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Dalai Lama Interview/JFK-George
- Subject: Dalai Lama Interview/JFK-George
- From: cd@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 18 Nov 1997 04:25:00
> ------------------- World Tibet Network News -------------------------------
> Published by: The Canada-Tibet Committee
> Editorial Board: Brian Given, Nima Dorjee, Conrad Richter
> Tseten Samdup, Thubten (Sam) Samdup
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> Archived at: http://www.tibet.ca
> Issue ID: 97/11/15 Compiled by Thubten (Sam) Samdup
> Saturday, November 15, 1997
> LOST WORLD OF A LIVING BUDDHA
> Rain or shine, the exiled Dalai Lama forges ahead for a free Tibet
> while making the Chinese see red
> GEORGE MAGAZINE, Issue November 1997
> (An interview by John Kennedy)
> Hollywood has an unlikely new hero these days. He has been wearing the same
> old clothes for years; he abhors violence and eschews sports and material
> attachments; and he has been celibate for all his 62 years. But the man who
> is the inspiration for two major films of the fall season (Seven Years in
> Tibet, with Brad Pitt, and Martin Scorsese's Kundun) has far more important
> things on his mind than celluloid immortality. He is the religious and
> political leader of the Tibetan people and a larger-than-life symbol of their
> resistance to the Chinese occupation of their homeland. he is also a Nobel
> laureate, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, and the man who his followers believe is
> a living form of Buddha.
> There is no one in the world quite like the Dalai Lama, which makes is
> difficult to take his measure as a conventional political leader. He is a
> demigod struggling for temporal gains for his followers; an exiled monarch
> presiding over a flourishing and culturally intact refugee community; a
> displaced theocrat who, by virtue of his birthright and his many personal
> sacrifices, has not only preserved his legitimacy but also enhanced the
> influence of his religion around the world; and a political leader who has
> been pitted against a relentless foe seemingly immune to his moral authority.
> While political progress in both Northern Ireland and South Africa is a
> testament to the efficacy of the carrot-and-stick approach, the Dalai Lama's
> strategy is unapologetically all carrot. yet it hasn't secured what his
> people want most -- their country.
> According to the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism, each Dalai Lama is the godlike
> reincarnation of a single enlightened soul who reappears in a child born
> within a few years of the death of the preceding Dalai Lama. To his four
> surviving siblings (his mother gave birth 16 times), Tenzin Gyatso has been
> a god ever since he was taken from his parents' home in eastern Tibet by
> monks looking for the new boy-king. After the thirteenth Dalai Lama's death,
> a series of omens had pointed the search party to Tenzin's village of
> Takster. The head of the deceased Dalai Lama had turned east in its coffin
> while the body lay in state' a rare fungus had suddenly grown on the east
> side of a sacred pillar; and the name of the young successor's village had
> appeared to the interim head monk in a dream. But it was not until the child
> picked out a number of relics that had belonged to his predecessor--
> including a walking stick, a pair of spectacles, and a toy drum-- from a
> jumble of worthless look-alikes that his divinity was confirmed. Later,
> after Tenzin had been brought to the holy city of Lhasa to be further
> scrutinized, the young boy pointed to a closed vault in the Potala Palace
> containing the former Dalai Lama's teeth and said, "My teeth are in there."
> With that, he took up residence in the palace to begin years of study and
> reflection in preparation for his ascent to the seat of the Dalai Lama once
> he reached maturity.
> In 1950, the Chinese invaded Tibet in search of land an raw materials, which
> the "rooftop of the world" had in abundance. The occupying troops of the new
> People's Liberation Army (PLA) had another mandate as well: to liberate
> Tibet from the "poison" of religion, which Mao believed had kept the country
> in a semifeudal state. In 1959, after years of suffering escalating
> humiliations and atrocities at the hands of the Chinese, Tibetans in Lhasa
> rebelled, only to be ruthlessly suppressed by the Chinese. Amid word that
> the PLA intended to capture or kill the Dalai Lama, whom Chinese officials
> regarded as the root cause of Tibetan nationalism, the young ruler fled the
> region in a dramatic nighttime escape from the encircled palace. Along with
> a few bodyguards and llamas, the ragtag party crossed the icy passes of the
> Himalayas (the same route that is used by streams of refugees today) and
> eventually took up residence in the former British hill station of
> Dharamsala, India.
