|Exiled Tibetans must keep their heritage and cause alive, spiritual leader says at start of Toronto visit
Faith and Ethics Reporter
(TANNIS TOOHEY/TORONTO STAR) The Dalai Lama, in Toronto for two days, arrives at the Fairmont Royal York hotel yesterday for a news conference.
Exiled Tibetans have a "moral obligation" to serve those still in the country by keeping their culture and cause alive, the Dalai Lama said yesterday as he arrived in Toronto to cap a three-week tour that has angered Chinese leaders
"The situation inside Tibet is not as rosy as the Chinese propaganda would say," the Dalai Lama told a Toronto news conference, acknowledging that his tour has stirred some controversy.
"My Chinese brothers and sisters are always very sensitive. And the Tibet issue is very sensitive."
The Tibetan spiritual leader has met with national leaders in North America, Europe and Australia during his tour, drawing the ire of Chinese leaders who consider him a Tibetan separatist.
China invaded Tibet in 1950. By 1959, the Dalai Lama and many other Tibetans were forced into exile, setting up a government-in-waiting across the border in India.
China, the Dalai Lama said, can control the Tibetan countryside, but not the culture of its people. "Tibetans, in their own land, are physically controlled fully by gun – but mind, never!"
His two-day stop in Toronto will focus on cultural and spiritual activities.
This morning, he will bless the new Tibetan Canadian Community Centre in Etobicoke.
In the afternoon, he will speak to about 30,000 people at the Rogers Centre about "The Art of Happiness."
Despite almost 50 years in exile, the Dalai Lama remains revered by his people, both in Tibet and abroad, and has been a charismatic spokesperson for Tibetan rights.
Yesterday, he played down his influence. "I am just one man. If humanity tomorrow faces great difficulties, one individual cannot escape."
A crowd of Tibetan Canadians waited for more than an hour outside his hotel yesterday for the Dalai Lama to arrive, many in traditional garb. An estimated 45,000 Tibetans live in the Toronto area.
Tsering Topgyal, who teaches Tibet song and dance to local children, said expatriate Tibetan communities are working hard to keep the culture alive, so they can one day export it back to their homeland. The culture there is threatened by waves of Han Chinese immigrants, he said. "There are more Chinese than Tibetans in Tibet."
Topgyal escaped with the Dalai Lama in 1959, as a 6-year-old boy atop his parents' shoulders as they hiked across the Himalayas to India. He remembers very little about Tibet now, but was taught Tibetan culture and dance in a Dalai Lama-founded school in India, and now teaches other exiled Tibetans.
His teaching partner, Lobsang Choephel, said it can be difficult to keep Tibetan children in the West interested in their heritage, but the popularity of the Dalai Lama helps.