Interview with The Dalai Lama

Ideas in Action with Jim Glassman is a new half-hour weekly series on ideas and their consequences.

As the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and until recently was also their political leader. Ever since being forced to flee when China invaded Tibet in 1959, the Dalai Lama has ceaselessly advocated for a peaceful solution to Chinese occupation and "meaningful autonomy" for his country. He has also worked tirelessly as an activist for human rights around the world.

Transcript

IDEAS IN ACTION With Jim Glassman

Interview with the Dalai Lama


JIM GLASSMAN:
Welcome to Ideas in Action a television series about ideas and their consequences. I'm Jim Glassman.

I had a chance to sit down with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Meadows Art Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and a tireless activist for human freedom and democracy. He is speaking with us as part of the Freedom Collection, a series of interviews with democracy activists and leaders from around the world for the George W. Bush Presidential Center. The topic this week: a conversation about freedom with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This is Ideas in Action.

ANNOUNCER:
Funding for Ideas in Action is provided by Investor's Business Daily. Every stock market cycle is led by America's never ending stream of innovative new companies and inventions. Investor's Business Daily helps investors find these new leaders as they emerge. More information is available at Investors.com.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Tenzin Gyatso recognized as the 14th Dalai Lama in 1937 is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and until recently was also their political leader. Forced into exile when China invaded Tibet in 1959, the Dalai Lama has presided over a government in exile. Located in Dharamsala, India for the past 52 years. During that time His Holiness has ceaselessly advocated for a peaceful solution to China's occupation of Tibet, asking for meaningful autonomy for his country. In the meantime he has established a democratic government of the Tibetans in exile and has written numerous books about Buddhism and the art of happiness. He serves as a living symbol of the quest for political and religious freedom not only among his own people but among those who suffer oppression around the world.

Welcome your Holiness. Your Holiness, you were forced into exile in 1959, and you established a government in Dharamsala, India, a government in exile, and you chose to make that government democratic even though Tibet has a history-- had a history of theocracy. Why did you decide on a democracy?

DALAI LAMA:
'56-- I came to India-- on-- one Buddhist celebration. I invited by Indian government, so I went there. Then, I-- also, you see-- observe Indian Parliament.

JIM GLASSMAN:
I See.

DALAI LAMA:
I found big contrast. The Chinese Parliament, very much disciplined.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Right. So, India was an inspiration? The Indian Parliament was an inspiration?

DALAI LAMA:
Oh, yes. The Indian Parliament looks-- as-- no discipline, too much noisy. And as a member, very proudly criticized about their leaders, their government like that. So, I very much impressed. I-- very much impressed. But then-- '59 April, we reach India, we already-- then, at once, we start, sort of, some change. The-- not like previous sort of system, but more, sort of, divisions among the, sort of, cabinet ministers like that. So then, '60, we start work for democratization.

JIM GLASSMAN:
And there were-- were there elections at that point?

DALAI LAMA:
So at that time no. Then 2001, we already achieved elected political leadership. Since then, my position is something like semi retired position. So-- I really feel, you see, that's our achievement. Now fully a democratic, sort of, system like that.

JIM GLASSMAN:
But you put democracy into a process, a gradual process starting in 1959, or in the early 1960s.

DALAI LAMA:
Yes. Yes, that's right.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Now, you have made a decision. You're the religious leader of Tibetan Buddhists, and you're also-- you were the head of state. And you decided that you would step down from all of your political positions. What was the response to that?

DALAI LAMA:
That is sort of-- part of the process of-- democratization. I always have this sort of-- sort of strong, sort of, view. The political institution and religious institution must be separate.

JIM GLASSMAN:
But some of the-- the Tibetans were-- were up-- were unhappy about this, correct?

DALAI LAMA:
Oh, that's right-- that's right -- but this is, I think, due to lack of knowledge about the, sort of, global level, sort of, picture, and also is our own sort of-- the situation. I still there. So, in case there is some sort of highly necessary my involvement, I'm-- I'm there.

JIM GLASSMAN:
You're still there.

DALAI LAMA:
Oh, but in-- sooner or later, there will be a day without a Dalai Lama, actually. That, sooner or later, will come. So, the people must prepare. So, much better while I alive.

JIM GLASSMAN:
And you will have a successor-- as a spiritual leader-- as the spiritual leader; you expect to have a successor?

DALAI LAMA:
Now, that is-- since the '79, I'm-- I made very clear formally and officially to Tibetan people, that the very institution of Dalai Lama should continue or not up to Tibetan people, firstly. Then, in case majority of Tibetan people and also some other concerns of the people about Dalai Lama institution, then-- if they want to keep this institution, then it will remain. Then, the question goes-- successor. Whether we should follow our traditional way, or new way.

JIM GLASSMAN:
I'm wondering, first, what-- what is your reaction to what is happening in the Middle East where you see uprisings against autocratic rulers?

DALAI LAMA:
I think firstly, the rule by kings or religious leaders-- that now already outdated. Even like British-- Japan, the-- royals still remain, but just as symbolic. But otherwise, these are now-- just past history. Then, these leaders, I think initially, maybe some-- with support of the people, like most of these revolutions and movement, without people's support, they will not success. So, the people support there, originally. But then, once-- I think like it's the Chinese communists, and also, I think some instance, I think they're Lenin, Bolshevik sort of revolution. Initially, I think poorer section of the people really support the early period of the revolution, I think like any other, I think very pure, and people's support also there. Then, the-- unfortunately, those individuals who are lacking moral principle, self discipline, and once they get power, then power corrupted themselves. Then, eventually-- their original sort of idea is serving the people. Then, eventually, due to power, they loves to see control power, control people.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Right. Is that inevitable, do you think? That they would become corrupted?