> During the next two decades, China vigorously pursued the destruction of
> Tibetan culture (and people) and sought to inculcate the Tibetan people with
> Chinese ways. More than 1.2 million Tibetans were shot or tortured to death,
> or perished in prison or labor camps. More than 6,000 monasteries were
> destroyed (only 13 remained in the entire country), and sacred texts tat were
> centuries old were used as fuel and toilet paper. Tibetan children were
> relocated to China in masses for "re-education," and millions of Chinese were
> transplanted to Tibet. There are now a million more Chinese than Tibetans in
> Tibet, and they have laid claim to the best land and jobs available. It is
> a crime to carry a picture of the Dalai Lama.
> In recent years, the Chinese have softened their rule, preserving the gains
> they have made while maintaining only a lowgrade police presence in most of
> the country. Their official position is that Tibet has been a part of China
> since the thirteenth century, so any talk of independence is tantamount to
> sedition. The Dalai Lama "clique," as the commission in exile is referred
> to, is depicted as a reactionary group of despots who are in cahoots with the
> "enemies of a strong China." So a loose standoff is maintained. The Chinese
> have invited the Dalai Lama to come live in Beijing, provided he renounces
> all claims of Tibetan autonomy. The Tibetan commission's position is
> elucidated in a five-point proposal in which it concedes control of foreign
> policy and defense to China but demands local control of all religious,
> social, and educational matters.
> Any effort made by outside nations, such as the United States, to move the
> process along is usually met with a stern rebuke from the Chinese not to
> meddle in their internal affairs. So the Dalai Lama continues to make
> conciliatory statements in public and maintains a public relations campaign
> on behalf of his cause that is perhaps unparalleled anywhere else in the
> But already there are signs that the next phase of the struggle for Tibetan
> autonomy will take place after the fourteenth Dalai lama passes on and his
> soul finds a successor. A battle is already under way over the next Panchen
> Lama, the second-highest-ranking monk in Tibetan Buddhism, who helps choose
> the next Dalai Lama. The Chinese hold the world's youngest political
> prisoner under house arrest in Beijing, a young boy whom the Dalai Lama
> determined to be the reincarnation of the last Panchen Lama (who had remained
> in Tibet after the Chinese takeover and dies under suspicious circumstances
> in 1989). The Chinese have selected another boy and are pressing to have him
> approved by the coterie of religious authorities who reside in Tibet.
> Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama has stated publicly that his own succession is a
> matter for the Tibetan people to decide. Whether Tibetans choose a new
> leader in the traditional manner or elect one instead is their decision. But
> the Dalai Lama remains sanguine, as only this most enlightened of All Tibetan
> Buddhists can be, for if he doesn't see a free Tibet in this lifetime,
> there's always the next one.
> -John Kennedy
> Exclusive: The Dalai Lama Talks to John Kennedy
> John Kennedy: Given China's embrace of capitalism, its gradual openness to
> the world, and its warming relationship with the U.S., do you expect any
> substantive changes to materialize?
> The Dalai Lama: It's difficult to say. Generally, I believe a change in the
> Chinese economy has already taken place but without much change in their
> propaganda. That is why the Chinese government is considering a closer
> relationship with the U.S. They still say they are Marxists, and they are
> still an authoritarian regime. Yet even if they are still very much in
> control, they have far less influence than they used to. It has become a
> Marxist regime without Marxist ideology.
> I also feel the Chinese government is deliberately trying to project an image
> of the United States as an antagonizing force in the world. The Chinese
> authorities may fear that if relations become very cordial with the West,
> particularly the United States, it will compromise their ability to maintain
> an authoritarian government.
