SPIRITUALITY: Thousands celebrate Dalai’s 75th birthday – the World hath no greater “Messenger of PEACE” and harmony ?!!
FROM THE ASIAN AGE
By Asit Jolly
Chandigarh, Jul 07, 2010: Thousands of ecstatic Tibetan exiles quite literally poured out from their homes to join a common celebration to mark the Dalai Lama’s 75th birthday in McLeodganj, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile since 1960.
Addressing the throng at the Tsuglagkhang Temple located adjacent to his residential quarters, the aging monk — the second longest serving in the succession of 14 Dalai Lamas — began with the grim reminder that his compatriots living in the Tibetan Homeland were not permitted to observe the occasion.
“Tibetans in Tibet have a great desire to celebrate my birthday but they are not allowed to,” he said to them in an evident reference to the iron-fisted restrictions that the Chinese government continues to impose across the Himalayan territory it forcibly annexed in 1959.
But then equally paternal in the concern for his soaked followers who braved pouring rain to listen to their beloved spiritual and political leader in McLeodganj, the Dalai Lama typically cautioned them. “Be careful of the weather. Don’t get ill,” he said eliciting immediate cheer from the devoted multitude huddled together under a riot of multi-coloured umbrellas and raincoats.
Also advising them to show compassion at all times he said, “Even at this age, I find time for my Buddhist studies that give me strength, peace, happiness and good health.”
Reflecting on his life and work since his dramatic flight from Lhasa over five decades ago, the Dalai Lama looked around the numerous banners and placards — many with nostalgic images of the journey down the years — and said, “When I see those pictures and see the development, I know my life has not been wasted.”
The Dalai Lama, who advocates a middle path or “meaningful autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule” and has tirelessly engaged with China towards this goal, is viewed by the majority of his flock as essential to keeping the global spotlight on the Tibetan issue.
But his often precarious health compounded by the need for him to travel extensively, have many Tibetans, particularly the older generation, very concerned.
They believe his demise, without a competent successor in place, could scatter the movement and render Tibet an impossible destination for the exiles.
So even though he has himself questioned the continuing relevance of the very institution of the Dalai Lama and has suggested the government-in-exile was perhaps competent enough, many believe the Tibetan freedom movement must have a central figure to guide it.
Some exiles are already beginning to view 26-year-old Ugyen Trinley Dorji, the 17th Karmapa, who also escaped the Chinese under a decade ago, as a possible successor.
The younger monk, seated next to the Dalai Lama throughout this morning’s celebrations, triggered a fresh round of excited whispers in McLeodganj.
In conversation with The Dalai Lama – “conscience” of China only under the introspection highlight, not that of a parochial Bengal ?!!
By Barkha Dutt
Dharamsala, July 06, 2010 20:07 IST (NDTV): He was recognised as the fourteenth Dalai Lama when he was just two-years-old, and today he is 75. As millions of his followers across the globe commemorate his special day, the Dalai Lama says his successor need not be a reincarnation, but someone appointed by him during his life time.
Speaking to NDTV exclusively at his monastry in Dharamsala, the Tibetan leader said that a Dalai Lama chosen by China would have no moral legitimacy.
Here’s the full transcript of the interview:
NDTV: He is easily one of the world’s most respected and more importantly, the most loved political and spiritual leaders. He was only 2 years old when he was recognized as the future Dalai Lama, in fact, the 14th Dalai Lama, only 6-years-old when he began his monastry education. And today, as he turns 75, we are extremely privileged to be with him in Dharamsala at his monastry, a home away from home not just for his holiness but also for the Tibetan people in exile for decades now. We look back and ahead at his life and times. We also have with us today in our special audience not just his followers but also people who visit and come to Dharamsala, which has got an international name because of his holiness, and of course tourists and foreigners and followers come from all across the globe and like I said it’s clearly a privilege to be with you your holiness. You know, most of us mere mortals when we approach our birthday,sometimes we are happy, sometimes there is a sense of fear that life is slipping by, that we are getting old, but you seem to be perennially young. How do you manage to stay so young hearted?
The Dalai Lama: I think sufficient sleep and..
NDTV: I never get enough of that, I think that’s the problem.
The Dalai Lama: As a Buddhist monk there is no dinner but a very heavy breakfast and lunch so sufficient food. I think physically these things are important, but another factor, nowadays according to latest scientific findings is that a healthy mind is very important for a healthy body. So I think in my own case, comparatively I think my mental state is quite peaceful. Whenever I am hurt or face some problem, I look at it from a wider way, a holistic way and that also helps to reduce anxiety so perhaps my mental state is quite peaceful, quite calm so that also one factor.
NDTV: Many people describe you as a twinkly-eyed, you know there is a twinkle in your eyes, you are always laughing, you make us laugh, you make everybody who meets you happier, calmer, do you always internally feel as positive as you appear or do you feel the need to appear more positive than you feel because of the millions who follow you everywhere?
The Dalai Lama: No mostly as I already mentioned, my mental state is quite calm and then also I consider every soul as human being, basically we are all the same,nothing different, physically we are the same. Of course there is a little difference in colour, or size of the nose, otherwise you see we are completely same. If you ask scientists what are the differences in the brain or in the neuron… nothing. We are therefore emotionally same, mentally also same. So I never look at human beings as the President or King or Prime Minister or beggar… in my eyes all are the same. So whenever I meet these people I say, “look at them, they are just other human beings… our brothers and sisters. So this also creates more peace in my mind. But I may not be that level of mind not always, occasionally I burst.
NDTV: You get angry?
The Dalai Lama: Oh yes yes.
NDTV: You get angry?
The Dalai Lama: Oh yes, if you ask some silly question repeatedly, then I may lose my temper.
NDTV: Now I am scared.
The Dalai Lama: Actually once it happened in America, I think most probably in New Jersey…one New York Times columnist, one lady, she asked me, first some other questions, then she asked me, what I want my name or legacy to be in future. And I told her, I am a Buddhist practitioner and I do not think of my name like that. Then we had some other discussion, then again she asked me the same question, and I answered in the same way, then again after some time she asked me the same question… then I lost my temper,
NDTV: This is a lesson for me to ask only once.
The Dalai Lama: Good, good.
NDTV: But when you get angry, do you express it? You know in modern urban life, a lot of us get angry very quickly, we lead highly stressful lives, we have short tempers, when you get angry how do you control it? Because you are a Buddhist, a spiritual leader?
The Dalai Lama: You see when I get angry or irritated due to very small mistakes of some other people, then I just express and then finish, but sometime when it is a more serious form of anger, I try to separate myself from anger, then watch my anger, that emotion… then immediately the strength of anger diminishes, according to my own experience. And then, I also share with my friends, just as these, in order to bring more calmness to my mind. You cannot have some sort of special practice for each case, but you must build your basic mental attitude in a healthy way, like in the case of a healthy body if the immune system is strong then some virus or germs can’t disturb you much, so similarly, your mental attitude has to be calm, then if some disturbance come, even if some negative emotions come, they remain for very short period, all the emotions remain on the surface, and do not disturb much in depth.
