'I will be compassionate towards China'

“Today’s China is very different compared to the China of 30-40 years ago. It has changed. There is a new reality and the leaders have to react to that new reality. Totalitarian system is ending. China has to follow the world trend of democracy and rule of law. Individual leaders may be more open-minded but the system is restrictive,” said the 14th Dalai Lama on the sidelines of an event held by the Humane Society International (HSI) and Pritish Nandy Communications to mark yesterday as World Compassion Day.

Preaching mercy: The Dalai Lama. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

The Dalai Lama gave the keynote address at the function, organised at the Grand Hyatt at Santacruz, to formally launch the India operations of the HSI. Dressed in his traditional robes with a cap to protect his eyes from the harsh lights, the Dalai Lama said he intends to wait and see how the new Chinese regime will respond to the Tibetans’ demands. “Let’s wait six months, one year. Having hatred and anger is not going to help. Compassionate attitude is more effective. I will be compassionate towards China till death. That doesn’t mean we will bow down. We will stand by our principles. Being compassionate doesn’t mean you accept others’ injustice. It means taking counter action with a sense of well-being for the other person,” he said in response to a question on the issue.

The holy touch: Anil Kapoor greets the Dalai Lama, after recalling his first meeting with the spiritual leader aboard an aeroplane

The Dalai Lama, along with his fellow panelists actor Anil Kapoor, author Chetan Bhagat and Wayne Pacelle, the President and CEO of the Humane Society of United States, spoke on the need to be compassionate towards animals. “The secret of one’s happiness is not money or education. It is warm heartedness. Love yourself and extend that same feeling to others, even your enemy. Once we develop compassion for others, it is easy to extend it to all different forms of life including animals. Animals are honest. Treat them with a warm heart and they will appreciate it. We can learn values of compassion from animals. Human beings? Not so sure,” said the spiritual leader.

Silent prayers: Tibetan exiles hold a candle march in Siliguri yesterday to protest against China’s policies. Young Tibetans have taken to self immolation to make themselves heard. According to reports, more than 20 Tibetans have set themselves on fire this month. Pic/AFP

Respect all life
Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, Kapoor said, “The greatness of a nation lies in the way it treats its animals,” and insisted, “Our progress is only valuable if it doesn’t come at the cost of others.” The Dalai Lama added that it is human instinct to be compassionate, but it is necessary to take that seed of instinct and use human intelligence to be compassionate to all beings as a self-centred attitude only breeds suspicion and violence. “Cows are worshipped but their living conditions are poor. We must know their pain. It is important to develop respect to life of insects and birds and animals,” he said. “We are also one kind of mammal, why not respect these animals?”

Up in flames: Tibetans in exile in New Delhi burn the Chinese flag to  protest against China’s treatment of Tibet yesterday. Pic/AFP

‘Eat less meat’
Pacelle added that there are seven billion people in the world and every year, 70 billion farm animals are killed. “We have the power to exterminate entire species. We do harmful things partly because we can.” He pointed out that in India, tradition is to worship animals. “Traditions set us in the right direction, show mercy and compassion to animals. However, there is disconnect between beliefs and behaviour. We are trying to sync the two and promote having mercy, decency, kindness to all creatures,” he said. Turning the entire world into vegetarianism is not a sustainable option and the HSI recognises this. Stated Pritish Nandy, “No faith teaches us to kill yet we kill and the worst thing is we don’t even recognise it as an act of avoidable cruelty. Therein lies the tragedy of our times,” adding, “Our idea is to coax, persuade, motivate and inspire people to change their eating habits and to show that they can benefit by eating less meat. Our objective here is to say eat less meat.” Added Pacelle, “Even if the world reduces consumption by 10 per cent, we can save seven billion animals. If we reduce by 50 per cent, we can save 35 billion animals. ”

No animal testing
Pacelle added that some of the worst atrocities are committed while testing new cosmetics on animals. “We want to urge people for greater consciousness about consumption – whether it is food or cosmetics.’ The Dalai Lama agreed that harming animals in the name of research is not done. “Using animals for research is understood in some cases, but very often, they just cut parts out of animals and once the experiment is over, leave them to die.” Nandy recalled how recently, it was revealed that a pharmaceutical company in Bangalore had illegally procured beagles from Thailand and was using them for testing a new drug. “The Animal Protection Act in India is a very strong one, but it is not implemented properly,” he said.

The Dalai Lama stated strongly that only speeches about compassion will not bring about change. When quizzed by Bhagat about how to apply the principles of compassion to our daily life, he said, “I have spoken to educationists and their views are that the modern education system is lacking in values and ethics education. India is a multicultural country, and true secularism is when we respect not only other believers but also non-believers.

Secular ethics should not be based on religious faith, but religious faith should be based on secular ethics. The only way to promote it is through education, right from kindergarten. This long-term way is the only way. Eventually, through education, another generation will become more aware. When they enter various professions, they’ll spread the moral principles. Only then society can change.” 

The Dalai Lama also expressed his views on other topics that affect people all over the world. Here’s what he said:

On euthanasia and abortion
Basically, never kill. But there can be exceptions. You have to look at it case by case. For example, if there is 100 per cent no hope for a patient to recover and meanwhile the family has to bear medical expenses they can’t afford, or in case of abortion, if it is definite that either mother or child will die if abortion is not done. We cannot generalise. People want clear cut, black and white, but reality is not like that.

On capital punishment
Demarcation of violence or non-violence is not in the act but in the motivation. Death sentence is too extreme. Treat them with compassion. Let them live and see the bad effects of their mistake. If they die, they can’t see.

On media
Media has to be honest and unbiased. It has an important role in educating the people. They should investigate and make it public if someone is doing something illegally. Then it might make the people restrict such activities.

On technology
(In reply to Sonam Kapoor’s question on whether technology is making people more distant and less spiritual) I love technology,
but it has also brought a lot of destruction. If used properly, it is very useful. It depends on how we use our knowledge – constructively or destructively. 

A Cop’s Take
Dr Satyapal Singh, Mumbai’s Police Commissioner, brought in an unusual take on the idea of compassion. During the Q&A session, Dr Singh took to the stage and said, “We have a lot of tension, stress, disputes, violence and crime. The root cause is that we do not believe in one humanity. We are fractured by different religions. When persons from different faiths are in an accident, their treatment is the same. God is global but advocates of religion don’t talk the truth. There are just four ways to be compassionate:
>> Be spiritual. There is a supreme power that is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.
>> There is only one humanity.
>> Accept that tomorrow you will face consequences of what you did today. If you hate and are intolerant, you will get hate and intolerance from others. If you have done a sin, going to the church or bathing in the Ganga will not absolve you.
>> All animals are creations of God. You cannot be truly compassionate if you are not purely vegetarian.  

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