"I was very young, very radical in those days. Halfway into our six-week tour, we were in Switzerland. His Holiness ( the Dalai Lama ) was staying at a private home near Zurich. I was beginning to feel frustrated because so far he had said very little about Tibet in public."
"He was talking about religion instead?" i asked.
"He was talking about the things he talks about all the time - universal responsibility, compassion, the good heart. But lots of people also wanted to know about Tibet. I felt he was not doing enough for the Tibetan people. I remember well the house he was staying in, a huge chalet, full of beautiful stained-glass windows. One early morning, i walked into his room. He knew immediately that i was agitated, that i had something in my mind."
"He could read you very well," I said.
"Yes. He said to me:"What is it?" I said,"Your Holiness, I think you should speak more about Tibet. This is a tremendous opportunity; we need to tell the world more about the suffering of our people." He said:"It's true, yes, i understand. In fact, i have also thought i should talk more about Tibet. But you know, many of these people have so many problems on their minds. They come to me with some kind of false hope that i'll be able to lift their burden, which i can't. I feel i have no right to send them out with an extra burden: a burden of my own." Tears came into my eyes when i heard that."
From "The Wisdom of Forgiveness" by Victor Chan
An interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama
By Parveen Chopra and Swati Chopra
Policemen in mufti swarm around the plush hotel room in Delhi, crackling
wirelesses in hand. Spared routine security checks, we are ushered into an
antechamber and politely asked to wait-His Holiness the Dalai Lama is
meeting a foreign diplomat.
Minutes (that seem like centuries) later, we are led to an inner suite, a
temporary abode of the Yeshe Norbu ('Wish fulfilling jewel') of Tibet. We
await him with a mixture of awe and reverence compounded by the presence of
his somber attendants. Nothing prepares us for the boisterous, maroon-robed
monk who walks in, greeting everyone loudly and shaking hands warmly all
around. We are finally face to face with the Presence (Kundun in Tibetan).
The next hour is spent in communion with the man, his beliefs, his faith,
and of course, his laughter. It seems that His Holiness has perfected the
'art of laughing', if one may call it that. He uses it to punctuate
philosophical debate, at times to bridge the awkward silence as he thinks up
a suitable reply to a question, but most of all, to convey his innate joie
de vivre. It is infectious and we join in heartily each time his laughter
booms out. We are fortunate to partake of the Dalai Lama's reservoir of
loving-kindness, if only for a few fleeting moments.
You seem to exist on numerous planes-as a world figure, the temporal and
spiritual head of Tibet, a world-renowned spiritual master. Yet you often
refer to yourself as a simple monk. Who is the real you?
I see myself as a monk first, then as a practitioner of the Nalanda (the
world reknown Buddhist education center of India, established around 200
B.C.) tradition of wisdom. Masters of Nalanda such as Nagarjuna, Aryadeva,
Aryasangha, Dharmakeerti, Chandrakeerti and Shantideva have written the
scriptures that we, as Tibetan Buddhists, study and practice. They are all
my gurus. I feel that I might have interacted with them in previous
lifetimes. When I read their books and meditate upon their names, I feel a
connection. At this point, I don't say that I belong to the Hinayana or the
Mahayana traditions, but to the lineage of Nalanda.
You are called the 'living Buddha'...?
The term 'living Buddha' is a translation of the Chinese word 'ho fu'. In
Tibetan, the operative word is 'lama' which means 'guru'. A guru is someone
who is not necessarily a Buddha but is heavy with knowledge. I believe that
previous Dalai Lamas were manifestations of Avalokiteshwara (the Buddha of
compassion) and the fifth Dalai Lama is believed to be an incarnation of
Manjushree. I am fortunate to be the reincarnation of all these great lamas!
Can anyone become a Buddha?
Oh yes! All sentient beings have the seed of the Buddha within them.
It is also said that eventually all sentient beings will attain Buddhahood?
Yes, this is so because all negative emotions of the mind can be eliminated.
Once the mind is purified, you are a Buddha.
How would you describe the Buddhist concept of shunyata?
Shunyata is different from Buddhahood. It is the ultimate reality of
everything. To purify the mind it is essential to know the nature of
reality, which is shunyata. Negative emotions arise from a misconception of
reality. In order to remove suffering, you have to meditate on shunyata.
What does our world need to become a better place?
Undoubtedly we need to be more compassionate.
How can we practice compassion?
