News and Views on Tibet

The Dalai Lama shares wisdom on dissent, death and politicians

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Following is a transcript of an Australian Broadcasting Corporation interview with Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is currently on a 11-day visit of the island nation.

The interview was aired on 13/06/2013.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: In the past three years, more than a hundred Tibetans are reported to have set themselves on fire – so-called self-immolation – to protest continuing Chinese rule and brutality. It’s a disturbing trend in a country that’s long embraced non-violent protest against China.

The country’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has always advocated a peaceful approach to resisting oppression. But, as China’s power grows and the Dalai Lama ages – he’s now 78 – there are questions about whether his influence is waning.

Even though the Dalai Lama is regularly in Australia, including this week, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard has never agreed to meet him and earlier this year 7.30 reported that Sydney University had cancelled plans to host an event with the religious leader on campus for fear of upsetting China.

The Dalai Lama joined the program in Sydney today.

Your Holiness, thank you for your time.

DALAI LAMA: (Places hands together in prayer gesture)

LEIGH SALES: Do you see any possibility of reconciliation between Tibet and China in your lifetime?

DALAI LAMA: Oh, yes, certainly. They have to sort of accept the reality. You see, we have our own different culture, different language – these things, so, meaningful autonomy, have every right to keep these unique thing, and meantime remain with the people from China, is our own interest; Tibet materially backward. So, China now has now really become the economic power of the world, so, it is our own interest. And after all, you see, thinking of one’s own sort of sovereignty, these things are not as relevant. Look, European Union.

LEIGH SALES: Since February, 2009 there’ve been more than 100 Tibetan self-immolations to oppose Chinese rule and policies. Does that mean that Tibetans are losing patience with non-violence?

DALAI LAMA: No. I think the self-burning itself on practice of non-violence. These people, you see, they easily use bomb explosive, more casualty people. But they didn’t do that. Only sacrifice their own life. So this also is part of practice of non-violence.

LEIGH SALES: Given how important you have been in keeping attention on this issue, do you fear that the Chinese Government is waiting for you to die so it can launch a hard crackdown on Tibet to try to put this issue to bed?

DALAI LAMA: Some hardliners is thinking that way. But some even hardliner feel that while Dalai Lama, little bit easier. If Dalai Lama no longer, then no-one, no Tibetan, you see, can represent six million Tibetan.

LEIGH SALES: So, do you think that the Tibetan people need to fear what will happen after your death in that case?

DALAI LAMA: Of course Tibetan spirit will remain. Dalai Lama institution last about 400 years or 600 years like that, and Buddhism, Tibetan nation over 2,000 years. So, in the future, also you see, without Dalai Lama, the Tibetans nation remain, Tibetan spirit remain.

LEIGH SALES: How do you interpret the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard declining to ever meet with you?

DALAI LAMA: OK. No problem. My main concern is meeting with public because my main commitment, main interest is promotion of human value, human affection, compassion and religious harmony. The Prime Minister I think not much (inaudible) in these things. (Laugh) If I have some sort of political agenda and ask Prime Minister, then Prime Minister sort of decline seeing me, then I feel disappointment, but I have nothing to ask her.

LEIGH SALES: You mentioned earlier China’s economic influence is growing. Is it a risk for you that as China becomes more influential, politicians around the world are scared to meet with you because they don’t want to offend China?

DALAI LAMA: No. No problem. No problem. I think real change come from within Tibet, not from outside.

LEIGH SALES: Do you fear death?

DALAI LAMA: Unnecessary, fear death. Death is part of our life. (Laughs) And then also, Buddhism is one of the sort of spiritual tradition – yes, tradition, we accept life after life. So death means change our clothes. Clothes become old then time to come change. So this body become old and then time come, take young body.

LEIGH SALES: When you look back over your life, you became the Dalai Lama not of your own will, it was involuntary. Do you ever wish that things had been different and that you weren’t the Dalai Lama?

DALAI LAMA: That was unrealistic. Whether I like it or not, I already become Dalai Lama, so better to carry the certain responsibility, certain way of life according that. It’s much better.

LEIGH SALES: You always seem so happy and calm. Do you have to sometimes fake it?

DALAI LAMA: No. As a Buddhist practitioner and also I always telling people you should be honest, truthful. Then, automatically, you’re act can carry transparently. If you hear self-centred attitude, then saying compassion, then there is contradiction. You cannot carry transparently so you have to pretend something.

LEIGH SALES: Do you sometimes have to restrain emotions like anger, sadness, irritation?

DALAI LAMA: Mmm. Some (inaudible) – immediately express the other day (inaudible) – the official, you see, he come a little bit late, so then I immediately express, (Laughs) like that (pointing as though castigating official). As a human being, anger is a part of our mind. Irritation also part of our mind. But you can do – anger come, go. Never keep in your sort of – your inner world, then create a lot of suspicion, a lot of distrust, a lot of negative things, more worry.

LEIGH SALES: Well, Your Holiness, I don’t want to irritate you by taking up too much of your time, so thank you very much.

DALAI LAMA: Thank you. (Places hands together in prayer gesture)

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