The following is a transcript of Vancouver Sun reporter Douglas Todd's interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The interviewer's questions and comments are italicized.
DT: Shall we just start this. OK. Now you have been asked quite a few times (smile in voice) - I have a couple of silly times.
DT: I was asked to ask you about hockey, which has come up already, but I know somebody thinks that you might have learned how to ice skate?
DL: Speaks in Tibetan to translator.
Translator: As a child in Tibet he ran around freely on the ice, but never to ice skate or play hockey.
DT: Do any Tibetans skate or play hockey?
DL: speaks Tibetan
Translator: Not that we know of.
Translator: Tibetans tend to like soccer very much.
DT: Can I just ask you....
DL: Speaks in Tibetan with a very large warm belly laugh.
Translator: They also like soccer, but of course they do not get the opportunity to play and they do not know how to play, but whenever they have the opportunity to kick a ball, they think they should kick hard.......
DL and Crowd: Laughter
Translator: and kick out the goalie.
DT: Let me ask you about Vancouver, how are you finding Vancouver?
DL: OH BEAUTIFUL! And me personally, I like a cool climate. And there are a lot of flowers, because of this spring season, they are beautiful, the tulips are wonderful.
DT: How is your meeting with going with Shirin Ebadi and Bishop Tutu.
Translator: His holiness says he meets with Bishop Tutu quite often - whenever he has the opportunity and it is always such fun.
DT: Is this your first meeting with Shirin Ebadi ?
DL: Yes, this is the first time.
DT: What do you think of her?
DL: Very good. Yesterday, when we met for the first time, I appreciated and also admired her efforts for change within the country according to the Koran. That is wonderful.
DT: To change Iran according to the Koran?
DL: From within, from within the society, I think that is wonderful.
DT: Rather than people trying to do it from outside?
DL: That is sometimes OK. I mean logically change comes from within the country and society, then everybody in that country can define what is good for themselves. If change comes from outside, then sometimes there is more suspicions that happen.
DT: Like in Iraq?
DL: Mmmm, speaks in Tibetan
Translator: No not necessarily....
DL: Belly laugh
DT: Since I have just raised this, do you have any advice for George Bush right now regarding Iraq. Some people say it is turning into a morass, like Vietnam. Do you have any advice?
DL: Actually, on September 11th, an unbelievable event happened. The next day, I wrote a letter to President Bush. I expressed my sorrow and condolences to the victims and their families, I expressed the best thing I believed as a reaction to this event was through non-violence. That is the only long term way. So I expressed my feelings about this. Then the military activities in Afghanistan happened, then Iraq, now a road, or a different path.....(stops speaking) .....I have no comment
DT: On the current situation?
DL: Basically, I always believe that violent methods are not the right method. And then again violent methods, once they are started, the intention is using limited force, but one of the natures of violence is - it is too easy to allow violence to go out of control.
DL: Unintended consequences often happen, therefore it is much safer, right from the beginning to avoid violence. I have expressed this on other occasions. In Afghanistan, I think that at least the local people want, seriously want a change to take place. So now, the Iraq crisis has taken place and this is even more serious. There is a danger now to neglect the Afghanistan situation and that is not good. Afghanistan should have priority, so that it can become good and something that can be praised. That is important.
DL: Is that comment more satisfactory now? (laughs)
DT: I won’t complain - (laughs).
Yesterday, you met with our Premier Gordon Campbell. Can you tell us about that meeting or did he ask you......
DL: speaks in Tibetan
DT: Did he ask you about Tibet at all?
DL: speaks Tibetan
Translator: It was a general discussion. It was with Bishop Tutu and Shirin Ebadi also.
DT: What at the lunch?
Translator: Yes, it was a big lunch. It was a general discussion.
DL: About Tibetan issues, I don’t think....
DT: What was discussed? (Long pause.......) I will now go to more psychological questions and that’s about the wealth in the West, we are richer than we have even been. There are technologies more sophisticated than they have ever been, but people seem so unhappy in North America and Europe, in these wealthy countries, I am wondering what do you say to people who are feeling unhappy and depressed in the West?