Through awareness! I think that ignorance and afflictive emotions, called
klesh in Sanskrit, give rise to unwanted circumstances. As far as ignorance
is concerned, not just Buddhism, every religion recognizes it as the source
of suffering. All over the world, much effort is put in education. It is
something sacred as it helps to get rid of ignorance. But we have to be
careful about the kind of education we impart to our children. Now I see
well-educated people who are so unhappy. Sometimes, I think those who use
their minds too much are unhappier than the simple people who don't. Why do
they become unhappy? It is because of too much desire, hatred, and jealousy.
The antidote to weaken that is increasing the right kind of knowledge. I
think, perhaps knowledge coupled with a warm heart brings wisdom.
Compassion, or karuna, stems from wisdom. For instance, animals with their
limited intelligence, are happier and more peaceful than we are. Even so, I
have observed that animals become aggressive during the mating season
because there is now attachment to the mate. Attachment awakens feelings of
klesh within them. Similarly for us, if there is less attachment and
jealousy, we are able to focus within.
I believe that whether a person follows any religion or not is unimportant,
he must have a good heart, a warm heart. This is essential for a happy life,
which is much more important than Buddhahood. This is part of what I call
Are we not conditioned by our past karma that may not allow us to be loving
and compassionate? How can karma be transcended?
By acting with awareness.
How can we live in awareness?
Analyze! Let's take the example of Mahatma Gandhi. Physically, he was frail.
Although he was well educated, there are others who are better educated than
he was. Why then did he become a mahatma? It was because of his heart. He
did not act for himself or in his own interest; that is karuna. Karuna, I
think, is the main element in becoming a good person. Stalin, Lenin, Mao
Zedong were powerful leaders. But they lacked karuna and became unpopular.
Compassion automatically brings happiness and calmness. Then, even if you
receive disturbing news, it will be easier to take, as your mind is still.
But if you are agitated, even a minor happening will upset you greatly.
How does one bring about calmness?
Hatred, jealousy and excessive attachment cause suffering and agitation. I
feel that, again, it is compassion that can help you overcome these to move
into a calm state of mind. Compassion is not being kind to your friend. That
is attachment because it is based on expectation. Karuna is when you do
something good without expectations, even without knowing the other person.
It is in realizing that the other person is also just like me. That
recognition is the basis on which you can develop karuna, not only towards
those around you but also towards your enemy. Normally, when we think about
our enemy, we think about harming him. Instead, try to remember that the
enemy is also a human being. He or she has the right to be happy, just as
you do. Talking about myself, maybe I too have some enemies.
Are you talking about China?
No, no! I am talking hypothetically. If one has an enemy, one would want him
to suffer. Whenever you feel hatred towards the enemy, think of him as a
human being. That is actual karuna because you are feeling it for your
enemy. You don't have the other's kindness to base your compassion upon; the
other is actually harming you! That is why I say real karuna is unbiased.
What we normally feel is biased karuna, as it is mixed with attachment.
Genuine karuna flows towards all sentient beings, particularly towards your
enemy. You must keep in mind that developing karuna might not benefit the
other directly. If I try to develop karuna towards my enemy, he might not
even be aware of it. But it will immediately benefit me! How? By calming my
mind. On the other hand, if I keep thinking how awful everything is, I will
immediately lose my peace of mind.
And that will help the enemy?
It is not necessarily helping the enemy as much as harming yourself. By
changing your thoughts, you immediately get inner peace. Many people also
think that the practice of karuna benefits others and not oneself. That sort
of thinking is a grave mistake. It must be overcome through awareness,
which, as I mentioned earlier, comes from analyzing.
Even modern medical researchers have come to the conclusion that peace of
mind is vital to good health. Experiments show that it is easier for those
who practice love and compassion to regain a peaceful state of mind after
In May this year, I witnessed an experiment performed on a monk at Wisconsin
University who was subjected to a loud sound. It had little impact on him
and he was able to regain his composure without much difficulty. This goes
to prove that the practice of compassion actually calms you down
I am not saying that compassion must be practiced because the Buddha taught
it. No. It must be practiced equally by the Buddhist, the Hindu, the Jain,
the Christian. It is part of the 'secular ethics' that I talk about. There
is nothing sacred or religious about aspiring to a calm mind. People just
need to realize that it is good for our health! My approach is to promote
values that enable the individual to have a calm mind.
Having a calm mind actually works wonders. Recognizing this would help me
want to develop it.
This has to be made clear to every individual, even to children. It is
important to make the child realize that if he loses his temper, he will
suffer. If he is able to be more compassionate, he will feel more joy even
while playing. If you smile, life becomes sweeter. After all, if I smile at
you, you will smile back!
Don't you ever experience anger?
Oh yes, I do. Negative emotions come and go. I do not think they remain
within me for long. If you let anger remain within you, it leads to
ill-feeling and hatred.
How do you deal with anger?
