Here’s a live stream of the Dalai Lama speaking with Native Hawaiian leaders.

The panelists include the Dalai Lama, Dr. Pualani Kanahele and Nainoa Thompson. John DeFries is moderating.

Kanahele is a master hula teacher, writer, researcher and community leaders and is president of the Edith Kanakaole Foundation. She is also director of Hawaiian Traditional Knowledge Research at Hawaii Community College.

Thompson is president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and a former trustee with Kamehameha Schools.

DeFries is board president of Friends of the Future, which focuses on Native Hawaiian cultural practices and traditions.


Here’s Civil Beat’s transcript of the panel discussion:

The Dalai Lama is attending a private event Sunday morning at the East-West Center.

He’s on a panel with Nainoa Thompson and Dr. Punalani Kanahele, with John DeFries acting as moderator.

The title of the session is “The Importance of Native Intelligence in Modern Times.”

Kanahele is a master hula teacher, writer, researcher and community leader and is president of the Edith Kanakaole Foundation. She is also director of Hawaiian Traditional Knowledge Research at Hawaii Community College.

Thompson is president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and a former trustee with Kamehameha Schools.

DeFries is board president of Friends of the Future, which focuses on Native Hawaiian cultural practices and traditions.

A beautiful chant opened the panel, the last lines being “being sacred, being firm, so that Hawaii can live forever.” It was immediately followed by a stunning mele performed be Kekuhi Kanahele, a daughter of Pualani.

The entire room stood in rapture as Kekuhi moved about the room in her bare feet, gesturing to the land and the sky and other elements.

“What meaning?” asked the Dalai Lama. The short answer is the connection between man and nature.

The Dalai Lama laughed, easing the tension. Then the audience sang “Hawaii Ponoi,” deeply and reverentially.

Dalai Lama: Reincarnated person is supposed to remember past life. But sometimes in my case it’s difficult to remember what happened yesterday. On the level of human being, I very much enjoy and am also impressed since the day before yesterday when I reached here. The audience, old and young, they’re full of smiles. Very friendly attitude. That I very much enjoy. It shows we are human brother, sisters. I always stress we all now 7 billion human beings, mentally, emotionally, physically, we are same. He asks whether Hawaii ever receives snow. Says our life in Hawaii very much related to the sea. We develop our own life and cultural heritage. Culture doesn’t come from some organization, but it develops.

The Dalai Lama is wearing the same visor he wore at the Stan Sheriff Center. He is projected on to two giant screens above the dais where the panelists are sitting in arge, comfortable chairs.

The feeling is intimate and, after a chicken-skin opening, relaxed. Adding to that mood are purple-blue curtains and discrete lighting that gives the room a warm glow.

Dalai Lama: People remain basically the same. So culture, which you see develop according to your own environment, way of life, is very important exterior material development. Important to preserve your own cultural heritage. Not only your own identity. But it helps your mental way of thinking, peace of mind. We must keep our own culture, heritage, language. I didn’t have opportunity to test your own native food. What kind of food native? Unique native food?

He’s told poi. Taro poi.

Dalai Lama: If possible, I want to test. See, test, smell. You here are very much concerned about preservation of your own identity, language, cultural heritage. That’s my impression. Serious discussion always welcome. Including argument. Me personally, student of ancient Indian Buddhist tradition. We study through debate. Logics. Some heated discussion. I’m ready.

DeFries: Asks Nainoa Thompson to relate what the Dalai Lama has been saying to his own experience.

Thompson: Thanks for the honor of being with you today. I’m struck by how extraordinary your life must have been because you were taken from your homeland. In some ways, that’s what happened to us. Our homeland was taken away by government and big money. What’s important to suggest is that in urbanization time when I grew up, nobody cared. Hawaiians were trying to find their identity in this changing world where schools had no value for it. This changing world didn’t care. Dying younger. Less educated. I was a product of that damage. That damage looks like this. It looks like feeling deep down inside of being inferior in your own homeland. I didn’t grow up immersed in native intelligence. My mother kept her door open for dogs and cats. I’ve never met a person so fiercely protective of living things. My father tried to protect Native Hawaiians. Those values I grew up in made it possible for me to remain who I was. Protect your family. Your children. Your land. The language I tried to learn is about the language of the sea, the language of the ocean. My 36 years in voyaging. We were too damaged. We felt too inferior. The most courageous person I know. Eddie Aikau….We in the urban setting, had to find our way and we just stepped into this extraordinary set of teachers. Hokulea had to find Tahiti. We were very close to cultural extinction. What you see today is not what you would have found 40 years ago….The only island we have in the universe is the Earth. It has to be cared for. We have to take care of these islands. These islands being pillars of peace for the Earth. Everybody in this room has the capacity to make that happen.