DL: Generally, my impression and my opinion is that they have neglected the inner values.
DL: They are too reliant on external means and values to achieve maximum satisfaction. Physical and material facilities provide comfort on a physical level. Not the mental and emotional level. Comfort on those levels you have to find......(speaks in Tibetan to Translator for exactitude)
Translator: Comfort at the level of the mind has to find by the individual, himself or herself. Not through external means.
DL: Any nation, or any human community, when they have to face poverty or there great concern is their economy, then all their energy is focused on the material benefits. Currently, in the advanced countries they have achieved that. Now, naturally.......(speaks in Tibetan for long period)
Translator: It may also be an aspect of financial response that we humans have, for example, in a poor country much of the focus for people there, would be directed to day to day survival, material needs that the individual may have, to feed themselves, find shelter and so on. So under such circumstances, the immediate needs, those survival needs are much stronger, but in the West, where you have achieved a much greater level of material affluence, these basic needs, on the whole, on an average, individuals in the West have met those expectations, so when that happens, another outcome of this is that the psycholocial ailments and suchlike become more manifest and obvious. The analogy would be something like a sick person. If the person has an immediately life threatening illness then although that person may have some other more dormant illnesses, they take a sideline, as the focus is really on trying to cure the life threatening illness. Once that threat is avoided, then the other ailments become more obvious. That could be one possibility of why the West has these psychological manifestations.
DL: I think another indication is I think the interest towards inner values is stronger in a way, is stronger in the West, as opposed to the poorer societies.
DT: Really? (said with surprise)
DL: Like India, through the centuries of course, religious faith is very strong and is still strong. But I think that real eagerness to want something more, to want something spiritual or to want inner peace, I think those nations who physically already achieved something..........
DT: Although some people say that poor people in Latin America, or South Africa can be happier, seem happier....
DL: Speaks in Tibetan to translator.
Translator: It is also a matter of contentment. Contentment can be achieved, quite often....(DL continues to speak and interrupts).
DL: There are two types of contentment. One type of contentment is actually not real contentment, but a level of ignorance. It is a facility.
DT: Level of ignorance?
DL: They look contented, but actually there is no contenment within. But knowing this facility, they are deliberately content. That is the real contentment. Those I think that look contented, it is mainly out of ignorance. (DL laughs and laughs - group joins in.)
DT: I will have to tell them!
Translator: Probably ignorance is not the right word, it is a sort of a lack of having access to other possibilities ultimately. (Translator and DL talk in Tibetan)......
DT: Do you know about antidepressants? They are a drug that people take when they are really depressed and it seems a lot of people in the West are taking them, including in our newsroom, I should say!
DL and Translator are talking in Tibetan about this.
DT: Do you think it’s OK for somebody who is seriously depressed to take a drug? To take a drug to combat it?
DL: Should be......(laughs)
DT: You are not anti-drug or anything? (chuckle)
DL: Many years ago, when I was touring in America, during one lunch break, with a big family with a huge house, they had a cupboard, and out of curiosity without their permission, I opened it, there was one box of tranquilizers. Then I felt even that rich family......
DL: Still needs tranqulizers. That is the impression I got. I think the lack of awareness on how to tackle this, and without knowing one’s own potential, one has to rely on external means. What if you know the inner potential, then you are able to use this inner internal potential in order to combat problems.
DT: What would you recommend to somebody who is maybe really depressed?
DL: If real depression is the experience, then it is difficult. (DL sneezes twice). Preventative measures are needed. (DL speaks with translator in Tibetan)
Translator: His Holiness was saying earlier, that when a depression actually occurs in the individual then at that point, trying to do something psychologically is quite difficult. What is more important is to emphasis the preventative measures. In that respect, a greater awareness within the society itself, of the inner potential of the individual is important.
