‹ News 2020

May 3, 2020

Voice of Tibet Interview

His Eminence was recently interviewed by Voice of Tibet where he spoke on several topics, ranging from COVID-19, his current activities to sharing inspiring advice about how we can use this time positively for transformation and hopeful guidance to the Tibetan communities.

View the Interview in Tibetan

Interviewer: The pandemic Covid-19, originated in Wuhan – China and has spread around the world, indiscriminately affecting people from all walks of life. As the world is facing such a crisis, some view it from a religious perspective, in recognizing the impermanent nature of our life. Today we have invited His Eminence Ling Rinpoche to talk about how we can learn from this experience. Rinpoche is being interviewed from Delhi – India.

His Eminence: Tashi Delek to all the listeners and viewers, greetings to all – Tibetans and other listeners who have joined us today. I would like to thank Voice of Tibet for inviting me to come on their show today and talk about the current situation.

Interviewer: How are you Rinpoche? Are you staying in Delhi at the moment?

His Eminence: Yes I am. I was touring New Zealand during the month of March and I was supposed to continue on to Australia but as the situation escalated with Covid-19 I had to cut my visit short and return to Delhi. I have been staying in Delhi and I am in good health.

Interviewer: I would like to seek Rinpoche’s advice regarding the current situation. Being a high Lama, Rinpoche is likely to be spending his time studying and practicing in his private residence. The situation many of us are facing at the moment is being forced to isolate at home. Can you advise us on how to view our current state?

His Eminence: We are indeed facing an unbelievably serious situation with the Covid-19 virus and it is disheartening. It affects us badly as human beings – so many are suffering. It is an infectious disease and even if one hasn’t contracted this virus, still it brings fear, worry and distress in our communities. It affects us on a personal level and on a community level. Globally it creates havoc in our lives – financially and otherwise. It is really dismal. We need to make prayers and to do whatever we can to help.

However, when I look at it on a personal level, I assess my situation as a monk. Apart from having something to attend to from time to time, I mostly stay indoors. Thinking about the current situation, albeit bleak, there is still a way to approach it with a broad and spacious mind. We are in Samsara and what keeps us in Samsara are karma and afflictive states of mind. The Buddha, the Bhagavan, has clearly said that the result of karma and afflictions is suffering. Samsara is a state of misfortune. The result of karma and afflictions is not happiness or wholesomeness. This is what the dharma tells us, so finding this situation to be shocking or inconceivable is irrational.

Interviewer: How do you spend your time during this unusual circumstance?

His Eminence: (Laughing) there are not many things I can do at the moment. During the last couple of years, I have been traveling a lot. I traveled extensively to the U.S., Europe, Asia and other countries. Though I try to spend my time training in virtue, still there is a lot of time spent traveling, meeting people and giving Dharma teachings, so I don’t have a lot of time to spend by myself. Now under the current situation, I get to spend more time in leisure, reading texts and doing my recitations. I exercise and have time to do other things as well. I can do my prayers, reading and recitation and even exercising in a relaxed manner! So, on a personal level, I find my mind to be more peaceful and at ease at the moment.

Interviewer: Yes – I agree with Rinpoche. So many of us have more time at hand now. We find different ways to make use of time. There are many things I see now on the internet: some take to cooking new things, learn other skills, etc. How can we use this time to bring about a transformation?

His Eminence: We live in different places. Some of us live in India and some overseas. People say they have no free time to relax; that they don’t have enough time to spend with their family and friends. We complain so much about not having time. Being in lockdown now, we have free time. It’s important to stay healthy. Mentally we can expand our mind, read books – history and the like. We can exercise. We can listen to recordings of teachings and talks. There are areas we haven’t explored before. For example – taking up painting if you haven’t done it before. You can improve your cooking skills. There are so many ways we can improve our general knowledge. Similarly, we can teach a variety of topics. Usually we think that we don’t have enough time to do all these things but now that we find ourselves confined at home there are so many things we can do. We can save time; we don’t have to waste so much time. We can learn, practice and train in so many things at home: painting, cooking, increase our general knowledge and more. I think it is up to us now to appreciate this opportunity that we have and not to let it slip. We need to make sure we do not waste the time we have now.

Interviewer: The Covid-19 crisis affects so many people indiscriminately – regardless of your financial status, gender, age, physical state. What is the most important thing we can learn from it?

His Eminence: The pandemic affects all of us regardless of one’s ethnicity, skin-complexion, religion, nationality or gender. As human beings we are all affected by it. His Holiness the Dalai Lama often says that we create divisions with respect to nationality, religious background, ethnicity, complexion. We waste so much time being divisive, and we create additional problems. Looking at the current situation, we can recognize our equality as human beings. We are the same as other human beings and yet we fight and quarrel with each other. We can see this throughout history and in current affairs. This divisive approach between “us” and “others” is a great mistake. We can recognize now the equality of all of us – all living beings are the same in seeking happiness and in wanting to avoid suffering. It is our common goal. I think that this is the most important thing we can learn from this situation.

Interviewer: I agree with Rinpoche – the most important thing we can learn is how we are all the same in seeking happiness and not wanting suffering. I would like to thank you for that. We have many people that have joined us on this live-stream, more than 400 people are currently tuned in, many are sending you greetings, flowers etc.  

His Eminence: I am happy to meet you and the many friends from all over the world that have joined us. Thank you for the greeting, the emojis – flowers. I shall always keep you in my prayers!

Interviewer: The Covid-19 crisis seems to be the greatest challenge we are facing now. There are many that have contracted the virus and many that have not. Some people’s lives are in danger. Many have lost their sources of income and many are anxious and worried. What advice will you give someone who has contracted the virus and for one who has not contracted it?

