His Holiness the Dalai Lama with devotees in Palermo, Sicily, Italy, September 2017. Photo by Ugo Gorvaia.

This September, His Holiness the Dalai Lama took a short tour of the Italian island of Sicily. During a visit to the town of Palermo, His Holiness was awarded the status of “Honorary Citizen” by the mayor, Professor Lealuca Orlando.

The brief presentation took place at the Teatro Massimo, the venue for a talk in which His Holiness addressed the subject of peace and the meeting of peoples. The talk, in front of 1,400 attendees, took place ahead of a smaller gathering of media and Italian students at His Holiness’s hotel.

Centro Muni Gyana students Fabio Gariffo and Grazia Asaro were in attendance at the theater and hotel. They recorded their experiences:

At the hotel, His Holiness addressed the practitioners from Centro Muni Gyana, saying, “And now I want to speak with the group of Lama Zopa.”

The center, established in 2009, occupies a villa that local authorities confiscated from the mafia. To this audience of students, whose center is housed in a building that has changed purpose with the times, His Holiness spoke on the importance of studying Buddhism with an evolving, modern perspective.

His Holiness remarked that when he teaches in Europe or in the United States, he has no interest in proselytizing. However, he emphasized that understanding the function of mind and emotions, a study that Tibetan Buddhism has inherited and preserved from the Nalanda tradition, is very valuable and useful for everyone. He added that many people wish to study the tradition of Nalanda, brought to Tibet from India in the 8th century by the great scholar, philosopher, psychologist, and logician Shantarakshita. It can be said that authentic Buddhism, the one based on logical reason, was imported by him, and that Tibetans are the only ones who have fully maintained this ancient tradition.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily, Itlay, September 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of Centro Muni Gyana.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily, Itlay, September 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of Centro Muni Gyana.

“The Buddha himself,” continued His Holiness, “has recommended not to follow blindly his teachings, but to analyze them and to examine their effectiveness in our own experience. This analytic spirit is the most useful way to embrace the Buddhist teachings.

“The scientists I periodically meet are very amazed by the depth of the intuitions of Nalanda’s scholars. Let me say that modern psychology is far from the science of mind that comes from this ancient monastic university. For this reason, the bases of this tradition are necessary, and there is a great benefit in their integration with Western subjects of study such as psychology and quantum physics.

“For about forty years I have made great changes within the Tibetan community, emphasizing that the most important thing is not the rituals, but the study of the texts—a message that is also valid for the nunneries, where today it’s possible to obtain the complete curriculum of thirty years of study required to become a geshe. Therefore, Dharma centers must be, first of all, academies and centers of study.

“So in your center, even if it’s small, you must consider yourself students! I’m eighty-two and I still consider myself a student.”

“In this way,” he concluded, “we can contribute to society. Today there is a great emotional crisis all over the world and this secular knowledge can make a big contribution toward eliminating it.”

Read more about Centro Muni Gyana:

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