Dalai Lama hosts interfaith meeting ‘The Preservation of Religious Culture and the Cohesion of Faiths’

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and fellow participants during an interfaith meeting. Photo by Ian Cumming

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and fellow participants during an interfaith meeting. Photo by Ian Cumming

The 21st September 2015 saw dignitaries and distinguished guests invited to the House of Lords for a meeting organised by the Buddhist Society of which His Holiness the Dalai Lama is Patron. Bhai Sahib Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh OBE was the Sikh representative at the prestigious meeting entitled ‘The Preservation of Religious Culture and the Cohesion of Faiths’.

Bhai Sahib Bhai (Dr) Mohinder Singh, Chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha and Nishkam Civic Association, was honoured to be part of the meeting. The meeting was followed by a Celebration Lunch to mark a double celebration firstly, the 80th birthday of His Holiness The Dalai Lama and also the Buddhist Society celebrating its 90th Anniversary.

On arrival to the House of Lords, Baroness Caroline Cox and Desmond Biddulph, the Buddhist Society’s

The Dalai Lama speaking at the House of Lords. Photo Ian Cumming

The Dalai Lama speaking at the House of Lords. Photo Ian Cumming

President, received the Dalai Lama. They escorted him through the grand halls to the meeting, which was attended by Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Bhai Sahib Ji, the Sikh representative. Prior to the event, the Dalai Lama gave an interview to Christiane Amanpour of CNN where he said, “What’s important is that all human beings, wherever they are, whether they are rich or poor, educated or uneducated, have a right to live a happy life. Many think that happiness is to be found outside ourselves in material things, but actually happiness is something that comes from within. So I try to present the importance of inner values not on the basis of religious quotations, but by taking a secular approach based on scientific findings and common sense.”

Sikhs understand the values that His Holiness referred to as Guru Granth Sahib Ji, The Sikhs eternal Living Guru has always said, ‘Man Jeetay Jag Jeet’ (by winning over your mind, you have won over the world).  For many years Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh has worked on education and later with SACRE in Birmingham facilitated and developed the 24 Moral and Spiritual Dispositions (disposition in Punjabi is ‘bhavna’)

“Education is the answer to many of society’s problems. We must educate children with good values and virtues. Good role models enable them to be good human beings”, said Bhai Sahib Ji.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ji & Dali Lama, “ Being happy is not a matter of destiny. It is a matter of options. "Take care of your thoughts because they become words, Take care of your words because they will become actions, Take care of your actions. Painting by GNNSJ volunteer, Charan Singh.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ji & Dali Lama, “ Being happy is not a matter of destiny. It is a matter of options. “Take care of your thoughts because they become words, Take care of your words because they will become actions, Take care of your actions. Painting by GNNSJ volunteer, Charan Singh.

He went on, “The Dalai Lama is a very wise and humble man, he speaks from the heart and his message is delivered directly to the heart; that’s what makes it powerful. He is not saying anything alien or bizarre, he is giving us simple messages that all people of faith and those of no faith will recognise as good human values. That is the answer; good human values, not rhetoric but lived values, shared values, values that we are all proud of to embrace.”

His Holiness addressed the gathering of distinguished guests. He said it was a great honour for him to sit with spiritual brothers and sisters of various traditions. He went on, “In too many places today it seems religious and nationalistic feelings are giving rise to terrible conflicts. We have to find ways to bring peace. This is something that those of us who are religious have to do. Meetings like this are an opportunity to build and nurture friendship and trust among us. There is an impression in many people’s minds these days that Muslims are especially militant. However, we have to remember that there are militant Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Buddhists too.”

“Muslim friends have told me that if you shed blood you are no longer a genuine Muslim and that Muslims have a commitment to respect all the creatures of Allah. They also tell me that the word ‘jihad’ is misunderstood. It doesn’t have anything to do with fighting other people, but refers to combating disturbing emotions within yourself.”

Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, recalled growing up in Uganda with two Muslim children from Zanzibar and concluded by saying that we should all remember, “I am not my brother’s keeper; I am my brother’s brother.”

Archbishop Kevin McDonald conveyed greetings to His Holiness and members of the gathering from Cardinal Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in the UK. He also recalled serving in the Vatican when Pope John Paul II convened the ground-breaking interfaith gathering in Assisi in 1986 that His Holiness had attended. Baroness Berridge, Chair of the All Party Group on International Religious Freedom, raised concerns for atrocities against Muslims and Christians in Burma and elsewhere. She eloquently said that those in public life had a responsibility to work for the rights of all. Her sentiments were taken further by the Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth, who iterated that violence has never helped and religious leaders needed to make this clear to their various governments. He said there was still too great a sense that military force was the way to solve problems, but in fact in the long run words are more effective than bullets.

The Dalai Lama repeated that love and compassion are what bring people together, while anger and suspicion push them apart. He drew attention to three aspects of religious tradition. The religious aspect concerns the common practice of love and compassion, tolerance and self-discipline. While philosophical views may be quite different, they are all dedicated to the same goal of reinforcing the practice of love. However, he said, there may also be cultural aspects of religious tradition, like caste discrimination, which the Sikhs do not subscribe to, that are no longer relevant and should be changed. He said he encourages religious leaders to speak out about these things whenever they can. The meeting concluded with the guests making their way for lunch in the Strangers’ Dining Room of the House of Commons.

 

END

Notes to Editors:

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