His Eminence: We are all concerned about those who have contracted this virus. Contracting it is bad but there is a way to recovery. There are so many people who have recovered, this disease is not incurable. There are elderly people or those with pre-existing medical complications such as high blood pressure or diabetes that have recovered. So even if you have contracted it, your situation is not hopeless! Even if you have contracted it, it doesn’t mean you will necessarily die. You should always stay hopeful. It’s not that I’m just trying to soothe you, it is in fact true! There are those in their 90s and even 100 that have recovered, so do not lose hope. Many scientists and health workers are working hard every day on finding treatments. There is hope. It’s not a tiny bit of hope but a great hope! There are also some who do not go to hospital and take care of their health at home. They practice social-distancing properly and take the proper treatment and naturally overcome it. So many have recovered in this way. Do not be too worried – stay hopeful! Do not be pessimistic and lose heart.

Interviewer: I am an ordinary person and I do not know much about the Dharma. This current situation still makes me recognize that my life is not permanent or stable. I let my life go by and all of a sudden this happens, and I can now see how things like that are possible. So many people have a similar experience. What dharma advice can you give us with regards to planning for the future?

His Eminence: (Laughing) From a Dharma perspective we are told that samsaric affairs have no essence whatsoever! We spend our time mostly being busy with food, clothing and social interactions. Most of our time is spent on trying to find happiness and joy in this life and we work so hard to make that happen. We spend our life accumulating wealth and possessions, reputation, spending money; and we work hard in that vein. We fight and quarrel with others, look down on some and flatter others. From a Dharma perspective – none of these have any essence. We have attained such a good body in this life, and it is a result of accumulating merit and good karma in previous lives. It is such a shame if we put it to waste.

It is hard to practice for 24 hours a day or at any single part of the day. There are still things we need to attend to. Yet, we still need to appreciate the Dharma and to lead our life based on the principles of the Dharma. I am not saying that you need to meditate every day. What I mean is that we need to act in the way the Buddha instructed us. The Buddha said: “Subdue your mind thoroughly, this is the teaching of the Buddha!”. The main thing we need to do is subdue our mind. If you do it well, you will be able to control your physical, verbal and mental behavior. The main thing is to correct our mind. For that we need to understand the nature and the faults of the afflictions and to attempt to tame our mind. An indication for having tamed our mind is the transformation of our physical, verbal and mental behavior; Becoming a kind-hearted human being, with love, compassion and patience. These will be great assets for this world regardless of the spiritual path you follow. Even if you follow no religion at all you can still see how this is valuable for living a good life. This is what we need to study. You might have the idea that practicing the Dharma is for old people or an old-fashioned thing to do, but it is not like that at all! Dharma practice is not solely about benefiting others but something that improves your life too and makes it happier. Understanding that, please try as much as you can to develop an understanding of the Dharma and to put it into practice. I am certain we can all do that.

Interviewer: We are all going through this crisis and there are also serious environmental issues we have been battling with. Can you give a simple advice not as a Buddhist lama but as a simple person?

His Eminence: (Laughing) Being a simple person or someone having the title of Lama – the most important point is that we always have opportunities to study. Even when you are stranded at home you can do it. Studying is important. We can accomplish our own purpose and the purpose of others with that. I am not saying you have to always carry with you books and papers wherever you go. There are many ways to study. You can learn through discussing things with others. You can listen to teachings. There are lectures you can listen to on general topics such as health, economics, etc. There are so many things and ways to study! You can do this.

There are other things people use to calm their minds – games and the like, and it’s also ok. Painting, the arts – if you have any talent it’s important you develop it and not to neglect it.

Interviewer: These were the points I wanted to discuss with you today. Is there any advice regarding the current situation you would give to the Tibetan people?

His Eminence: I would like to extend my greetings to the Tibetan people. So far, I have heard of only a couple of Tibetans that have died as a result of Covid-19. It is possible that some Tibetans living overseas have contracted the virus. I am thinking about you all and as I said earlier – we all have a great hope. This disease can be overcome so be relaxed and maintain a happy state of mind. We all follow His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s advice in that vein.

Still in terms of being prepared for the situation – make sure that you prepare for the worst-case scenario. Do not be too relaxed and become negligent because this situation is serious. Stay relaxed and happy and take care of your health. It is a serious disease but there are many things that we can do – many things that are still in our hands. Stay healthy and do not neglect your well-being. In India we are in lockdown. In other countries the lockdown state is different. Some people still shake hands or hug. I would recommend avoiding that for the time-being. People will understand if you choose to refrain from doing that. This is not an ordinary time. Follow the advice of the medical staff wherever you are. You can use your time to listen to teachings given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama or other Dharma masters and make sure you don’t waste time on unwholesome activities. Later on, when the lockdown rules ease you will be able to look back at the time you’ve spent in self-isolation and appreciate the things that you have done and studied.

The state of Tibetans living in India and abroad is good compared to the poorest people in India. Take care of those around you – those who do not have food and the sick. Help them in whatever way you can. Continue to work for the sake of others. It is important to help others particularly at this time of crisis. I would request you to consider this.

I pray that disturbances of sickness and disease will be pacified in the world and that happiness and well-being will return to our lives. The prayers you make are genuine ones. You can pray for quelling the many challenges we face in the world: natural disasters such as earth-quakes and storms; famines and plagues and so forth. If you make such prayers, they will certainly bear fruit. His Holiness The Dalai Lama makes such prayers and has advised us accordingly.

Thank you and Tashi Delek!

3rd May 2020

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