His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s Address to the Wisconsin State Legislature

May 20, 2013  by Rebecca Kemble and Leslie Amsterdam

The following is a transcript of the speech given by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to a joint session of the Wisconsin State Legislature on May 14, 2013. Click here for a link to the video:

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso. Photo by Leslie Amsterdam

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso. Photo by Leslie Amsterdam

According to my own experience to stand a little bit longer sometimes uncomfortable. So, better to sit and listen!

Thank you very much. Firstly, you welcome me and secondly, you introduce me. I think about those 10 subjects for study. 5 major, 5 minor. Those 5 minor I never study (laughs). Of course, Buddhist philosophy and logic, that I really study. Then medicine, not study, but I know something about the developmental system. Because I always take the Tibetan medical system. Through my own experience, the Tibetan medical system is quite useful, quite helpful. Sanskrit – I think grammar I studied a little bit.

So now respected brothers and sisters, I’m deeply honored to speak to the people who really choose by your own people. They really choose you. People have full trust to you and put hope on your shoulders so you are truly representative of the people. So I’m deeply honored.

HH the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet in the Assembly chambers. Photo by Leslie Amsterdam

HH the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet in the Assembly chambers. Photo by Leslie Amsterdam

And then, there’s also a clear sign of your system, democratic system. America, I think greatest democratic country and actually leading nation of free world. So sometimes I heard the American economy a little bit, sort of, go down. Then I really feel, if America really go down, then free world lose effective leading nation. So in spite of some drawbacks or mistakes, your government, America, is truly a democratic country and ruled by law and freedom of expression. These are, I think, really wonderful things.

So now this is the State Assembly, so great honor to speak to you. And then, I myself one, I think, promoter of democracy since my childhood. I often heard that some kind of bully from the power by regent and also some high officials. So since an early age, I see power in a few people’s hands is always dangerous. So then, greatly, I learned another political system that’s a democratic, elected democratic system, and power divided between judiciary, legislative and executive. I think this is really, very sound basis, so I admire your system.

So 1951 I took Temple power. Then, 1952 I start reform. Actually I set up reform committee and carried some change, reform, but not really successful because then already the Chinese authority already there. They wanted reform in their own way. So if reform carried by Tibetan themselves, then naturally more suitable according to reality. So that kind of reform might be hindrance for their own way of reform, so not very successful.

Then ‘59 after I reached India, April, 1959. We at once start some change within our system. Then beginning of ‘60 we start work for people’s representative. So as soon as we reached India we start work for democratization. Then step by step we made the changes. Then, 2001, elected political leadership achieved. So since then my position is semi-retired position. Ten years passed. Then, 2011, another term of election. Then, I felt, now time come. I must retire completely.

HH the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tensin Gyatso. Photo by Leslie Amsterdam

HH the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tensin Gyatso. Photo by Leslie Amsterdam

So since 2011 now I have no longer political responsibility. Not only myself retired, but also 4 century old, almost 4 century old tradition – Dalai Lama institution – automatically head of Temple and spirituality – now that ended. I think 17th century, the 5th Dalai Lama start this system. Now suppose I am the 14th Dalai Lama ending that voluntarily, happily, proudly. So I feel my greatest contribution for democratization. I think I made some sort of significant contribution so I feel proud. And then, so therefore, a person who almost whole life devoted work for democratization, I feel great, great honor to speak to you.

Then, since I think 40 years as a refugee, and also as the result of meeting with different people including people from different religious faith and also leaders, politicians, businessmen and also beggars, because as a refugee now no need protocol. So that’s very good. I love complete informality. Formality, I don’t like, because I myself, since I think 45 years I always remain on throne and meeting with people. I have to act like statue. No speak. (laughs) So I’m fed up with this sort of formality. I don’t like.

I always consider, believe, we are the same as human beings. Whether king or queen or high Lama or high sort of special leader like Dalai Lama and beggar, we are the same. Same human being. My logic is, the way we’re born, the way we die – same. Same way (points and laughs) or the representative or the speaker or even president of the United States. The way they’re born, the way they die – same (laughs). No differences. (cracks up).

Those, I think, street, homeless person, homeless people – same! They way they’re born, the way die – same! I think nobody at the time of birth, just as, when the time is right, then it comes. No ceremony, no formality. I think a child will not wait till the ceremony finished. I don’t think. And also, you see, final day, heartbeating cease automatically, never wait for some ceremony, till certain ceremony is reached and then die. No. So therefore, the way of born and way of dying, no formality. These two things are the most important events for our lives. So since most important event not relevant of formality, then between there, I think formality, man-made, additional barrier.

Perhaps I think a little sort of a joke. For me it was rather strange and amusing. When I was in Tibet, young Dalai Lama, then I visit regularly. One time one picture of Queen of England – some speech in a very formal way. Prince Phillip beside her. Then wind don’t care about formality. So the wind blew up her majesty’s skirt like that. (gestures) Prince Phillip, I think if normal way, I think he should help that, but because of too much formality he remained like that (standing straight faced). That I remember!