Kanahele: Welcome to Hawaii. I’m one of the few pure Hawaiians left. This is what we look like. (laughter). Beautiful and round. That’s what Hawaiians look like. Every summer all of us used to go to the ranch and stay with grandpa and grandma. (Talks of growing up in Keaukaha on the Big Island, near Hilo.) They were all Hawaiian ranchers. They all spoke Hawaiian. We were exposed to a high level of Hawaiian culture. We didn’t know it until we left the community to see what was outside the community. Even when we went to church there were only Hawaiians. On Hawaiian homes, we all grew our own crops, went fishing. That was our lifestyle. My mother came from a tradition of dancers. That’s what she taught us. About dancing. About how to chant. She taught us that these kinds of dances, these types of chants had to do with nature, with environment. Didn’t have the word environment at that time. Didn’t find that word till I was 57 and I’m well beyond that. We knew about weather systems and the different moods of the ocean, because that’s what we depended on for food. That wasn’t culture. It was lifestyle. That’s the way we lived it. We ate poi every day, and rice and canned spam. We didn’t have money for canned spam. In order for us to live in the western world, we have to be educated. Father sent all his children to college. We all became brown haoles. Now we’re not But we knew both worlds. And we knew both worlds easily. That was a learned world. The other world was our lifestyle, what we grew up in. We still encourage our kids to go to school. They still have to go to college. But when they come home….We live on 10 acres, subdivided…children there. We’re so busy that we don’t get to see each other enough. We make time count. It’s quality time. We still have the same lifestyle that my parents had. It doesn’t matter that this is 2012. We still have the same lifestyle my parents had in 1945. We still communicate in the same way. We have iPhones, iPads, computers. Doesn’t matter.

Kanahele: Talks about generations. We don’t cut our children. We still need each other for support. In this lifestyle that we live in, we have developed within our family a foundation, a family foundation, a 501c3. I’m the president. My daughter who chanted is the executive director. The whole idea of the foundation is to elevate Hawaiian intellect. Dancing hula is not cute. It’s a serious part of our life. It’s part of the space we live in. The space stays the same.

Says she’s not pau.

Kanahele: I wanted to talk about the Merrie Monarch. Very visible for the past week. If you saw it on TV, I hope you saw me. I was beautiful. I had makeup on. The fabulous thing about Merrie Monarch is that it deals with an old time and it also brings us right up to today. Lots of people look at it as a hula contest. It is a hula contest. But it is more than that. It goes back to the 1600s, to the eruptions of the 1600s. It goes back to the ocean voyagers of early times. It comes up to today. It’s a time link. There is a time link. The other thing about Merrie Monarch is that all of the 1,000s of people that come, we have one focus in mind, and that is hula. Do you know how powerful that is to have one focus in mind. We need to develop a passion about this space we live in. If we don’t develop a passion for it, we’re not going to do anything about it. It’s our minds that develop what the space looks like at any given time. We’re responsible for this space now. Not 20 years from now. Not 100 years from now. Now. If we all had one thing that we’re passionate about, one focus in mind, that would be powerful. Talk about mana. That would be top of the line mana. Nobody would be able to break through that. The other thing about Merrie Monarch is that there’s a camaraderie there. There’s a camaraderie among people that come, wherever they come from. They’re kind with each other. They share food with each other. They exchange gifts with each other. It’s all because they have one thing in mind. It’s hula. That’s a lesson in itself.

DeFries: Your holiness, as you can tell there is deep passion for the ocean, for the coastal zones. The Hawaiian culture is deeply rooted. At this moment, could we transition to your message of universal responsibility that we have as native peoples around the world, not just here in Hawaii?

Dalai Lama: The concept of universal responsibility. Many problems in the past, and today also, including violence, war, not based on humanity concept, but my nation, my country, my religion. Nationalities, different countries, different religious belief, different color, different races, these are the factors that divide. For example, if I meet you and I emphasize that I’m a Buddhist, I’m a Tibetan, that makes a distance itself. Then you see problems. In order to gain for my community, don’t care for others. That’s the source of problems. Counter for that, we must think humanity the same. I do not want suffering. They as human beings don’t want suffering. The sense of respect as brothers and sisters. Sense of oneness of humanity. Then there’s not a basis for killing each other. Mutual respect and thinking of common value. In ancient time, I think Hawaiian people, like Tibetan, were self-sufficient. They remained isolated. Complete independence. Today’s reality no longer that. For example, global economy. In Hawaii, your economy much depend on other countries. Also now, we have to think of humanity because of the population. Many years ago, in London, I think maybe in the ’80s, on one occasion, a talk and then some discussion with some sort of specialist, at that time world population 6 billion. Of course there’s a huge gap between rich and poor. Between nationalities. Even in Washington, many poor people there. How much gap here in Hawaii?