DL: ....and one important thing is educational system. This should be including in the educational system. There should be the inclusion of the variety of emotions, then this would teach how to tackle the emotions that can ultimately bring uncomfortable feelings. How to deal with them. And how to increase the positive emotions. I think these are the right methods. Right from the beginning. Then when a problem arises and has to be faced, when emotions like fear have to be involved, they can be faced. Emotions like fear, anxiety. I think often these emotions happen out of jealousy, hatred, attachment and also out of a strong egoism. According to Buddhist psychology, I think the feeling of “I”, or the feeling of “strong self” - there are two kinds, one positive and one negative. The positive means - the courage or determination.......(pause) need that positive sense of strong self. To be willing to satisfy one’s own benefit in order to help other people, in that case you need strong convictions, a strong sense of self. Then a negative ego, that is just self-centred and completely neglect others. (speaks in Tibetan)
Translator: There are two types of the sense of selfhood. One, the positive one, that has the tendency to open up and reach out to others, while the negative ones, tend to narrow down one’s focus and become more self-centred.
DT: I hesitate to ask what time it is.
Male voice: You still have 10 minutes.
DT: Thank you. I want to ask if you have advice for parents today, especially in North America?
DL: (speaks in Tibetan)
Translator: Bringing them up in the atmosphere of love and attention, is very important.
DL: (speaks in Tibetan)
Translator: His Holiness was just wondering whether you had the chance to look at his book, Ethics for the New Millenium?
DT: I haven’t seen that one.
DL: You know, I think I mentioned yesterday, and I think everybody knows and everybody agrees, that we need more peace of mind. Peace of mind. And how to develop the foundation of peace of mind, is, a compassionate attitude. Now when we talk about compassion. For some people this compassion is without religious faith, and then these are (turns to ask the Translator in Tibetan...)
Translator: Often people get the impression that when one speaks of values such as compassion and so on, these are integrally related to religion, and if one does not have religious faith, then they are not that necessary. This is not so.
DL: Another alternative, another approach without touching religious faith, on a scientific basis, clear awareness, the importance of the human values of compassion, sense of responsibility and these sort of things, yesterday I mentioned these to religious people, to people with religious faith, accordingly as they have faith they are able to cultivate and strengthen these human values. The non-believers, that is the reality and in actual sense the majority of people. because the majority of people are non-believers and do not care about God. If something good happens to them, they say “God’s grace”, when bad things happen or trouble comes, then they formulate their own God. (laughs, continues in Tibetan).
Translator: Often in a secular society, God comes into the picture and he has a role in the new birth, sorry, at the time of birth, marriage and at death, but in between, often in people’s lives, there is not much of a role or work for God.
DL Laughs and continues:
DL: On a scientific basis, scientists now clearly have shown, and I mentioned this yesterday.
DT: I am not sure where you are going.
DL: Yes, the young monkeys who sit with mothers are the settled ones. It is scientifically clear that those monkeys with mothers are more peaceful and playful. The ??settled one is much more aggressive and fights. So we human beings do the same. There is another thing, on one occasion, according to another scientists research, often use the words “me” “my” “I”, and these people have a greater risk of heart attacks. I feel if people only think of themselves, then their mind focuses within a very small area. Within that area, if problems happen, things become unbearable for them. It is always me, me, me. If a problem arises, they find it difficult. If they think about others, with an altruistic attitude, then one thinks about everyone, not just one’s self. With that kind of mental attitude, even one’s own serious problems, may not appear too unbearable. That is according to my own little experience. It really makes a difference. This is scientifically based. In order to have better health, or a happier family, we need an altruistic attitude. This is acheived through eductation. In a sense we can compare this to the way we teach and bring children up with regards to hygiene and its importance. Just as we teach them hygiene from a health viewpoint, one can also think about incalcating the children with ethical values, a sense of inner hygiene.
DT: I have children and it is hard to do, sometimes, you hope your children will not be selfish, but sometimes they are, how do you teach them to be altruistic?
DL: One or two lessons will not work, (laughs) from kindergarten to university, these ethical values, if they could be taught from kindergarten to university level, through a systematic program, then this would really make an impact. I think the new generation would then think and behave differently if they face problems. My belief is that is how to change our society. Not through government policy, or just one or two individual families, but a mass movement, on a secular basis. There is a religious approach that will appeal to the religious believers, but given the fact that the majority of people are non-religious, we need to find a secular approach...(tape finishes).
