His Holiness greets the audience of 10,000 in Milan


9th December: a JSG party converges on Milan, Italy, for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings. What better thing to do? He's 73 now, and who knows how long he'll travel to teach in Europe?

We are three from Los Masos, one from Antigua, a Swiss and an English, plus a Parisian and a New Yorker. The venue is a 10,000-capacity concrete-covered stadium from the sixties. His Holiness arrives, greets everyone, prostrates to the Buddha and mounts his throne. Monks or nuns from various Asian countries chant the Heart Sutra, the teaching begins and HH’s golden and resonant tones roll out across the hall. Pure bliss!
His Holiness first creates a sweeping portrayal of the birth of religions in men's minds."I want to say something about the relevance of religion in modern times - I will discuss secular methods in the Public Talk." Primitive religions, based on simple faith to cope with the overwhelming fear of the unknown, were followed by increasingly complex systems based on both faith and more or less sophisticated philosophies - yet all, whether theistic or non-theistic, pursue the same goal of developing our compassion, love, tolerance, self-discipline. He blows out the lights with the explanation of emptiness in the verse from Guhyasamaja that opens the subject text by Nagarjuna. Then he dances through the 100+ stanza text, selecting just over a dozen verses to completely cover the entire path.
At the ordinary level he explains why we are here and what we should do to be happy. He then outlines ethical behaviour for all, correct attitudes for Buddhist students and teachers, how to relate to others. All actions of body, speech and mind are characterised as good or bad according to our motivation for making them. How we shape our own future by the way we act, speak and think.

He puts complex concepts into simple words: “love” is wanting to make others happy, “compassion” is wanting to relieve their suffering. By exercising such qualities we attain happiness. We can enhance our ability to do so by study and meditation. Meditation on suffering and the wish to help others enhances our determination to progress towards enlightenment for their sake. The more we learn and progress, the better we can help.

All this is made blindingly obvious in progressively profounder detail in four two hour sessions over two days, the excellent Italian interpreter is warmly applauded; organisation is impeccable. The friendly, relaxed Italian atmosphere is very refreshing.

On the second evening we visit Milan’s central piazza and the Duomo, swarming with people celebrating Milan’s patron saint’s day and it is a magnificent sight with all the Christmas lights and happy crowds. We ask a gorgeously uniformed hotel doorman where we can find “a real pizza parlour”. He sends us a few blocks away where we take a table in a packed and noisy restaurant full of Italian families, enjoy “the real thing” and rejoice over the teachings.

Next morning is a “Thousand Armed Chenrezig” blessing. This personification of compassion removes suffering in a thousand ways at once. It is an awesome ceremony as His Holiness radiates blissful vibrations. The whole city rejoices.

Later, an informal and relaxed public talk. His Holiness makes a few jokes and asks what the subject is today. “Religious Harmony” he replies. “Oh, good” he says “my favourite topic”. He waves at an elderly Muslim gentleman with a cap and a beard sitting in the front row: “My old friend”. He points out that since Muslims have unlimited respect Allah and believe he created everything, they are therefore equally obliged to respect everything he has created as well; and that no religion is characterised by a few ‘mischief makers’ since similar ‘extremists’ exist in Buddhism; it is a human trait, not belonging to any one religion. Different religions serve to fulfil the various dispositions of different people and all have the same aim in practice such as social harmony, happiness and the practice of compassion. We must work together for the good of all, have realistic long-term goals, eschew violence and dream of a better world; everything is possible. He talks for an hour, then responds to questions. This talk is published under “Special” on Berzin_Archive, as transcribed by our friend Dr Alex Berzin.
Time to say goodbye and fly home. A great weekend in Italy, thanks to the organisers and of course His Holiness. A very warm glow is felt by all.

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His Holiness The Dalai Lama

His Holiness The Dalai Lama
"Whenever possible, be kind ....it is always possible!"