> JK: What are you hopeful for in the short term for Tibet?
> DL: In the short term? [Chuckles] Nothing! Beijing has closed the door
> completely on any negotiations. So we can do nothing except appeal to our
> friends in the U.S.-- the government and some individuals-- for help. But in
> the long run, I am optimistic. More and more Chinese are aware of the
> Tibetan situation. In the past, their knowledge was based on the wrong
> information-- from government propaganda. Yet intellectuals have the
> facility to inquire, to search for correct information. As a result, there
> are more Chinese showing sympathy and concern. These people are very
> critical of the government's policy regarding the Tibet issue. As time
> passes, with a more open society the truth will be harder to hide.
> Sooner or later, a mutually agreed upon solution must be found in the
> interest of the Chinese themselves. The present situation benefits neither
> the Tibetans nor the Chinese. For the Chinese, the top concern is stability
> and unity in the motherland. This cannot be achieved by force. Up to now,
> superficial stability has been achieved through immense force, but this
> cannot solve the real problem.
> I think my approach has the best chance of succeeding, which is to neither
> ask for nor seek independence and show a willingness to remain with China so
> long as we have genuine self-rule in the fields of education, culture, and
> particularly religion. How can a communist regime govern religion?
> JK: Are there preconditions that the Chinese have laid down for resuming
> communications with them?
> DL: Yes. Publicly, they say as soon as the Dalai Lama gives up the struggle
> for Tibetan independence, they are prepared to talk. First of all, it's
> quite clear in my mind that although we are separate nations and we Tibetans
> have every right to demand independence, in reality this will be difficult to
> achieve. Second, Tibet is a huge, landlocked country with a small population
> -- economically backward yet with rich natural resources. If we joined
> another big nation, we might get greater benefits for our people.
> As I stated five years ago and repeat today, I would not carry any
> responsibility or have an official or governmental position. The Tibetan
> government should be a democratically elected government. Now, regarding
> democracy, it will take the education of the majority of the people to
> persuade them of the worth of democratic institutions. This is very
> important, and I think it will be difficult. No Tibetan would say they
> wanted to restore autocracy if the Chinese allowed us to be responsible for
> everything. We want a genuine democratic government. But judging from
> experience and from events in neighboring Nepal, Ladakh, and Arunachal,
> elections only come after fighting. Recently, and Italian friend who had
> been in Nepal told me about the elections there. Everyone goes to the
> polling stations as if they were going to a war. So I feel it is in our own
> interest to have law and order in the hands of the Chinese, provided Tibetans
> have complete freedom in the other areas I mentioned. I think the middle way
> I suggest, genuine self-rule is in our best interest.
> JK: How confident are you that the Tibetan people will be able to develop a
> functioning democracy? When you left, Tibet was semifeudal, and for the last
> 38 years it has been under an authoritarian regime. What is there to suggest
> that the country will have a stable, democratically elected government?
> DL: There is no other choice. The democratic system is the best, though it
> has many defects and faults. In the refugee community, I think there are
> people with democratic experience. In the monasteries, there was always a
> democratic principle. So if we properly explain things, the people will be
> able to handle democracy. This is my feeling.
> JK: You are both a political and a religious leader. If you had to choose
> one role over the other, which would it be?
> DL: Oh, the religious role, definitely. I feel my way of thinking is better
> suited to the spiritual role, not political. Politics is only one element of
> the life of a society. Religion provides the right kind of motivation, the
> right kind of mental attitude. This is the basis of our survival, the basis
> of a happy society or happy individual. It doesn't just mean some ceremony
> in a monastery, or rituals.
> In order to produce good politicians, you need healthy human life, and a good
> upbringing is key. In the eyes of some, my role seems political, but that's
> because my Buddhism is so closely linked to the Tibetan freedom struggle.
> Once we return to Tibet, and a democratic government has been installed, I
> would not want to involve myself in politics. I sometimes dream I am just an
> ordinary monk, not the Dalai Lama. So perhaps this is one indication.
