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Dalai Lama Enlisted To Change Islam Image
SAN FRANCISCO, April 17, 2006, (UPI) -- The Dalai Lama met in San Francisco
with prominent Muslim dignitaries to seek ways to improve their faith's
declining image in the West.
"The 90 percent of the Muslim world that is moderate and peace-loving wants
to overcome the radical ideologies of the rest," said Dan Kranzler, one of
the gathering's sponsors. "If there is anyone in the world who can cheat the
odds and make that happen it's the Dalai Lama."
The Dalai Lama is the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, but Islam has
no similar central authority to unite its members. Muslims around the globe
interpret the faith differently and are more divided among themselves.
The summit was a measure of the concern among moderate Muslim leaders and
scholars about religious extremism and increasingly negative views of their
faith arising from Western concerns about terrorism, The Los Angeles Times
"Islam is one of the world's great religions and it carries, basically, a
message of love and compassion," the Dalai Lama said. "Those people who
claim to be Muslims, if they create bloodshed, that is not genuine Islam."
Dalai Lama: Tibet Wants Autonomy, Not Independence
TIME,  Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006
Tibet's spiritual leader speaks
The Dalai Lama's schedule is usually set seven years in advance, but the
Tibetan spiritual leader made a rare change to his plans in order to attend
a San Francisco conference convened by Muslim leaders to discuss religious
tolerance. His Holiness, as Tibetans call him, spoke with Time's Amanda
Bower about Islam, his hopes to return to his homeland after 47 years in
exile, and his hobby of tinkering with timepieces.
TIME: What was so important about this conference that you changed your
schedule to attend?
THE DALAI LAMA: I have two major commitments. Number one is the promotion of
human values - not because of religious belief, but because of biological
reasoning. We need peace of mind. Peace of mind is good for health, good for
community, good for family, and also for physical growth. A peaceful mind is
more proper. A disturbed mind, harmful. My number two commitment, as a
believer, is for harmony among the different religious traditions. In the
last 20, 30 years, I made these two commitments whenever I had the
opportunity. As far as the promotion of religious harmony is concerned, I
think I made some contribution, at least between the Tibetan Buddhist
community and our Christian brothers and sisters. I think we have very good,
close understanding. For example, there are many Christian practitioners now
showing their respect and understanding about Buddhist concepts, as there is
among Buddhists now an appreciation of Christian contribution for the
betterment of the world and humanity.
Personally, from my childhood, there is a Muslim community in Lhasa [Tibet's
capital] for the last four centuries. Very peaceful. Very gentle. No
quarrels. Nowadays, in the outside world, sometimes people get the
impression Muslims are more militant. I think that is wrong. I think these
wrong impressions must be eliminated. They are no good for the world.
[Islam] is one of the important world religious traditions that we must
TIME: But everyone gathered here is a moderate. Do you think the extremists
who have been giving Islam a bad name will listen to what you have to say?
THE DALAI LAMA: [Laughs] I don't think they will listen. In my Buddhist
community, the radicals don't listen... But our attempt is to try to explore
the same values, send messages, and make them known to other people. Some
mischievous people always remain. Doesn't matter. It's a mistake to
generalize the behavior of a few individuals to the whole tradition. Since
11th of September, some Muslims really carry some violence, including
terrorism. This should not be considered representative of the whole Muslim
faith. A few mischievous individuals are everywhere, among the Hindus, among
the Christians, among the Muslims, among the Buddhists.
TIME: China's President Hu Jintao is visiting the U.S. at the same time as
you are, and you have urged your supporters here not to demonstrate against
him. Why?
THE DALAI LAMA: Since we already have some official contact with the
Chinese, we believe it is very important to create impressions that we are
very sincere, we are fully committed.
TIME: Two weeks ago, the Chinese government said it would allow you to visit
your homeland, which you fled in 1959, if you abandoned your pursuit of
independence for Tibet. But haven't you long said that you want autonomy,
not independence, for Tibet?
THE DALAI LAMA: Oh yes. The world knows the Dalai Lama is not seeking
independence. The world knows. Still the Chinese do not know. [Laughs]
TIME: Do you have any heaviness of heart about giving up hope for Tibetan
THE DALAI LAMA: No. It's not necessary. Of course the present situation, in
reality, I think that 99% of the Tibetan population is very, very unhappy.
Every year, I think more than 10,000 Tibetans come to India. Some escape,
some with permission. Every single Tibetan, when you meet them, is crying,
complaining, including some Tibetans who have high level positions and are
party members. I think many foreigners who visit Tibet and who have some
close contact with local Tibetans also get the same impression. There are a
large number of police forces there.