NDTV: Now tell me something, you spoke about the brain, the human brain, but you are the kind of person who married a scientific temperament of inquisitiveness with spirituality, which is very rare, and I read somewhere that on your table, you have the model of the human brain that you keep assembling and trying to understand… it’s very rare for a spiritual leader to believe so much in science, where did that come to you from?
The Dalai Lama: I believe, firstly, that if you are a genuine religious practitioner, especially a Buddhist, you have to be realistic. So in order to develop a realistic approach, a realistic awareness, you must know the reality. So in that respect, the scientific way of thinking, their method of investigating the reality is very important, very useful. I think basically some of my friends may already know, that Buddhism in general, particularly the Nalanda tradition, their way of thinking is very scientific. So Buddha himself has made it very clear in one of his quotations that all his followers should not accept his teachings out of faith but out of thorough investigation and experiment. So this is the scientific way of thinking, like for example, Nagarjuna, also one of the great spiritual leaders of Nalanda. Sometimes I refer to these as great masters, from the Buddhist eye they are masters, but from general eye they are Nalanda professors, very brilliant. They have in writing that do not believe in the Buddhist word rather their investigation and logic, so I think that’s the basic way of thinking, it’s the Nalanda tradition.
NDTV: That is practical and scientific.
The Dalai Lama: Yes and investigation, so I am training through that way, and then personally, since my childhood I always had this curiosity…wanting to know what’s this and what’s that. And particularly when I was very young, you know the British Mission in Lhasa… this new person came, he always brought me some toys, so when I received any information and gave it to the British officers in Lhasa, I was always very excited, what kind of new toy would come?
NDTV: What was your favourite toy?
The Dalai Lama: Trains, you know railway, like that (gestures) and cars, and anyway when I got them, for few moments I would play and I would try to know the system that caused the movement and then I would always open it up. Actually, many times it would be damaged in the process. And then after coming to India finally, I got the opportunity of meeting people from different religious traditions that was immensely helpful, then meeting people from different professions and then eventually scientists. As I was interested, I became more acquainted with them, had more discussions with them and found them very, very useful, very helpful.
NDTV: But you know, one of the most compelling facts about you your holiness is that you still retain a child- like, if I may use that phrase, a child-like innocence, a child like humor, yet you were only two years old when you were recognised as the next Dalai Lama. Do you sometimes speaking as a human being and not a holy man today, do you look back and feel that your childhood was lost?
The Dalai Lama: No… I think in a way yes, to some extent, as early an age as 2 years when they recognised me, I think for 2 years or 3 years after they recognised me as the Dalai Lama of the nation, I was still with my parents, my younger brother, elder brother, sister etc and then I think when I was about 5 years, I reached Lhasa and was then separated from my mother.
NDTV: For a child that must have been very difficult?
The Dalai Lama: During my sort of station or living in Potala, at some distance was a building where the people could stay but my mother preferred to stay somewhere else but during summer time, the outer wall was yellow, the inside wall was white and within that building, my mother and family lived there. I think in summer time, every other day they used to come, occasionally I also went to their home, then after 2 years, my tutor put some restrictions that I cannot go to meet her, I felt a little angry but I obeyed his instructions, but sometimes as a child my lessons were not very successful because my mood would be bad, then as soon as the lessons finished I would run to my mother’s place and spend some time there, and in the beginning I would be determined that I would never return for the lesson but then when the time for the afternoon lesson would come, I would quietly crawl back.
NDTV: So that actually sounds like any other child who was traumatized by exams, but you use this interesting…..
The Dalai Lama: So therefore, in one way I was isolated from my mother, from my parents, but in the other, they used to always come. Then what happened was that there were sweepers, officials and some sort of a servant for me. Of course in ceremony, in official ceremonies they would show great respect but when I played with them they showed no respect, they would often defeat me, sometimes I would cry, I did not want to be defeated but they treated me in a normal way, including those people who later become my best friends…they are uneducated but very honest, very trustworthy people.
NDTV: You use this word ‘realist’ talking about scientific temperament, this phrase talking about realistic approach has defined your politics, you have 2 avatars, you are a spiritual leader and you are also the political leader of Tibet, your realistic approach where you have spoken about autonomy for Tibet rather than independence is the middle way, is the moderate approach, yet it seems like it hasn’t moved Beijing, it hasn’t moved China, do you regret at 75 your moderate political approach?
The Dalai Lama: No, no, of course among Tibetans and among our supporters, our friends, there are some signs of increasing criticism about our approach but if you look at the whole picture, although there was some positive result from the Chinese government, the whole thing inside Tibet completely failed. From the government side there was no result, but the Chinese people, not the entire 1.3 billion people, but some intellectuals, some professors and writers, and some artists, I think before the Tiananmen massacre happened, very few… after that more and more Chinese are showing their concern and showing their solidarity with us. Then in recent years, particularly in 2008, crisis in Tibet remained stationary by Tibetans. Now a number of Chinese intellectuals are showing us their support, and I can give an examples for that… see in the last 2 years there have been over 1000 articles written in Chinese language by Chinese writers, more than 100 of them living in China and all these articles fully support our way of approach, and are very critical of their government policy
NDTV: I agree but do you…
The Dalai Lama: Within the Chinese government there are many officials who personally professionally express their support for our approach, this is what I feel is the positive result, but there is a problem which has to be solved with the Chinese, and we cannot stop it by ourselves. When it’s a civil war, then you solve the problem, sometimes I jokingly tell that these people are new guests without proper invitation, such guests have come with a gun, once they build a trench, they will control everything, the Tibetan way of live, how to be a good Buddhist. Sometimes you will see Chinese media writing about Dalai Lama not teaching true Buddhism, so it seems they know better, so therefore that’s the problem… Tibetan problem created from outside and so we have to find a solution with them, so Chinese people showing their support is very essential. Also the outside world, including the United States, Indian government, European Parliament… all these influential bodies very easily show support.
NDTV: You still have faith in the US since I remember when I met you last time, you had come back from your first trip from Washington and President Obama had not met you, subsequently he did but many people think he acted under Chinese pressure but you still have faith in Washington?
The Dalai Lama: Of course, the President himself when I met, but before of course our physical meeting, I knew him through correspondence and through telephone. He is a very good person, finally America is a democratic country, both the houses are important, that also is the public thinking. Usually in a democratic country, it’s the public thinking that reflects in the Parliament, in the Houses, that in turn reflects on the administration, so in America, at the public level, both the houses are very supportive. Then in this country India, the Indian government can easily support our stand.
NDTV: But the Indian government did not let you make a speech when you went to Tamang in Arunachal Pradesh, they said that you were to visit as a spiritual leader. Do you sometimes think that India is also giving in to pressure from the Chinese because India is trying to form a parallel strategic relationship with China, does that disturb you?