> JK: If you look at the conflicts in Northern Ireland and the Middle East,
> there are negotiations between the opposing sides because all the parties
> have engaged in violence. They remained a threat to each other while
> pursuing a peaceful settlement. Because you are an apostle of nonviolence,
> your campaign will never threaten China. Does this make you less effective?
> DL: Yes and no. [Laughs] One Chinese official actually said that Tibetans in
> Tibet are less likely to be violent because they are Buddhist. So I think he
> should have gone on to say that this is because the Dalai Lama always
> emphasizes the principle of nonviolence.
> JK: They didn't even want to give you credit for that?
> DL: Yes! Recently, a Chinese official expressed the view that so long as
> Tibet is Buddhist and has its own culture, there is always the threat of
> Tibetan separation. It is not surprising that the Chinese carry out
> political indoctrination campaigns in the monasteries and nunneries, in
> schools and offices. So our campaign has less to do with me and more to do
> with all Tibetans.
> JK: How do you reply to young people who believe there is little to show for
> your advocacy of nonviolence? In the movements led by Mahatma Gandhi and
> Martin Luther King, Jr., there were always people who grew impatient. how do
> you keep these more extreme elements calm?
> DL: I disagree with radicals who say the Chinese only know force and do not
> know compassion or nonviolence. I argue with them about [how effective the]
> violent way would be. We have few guns and little ammunition, but where can
> we get more? We can buy some on the open market, but then how can we send
> them to Tibet? Even if we have 100,000 rifles and sufficient ammunition, to
> the Chinese this is nothing. if we involve 100,000 Tibetans, several
> thousand people will be killed, and for the Chinese, losing a few thousand
> people is nothing. Even 20,000, 30,000 people is nothing to them. Suppose
> 100,000 Chinese are killed. Then the Chinese immediately bring in another
> 200,000 soldiers. The result is more suppression, more oppression, some
> publicity and headlines in major newspapers for a week or two, and that will
> be all. It is very easy to say we want to fight the Chinese, but in reality
> the implementation is not easy. They often make comparisons with the
> Palestinians, who have the support of many governments -- some publicly, some
> behind the scenes. The Palestinians have the support of all Arabs. Their
> opponent, Israel, is very efficient but otherwise very small. So we cannot
> compare our situation with theirs. That is what I tell them.
> JK: Even China's critics concede that China has in some ways modernized
> Tibet. do you think modernization would have occurred if the Chinese had not
> DL: Certainly! There is no doubt.
> JK: How would it have occurred? Tibet was really an isolated and
> underdeveloped country.
> DL: It's difficult to say. I don't know what would have happened if we had
> stayed in Tibet. but I believe that after I took on the responsibility [of
> being the Dalai Lama], most probably we would have come in contact with the
> outside world, and then automatically change would have come. Since my
> childhood, I have had a keen interest in technology, and from the time I was
> 13 or 14, I have had a keen desire to build a road between India and Lhasa.
> in 1950, when I escaped on horseback from Lhasa to Yatung on the Indian
> border, I watched every part of the road on my way and felt we could expand
> it at certain points by several feet so that a jeep could pass. So I had
> this kind of desire and feeling the whole way.
> Sometimes, I want to say to the Chinese that we have been refugees for the
> last 38 years, and in education and other fields we have become quite a
> successful refugee community. This proves that if we Tibetans have the
> opportunity, we can carry on quite satisfactorily without Chinese help.
> JK: There are a lot of reasons America seeks better relations with China,
> most of them economic. Why should American politicians risk relations with
> China over the issue of Tibet when most Americans have so little contact with
> DL: The United States has to be involved. Not as a world policeman, but
> because it is a big nation and has an important responsibility.
> Although Tibet is physically far away from America and materially backward,
> it is situated between China and India, the two most populous nations in the
> world. Two of the fine points of my proposal for Tibet directly affect
> interests of the United States. One is that Tibet become a zone of peace, a
> buffer between India and China. The second is that we control the amount of
> ecological and mineral exploitation of Tibet. A good relationship on the
> basis of mutual trust between India and China is in the interest of world
> peace. All the major rivers that flow through Pakistan, India, Bangladesh,
> and China originate in Tibet. If there is a dramatic change in the
> environment, it will affect millions of people on this continent.
