The voyage to France of Tenzin Gyatso, better known as the Dalai Lama, has drawn plenty of comment, good and bad. Loved or loathed, at 73, the Nobel Peace Prize winner likes to present himself as a simple Buddhist monk. But he has become a global celebrity. Before heading back to India, his home in exile for 50 years, the Dalai Lama spoke to euronews, and explained some of his views on life.
Dalai Lama: Tibet is something mysterious. Someone from that land is a curiosity. And, perhaps because of the explosion of information, more and more people are showing an interest in some of my ideas. My main sort of message, or idea, is naturally every human being has a right to a happy life and a happy family. Yet generally, in order to achieve that, we simply pay attention to money, to material values. We don’t pay adequate attention to our inner values. Another thing is the harmony among different religious traditions. Some Christian friends describe me as a good Christian. We have a common experience, a common practice in spite of a different philosophy. And then, perhaps some people say to me they love my smile!
Euronews: The Olympic Games are coming to an end, nations are celebrating their champions. Meanwhile, you say Tibet is still enduring a new cultural revolution. What is the situation now as we speak in Tibet?
Dalai Lama: Basically, things are very tense. A lot of army, a lot of security personnel everywhere. And everywhere in the Tibetan community, according to reports, officials are starting the construction of military barracks. That means the military presence will now be permanent. That indicates the aggressive policy will continue.
Euronews: Do you plan any changes in your approach, in the middle way approach, or any concessions to the Chinese, who don’t trust you when you say you don’t want indpendence? Who do not recognise your government-in-exile, who do not recognise the Tibetan flag, the anthem? Are there any sacrifices, any concessions you would be ready to make?
Dalai Lama: Because it is in our interest, we are fully-committed to remaining in the People’s Republic of China. Because Tibet is a materially-backward, landlocked coutnry with a small population, therefore it is in our interest to remain within the People’s Republic of China. In the meantime, we have our own language, and with that a sophisticated cultural heritage and and a particularly rich Buddhist tradition. It is not only the six million Tibetan people concerned, but also a large number of people in that part of the world who share the same Buddhist culture. The best way of preserving a culture, and also of taking maximum care for the environment, is that, except in foreign affairs and defence, the education and economy and of course religious matters, all this should be handled by Tibetans themselves. So, autonomy. Actually, the Chinese constitution provides all Tibetan ethnic groups with the status of autonomy. And also, according to the Chinese white paper on rights for minorities, on paper, the points mentioned are very good. But they are not implemented!
Euronews: There are divisions amongst the Buddhist community and the Tibetan Buddhists. Some of the younger generation, for instance, disagree with the middle way, and are getting impatient. Do you fear more violence?
Dalai Lama: I don’t think! Even the youth organisation, the Tibetan youth organisation, as far as the non-violent principle is concerned, they fully support that. Then, regarding independence, the other political stance, right from the beginning they want complete independence. We are fully-committed to democracy. So, different voices, different views, different ideas are most welcome.
Euronews: The American President, George Bush, in Europe Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown, they have all met you this year. But you will not meet President Sarkozy who is also the current President of the European Commission, but M Bernard Kouchner and Mme Carla Bruni-Sarkozy are seeing you. Are show business personalities more useful to Tibet than political leaders?
Dalai Lama: For publicity perhaps! But of course, the French government, the President and also the Foreign Minister right from the beginning, immediately after the 10th March crisis, they publically expressed their concern.
Euronews: What do you expect from world leaders?
Dalai Lama: China is the most populous nation and a very important nation. So good relations with that nation are very, very important. Meantime, China should be brought into the mainstream of world democracy. Democracy, the rule of law, openness, free information, free media, these are very important, And, of course, human rights and religious freedom, these are universal values. And in these principles, all concerned people or governments should stand firm.
Euronews: And when political leaders such as, again, the French President, go to the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony, sell two nuclear reactors to China, and do not meet you, do you think that helps democracy?
Dalai Lama: You have to judge!
Euronews: You have suggested in your meetings this week that maybe the European Union headquarters should go to a place like Poland, or that Russia should join NATO and its headquarters should be in Moscow. Do you have a problem with Brussels?
Dalai Lama: No! No, no, no! I’m one of the admirers of the European Union. I always praise that. My point is that the European Union spirit must extend. And now, unfortunately, although the Soviet Union has changed in the Russian Federation it seems the old thinking, all sort of old tendencies or habits are now returning! It is not good! So the great nation of Russia must be brought into the world and European community. And in order to reduce distance and fear, NATO should move to Moscow! And Russia be welcomed by the member states. Then fear will go! That’s my reason. Not at all that I am angry with Brussels. No! Never!
Euronews: Compassion is central in your philosphy. Can it apply to every situation in the world? Can it apply where terrorism is concerned for instance?
Dalai Lama: Oh yes! Compassion means towards the person, not the action. Now, for example, terrorism. When a terrorist as a person is concerned, we should show our concern, our compassion. They are also human beings. If we keep compassion towards them, there is real possibility of change. Because of their behaviour. If we keep hatred towards them, that means increasing terrorists. Today, one bin Laden; next ten bin Ladens. After that, a hundred bin Ladens is possible. So, in order to stop that, compassion is the only force. But only as far as you keep compassion to this wrong-doer. As far as their actions are concerned, we have to oppose.
Euronews: People speculate and wonder about your succession. You talk about retirement quite often, but you are full of energy. So, what would really make you retire?
Dalai Lama: My main commitments, two commitments, are the promotion of human values, and promotion of religious harmony. Then, the third commitment is about the Tibetan struggle. So, when the Tibetan struggle is concerned, it is the people’s struggle. As long as I remain, I have to make a contribution. I have to help serve them. But the real responsibility must be carried by people themselves. So the Lama’s rule is now outdated. In case the Tibetan people feel this institution is no longer relevant, OK if that feeling comes, then the Dalai Lama institution will cease. I would prefer that! Because the 14th Dalai Lama is not the best Dalai Lama. But of course, he is not the worst Dalai Lama! He’s quite popular! So, if at that stage, the Dalai Lama institution ceases, then this Dalai Lama will cease or go with grace. It’s much better! Another re-incarnation can eventually become a disgrace, that is the worst!