The Dalai Lama: Previously, I used to respond when people asked what is the government of India’s response to the issue, and I have always said that those fields in which the Indian government could help, it has helped maximum, in educational field, in rehabilitation etc… in the political field, government of India’s attitude or policy towards China in general, especially Tibet I would describe as over cautious, it’s not understandable, but in recent years, the government of India’s stand on this issue is more firm, now among Indian pandits and other people are now showing their concern over Tibet.
NDTV: Well you remain optimistic about Tibet, we are going to take a quick break and then we will open the floor to the many followers and questioners, so we will be back with this special programme on his holiness’s 75th birthday in just a few minutes.
NDTV: We are in conversation with his holiness “The Dalai Lama” on the occasion of his 75th birthday in Dharamsala at his monastry so it’s a very special occasion for us as well and for all the people who have known and followed and worshipped and befriended the Dalai Lama, one of the few Holy man with whom you can crack a few jokes. We are going to hear from all of them today and we are carrying from Delhi the special message for you your holiness from one of India’s best known photographers, Raghu Rai, who has spent a long time photographing you and following you around and he loves you a lot and this is the message Raghu Rai has sent for you…
Raghu Rai’s message: Your Holiness, many happy returns of the day on your 75th birthday and you may look as handsome and as strong like the Himalayas, like you have always looked . Your Holiness you know that we all love you and I personally love you very deeply because each time you have given me a high. My mind, body and soul gets enriched and rejuvenated with the energy that you exuberate. You are a highly spiritual and evolved person and so my question to you is” Please connect with the supreme energy for ourselves and find out when are we going to go back to Tibet so I can travel back with you in your own land and photograph you all over again. My best wishes again and lots of love.
NDTV: And I guess Raghu asked the question that so many wants to know. Do you believe in your heart of hearts and I ask you this because you are a realist, “do you believe that you will ever go back to Tibet in this lifetime?”
The Dalai Lama: Oh yes.
NDTV: You still believe that?
The Dalai Lama: Yes, Firstly the Tibetan spirit is inside Tibet and despite so much of change or new development and also brainwashing or torture on various matters, Tibet’s spirit never changes because it is forever very strong. Then on top of that many Chinese, according to some information there are over 200 millions of Buddhists in China including many party members and officials who are outwardly “communist, atheist but inside they are Buddhists” . Then the last four eras, if we look closely, much change, so one party system, same system and same party but do they have ability to act according to the reality… so up to now their policy is unrealistic. Sooner or later they have to realise that their policy is unrealistic and will always be counter-productive.
NDTV: Do you ever feel because while you are a holy leader, spiritual leader but you are also human at heart. Do you sometimes feel that in this issue of going back to Tibet for you or for your people, time is not on your side anymore? Time is running out.
The Dalai Lama: Oh yes, 51 years have passed but as I mentioned earlier, you see, last 60 years or more than 60 years, things are changing , still changing quite rapidly in China so the present situation cannot remain forever. We have to believe that things will change but then if you ask, how soon, that is the question and nobody knows the answer.
NDTV: In your lifetime?
The Dalai Lama: Oh, in the next 5 years, 10 years or I think 15 years, things will change definitely.
NDTV: You joked once that to retire was also your human right?
The Dalai Lama: Yes, since 2001, since we all achieved elected political leadership of our establishment here, my position is same as a retired position, so now I am looking forward to complete retirement.
NDTV: Do you think the Tibet movement will remain the same if you do retire because there are many people and young people in Tibet who feels your message of non-violence has actually not worked because it has not managed to move a cold un-feeling government in Beijing. So do you see those young people today, some of them who talk about having a more aggressive approach. Do you worry about what will happen to this movement after you?
The Dalai Lama: No, up to now inside Tibet and a well as outside Tibet I can imagine almost 95% or even I may say 99% of people are totally dedicated to non violent paths. A few individuals, yes it’s possible and also here is possible. Now the difference is that some new organizations want complete freedom, complete independence so here is the where the difference is . Now somewhere a debate going on in our community. Actually from our side, from time to time, we ask people since we are totally dedicated to the democratic principle and also the Tibet issue is the issue of Tibetan people. So finally it’s up to the Tibetan people. So time to time we ask people.
NDTV: So you are saying is that if Tibetan people wanted complete independence or more aggressive approach you would have not discouraged them ?
The Dalai Lama: As I just mentioned, almost 99% are totally dedicated to non-violent methods. Few of the individuals may not be. But then the difference is about independence and that number is growing and we also sometimes find it difficult to explain because there is failure inside Tibet. Still from time to time we ask just that…I think 2008 in November we had this big meeting here and we asked the people and there were strong voices about independence and criticism of our approach but finally we joined them and our support exists for the stand. So both will continue like this.
NDTV: So if the majority opinion within the community changes, you will be willing to change your position?
The Dalai Lama: Have to.
NDTV: So if the majority says we want says we want more autonomy?
The Dalai Lama: I am not a dictator. Logically we are criticising these dictator policies and a person who criticises them, how can he practice being a dictator?
NDTV: Why do you want to retire then? What would this movement be without you?
The Dalai Lama: Age… it should be like a democracy and people should carry on the responsibility not just one individual. So now I am 75 and now I am looking forward to and think it time for retirement
NDTV: Are you serious or are you joking?
The Dalai Lama: I am serious, you know I have three commitments:
Number 1 commitment is the promotion of few values, irrespective of a believer or non believer. So that’s why I have always received invitation from different parts of the world. Not that they invited me as Dalai Lama but Dalai Lama’s thinking is something they feel is quite realistic or suitable so that is my number one commitment.
2, promotion of religious harmony. Both of the these two things I usually describe as ancient Indian thought. So I myself describe me as the messenger of ancient Indian thought. So wherever I go I promote these two things. These two things till my death I am committed.
3, third is the Tibetan issue, so when I retire completely, I will have more time energy and will spent on these two things
NDTV: Have you set a time frame mentally for this retirement?
The Dalai Lama: No , what’s really difficult is that people put too much emotion and too much expectation.
NDTV: People won’t let you retire?
The Dalai Lama: Well that maybe difficult, but then also finally I am also a human being and I also have the right to serve my life.
NDTV: Well retirement is your right of life but I don’t think it’s happening. There are so many people and let’s start taking some questions. We have Catherine Levine..
Catherine: I am from Canada and I have studied philosophy of the mind so I am very interested to hear you speak and very honoured to be near today and Happy Birthday . You indicated that you do have hope for Tibet’s future? What are the main sources of hope for you?