> JK: The Clinton administration recently created a special post to oversee
> U.S. relations with Tibet, though it doesn't have ambassadorial rank. Some
> say this is an empty position, while others say that it's a step in the right
> direction. How do you feel?
> DL: Oh, I think it is very positive to have someone appointed to facilitate
> a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government. This is
> certainly an important step.
> JK: You are the envy of many American politicians because you have a
> coalition of supporters ranging from archconservatives to Hollywood liberals.
> Not many people can count both Jesse Helms and Richard Gere as friends. How
> do you do that?
> DL: [Laughs] Jesse helms, isn't he a conservative? He is my great friend.
> Really, it just happened. I have no motivation and made no special effort to
> bring about a closer relationship. To me, of course, it makes no difference
> whether someone is a leader or a beggar, as long as they have good human
> feeling. This is my firm belief. I feel this kind of attitude-- an
> openness, an extended hand -- is most important irrespective of one's belief,
> religion, or way of thinking. On a personal level, Jesse Helms seems like a
> very good human being, at least to me. I don't know how he is with other
> politicians. [Laughs]. The same goes for Richard Gere. I look at all of them
> as human beings, so for me, there is no problem.
> JK: You have many roles to play: religious leader, political leader, world
> advocate for Tibet. Your life is not easy. If you weren't the Dalai Lama,
> have you though of what you might have become?
> DL: If I had stayed in my own small village, then most probably a farmer or
> a mechanic or, say, the driver of a bulldozer or a tractor. After that, I
> don't know. If I were not the Dalai Lama, I would prefer to remain in an
> isolated area and spend more time in meditation. I expressed my desire to
> take a three-year retreat in complete isolation. I feel if the opportunity
> comes to return to Tibet, I would like to go to as many places there and in
> mainland China as I can. But I do not want to discontinue or neglect my
> connections with friends in the outside world. I consider the friendship,
> support, and help we have received during our difficult period very, very
> precious. It is absolutely wrong to forget these friendships, so until my
> death, I want to keep these close relations. In the meantime, I want to spend
> more time in some remote place in meditation. That is my wish.
> JK: You keep a very busy schedule. you once remarked jokingly that Jewish
> people get Saturdays off, Christians get Sundays off, so even the Dalai Lama
> should get a Sunday off every now and then. If you had a week off, what
> would you do?
> DL: Read and study mainly Buddhist texts. On Sundays, I try to be more
> relaxed and just do my daily prayers -- about four and a half hours in the
> morning and another two hours in the evening. But I often I have to cut back
> on these times -- like today, when I had to be here an hour earlier because
> of this interview. [Laughs]
> JK: How do you relax?
> DL: Oh! Meditation.
> JK: Nothing else? Reading a book, watching sports?
> DL: No sports. Of course, some exercise and prostrations in the morning. In
> my own experience, if your mental state remains calm, alert, and fresh, that
> in itself is a form of relaxation. There is no anxiety, doubt or tension
> inside you.
> JK: So you are free from doubt?
> DL: When I say doubt, I mean a lack of self confidence. I think I have
> almost no doubt. As far as my motivation is concerned, as long as it is
> generally sincere and I try to sustain it and then do my work with
> confidence, even if my work doesn't achieve its goal, it doesn't matter. No
> regrets. So again, as far as my motivation is concerned, as far as my effort
> is concerned, I am done. So there is no need for any anxiety or mental
> JK: Some years ago, you said you had two cats, but you didn't want them
> because they represented too much attachment. What did you mean by that?
> DL: Cats or dogs, of course, are very good for someone who looks after them.