In our minds, when something is very bad. But then you see, the presentations should be more balanced. Yes there are bad things, but at the same time the greater potential and can counter these negative things, if they pay more attention.
DT: So the media should be more positive sometimes?
DL: Yes, I feel they should, more balanced.
DT: I have two questions. The most controversial one. I do not know what you think about homosexuality, it is big issue in Canada and with the Bishop, you are meeting Bishop Michael Ingham, he approves of blessing same sex relationships, homosexual relationships, and I do not know what you think about that?
DL: I have two letters, one letter is as a religious believer, I think that we should follow according to one's holy teachings. For a Buddhist, the same sex, that is sexual misconduct.
DT: For Buddhists?
DL: Yes. And also marriage, even in the heterosexual cult of marriage, they use the mouth and the anus, this is sexual misconduct in Buddhism.
DT: In Buddhism?
DL: Yes, even as a heterosexual context. Even if one uses one’s own hand this is sexual misconduct. So if you are a genuine believer, then you must avoid this. If you are a non-believer, then two persons male or female, they get maximum joy through this technique, they do not create violence, (laughs). One thing I would like to express, sometimes due to that kind of behaviour there is discrimination in jobs, or within the family this creates some problem purely based on that sexual reason, - if people discriminate based on sexual orientation, that is extreme and it is wrong. Whether same sex marriage is OK or not is dependent upon each country’s law.
DT: It is not a big thing for you?
DL: Even the whole concept of marriage is particular to a particular society and their unity, so whether or not homosexual couples should be accorded a marriage status, should really be dealt within that particular community and country.
DT: Last questio. B.....Havel could not come. I have learned from Victor that you wanted to talk to him about the idea of a non-violent swat teams, would you like to talk about that?
DL: At the time that the recent Iraqi crisis was about to start, I am giving you a bit of the historical background to your question, at that time some individuals asked me to go to Bhagdad to do something for peace.
DT: Sorry, when was that?
DL: At the beginning of the Iraq crisis.
DL: At that time I felt that was an unrealistic suggestion, because I had no contact with Iraqis., even if I got permission to go to Bhagdad, and at the airport I would not know how to manage to reach. (stops and continues)..., so the peace mission would be impossible. So at that time, I strongly felt, that individuals, like Noble Laureates, and also some respected individuals like President Havel, or some scientists or kings????individuals who are considered everywhere as good human beings, without being involved with gaining money from the conflict, or taking power, or being involved in the idealogy, someone outside of the local interest, so such persons, such as NGOs could take a more serious active role in this case, before the final American military assault took place, this should have been done,....I regret it was not done, that some Noble Laureate could have gone to Bhagdad to meet with Saddam Hussein or his friends and talk. This did not take place. I feel that perhaps they missed an opportunity, if there was some kind of mechanism whereby these individuals could go to Bhagdad together, to meet and negotiate with Iraq.Instead of an assault. If you offer something the other side wonders what the agenda is, there is always suspicion, which is why an individual or individuals, or an NGO should go, but not be involved to limit suspicion, then something fruitful could come out, without any hidden agenda if the right people could have been sent into this situation to do more than the assault. That is why after that, I wrote a letter to President Havel. In the future, in the potential of crisis, or some Noble Laureate, should take a more active role. I went to Prague and met Havel and I mentioned this to him. That morning the former President of South Africa D. Clarke somebody, told me that he had also mentioned a similar idea to Havel. President Havel has an organization called Forum 2000, so under the auspices of Forum 2000 this group would work together with this objective.
DT: This non-violent swat team?
Is that an OK term?
DL: Yes. What is swat? It is his creation, so that is up to Havel.
DT: It would not be through the UN, it would be through Havel’s organization?
DL: Yes. Individuals. An independent body, non-governmental, non-political.
DT: Sounds good, thank you very much. It sounds great.
DT: I would like to get a photograph.