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Transcript: Interview with the Dalai Lama
Vancouver Sun[Friday, September 08, 2006 18:03]
Mayor Sam Sullivan:
First of all, I would like to acknowledge and respect the traditional territories of the Coast Salish First Nation People; and I would like to welcome you to Vancouver. Thank you for blessing us with your presence. And I know you are here to discuss the Dalai Centre for Peace and Education. And Vancouver is very honoured that you would consider us: the only city in the world, to have a centre with your name on it. Thank you.

And obviously you have a lot of people here who are very interested in your joining us. So, please have a seat.

Dalai Lama:
Thank you.

Welcome back to Vancouver, Your Holiness. I know you’ve had a long flight, or many long flights. I wanted to ask you about how you feel about being an honourary Canadian – only the third person to be given such an honour.

Dalai Lama:
I want to say, firstly, ‘Thank you,’ Mayor, for your welcoming.

And of course, I’ve been a few occasions here so I’m very very happy once more to come to this place. As the Mayor stated [in our private conversation], it is a young city, but a multi-culture and a multi-ethnic one. I always have the strong feeling that the whole world, the whole planet, is becoming just one entity, one polity. So in that respect a multi-cultural world. I think those towns that already have multi-culture, multi-racial society, they live harmoniously, and consider common interests first. Then in the meantime, they preserve individual identities. I think that’s a good pattern for the future of the world. That’s my feeling: and often I express this.

Then, to your question, I come from a snowy land. Canada is also similar. So I feel great honour to become an honourary citizen. But I would like to ask you as mayor [turning to address Mayor Sullivan], when you become honourary citizen, what are the rights, what are the privileges. I want to know more of that, so I should not miss all these rights and privileges. And then I do NOT want to ask what is duty, because my visit is just short. A short visit. So [I] will use all the rights and then say good-bye [without doing the duties].

[sustained laughter]

And then of course few thousand Tibetans settle in this country, very happily. So I will also become one of them. So I really feel very happy. In any case you’re [treating] me as a brother. Actually, entire six billion human beings are brothers, sisters. You have to live together. You have to share, our common world, our one world.

I think the time has come. We must educate in that respect. These quarrels here and there, in the name of religion, in the name of different races, different countries, different political system, economic system. Fighting: useless. Suicide.

I know that your doctors a few months ago asked you to take a few months off from traveling. how you manage to keep up your energy and stamina on trips like this.

Dalai Lama:
Some time back, coughing, with fever. At that time I thought I may be getting tuberculosis. TB. Then one day, I thought that if I were TB patient, I might get more rest. [chuckles] So, then one new experience this time, because of the coughing, antibiotic, so it creates more trouble in the stomach. I don’t know. Previously,

People’s Republic of China has suggested that granting you honourary citizenship of Canada might harm relations between the two countries. How do you respond to their making such a suggestion.

Dalai Lama:
I think you should judge. In my view, my opinion, in the past like Norway’s case, I think one occasions my visit there and also meeting some of the leaders there, the Chinese government made some serious protest. But then afterward, not much consequences. So I don’t know. I don’t know.

But, I’m very sorry. Where ever I go, it always creates some inconvenience. I’m very sorry. But hopefully, not [by] my mistake. [chuckles]

Why do you think the Chinese government is opposed to your visit to Canada. And why did you decide to come to Canada as one of our destinations.

Dalai Lama:
Quite simple: There was an invitation. I’m always happy to accept an invitation.

And then of course, this time, some serious discussions about human value. I feel this information I want to share with you, because you also have the same responsibility, or same important role in this field.

Number One: my commitment is promotion of “human value.” What is human value? I think those things, mainly our inner quality, which is supporting our life, and sustaining our life. That is what I consider human value. What is that? After birth, our first experience is mother’s affection. Mother’s care. The child at that time, just after birth, may not have the idea ‘This is my mother.’ But [will have a connection] because of the biological system or need, feeding, relying on that person. And on the mother’s side there is also that sort of tremendous feeling of care -- and with that milk, also comes [the connection]. This is not due to religious faith, but because of the biological factor. That is the basis of our life breath, how our life started.

