On October 16th, HH the Dalai Lama visited the CJ DAV Public School in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh for the launch of the Universal Ethics Curriculum for Indian schools. During the event, the students there had the opportunity to interact with the Tibetan spiritual leader and ask him questions.
Even though the video of the entire session was posted online on the official YouTube channel of the Dalai Lama on October 18th, two days after the event; a video clip from the session went viral earlier this week only.
The video clip has the Dalai Lama answering a question asked by a student, and talking about the nationality of Buddha — saying he was an Indian.
“My question is, what should I do to make my life more beneficial to others?”, a student asked him the question. To which, the Dalai Lama answered, “As I already mentioned, you see, sense of community, we’re social animals. Each individual’s future, happiness entirely based on community.”
“Buddha, do you think Buddha Nepalese or Indian? Some Nepalese say Buddha born in Lumbini, so part of Nepal. So Buddha was Nepalese, not Indian. That’s nonsense, I think”, he then started talking about Lord Buddha’s background.
“In ancient time, you see, the one of this whole kingdom there, so, big Bharat, like that. So in anyway, you see Buddha was an Indian. His teaching, eventually, whole Asia, his teaching reached whole Asia. Firstly, China, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Lao, through China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, then to North, Tibet, Mongolia, and some Republics in Russia”, he further said.
“So that is, Buddha not Tibetan, not Chinese, but Indian. So ancient time, I think, one great Indian master’s teaching reached whole Asia.”
The statement, however, sparked controversy, upsetting Nepalese as it is a known fact that Buddha was actually born in Nepal. In 1997, Lumbini was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the birthplace of ‘Gautam Buddha’, who was born in 623 BC.
In response to the controversy, the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (OHHDL) issued a clarification on its website on November 25. This is what it reads:
“It has been brought to our attention that media reports in Nepal have queried a reference His Holiness the Dalai Lama made to Lord Buddha’s background while answering questions from students in Meerut, India on 16 October 2017.
We are concerned to know there was misunderstanding of the intent of his answer, and would like to clarify that His Holiness meant no disrespect towards his Nepalese brothers and sisters. Like Buddhists everywhere, he wholeheartedly accepts that the Buddha’s birthplace was Lumbini. What he wanted to emphasize in contemporary terms is the importance of understanding what the Buddha taught and the scope of his influence throughout Asia. It is universally acknowledged that India, the land of the Noble Ones, is where the Buddha achieved enlightenment and subsequently gave profound teachings.
We trust that this clears up any misunderstanding or misapprehension.”
Here’s the full video from the Dalai Lama’s Meerut school visit. The controversial part starts at 1:31:00.