> But when they suffer and die, it causes a lot of disturbances. [When I was a
> boy,] my senior tutor was very fond of dogs, but when I asked him if I should
> keep a dog, he... told me that when the dog gets sick or dies, it's an extra
> burden or worry. [Laughs].
> JK: So you have no pets?
> DL: I have two parrots, but I feel both parrots escaped from some cage
> somewhere. One parrot's legs are not very good. Somehow they reached here,
> and I kept them. On my side, there was no effort. Similarly, one cat was
> around my kitchen, and then there were a few kittens. One of the kittens was
> paralyzed, and it was brought to my room, and I took care of it. So in the
> future, if a paralyzed cat or dog is brought to my place, then I will keep
> it. Otherwise, I do not want to go in search.
> JK: One of the principles of karma is that if you do good deeds, they will
> come back to you. Why do you think all this misfortune has befallen the
> Tibetan people? What happened in a previous time that could have led to
> DL: That is, of course, basically due to karma. but this does not mean that
> Buddhism is wrong or these people are wrong. Circumstances change. Times
> change. Sometimes it happens. But I don't believe it's because we did
> anything wrong.
> JK: This fall you and your work will receive a lot of attention
> because of the two films coming out about your life. How do the films
> about you affect your diplomatic efforts? Do they hurt or help your
> DL: They are definitely helpful. The reason I believe this is because if you
> look at the support we received in the early 1960s, it was mainly from
> governments with certain reasons. As far as America is concerned, at that
> time support for Tibet was part of a grand strategy against communism and
> Eastern power. The support we are receiving now is because of growing
> sympathy and concern. It is a reflection of the media-- practically every
> place I have visited, the media have been very supportive.
> This has had an effect of governments that have been reluctant to say or do
> something about the Tibet issue. Therefore, these films will certainly
> increase the public's awareness, and as a result, more sympathy and more
> concern will come. not necessarily an immediate big change, but in the long
> run that information will... reach the minds of the Chinese intellectuals and
> the Chinese people.
> Earlier this year, during my visit to Washington, D.C., I was meeting with
> ten or 12 Chinese intellectuals-- writers, artists, Marxist theologists.
> Afterward, I met with each individual, and there was one Chinese who I as
> told was a famous writer. He approached me and said that what the Chinese
> have done to the Tibetans cannot be justified by just saying we are sorry.
> He then held my hand and started weeping.
> Once people get a clearer picture of the nature of the struggle, certain
> feelings arise. So I feel that more publicity, more awareness about Tibet,
> is eventually very, very helpful. I believe that basically the Tibet issue
> is a moral issue and also a justice issue. Tibet is small and China is big,
> and immediately one gets the impression of a bully. Between Pakistan and
> India, or the Palestinians and Israel, you may not have that kind of feeling,
> but in the case of Tibet, this is very obvious, and that also makes a
> difference in the minds of people.
> JK: The last point I want to address before our talk ends regards a
> controversial article in the October issue of George. It focused on the
> CIA's involvement in your escape from Tibet, and whether the intelligence
> agency persuaded the Buddhist oracle to tell you to leave Tibet in 1950 and
> how to do it.
> DL: There was no connection between the oracle and the CIA. I think, among
> some who were involved with the CIA in the early 1960s, there is the
> impression that my escape was entirely planned by the CIA. This is not true.
> The escape was initiated by us. Later, the CIA somehow got involved in
> Tibet, gave some material, some aid. But it's not true that the CIA
> persuaded me to leave.
> JK: Do you ever regret that perhaps you did not have a choice in the life
> that you have had to lead?
> DL: Perhaps. I don't think about preferring this or that. If there is real
> opportunity for choice, then of course it is right to think. Otherwise, there
> is no use thinking about it. Now I realize that if I utilize this position
> properly, it will be a good opportunity for me, as a Buddhist monk, to create
> a lot of positive merit, and obviously I can serve more people. Also, as a
> human being, if there is a challenge, it is a good opportunity to utilize the
> meaning of your life. After all, the purpose of our life is to do something
> good for others.
> end WTN 97/11/15
> Canada-Tibet Committee