So I think that tremendous sort of affection gives us deep satisfaction. Actually that, [throughout our entire] life, deep down, that experience is still the foundation. I am now 71 years old. I feel that, still, deep in my mind, that my first experience, my mother’s care: I can still feel it there. So when I think more about human affection, that immediately gives me inner peace, inner calmness.

And with that feeling, other human beings -- and also other sentient beings, other animals, these things -- from that angle, I see that all have the same potential. But the problem is: when we grow-up, when our brain develops, then our intelligence causes shortsightedness. And I think also the influence of the environment: then aggressiveness, fear, jealousy, anger, frustration… now these things arise. So these [cause our potential to] become submerged.

So, now the time has come, I feel, that as a result of discussion -- of exchange, different ideas, different views -- and as a result of listening to others’ problems, and noticing the global level problems, including terrorism, I feel, if we make more effort to sustain our basic value, I think humanity may become more peaceful. More compassionate. As a result, differences can be easily solved through dialogue. Through talk. Through mutual understanding. So that is my number one commitment: the promotion of human value.

My number two commitment: the promotion of religious harmony. So in these two fields you media people also have an important role. This is not just news, this is the basis of our future. So it is in everybody’s interest.

So you media people, I usually say I have admiration [for you]. A free media is very important and I am often telling -- half joke, half serious -- that media people should have a long nose like an elephant’s nose, and [use it to] smell everywhere. I think, with respect [to Mayor Sullivan], should use it to smell politicians, mayors, prime ministers, or religious heads, businessmen, scientists. I think everywhere. I think we should know the reality. Sometimes there is a gap between appearance and reality. So we must, the public must know the reality. And that is the media’s responsibility: to make clear good things, bad things, neutral things. Providing it is honest, truthful.

So now, the main purpose coming here is… since some time back my friend Victor Chang, as a result of our discussions, and eventually through him the University, they are also showing some interest about these ideas, about the Dalai Lama Centre. Not insofar as giving the name to the centre, but in the nature of [academic] work, more serious research: how to make modern education more complete. Up to now, it seems that modern education is focused mainly on brain development — and it should be about warm-heartedness.

In the past, religious institutions took care of ethics and spirituality. In modern time, the influence of the church has a little bit declined. And family value also declining. So now education institution should take full responsibility, not only for brain development but also for morals and ethics. Now here, like multi-culture, multi-religions. If your emphasis on the development of ethics relies on religious teaching — then the further question is what religion? Mm. Difficulties. And also, frankly speaking, there is quite a substantial numbers of non-believers. So I think the mistake is that those people who have not much interest in religion are also negligent about the value of spiritual qualities, such as love, compassion, forgiveness, these things.

So we must now find a different way, on the basis of scientific findings and our common experiences. I think that on this basis we can educate, brain development very important. Meantime [also] the warm-heartedness, is extremely important. Otherwise [you will find] a very educated, very brilliant person, but deep inside a very unhappy person. And also billionaires, or leaders, big power, big money, good education, big fame. But as an individual person, very unhappy. Why?

Sufficient money, sufficient power, sufficient affairs, sufficient friends, but still unhappy. Why? Something wrong here.

These are the main reasons for coming here. … I’m just one contributor. More people, particularly among the scientists and the educators, we have to discuss, or carry [out] some serious research work [on the subject] of how to develop a happy society, a happy family, without touching on religious faith. So that I usually call secular ethics.

Are you describing something like a university of warm-heartedness? And will the centre make Vancouver a new home for you.

Dalai Lama:
So that’s why I always emphasize that there are people, there are institutions who are already showing some interest. But now I think we need more co-ordination and then make, I hope, some kind of concrete proposal for future education. How do we develop a better human being, more peaceful human being, more compassionate human being. Now that is our aim.

So this not a unique centre. Not that way. But [a way] to work together with those individuals, with those institutions that have some interest. Work together. More discussion. More research work.

Do you believe Tibetans in China are still oppressed?

Dalai Lama:
Ohh. I think you must go there yourself, and spend some time, not only in towns but in the countryside. Go to the countryside, and with a translator, if possible one who speaks Tibetan, if not, then one who speaks Chinese. Go there. Study on the spot. Then I think you will get a real answer.