The Dalai Lama: Truth, Honesty, Transparency. Our voice here is very small and very weak but people trust. Other side, very few trust. So the truth , honesty and transparency is the source of our hope and source of our strength. I heard some BBC program talking about power of God, power of money, power of truth. These are important now. People usually just thought they have the power of gun. In last days, superpower and power of gun unfortunately find very many difficulties and then power of economy. I think one powerful power of economy is corruption or lie, cheating or not being transparent. So these and then power of truth brings trust and with that self-confidence. Then transparency, which brings trust and trust brings friendship.
NDTV: You have never in all these years lost hope? Not one moment of self-doubt, not one moment of thinking that its been decades and decades and I am not able to change anything, not one moment of losing hope?
The Dalai Lama: No, of course some disappointments, occasionally come but basically as I mentioned truth and I am honest. So when we met, my officials and also some Tibetans met with some set of officials here and there. Since we are totally honest, truthful and transparent, so we always feel very easy to talk with them and on their side there is always uneasiness.
NDTV: That’s a very interesting way of putting it but I think many of us marvel at where do you keep getting this optimism from? We have another question from Geremy Russell…
Geremy: I heard you say that you expect to outlook the Chinese Communist Party, I wonder if you still feel that way and whether you feel the change in the Chinese Communist would be gradual or sudden?
The Dalai Lama: Few occasions these days half joke – half serious communist party inspire lot of discussions. Particularly in the early period when real revolutionary period was moving on or taking place they were totally dedicated people. When I was in China in 54-55 of course I met several times with General Mao, all those top leaders and also I met a number of top leaders in different provinces. All of these people were totally dedicated to the well-being of the people. So my impression is good about this Marxist party. So I offered that “I want to join Communist Party” but then they said no. So I think even they know that their Communist Party will be spoilt so better to not join the party. At that time it was really a wonderful party, really a working class party and really a people’s party. So I think not only are there intelligent people but also ordinary people. So logically now the time has come to retire with grace, however I have some sort of reservation to say that in China immediately Democracy must start. That I have some reservation about. China, who has 1.3 billion people has never experienced Democracy and large number of people are uneducated. So some kind of centralized authority should be there. So therefore under Communist leadership, there should be a gradual change.
I think one thing we immediately need is transparency and free information. 1.3billion people have every right to know the reality. It’s immoral and they must have free information, then 1.3 billion Chinese people also have the capacity to know what is right what is wrong. So this propaganda and distorted information is totally unpredicted. Maybe during war or during civil war some censorship, that’s it. In a free country, during war and some emergency period, they practice that but in a peaceful period this is totally unacceptable. Then the independent judiciary is very very crucial. Look India , I offer to tell my Chinese friend that they should look at India – north Indian, south Indian, west Indian and east Indian” – different languages, even different script, cultural differences but no separation. They have their own language and their own script , separate identity but everybody remains in this union. Kashmir has some problems and that’s with mainly Pakistan. So Chinese should learn these things. So India has advantage of free information and transparency and independent judiciary. I think China should start transparent and free information and eventually create an independent judiciary. This is very necessary but party power gradually changes.
NDTV: Do you still think of yourself as a Marxist ?
The Dalai Lama: Yes . As far as social economic theory is concerned I am a Marxist.
The Dalai Lama: Maybe that will give you some ambition to the Communist Party of China. Now unfortunately Chinese Communist Party is no longer a Communist party. One my Nobel laureate friend, a very respected friend whom I admire. So he supports the people of China, a socialist country many years ago. About two years ago I met him and asked him, “are people from China really socialist ?” He said, ” no, no longer socialist but capitalists and authoritarians.”
NDTV: Which is a potent combination to deal with. And now to hear from his holiness’s one of oldest friends Professor Sharma, who has also been the former principal of Dharamsala college. Sir since you know his Holiness so well to tell us something that none of us know?
Sharma: That’s a very difficult question to answer.
NDTV: Because we all don’t know him as well as you do?
Sharma: I had moments of great importance with his holiness. My most memorable moment was when a friend rang me up to say that there was very bad news and what was the bad news was that his Holiness was leaving Dharamsala. That was way back in 1989. Something had happened and I will not go into the details. That was at 9:30 in the evening and so in the morning got going and in the afternoon I arrived here at his Holiness’s office but his holiness was very busy as hundreds of foreign journalists were there and I was told that no audience could be granted. I sent a message back saying that I will not leave this place, sit on dharna until midnight unless his Holiness allows me to meet him. He was kind enough that his then secretary sent the word to me that his Holiness will meet me at quarter to six in the evening after he was free from the journalists. I went to meet his Holiness and as usual he was standing at the threshold. I will not reveal to the public what he said to me when both of us waited for a second at the threshold before entering the room. Only at that moment I wished like Sita for the ground under me to open so I could go inside it and disappear. I was so shocked and then I said no your Holiness let us sit. Then we talked and talked but I don’t know what I talked and a stage came when I started crying like a baby and his Holiness got up and I got up and his Holiness embraced me like anything… that is one of the most memorable events of my life.
I have the privilege of having his grace and blessing for the last 40 years.
NDTV: I hope you are never leaving Dharamsala and if you ever do it will only be to go to Tibet.
The Dalai Lama: The local people at that time and when the trouble happened I was in America and someone asked me so I expressed that if the local people don’t want us to be here then we have to leave. Then when I reach here some of my old friends, especially this person very emotionally asked me that till the time I leave for Tibet, please remain here. Of course as a human community some problems occasionally occur but basically all local people have genuine friendship not a friendship due to money matters but friendship built on trust.
NDTV: So you are not leaving Dharamsala.
The Dalai Lama: No.
NDTV: We will not allow you to leave. Another veteran from Dharamsala, Ajay Singh
Ajay: In today’s world you are one of the most radiant personalities for the people in Tibet and in the world and for all the millions of people who follow Buddhism and for all of them you are the epitome of hope and belief and where ever you go, you spread so much joy and peace so would you now appoint a successor?
The Dalai Lama: Now as far as the successor and regarding the Dalai Lama institution is concerned, as early as 69, I made an official statement. So in certain time it may happen and in certain time it may go, it is not important. But Tibetan spirituality and Tibetan national struggle of course will be carried on by Tibetan people. Now for that reason as I have already mentioned we already have an elected political leadership. Every 5 years election should take place so whether the Dalai Lama is there or not this sort of organization and leadership will continue . In the spiritual field, among Tibetans, different Buddhist traditions – now younger generation say between twenty to thirty years old now – very healthy young spiritual leaders are coming, so after me, they will carry on the responsibility regarding spirituality, regarding the struggle. But meantime, you see, some suggestions among Tibetans, maybe worthwhile to take into serious consideration – to choose one sort of successor…from time to time, all top leaders of spirituality, we gathered, and then we discussed about spirituality, within India and also in the outside world, some spiritual matter we usually discuss, and then last few years we also discuss about my successor, about how to keep this institution, so the topic is already being discussed but no concrete decision yet.
NDTV: You said once, that you believe that even the institution of the Dalai Lama could fade away, do you really believe that?