Why? Too much suspicion, too much fear. If what the Chinese government
claims is true, there's no need for security like that. This is very bad,
not only bad for Tibetans, but also for the People's Republic of China as a
As far as the future is concerned, look at the European Union. In the past
centuries, those nations talked most about their sovereignty. Now, today,
the common interest is more important than each individual nation's
sovereignty. Tibet is a landlocked country, a large area, small population,
very, very backward. We Tibetans want modernization. Therefore, in order to
develop Tibet materially as a modern nation, Tibet must remain within the
People's Republic of China. Provided Chinese give us a full guarantee of
preservation of Tibetan culture, Tibetan environment, Tibetan spirituality,
then it is of mutual benefit. [Besides] foreign affairs [and] defense [are]
all the things which Tibetans can manage by themselves. Tibetans should have
the full autonomy.
TIME: As a hobby, you like to collect and repair watches. It seems an
unusual thing for a Tibetan monk to do.
THE DALAI LAMA: Many Tibetans, including many monks, like wristwatches. I
think monks are more fond of watches than lay people. Lay people have a lot
of other things. [Laughs] I don't buy them for myself, they are all
presented by other people.
Tibetan chic: Why Buddhism is so hot right now
Public release date: 20-Apr-2006
Contact: Amanda Whibley
Madonna made those little red Kabbalah bracelets cool for five minutes, and
Tom Cruise talked up Scientology, but Buddhism firmly remains the religion
du jour for Westerners looking for respite from a greedy, violent and
stressed out world, according to a University of Western Sydney expert.
Dr Cristina Rocha, an ARC postdoctoral fellow with the UWS Centre for
Cultural Research, is the author of 'Zen in Brazil: The Quest for
Cosmopolitan Modernity', being launched today.
Dr Rocha says increasing numbers of Australians, like those in other Western
countries, are shying away from their religion of birth and instead adopting
'spiritualities of choice'.
"Buddhism is attractive because it provides a powerful antidote to the
stress, greed and violence of today's world," says Dr Rocha.
"Buddhism is now the fastest growing religion in Australia, growing 80 per
cent between the 1996 and 2001 census. Interestingly, this surge is not only
due to migration, but also to large numbers of Australian's converting to
"People from Western cultures are drawn to Buddhism because it is seen as a
'feel good' spirituality - not tied to a particular church or central
leader - and is associated with peace, love, happiness, justice and
"Westerners find it gives them tools to cope with the day-to-day, and helps
them detach from the rampant consumerism and stresses of their busy lives."
She says Western society's eagerness to embrace Buddhism stands in stark
contrast to its misunderstanding, distrust and fear of a religion like
Islam, which is labelled by Western media as 'violent' and linked to
"One of the reasons for this is the fact the Dalai Lama received a Nobel
peace prize in 1989 for his peaceful resistance against the Chinese invasion
of Tibet," says Dr Rocha.
Dr Rocha says Western society's flirtation with Buddhism was boosted in the
1960s, thanks to increased levels of migration and exposure to other
cultures, and the flower-child generation's willingness to explore things
spiritual and alternative.
However, it's grown into a full-blown love affair over the last few years,
fuelled along by influential Hollywood stars, the media, and other
Zen-loving celebrities.
The fascination has even been given a label by commentators - 'Tibetan
"Western culture's exposure to Buddhism is so much greater now. Books by the
Dalai Lama are bestsellers, and people flock to see and hear him speak as he
travels the world. In recent years there have been many movies like 'The
Little Buddha', 'Kundun', and 'Seven Years in Tibet', and non-Hollywood
films like 'The Cup' and 'Samsra'," says Dr Rocha.
"Celebrities like Richard Gere and the Beastie Boys have used their status
to bring attention to the plight of Tibet and its struggle against China;
and actress Uma Thurman's father, Robert, who is now a professor at Columbia
University, was the first Western Tibetan Buddhist monk and an interpreter
for the Dalai Lama."
According to Dr Rocha, increasing numbers of Westerners today want to
construct their own spiritual practice; a 'pick and mix' of religious
elements that suit them best.
"In contrast to Asia, the way Buddhism has been adopted in the West has
meant that individualism is emphasised. Western followers regard meditation
as the main practice of Buddhism," she says.
"Westerners see meditation as something you can do alone, any time,
anywhere; as if there's no need for a temple, or a priest or monk. This
enables an individual to embark on their own spiritual quest for
Dr Rocha says the extent of Buddhism's reach into other cultures is best
illustrated by the Brazilian experience, which is the focus of her book.
"Brazil is one of the most predominantly Catholic countries on the planet,
yet Buddhism has been experiencing a surge in popularity among the urban,
cosmopolitan classes over a number of years," she says.
"In the 1990s, Buddhism in general, and Zen in particular, were adopted by
national elites, the media and popular culture as a set of humanistic values
to counter the rampant violence and crime in Brazilian society."
'Zen in Brazil: The Quest for Cosmopolitan Modernity' will be launched
tonight by Associate Professor Ghassan Hage, from the University of Sydney.
The launch is sponsored by the Japan Foundation and the UWS Centre for
Cultural Research (CCR).
WHEN: Thursday 20 April 2006 TIME: 6.30pm WHERE: Japan Foundation, Chifley
Plaza, Shop 23, Level 1, 2 Chifley Square, Sydney.