Dalai Lama: We have to think seriously about the future of humanity. We have to think about humanity. If humanity peaceful, happy, adequate facilities, then each country, each nation get benefit. If not, we will suffer. We have to think about humanity. Then, second, each individual community or country, they have their own cultural heritage, something suitable to the people, their environment, climate. You mentioned 500 words for rain, more than 400 words for clouds. We in Tibet have few words about rain or clouds. First we should think of humanity. Then about individual interest. Times are changing. Time change not necessarily bad. But it depends how to utilize time by humanity. Use time destructively, very bad. No force can stop time. Modern science and technology has brought immense benefit to humanity. I would have remained in Tibet with a few yaks. Technology brought a lot of comfort for human beings. At the same time, cultural heritage not part of materiality. Technology cannot produce peace of mind, calm mind. Modern medicine cannot produce calm mind. Alcohol, drugs create our brain some dullery. Very bad. Our intelligence is something very marvelous. If that becomes dull, that’s really a pity, a disaster. Our intelligence has the ability to create inner peace, to create self-confidence, a counter force to inner disturbances. Other animals cannot do that. Preserve your own cultural heritage. I always make the distinction from when we became refugees. One part of cultural really worthwhile to preserve. That helps us get through hard times. Other part is not relevant to today’s life. Put it in a museum. No use to preserve that. We made that distinction. We and them, that’s the basis of violence. We must create Big We, entire humanity. Then the world will be much happier.

Thompson: My heart is lifted by your message. Everything you say are things we’re concerned about but haven’t found solutions for. When I was a young boy and TV was black and white. I remember the eyes of this German lady. It was a picture of a city crushed by bombing. It was the horror in her eyes when she found out that Germany wasn’t a just country, when she found out that its whole national intention was so horrific. The worldwide voyage is just what we’re supposed to do, to help build a lei around the Earth, with humanity. What’s going to happen on the earth to get humanity together is going to be through young people. You can’t keep people in the dark because children today in Hawaii can talk to children in Tibet. The humanity is going to come from the inner connections between young people. The ability to connect through technology. All the issues we couldn’t solve, they will. The worldwide voyage is a way to visualize people coming together. If you’re not terrified, then you don’t understand the data. Children more informed, educated. Sustainability is the biggest issue of our time that we can’t solve. If we don’t, it’s going to be immensely painful. The great human rights issue of our time is access to quality education for all children. The earth is lucky that the Auntie Puas are here. What I hear is holiness is saying you’re not going to come together unless humankind can embrace the diversity of the earth. The heritage embedded in this dirt that you stand on. When you talk about Hawaiian intelligence, when you look at the gift that Hawaii has for humanity, it’s to be intelligent enough to live that story. The best gift that Hawaii has is that its culture is still kind. This issue of diversity is amongst us every day. In Hawaii, we still aloha. We still take care. Hawaii needs to be a pillar of peace. The earth needs it.

Kanahele: Asks how many have Facebook and Twitter. Asks how many friends people have on Facebook. Communication is not a problem. Young people are really good on texting. They text everybody in the world. You can get out there and put out ideas. Technology is a great thing. Although I come from a different world, I’m a techie. I have four computers. iPad. iPhones. When I talked about hula, I wasn’t talking about hula per se. I was talking about having a commonality. What we’re talking about today is what that commonality is all about. Hula among humanity. In order to do anything, we have to have a commonality. How do we spread it out. Communication. Facebook. Your computer. Commonality is a very important focus for us. Religion is really difficult to talk through. The thing about hula that is a commonality is that it gets to you individually. It allows the individual to shine, to bring out their soul.

DeFries: One of the commonalities we have is we’re out of time.

Nainoa Thompson presents two paddles, one to the Dalai Lama, using Koa wood and woods from around the world. The other to Kanahele.

Dalai Lama shows how he would paddle with it.

The crowd is asked to rise. As final parting gift to the Dalai Lama, the crowd sings Hawaii Aloha.

The Dalai Lama is asked to say his final words.

Dalai Lama: This reminds me in Thailand the monk usually carries something, in order to concentrate.

He uses his paddle to block the light.

Dalai Lama: (through translator) Buddhist literature has poetic expressions. By using this human life as a boat, you can cross the ocean of human suffering. His holiness would like to think of this paddle, imagine there’s another one, this is the paddle of ultimate wisdom that sees the way that everything actually exists. The other paddle symbolizes conventional altruism. (Now he speaks English.) In reality, in our land, no ocean. Not much use for this (the paddle).

The Dalai Lama presents a scarf to Kanahele and Thompson.

Dalai Lama: The tradition of the scarf comes from India. In India, in order to show respect. This originally comes from India. Tibetans use the tradition. The material is made in China. Tibetan script mentions Buddha, or God. It says that the person who keeps this be happy day and night. Symbolizes harmony. Made in China. (laughs)

Presents a scarf to someone in the audience who had led the singing. Poses for a picture with Thompson and Kanahele. Puts the paddle blade over his shoulder.


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