The Dalai Lama: Yes! like the Buddha himself…there’s no Buddha institution, but the teachings still remain, not the organization. Of course I cannot compare, but my thoughts, my books will remain after me, for a few 100 years, but that’s nothing to do with the institution.
NDTV: So it doesn’t matter if there’s no Dalai Lama after you?
The Dalai Lama: Some people got the impression that the institution is very important for Tibetan Buddhism, it’s not. Of course as far as the freedom struggle is concerned, the institution is useful, that also, afterwards, it won’t matter…
NDTV: When I met you last time, you said, I’m not a Godman.
The Dalai Lama: Yes. I am a human being. No question. On my first visit to Israel, some correspondent or media persons from Israel came here, so I used the wrong word. Instead of saying I’m a normal human being, I mentioned I’m a perfect human being or something like that, but I meant that I’m normal, just a human being. So I used the wrong word. When I reached Tel Aviv, some newspaper mentioned it with a little negative attitude, Dalai Lama considers himself as a perfect human being, so they consider that perfect is impossible. So that was another point. When they asked about Hitler, the holocaust, of course I’m a Buddhist. Even Hitler, basically, particularly when young, must be a normal human being, more compassionate.
NDTV: You’re saying you can show compassion for Hitler?
The Dalai Lama: Of course! If I keep hatred, no use. Hitler has already gone.
NDTV: But there are modern day Hitlers, there are modern day terrorists…there are modern day people who perpetrate hate, can you really always turn the other cheek? That’s what Mahatama Gandhi used to say, that’s what Jesus used to say, turn the other cheek…but some would say that’s weak, to turn the other cheek.
The Dalai Lama: I think when Indian Independence was happening, Mahatama Gandhi and some other leaders, were totally dedicated to non-violence, ahimsa and some western powers considered it a weak sign, India’s weakness, but nowadays, that kind of concept has changed. Actually, using violence, using weapons is a sign of weakness, fear. Non violence is a sign of strength, self-confidence and truth. Violence happens if you have no truth, no reason to argue… that’s when they pick up weapons. Even in a husband-wife relationship when some kind of differences happen, if either side have selfish reasons, then the only thing is to shut up or do some physical violence, these are signs of weakness.
NDTV: How does the world deal with an Osama Bin Laden, Taliban…how do we deal with people who kill? Can we really turn the other cheek?
The Dalai Lama: Oh yes of course. Then, as one Buddhist master stated, basically we have to think of the maximum benefit, in some cases in order to seek maximum benefit to larger people, it is permissible to use some harsher words, some harsh sort of physical action, that’s the Buddhist way of thinking. Method is not that important. Important is your goal and your motivation. When you speak some harsh words, harsh physical action, your motivation should not be hatred, but must do it with compassion, or there will be…if someone is doing wrong, something negative, they will suffer, they have to face consequences…like happens with good teachers and good parents, to stop wrongdoing by their children or students, out of a sense of concern, out of sense of compassion, sometimes they may say some harsh words, but this is essentially non violence…on the other hand, desire to cheat, or exploit and harm them, and using nice words and with some gift, is essentially violence. I think in ancient times, people maybe more balanced because their lives were difficult, so trust is in a community was important. In last 2 centuries, technology developed, then human beings totally paid attention to these fields. Usually I tell people to pray, to meditate, your goal may be achieved in next life eventually. But prayers cannot solve your present problem immediately, technology can immediately. Money also has immediate benefits. But through prayer there are no immediate gains. So people totally pay attention to money and technology…a lot of moral crisis happening. Fortunately now, in the latter part of the 20th century, even among rich families, or some leader of big corporations, now there are more and more people now showing the values of spirituality. On a few occasions they invited me to talk, among scientists also. In previous centuries, in past, modern science and spirituality were something totally different… now these things have come closer, and now in the US, some top scientists have really begun a serious interest in our emotions, how to tackle emotion through meditation and so they actually are creating some projects, special research work in these fields. So these are big changes. And also, I think everybody is now talking that we lack moral ethics. For some people, moral ethics must be based on religious faiths, then it becomes very limited. So with religion it is very good but without religion, the basis of ethics, including our own physical health, truthfulness, honesty, transparency, builds more self confidence. Self confidence reduces fear, brings inner strength and so stress gets reduced, fear is reduced, anxiety is reduced, now some medical scientists have begun to realize these things. So this is a hopeful sign.
NDTV: Next question is from Francisco who is here from Argentina.
Francisco: My family is from Argentina and I’ve been studying here for 6 months. In Argentina we have a long history of military dictatorships, and you’ve talked about violence. My question is, given the military occupation of Tibet by the Chinese, given this history of violence throughout South America, given today’s terrorism throughout the world, can there be a positive benefit to having a military?
The Dalai Lama: Maybe under certain circumstance for some period and some kind of emergency, if it is relevant. But the problem again with all those military people is the lack of moral principles. For certain time periods they hold the power and responsibility but then they forget about democracy and only remember the power. Like the Burmese military general and I think few years in Pakistan. Look at India since independence – democratic principle remains permanently. Drawbacks here and there. But I was also telling some spiritual leaders here that I feel proud as the messenger for India wherever I go but within our home, we have problems like caste system or dowry and we must deal with them or address them. Within our home country that I appealed to the spiritual leaders. For example I was in Rishikesh recently and on few occasions in Delhi also. But basically this country is very stable.
NDTV: So military is needed for purpose but they have to let go of power. They can’t.
The Dalai Lama: Short period of emergency but never forever… again related to moral principle
NDTV: Okay we have Bhuvnesh Dubey who runs a school.
Bhuvnesh: Your Holiness your first commitment of promotion of human values, Ahimsa is a part of human values. How much relevant the doctrine of ahimsa in today’s time of violence and Naxalism? What is the reason for the spread of Naxalism in a democratic countries like India and how do we deal with it?
The Dalai Lama: I think violence on global level like including September 11 event . We have to look at these events in a more holistic way. At that time I mentioned to some media people that this event has its own causes and condition. Some of these countries have oil and exploits and use by those interested in as nations. So therefore these are also ultimately the moral ethics. So at that time I expressed a wish that in order to counter these things we have to think at two levels – one is immediate which is to be taken care of by the politicians and the leaders and the second is we have to think long-term as proper education for the promotion of non-violence “ahimsa”. Now in today’s world the reality just one entity, six billion human beings in the continent and just part of one world. Asian future depend on West and vice-versa and Africa. So the whole world is a powerwheel – not like previous centuries. the concept of we and they because of the reality that a lot of future depends on them so with the concept of we and they, destruction is on your side. But now this is no longer that because your enemy is also a part of you and your future depends on them so destruction of your neighbour and your enemy is destruction of yourself. Thus ahimsa no longer means any problems or conflict. Sometimes I tell people that we create our own problems so if we really want to build a peaceful world then human beings must go. So particularly human beings with more shine , more experience create more problems, including myself. So the difference is there. Different approach is there but now we have to find a method of solving these problems without touching the gun and by being non-violent. Through dialogue. So look South African independence movement under the leadership of Nelson Mandela. They actually practiced Mahatma Gandhi’s principles. So you see in Africa white people and black people generally remain quite peaceful, so that’s a realistic approach.
