By *christopher* (Flickr: Dalai Lama Boston 2012) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By *christopher* (Flickr: Dalai Lama Boston 2012) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Dalai Lama speaks out against caste discrimination

While in Padum, Zanskar for the Avalokiteshvara initiation, the Dalai Lama took some time to touch on caste discrimination . He urged the local people to shun the practice, going as far as to state that no religion practices discrimination. He remarked, “I have also heard of caste discrimination practices in Zanskar and had suggested it would be good if a lower caste person served me my tea and bread some years ago. But to my disappointment, right after my talk, a case of caste discrimination was reported from here. This is very sad. If you don’t listen and act as I say, I don’t need to come here and you can do whatever you like. If you have belief and faith in me, do as I say.”

The Tibetan leader went on to explain that the caste system was a derivative of the now defunct feudal system in India. This system had been replaced by democracy, and it was time the public realized this and changed their attitudes. The Dalai Lama commented, “No religion speaks of discriminating against one person or the other, just because they are from the low class. All religions preach only one thing, which is love. In Buddhism, Buddha stands against caste system before 2,600 years ago. It is against the Buddha and the Dalai Lama if you still continue to practice caste system.”

He was speaking to more than 10,000 people from the different regions of Zanskar and Ladakh at Photang Teaching Ground. In addition to attending the Avalokiteshvara initiation, a long life prayer ceremony (Tenshug) was offered to the leader by the local people. The Dalai Lama also visited a school founded with his financial help.

There are about 260 million people suffering from various forms of caste discrimination all over the world. A majority of these people are spread out in South Asia, with the Dalit people of India being the most recognizable example of caste discrimination. Similar caste systems exist in Africa, the Middle East and in the Pacific region.

The Dalit people are known as the ‘untouchables’ and often live in severe poverty. More often than not, they are forced to handle the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs in society. It is not uncommon for these people to be victims of forced and bonded labor. A widespread system of exclusion by state and non-state actors means that they do not have similar access to resources, development opportunities and a seat at the table when compared to other members of the society.

The Dalai Lama touched on this during his visit, urging the locals to aspire to live as one community in peace and harmony. He went on to state, “We always pray for all sentient beings, but we can’t do anything to animal as they don’t have human brain. If you whole heartedly pray for all sentient beings than it is to promote love and compassion in this world of 7 billion people. The various philosophical views of different religions all constitute different approaches to supporting compassion."

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