Through my clear conviction about compassion. I think negative emotions are
part of my mind. It is quite natural to feel angry when faced with problems.
But you can change.
Can we say that awareness of your emotions helps in dealing with them?
If you are able to recognize the moment when anger arises, you will be able
to distinguish the part of your mind that is feeling anger. This will divide
your mind in two parts-one part will be feeling anger while the other will
be trying to observe. Therefore anger cannot dominate the entire mind. You
are able to recognize that anger is harmful and maybe develop an antidote to
it. View your anger objectively. Try to see the positive side of the
anger-causing person or event. All these ideas are not Tibetan inventions,
they are Nalanda inventions, your inventions! (laughs uproariously) We
Tibetans are the chelas (students) and India is the guru. But today, our
guru is getting too materialistic, perhaps becoming too orthodox on one hand
and too westernized on the other. I think it is time that Indians get
Since you have been stressing 'secular values', would you not prescribe
spiritual practices because they owe allegiance to some tradition?
I would recommend what I call 'analytical meditation'. It is scientific, as
the main job of a scientist is to analyze. When you meditate, you shift your
focus from the external to the internal, emotional world.
That's why the Buddha is said to be a great psychologist?
Undoubtedly, because he taught the science of the mind.
What is the goal of human life? What are we born to achieve?
To be happy!
What is the purpose of existence?
Happiness for others or ourselves?
Take the example of a plant. What is the goal of its existence?
Service to others?
May be the plant just is! It doesn't have fixed goals. It just grows. The
plant has no mind, so to speak. Animals also seem to have happiness as their
Nature never remains static; growth is essential for a human being. Why do
we always say 'Happy Birthday' and never 'Happy Deathday'? Because we don't
want to see the end. The human mind is attracted to growth, beginning and
freshness. Compassion thus is the force of growth and development while
anger is destruction.
If the goal of life is happiness, where does nirvana fit in?
Now you are talking about another level. At the first level, you need to
practice basic human values. Then, you can talk of nirvana, which means
permanent cessation of suffering. So we come back to happiness!
How can nirvana be made possible?
(Laughs) It is possible because it is possible to eliminate all negative
emotions! When Buddha Sakyamuni experienced mahaparinirvana, his mind ceased
and he was freed from the karmic cycle of birth and death. Nagarjuna says
clearly that the pure mind has no counterforce, and only those that have a
counterforce can cease, like matter. The mind, and space too, have no
counterforce and so have no reason to cease. In the case of other afflictive
emotions, they might end if they have strong positive counter forces. But in
case of the mind, we cannot say that it will come to an end, as it is
difficult to find a strong antidote that will hinder its existence, as in
the case of space. Here, you could argue by saying that in that case, could
we put an end to loving-kindness or compassion because they have strong
counter-forces? On investigation, we will realize that kindness and love
usually accompany wisdom whereas anger and hatred might seem strong but have
no praman (proof/basis)
valid perception. Based on this, the more you analyze, the more you will be
able to hold on to reality. If it is something wrong, however strong it
appears, as you analyze it, its falsehood will be revealed.
Suppose you feel angry with a person called Gupta, ask yourself: 'Who is
Gupta?' 'Is he a body, or is he a mind?' You will see that there is no
answer. Immediately, the feeling of hatred subsides, as it has not found a
target. But karuna (compassion) is different as it is not dependent on
identifying a target. Because of this, Buddhist philosophy refers to karuna
as the mind that does not perceive the object. Maitri (amity), karuna and
bodhichitta (the matured soul) do not perceive any object. Did you get the
Of course, this is the Buddhist explanation and is very precise. I think it
is because of the richness of Sanskrit, which is highly developed in this
Aren't the original Buddhist teachings in Pali?
All the Nalanda masters wrote in Sanskrit but Vinaya and Abhidharma
teachings are in Pali.
The Buddha was silent on the question of God. What about you?
Why did the Buddha not say anything about God? Because he talked about the
law of causality. Once you accept the law of cause and effect, the
implication is that there is no 'creator'. If the Buddha accepted the
concept of a creator, he would not have been silent; everything would have
Who caused the law of causality?
About that, the Buddha would say 'the mind', never God or dharmakaya or even
the Buddha himself.
How did the mind come about?
The source of mind is nature. The word that been used for existence is
'interdependent arising'. Talking of God, who created God? There is no point
arguing. Dharmakeerti and Shantideva debate the existence of God and reach
the conclusion that if we believe in a benevolent creator, how do we explain
suffering? I remember a funny incident. In Tibetan drama, criticism is
allowed and even the Buddha is not spared. There was this man acting
on-stage and he was saying that he did not believe in God. If God made us,
he said, instead of putting both the eyes in the front, one should be at the
back! We would have been more efficient that way. Jokes apart, the idea is
not to disrespect any religion but to analyze the nature of reality.