Recently I was in Patna and also I think Orissa and I met with a person from the Parliament and we discussed about this Naxal problem and I mentioned about tribes. He mentioned in the constitution the policy is good and some good points are mentioned to counter these problems but the problem is that the person who implemented these polices does not carry it out seriously and that is the problem. So I heard in some of the Naxalite area or villages no electricity and no water and there attitude towards police was negative and that’s when I stressed that the real transformation of India must start from these villages . Not just few good cities like Hyderabad or Bangalore and Calcutta is good. So it should be more equal. I met some leaders in Delhi and I mentioned that please go and investigate and should not rely on just official report. So therefore these places are neglected which causes frustration which transforms into anger and anger into violence.
Jessica: Do you think the Obama administration is too lenient in polices towards China?
The Dalai Lama: I don’t think, after Copenhagen the new administration gaining more experience. So this is just the beginning, so you will have to wait and see . I think basically there was full sympathy and full support, which is very good. My meeting with him since he became President was a very frank discussion and very good.
NDTV: No disappointments with Obama?
The Dalai Lama: No no.
NDTV: You don’t think he is cozying up to China?
The Dalai Lama: I don’t think so. When I met Obama I reminded him of Indian Prime Minister’s expression – India in economic field is a little behind China but India also has some fundamental values like democracy, rule of law, free press and transparency. These are not only india’s values but also universal values . So I mentioned to Obama that the concept of G-8, G-20 is only for money matters . Unfortunately people and even media pay attention to these values and not the fundamental values. I said my country … I refer to India as my country because I have spent half of my life here and some Chinese officials get furious. If you open my brain I am 100% Indian. I have all the gurus and we are chelaa..and also I mentioned we are quite reliable chelas. So I reminded Obama that Indian Prime Minister’s expression is very important that the West is investing in China but if you always talk money money money then the other side will get a sense of pride which is based on ignorance. Genuine pride must have a sound basis. Some of these drug dealers make lots of money through wrong means and then feel proud…that is wrong. Money is important but must be based on moral principles then should feel proud. So unfortunately in China millions of money come from outside – Taiwan, Western Europe and America. I don’t think much money from India. So with this money they are exploiting cheap labour in China . Actually exploitation is wrong and there is no independent labour union. So exploitation. So basically the world has become always about money, economy and science and never about inner values. So we are facing some crisis in the West. I was returning from Japan and I was told by the younger generation that there is too much stress, anxiety and lonliness and due to which suicide rate is increasing. The standard of life compared to India is much higher in Japan but mentally lots of problems. So within India I have a friend from Sikkim and they mentioned to me last decade or so that lots of development is taking place but in the mean time they also told me that the drug problem and mental stress is going up as well. So these are clear signs that material things and money only provides physical comfort not mental comfort. It comes only through spirituality with religious faith but without spiritual faith moral and secular principal.
NDTV: Your Holiness there is somebody here who has a question on money since we are talking about it.
Woolfgang: Its an honour to speak to you. My question is related to that because I am from Austria who left his job and came to India and left western comforts like so many people do these days . So we feel that that something is missing despite us living comfortably, mabye its called spiritual awakening. So we come to other countries and do volunteering and reads books of you, for example. my question is when we know that life is more than materialistic comforts, shall we try to combine our lifestyle – our materialistic lifestyle with the spiritual puff of life or shall we even reduce or remove the material lifestyle and go in the spiritual levels more?
The Dalai Lama: Combination, combination. Material value. When did I say that follow sprituality and live like a beggar… that is also not good. Of course some people or saints who live in the Himalayas are completely naked. People cannot do that. Majority of people cannot do that. Otherwise the whole world will die of starvation. So material development is very necessary. Material development is not sufficient for 6 million human beings . The Southerners, Africans, many Asians within India still need a lot of further development in the economic field. Now here the Marxist principle also is very important. The moral principal of equal distribution is very important.
Few people become billionaires but many people still remain poorer. Look at America – huge gap… now that famous socialist country also having that gap where few people are billionaires with power and the rest poor particularly in the interiors… gap… huge gap. We still need a lot of material development but at the same time we blindly believe that if you receive the maximum material development all human problems are gone. That’s totally wrong , unrealistic and short-sighted. Only thinking about the physical comfort. All of us have experienced that mentally happy physical discomfort is okay, but mentally unhappy and physical comfort cannot give you happiness. Mental happiness can subdue physical pains. So there is no point in neglecting taking care of our mind . Spirituality does not necessarily mean God, Buddha, but just about mental calmness. So that practice of compassion is very very helpful for a calm mind.
NDTV: I am going to play for you now another message we are carrying from Delhi…it is from the dancer Sonal Man Singh.
Sonal: I offer my prayers and salutation to his holiness Dalai Lama. I think I was a school girl who used to wear a frock and he was a 16 year old and he was visiting India and I showed him his picture and he laughed in his shaky way and hugged me. You know just to be hugged by him and be enveloped. It’s like going into the deep waters of Ganga. So your holiness you are anekshatru, you are yudhpurush and you are what you are. I want to wish you many many healthy fruitful laughter filled years where you spread joy and beauty to all and my one question is how do you do it with all the problems you have faced in your life… fantastic. My humblest namaskar.
NDTV: How do you do it?
The Dalai Lama: There is no other choice. If you rely drugs or alcohol, it’s going to be self-destruction. So we have a wonderful human mind which has the ability to think with reason or fact. So use that maximum way and then become realistic. Once in the 8th century a Buddhist master expressed : when we are facing problems think of the problem and if you can overcome that problem then no need to worry. If there is no way to overcome that problem then don’t worry too much. Very realistic advice.
NDTV: It’s actually extraordinary, your optimism.
NDTV: I want to ask you something, I don’t think I have ever met a spiritual leader, I am not saying holy man or godman, just a spiritual or political leader who is so loved by so many people, how does it not go to your head because many people become arrogant after all this attention?
The Dalai Lama: Oh I see, self discipline and also there are other verses, I continuously recite every day, the verses mention that if you are being loved by everybody and praised by everybody, then you must think that you are the lowest person, I always practice that, and one of the 8th century Nalanda masters said that some people are praising you but some people are also criticising you, think that also,
NDTV: It balances it out.
The Dalai Lama: Yes very good, it is realistic.
NDTV: Tracy Chrisman from England, if you can identify yourself, ther is a queston from Tracy… yes go ahead…
Tracy: My question was regarding the selection process of future Dalai Lamas, do you think that the traditional process will still continue given that what is happening in China about the Panchin Lama?