Visitors in the public gallery stand for His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Photo by Rebecca Kemble

Visitors in the public gallery stand for His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Photo by Rebecca Kemble

So anyway, so I really, so since I think forty years, after sort of gaining much more experience, then I decide. At that time 6 billion human beings. So 6 billion human beings – basically the same. Mentally, emotionally, physically, we are all the same. More important, everyone want happy life.  Successful life. And of course, those chosen people here, I think, very much concerned about successful life. (turns to the Republicans and gestures) At least for the next election. (Cracks up, Turns around to the speaker) Isn’t it? So therefore, this is our basic right to achieve happy life, successful life.

Now, when we examine, when we analyze the situation, the ultimate source of successful life is not money not power but here (points to heart), inner value. You have inner value, that means more sense of concern for others’ wellbeing, then automatically your life carries more transparently. Because with sense of love, sense of affection, sense of concern for others’ wellbeing, then there’s no room for cheating other people, telling lies, bullying. So your life can carry transparently. That brings trust. Trust brings friendship. We are social animals. Genuine friendship. Not friendship of money, not friendship of power, but friendship really of human beings. Human being level.

So, one of my commitments is promoting basic human values, irrespective whether believer, or non-believer, rich or poor, educated or uneducated. Everyone wants happy life, everyone has this potential which we learned from our mother. I think even among politicians here, those individuals who received maximum affection when you were very young, mainly from our mother, then such people, deep inside I think more sort of peace, more inner strength.

And those very successful politicians or businessmen, or educators, at an early age, lack of affection from our mother, or sometimes even abuse, then such successful people, deep inside, some kind of sense of insecurity, fear, that automatically develops distrust. Distrust creates in yourself distance from others. As a result, lonely feeling, more anxiety.

So therefore, irrespective whether believer or non-believer, we really need human values which we received from our mother. So that’s my number one commitment to educate people, whether believer or non-believer, to educate people. We are social animal, we come from our mothers’ womb and nurtured by mothers’ milk. So therefore we have the same potential for affection. So now we should think how to nurture that experience then extend to others a more compassionate attitude.

While some GOP legislators paid attention to the Dalai Lama, Rep Kleefisch played with his phone and Rep Tranel slept. Photo by Leslie Amsterdam

Republican legislators during HH the Dalai Lama’s address. Photo by Leslie Amsterdam

The second commitment – I’m a religious believer. I’m a Buddhist monk. All major religious tradition – same potential. All religious traditions talk about love, compassion, and in order to carry successful practices of these things, as a sort of defender of this practice of this compassion, then you need the practice of tolerance, practice of forgiveness. So all these major institutions talk the same way. And self-discipline, contentment. In philosophical field, yes, big differences. But it doesn’t matter. Difference of philosophy is simply different way of approach. But our aim is same. Try to become a sensible human being, compassionate human being. That’s the same goal. So therefore, the conflict in the name of religion is really terrible. Really, very, very sad.

So the last 30, 40 years, on every occasion I try to promote religious harmony. These two things are my lifelong commitments. So I would like to report to you as a politician, please watching me whether I sincerely carry these two commitments or not. Please watch me from time to time. If on occasion the next time I come here, if you have some sort of doubt or some kind of criticism, then please tell me. Please give me education. Please educate me. I promise I’m fully committed to these two commitments.

Then thirdly, I’m Tibetan. Previously, because I have Temple and spiritual responsibility, so I have to carry on a lot of work. And now I’ve already handed over, so my main sort of, now, responsibility is serving Tibetan community for preservation of Tibetan culture, Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist culture. So that whenever I meet with a Tibetan I always explain spirituality and Buddhist culture. I usually describe Tibetan Buddhist culture is culture of peace, culture of nonviolence, culture of compassion. That valuable culture is really worthwhile to preserve. So I’m committed for preservation of Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist culture.

So nowadays, of course, I have no political responsibilities, but these two things, I always educate people, remind them that this is something a real precious heritage, and also an important aspect of Tibetan identity, including Tibetan language. So just as I imagine the Tibetans mostly who remain within this state – they are very, very happy, so I remind them of their special responsibility. Tibetans who remain in a free country – I say we have a special sort of responsibility to keep these, our valuable, vastly constructive traditions.

So that’s my report.

Thank You!

HH the Dalai Lama after blessing Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Kramer. Photo by Leslie Amsterdam

HH the Dalai Lama after blessing Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Kramer. Photo by Leslie Amsterdam

[As His Holiness was walking off the dais he looked under a desk, pointed and said the following:]

I have been to assembly houses in some different countries and different places. But this is the first time there’s some shoes there!

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