Do you see any common ground between Buddhism and Hinduism?
Historically, Buddha Sakyamuni was a Hindu. So I would like to call Hinduism
and Buddhism twin brothers. Then there are common practices like samadhi and
vipassana. The demarcation comes in the concept of shunyata. Whereas Hindus
believe in atma, Buddhists believe in anatma. In practicing ahimsa, Jains
are more thorough than either Buddhists or Hindus.
Aldous Huxley talked of 'perennial philosophy'-
all religions. Do you believe in that?
That is difficult to say. At one level, all religious traditions have the
same aim-to transform the individual into a positive being. At another
level, theistic religions do not have the concept of nirvana.
You travel all over the world. Do you think that by and large, the world is
moving towards being more positive?
I would like to quote Britain's Queen Mother on this. On her 96th birthday,
I asked her the same question. She said that it was becoming better because
when she was young, for instance, nobody was concerned about the
environment, human rights or the right to self-determination. Today, these
have become universal values. When Gandhiji implemented ahimsa, I think
everyone took it as a sign of weakness. Now the entire world, except perhaps
China, accepts nonviolence and practices it, like Nelson Mandela. India has
not only given birth to great religious tradition like Hinduism, Buddhism,
Sikhism but has also sheltered many, like Zoroastrianism, Islam,
Christianity. The religious tolerance we see around the world is also an
Do you think that China is changing?
Yes, I think China is also in the process of changing.
Any message for the readers of Life Positive?
Life can be pleasant or miserable. To lead a fruitful life, and to make it
positive, practice analytical meditation. And remember that calmness and
compassion are an important part of human life. I hope that all Life
Positive readers will pay greater attention to inner values.
Pope meets Dalai Lama
Vatican says visit was private, religious issues on agenda (ANSA)
Vatican City, October 13 - Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai
Lama met Pope Benedict XVI on Friday in a private meeting which the
Vatican played down for diplomatic reasons .
The visit was "private" and focused exclusively on "religious" matters,
a Vatican spokesman said .
According to Vatican watchers, the visit was kept as low key as possible
in order to avoid angering China, with which the Catholic Church has an
already strained relationship .
The pope's meeting with the Tibetan leader was not listed among his
official audiences. Journalists were kept well away and no pictures of
the encounter have been released .
The Vatican broke off relations with China in 1951, after the Communist
revolution, and since then the country's roughly eight million Catholics
faithful to Rome have been persecuted and driven underground .
The Dalai Lama is seen by Beijing as a "political plotter" who aims to
split the country. He does not recognise Chinese rule in Tibet and in
1989 won the Nobel peace prize for his non-violent opposition to it .
Neither the Vatican nor the Dalai Lama gave any indication that their
respective grievances had been discussed during today's meeting .
The 71-year-old leader has abandoned former demands for full
independence for the six million Tibetans and now calls for a "one
country, two systems" formula which would preserve Tibet's culture and
He arrived in Italy earlier this week for a visit, which includes
meetings with institutional figures but not the president or premier .
On Thursday he met the Senate Speaker Franco Marini and House Speaker
Fausto Bertinotti, explaining that his people is "not asking for
independence but real autonomy" .
"Now in Tibet there is greater repression and I am considered a
separatist, while in fact I work for unity," he continued .
Bertinotti said he "fully supported the (Dali Lama's) non-violent battle" .
The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959, when he fled
Tibet following a failed revolt against Chinese rule .
He met the previous pope, John Paul II, eight times .
Dalai Lama: don't stimatize muslims
October 09, 2006
Another voice has been heard from regarding the "demonization" of Muslims by U.S. officials and media: the Dalai Lama has weighed in on the subject, noting the dangers involved in "stigmatizing" this ethnic group, by painting with too broad a brush.
A story from dpa German Press Agency quotes the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate as calling it "dangerous to give the impression" of a "culture clash between the West and Islam." He also notes the presence of "wicked people among Christians, Hindus and Buddhists."
In his remarks delivered at a conference, the exiled religious leader also denied that he was seeking independence from China for his native Tibet. Instead, he said, the goal was "a meaningful autonomy," one that would "facilitate the protection of Tibetan culture, language, spirituality and the environment.
The Dalai Lama, who turned 71 on Sunday, is the titular head of Tibetan Buddhism, despite his exile. He was flown from Tibet to India in 1959 by Chinese occupying troops and has lived in exile in Dharamsala in northern India ever since. - ST