NDTV: Given that you appointed the Panchin Lama and the Chinese appointed someone else, what will happen to your succession and what if China appoints somebody as the next Dalai Lama?
The Dalai Lama: Unfortunately those Chinese Communist are hardliners, they are quite expert in creating unnecessary problems, look now there are 2 Panchen Lama, one official Panchen Lama, and the other Panchen Lama of Tibetian heart, so all these things create more complications, more resentment with Chinese government, they still seem to have learnt these things, say if I die within this year, the Chinese would choose one boy as a Lama whose parents are more loyal to Chinese Communists, so that’s one official Dalai Lama, but if it means including Tibetans or the Himalayan range people, they also have direct contact with the Dalai Lama institution, then also Mongolian, nowadays you see in other countries, there are people who sort of follow Tibetan and Buddhist religion, so if all these concerned people want to have a Dalai Lama re-incarnation, then they will choose.
NDTV: What is your mind your Holiness about choosing a successor, I know I am taking the same risk as the New York Times reporter but please don’t get angry, what is your mind? Would you like to see someone appointed in your life time?
The Dalai Lama: I am not much concerned about these things. As I have expressed Chinese Communists seem to be more concerned about the Dalai Lama institution than me… political reason of course, silly thinking, and that’s the matter. And at a practical level, no hurry, I am quite healthy, if I don’t commit suicide then otherwise my body is very healthy, another 10 -20 years I can… no problem, maybe 30 years…
NDTV: One of our last questions now, Katherine Schwitz, Catherine are you there? Yes?
Katherine: Just to let you know, your Holiness, first of all Happy Birthday, just, just 10-20 years?… please stay for another 75 years.
NDTV: Not just 10-20 years, stay with us for another 75 years.
The Dalai Lama: Oh that’s a little long I think, it might be a little impossible, maybe a 100 years.
NDTV: A century mark.
The Dalai Lama: Recently I met the former President of India, a great scientist…
NDTV: Abdul Kalam.
The Dalai Lama: He mentioned that his father, when he passed away was 103, also I found in Tibetan settlements, I met Tibetans last year, two years back I think, I met these Tibetans who said their ages were 103, 104, like that, so it is possible now, so up to 105, 110 may be possible, some people say, some prediction by some Tibetan masters some 200 years ago, it was a prediction related to me, in that prediction it said that the person’s longevity was 113, and in the early 60s I had a dream which indicated that my life span was 113, and 2 years back I received this prediction, both were same, also after confirming with my doctors after surgery, so I tell this story in large gatherings where there are a lot of people, sometimes some people in the audience believe that the Dalai Lama has some kind of a healing power, and as far as that is concerned, 2008 I think in October, I went through surgery, so that scientifically proves that Dalai Lama has no healing power, I think it’s quite clear.
NDTV: I think you are the only spiritual leader who is honest enough to say that otherwise many godmen parade that they have healing powers.
The Dalai Lama: So you see, after they checked my body post the surgery, one specialist described as me as a young patient, so I told him that I am not a young patient, I was 73 then, then he said that he knew my age but my body condition was in the 60s, that’s why he called me a young patient.
NDTV: Well may it always stay that way, you had to ask a question, go ahead.
Katherine: Your Holiness, there has been some discussion about full ordination of nuns in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and there are some obstacles to this which you your holiness had described in a conference in Hamburg in 2007 as old fashioned thinking in the society that they wouldn’t accept this for nuns, last year your Holiness said that you might be reincarnated as a woman and the Dalai Lama would be a woman,so how does your Holiness think that the Tibetan society would accept a female Dalai Lama when they are having trouble accepting fully ordained nuns?
The Dalai Lama: This question is not that way in meaning, you see the Bhikkhunis, the highest ordination of buddhist nuns, there is some hesitation, not due to public reluctance, the public of course, the Budhha himself gave the same right, to bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, so everybody has the right to achieve that, the question is now technical, the rinaya vow must be followed according to the rinaya rules, so there are some problems at the technical level, so if the next reincarnation is deemed more effective if female through the spiritual traditions and spiritual ways, I have no problem.
NDTV: So your successor could be a woman? Okay Swati, next question, if we can get you the mike please…
Swati: Happy Birthday your Holiness, I am a psychologist by profession from Dharamshala, my question is how do you deal with the conflicts and confusions of the young Tibetan minds, who are growing up in India with worldly ambitions and desires?
NDTV: Because some of them have never even been to Tibet, born in India, rooted there..
The Dalai Lama: I think, generally, Tibetan cultural heritage, Tibetan Buddhist teachings, everybody considers it like their dearest mother, so that kind of feeling makes tremendous difference. Some Tibetans including my late physician, and many other companions died through torture, starvation, but most people including him had a mental state that was very calm. At one of our such meetings where we were discussing mental calmness I mentioned these things, so some scientists actually examined these people, and they were surprised, they told me that these people have gone through great risks including risks of life but their mind are very calm, and one particular monk, now his age is 93, he had the opportunity to come over here and join this monastry in the 80s. We happened to be talking one day and he mentioned that during those 18-19 years in the Chinese gulakhs, he faced danger and to which I asked what kind of danger, he said, danger of losing compassion towards the Chinese. So people have that kind of attitude. It’s very important to keep compassion towards a perpretrator, so deliberately by keeping it that way, their mental state is calm. Now Tibetan of the younger generation, who are born in this country with a Tibet like atmosphere, still think much more like Tibetans, those Tibetans who have grown up in Tibet have grown up in a much more intense situations, violent situations etc. Some local Indians sometimes in Kulu Manali, they expressed anger. The previous generation of Tibetans, 1000s were making roads, see those Tibetans were very gentle, very peaceful. Nowadays, the young Tibetans behave differently, they are okay with that, even the people of Dharamshala are okay with it.
NDTV: They are all nodding in agreement.
