibet.
In 1959, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama along with thousands of others escaped to India, where he was given political asylum. The spiritual leader has set up a government and rebuilt monasteries where masters pass on their teachings to young monks. Tibetans in exile have succeeded in gradually rebuilding their monasteries, preserving their culture, restructuring their society and keeping it alive, in spite of the extremely difficult circumstances.
Tibet was invaded by Communist China in 1949. Since that time, over 1.2 million out of 6 million Tibetans have been killed, over 6000 monasteries have been destroyed— the acts of murder, rape and arbitrary imprisonment, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment were inflicted on the Tibetans inside Tibet, Beijing calls a "peaceful liberation".