But information which I am receiving, from time to time, from Tibet, from a variety of Tibetans – some are Chinese officials, party members – several thousand now I have met in the last 20 years… all expressing sad, sadness, complaint, resentment. Also some Chinese who know about Tibet are also very critical about their own government policy.

But best the best answer is that you should go there, and study.

Is there a connection in your mind between the Centre for Peace and Education and its goals, and the struggle that you lead against the occupation of Tibet?

Dalai Lama:
This is purely education. Not political. Of course the political side, there are groups, and some are very critical about my stand. Among our supporters there are some who are very critical about my approach, that is the ‘Middle Way,’ not seeking independence. I am trying to find a solution according to the Chinese constitution. And the reason: Tibet is a land-locked country and materially very very backward. Spritiually of course, very rich. But stomach is only filled by material, by matter, not by spiritual elements. So therefore, I think every Tibetan wants modernization of Tibet. So for that reason if the Chinese government provide us meaningful autonomy that is a guarantee for the preservation of Tibetan culture, Tibetan language, Tibetan spirituality and Tibet’s delicate environment. So if these are fulfilled then we can remain within the People’s Republic of China. As far as material development is concerned, we might get greater benefit. Therefore I’m not seeking independence

So some of our supporters want complete independence, including the Tibetan Youth organization. So they are very critical of me, er, our approach. Since the last five years, we already have elected political leadership, so my position is something like semi-retired. I’m acting like senior advisor. Like that.

So a final decision is not in my hand, but His hand. Truly, like that. I feel very happy.

How will you decide whether this trip has been a success or not?

Dalai Lama:
I don’t know.

I just go different places and meet friends, and discuss, listen, to their ideas, their views. And also share my views. That’s my usual pattern. So no seriousness. If some good result come: Happy. If not, Okay. Just talk, go, meet more people, more talk, like that.

With more and more people able to visit Tibet with the new Tibetan Railway, do you think traditional Tibetan culture will be destroyed by these outsiders, little by little?

Dalai Lama:
Since, I think, quite some time, the population of Tibet is around 300,000. Two hundred thousand are Han Chinese. About 100,000 Tibetan. That means we have already become a minority. As a result those Tibetans in the town, in their daily life, they use Chinese language more, in shops, in restaurants, in addition to the government official language. On every occasion they have to speak Chinese. And then, music, songs, also now more Chinese. Also, I’ve heard that Tibetans are very fond of Indian popular songs. So their way of life and also their [cuisine] eventually their mentality, their way of thinking: these are changing. There are differences.

In Tibet, in bigger towns, where there are more Chinese, and countryside where there are no Chinese or [fewer] Chinese. There are differences. So the people in Lhasa, for instance, more modern way of life, plus more Chinese sounding, so their cultural heritage, their way of life is changing.

So usually I call it, whether intentionally or unintentionally, some kind of cultural genocide is taking place. So already, we notice Tibetans born and grown up in India, and Tibetans inside Tibet, there are differences. Tibetans born and grown in India in the Tibetan community, these look more like Tibetans. Tibetan youth from Tibet, in these bigger town, are less sort of Tibetan.

But generally speaking, the Tibetan spirit is very very strong.

So future is difficult to say. Now, the completion of the railway link, I think it has been already over two months. According to some information, between 5,000 to 6,000 Chinese daily reach Lhasa. And many of them prefer to remain, at least for time being, in Lhasa. So bigger number, coming; returning, smaller number.

And then the environment issue. Now this is serious issue. Not political, but just environment, Tibet’s environment. Because of the high altitude and dry climate and very delicate. If something goes wrong, some damage happens, it takes a longer period to recover. So we need a special care: number one. Number two: Tibet people call the Roof of the World. So major rivers that cover from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, China – major rivers come from Tibet. So if the environmental situation inside Tibet has a big change: already scientists are predicting global warming. I myself, now over 70 years, I myself have noticed the amount of snow in Tibetan Himalayan range in my lifetime is much reduced,

So some old Tibetans feel these are bad omens, but I myself, I don’t know. But in practical terms, the amount of melting snow is increasing.
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