The Dalai Lama: These are signs of degenerating Tibetan culture heritage inside Tibet, so now here Tibetans who bring up a Tibetan community are comparatively still better, but we still need a lot of work. One, in the early 60s, with immense help from the Indian government and Pandit Nehru himself took the responsibility of providing proper education to the young Tibetans, and all expenses met by Indian government, the Indian government has created a special committee for Tibetan schools to be built separately, all this aiming to preserver Tibetan culture , Tibetan spirituality but of course education according to the normal Indian education, so some people have to question, whether the existing education system, Indian education system is really suitable or not. Some question marks there. India’s own traditional education system there that may be more like the monastry but the present education system was introduced by British colonists, more and more also people are now questioning the modern education system. It’s not adequate regarding warm heartedness or moral principles because 1000 years ago when this education systems started, then these moral ethics were taken care of by the Church. Now as time passes, the church influence has reduced, the family values also reduced so the education system alone has to take both education for brain and for warm heartedness, so now you see even in India it is questionable, in fact during Indira Gandhi ji, I had some lengthy discussions then I mentioned the Himalayan range, this area, the education system should have more of research work so then Indira Gandhi ji appointed three professors from some university in Delhi, then soon after she was assassinated, so we need some research work, hope to introduce in Tibetan and Indian school also, education about moral ethics, without touching religion. Then India is a multi-religious country. So one religion is difficult. So a common sort of practice, love, compassion, forgiveness, these are common to every religion. And for non believers also. Now through scientific findings and also common sense, warm heartedness is the key factor for a happy family, happy community. After all we are social animal. So there must be some force emotionally to bring us together. Hating each other, how can develop general cooperation. So social animal must cooperate. So general principle is based on trust, friendship. Friendship is based on trust. So trust is very much related to warmheartedness. If you have extreme self centered attitude there is possibility to develop thinking how to exploit it, how to bully this, how to cheat this. If you have warm heartedness, all members of society respect their rights, develop a sense of concern for their well being. So there is no room for cheating, for exploitation like that. So these are the secular ethics without attaching religion. That way I think this country can easily develop. So we are working on it and discussing with a number of scientists and educationists. The younger people in India have more desire for money. So there is corruption also. Although this country is comparatively better. But still corruption exists. So these are the signs of lack of moral principles. So few religious leaders are talking about moral principles that it may not have reached the masses. Now we must introduce in education since kindergarten about moral principle without touching religion. That’s a secular sort of moral ethics.
NDTV: I want to end with one of your friends Professor Chaman Lal Gupta, will like to share a personal story with us like Mr Sharma, we want to know things that we don’t know already.
Chaman Lal Gupta: I came in contact with his Holiness in 1999 for the first time. It was his birthday, and we came to him from Bharatidas Sahiyog Math and after having talks with him, I asked him how is it that you are a Buddhist but you are also a strong believer in ahimsa or non violence, yet you consume meat like others, how do you corelate this situation? And secondly I asked him , what are your shortcomings? He said two – my love for watches and second imitating. While going out he caught hold of my arm and asked the photographer to photograph us , and I still have that photograph with me in my study and it is the most precious treasure that I have in my life.
NDTV: Your Holiness, do you still think that meat eating and watches are your only 2 flaws? And as flaws go they are pretty innocent.
The Dalai Lama: My eyes are fond of watches, they are one of my weaknesses. I have several watches but this watch is truly exploited because my friends in America, India, Japan and everywhere else, when I have visited some institution they have given me a present. My first present a watch that I got was from President Roosevelt, 1942, I was then 7 year old. Here is a strange story – with that watch and a silver mat, and a letter – as a 7 year old boy, no interest in that letter, only interested in that watch, I put the silver mat on a small pond, it sank and that was shameful. As soon as I got information about a delegation, Major Tolstoy and another friend, when the British mission reached Lhasa, I got the information through foreign ministry officials that they had reached, then I was told about the watch, then before a formal meeting I said bring the watch… how bad, is it? That boy had too much greed, the letter I never saw till my meeting with Obama this time, he kindly copied that original letter for me, since 1942, till 2010, 70 years later, I saw the letter.
NDTV: Did Obama give you a watch?
The Dalai Lama: No, this watch came recntly in a parcel from America. Then about taking meat, there are some contardictions but in vinaya no prohibition in eating meat, so monks in Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, they take both veg and non veg food. One time I asked, discussed this subject with a monk from Sri Lanka about 40 years ago, he said Buddhist monks are neither veg nor non veg… he should accept whatever he gets, so that’s the principle. But vinaya clearly mentions that meat which was purposely killed for you was not to be eaten but in general was not prohibited, some books like langaavatarasutra prohibited any kind of meat, including fish etc but some other texts not prohibiting, so different case, I think practically in northern part of Tibet, no vegetables. Very difficult. So that’s practical reason. However, my age, about 13, 14, all Tibetan official festival, offered a lot of meat – I changed all to vegetarian food. Then, in 59 come to India. Around 65, I became a vegetarian.
The Dalai Lama: Better. Philosophical reason. 20 months I remained strict vegetarian. At that time I took advice from some of my Indian friends about the substitutes of meat. Lot of milk, cream and …then in 67 I developed gall bladder, hepatitis. So my wole body became yellow. So at that time I become like living Buddha. Whole body yellow. Nails also yellow. It remained I think for about 3 weeks. So Tibetan physician, as well as alopathic physician advised me to take meat. So back to origianl diet. Meantime, all our monasteries in south India, also Namying monastery, common kitchen, serve only vegetarian food. In south India monasteris, population 300-400, all vegetarian food. Also in foreign countries when I visit Buddhist centers I always ask them. Now it is up to the individual. But as a society, as a institution, when they give some sort of a festival,it must be vegetarian. That business started the gall bladder trouble. Finally, surgery. So that’s the background. So my own case, meat once or twice a week, otherwise vegeteranian. So I tried to become a vegetarian but still difficult. I think it’s useful to know the whole background.
NDTV: Any regrets?
The Dalai Lama: Small small things almost everyday. Like right here, too hot. So this garment, maybe a thinner one maybe nice. Then one occassion in Delhi some business meeting, again same question. I mentioned it. Come to Delhi in a charter plane. I thought Delhi is hot. So thin cloth. But when I reached the hotel, the air conditioning was so powerful and it was very cold. So I mention this one regret. Major regret – I think during my study period, around 10 years, I was rather lazy. So I used to often tell people the way I studied at young age under threat of whip by my tutor. Very stern when I was young. He never smiled. And he kept a whip. At that time his father, my elder brother, used to study together, so 2 whips there. One normal whip, one yellow whip. Holy whip. So for holy student, holy whip is relevant. So holy whip may not bring holy pain, just ordinary pain. Therefore, I fear that whip. So that I feel little bit of regret. So still now 75, whenever I have time,I read, I study Tibetan scripts, those text written by Nagarjuna, these days I am reading another text by a disciple of Nagarjuna. So otherwise, in the political field, and some other field, since I took responsibility at 16, since then till now, on any major decision,I have no regrets.
NDTV: That in itself is extraordinary. You have lived an extraordinary life.
The Dalai Lama: I think one reason is that I am the type of person who always discusses, who always asks for opinions, including from sweepers. Now for example, in the 50’s things were difficult, then some major decisions had to be taken. Besides consulting higher officials, I always asked my sweeper, my close friend, what they would feel? That I always do. So any major decision – firstly, utilise my own brain in the maximum way, look at the problem in a holistic way, and secondly, ask opinion from different people including state oracles, advisers. If I do no reach a final decision and still some dilemma exists, I also, as a Buddhist meditational, use some sort of spiritual method to investigate like the 5th Dalai Lama. So I do that. So all major decisions since I carried the responsibility since I was16 years old, if I faced some dilemma, I describe as mysterious investigation. So until now, all the major decisions, no mistake. So I feel, happy
NDTV: May you go from strength to strength…it was a pleasure meeting you.