DALAI LAMA:
Oh, yes, I think-- yes. And sometimes, see, it's quite sort of the nature, those people who lead certain movement, they have self-confidence, determination. But sometimes, eventually, self-confidence-- over self cof--over self-confidence.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Over self-confidence, right. Right.

DALAI LAMA:
Then, you see, they're very sensitive about criticism towards them. I always was telling people-- even the world level, world belongs to people. World belongs to nearly seven billion human being, not kings or religious leaders like that, or different parties-- like United States, belongs to American people. Like China or Egypt, belongs to the people, not a few ruling families or individuals. So, therefore, then they-- in order to, sort of, carry the responsibility about your own country, by the people, then the best system is through election, elected leadership. That also, from time to time, election. That's, I think, best way to rule the country by the people, for the people. So, democratic system is the best.

JIM GLASSMAN:
So-- so, you are supportive of-- of what is happening in the Middle East now? You think that's a good thing?

DALAI LAMA:
Oh, yes. It's quite natural. Now, important, I want to-- to-- to share-- Now, they must carry sense of responsibility or commitment and build nation. And democracy-- in all democracy, freedom and express all sort of thing, and doing-- work-- less work. And sometimes, too much criticize each other, and a little bit chaotic situation. That's not good. Now, work hard. There may be different views or different sort of idea or different sort of ideology or different sort of belief, okay, doesn't matter. But must work together and build new society. That's very important.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Let's-- let's talk about the Tibetan situation. So, you have talked about meaningful autonomy--

DALAI LAMA:
Yes.

JIM GLASSMAN:
--For Tibet. And that does not mean complete independence as a separate country, correct?

DALAI LAMA:
That's right. That's right.

JIM GLASSMAN:
So, could you describe what meaningful autonomy would mean in relationship to China?

DALAI LAMA:
Why we are not seeking independence or separate-- because the world is changing. I always look, sort of, with admiration the spirit of European Union. People, you see, thinking the common interest is more important than the national, sort of, interest alone. So, with Tibet also, no matter what past history, now, Tibet, materially backward. Every Tibetan want modernize. I frankly speaking -- quite with the Tibetan illegally immigrate into United States, why? They come to America-- not seeking spirituality but seeking money.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Right.

DALAI LAMA:
So, Tibetans also want richness-- rich-- and therefore, they-- in order to material development, we remain within the People's Republic of China, we get greater benefit. Like railway-- construction of railway link, these are the indication the further development provided used properly. And now, so far, they use mainly military sort of purpose like that. So, and anyway-- so that's one way-- that also is-- our own interest and the People's Republic of China as a whole, Tibet-- not sep-- not separate, remain within the People's Republic of China. And that's the Chinese top-most concern.

JIM GLASSMAN:
So, are you making progress towards autonomy?

DALAI LAMA:
Not yet. (LAUGH)

JOHN GLASSMAN:
Are you talking to the Chinese d-- d--

DALAI LAMA:
Oh, yes.

JOHN GLASSMAN:
Do-- do-- do representatives talk to the Chinese?

DALAI LAMA:
Oh, yes. Several occasion. Now-- since '79-- we developed direct contact with the Chinese government, when Deng Xiaoping there. My personal emissary-- met Deng Xiaoping and then it just started, this sort of dialogue with Chinese government. No sort of r-- positive result, like that. Meanwhile, inside Tibet-- there are things-- becoming worse and worse.

JIM GLASSMAN:
I wanted to ask you about that. So what-- what are the conditions like inside Tibet?

DALAI LAMA:
Now Chinese military personnel much increase. And the security personnel also much increase. One side. So, rule of fear, rule of terror there. And then, meantime-- about-- I think more than ten years ago, one Chinese P-- Party Secretary-- of the Autonomy Decision of Tibet (PH)-- they say-- people-- the-- knows is-- he-- is a type of hardliner. So, after he came at one Party meeting, he actually is-- he mentioned ultimate source of threat, Tibetan being separate from mainland China is Tibetan Buddhist faith. So, accordingly, since then they're stepping up control sort of-- education. And in education like Lhasa University, the previous-- before that, they also-- so-- the-- in their sort of curriculum-- also include some classical-- sort of classic sort of Tibetan text. But, all stop. Then stepping up of-- in the monestaries or nunnery political education. At that time, Ti-- local Tibetan express now semi-cultural revolution returning. So, his sort of hardliner policy, narrowminded, short sighted sort of policy really causing 2008 crisis. Like that.

JOHN GLASSMAN:
The 2008 crisis-- the uprising--

DALAI LAMA:
Yes-- yes--

JOHN GLASSMAN:
And you said-- you-- you just said 'semi-cultural revolution?'

DALAI LAMA:
Yes.

JOHN GLASSMAN:
And that's not happening anywhere else in China. Only in Tibet?

DALAI LAMA:
Yes. At that time, even the other Tibetan area sort of in-- in different Chinese provinces comparitively better. Now, these area also more tightening. Just-- I received very recently one-- now, for example, the last-- last year-- the number of Tibetan school in these area outside autonomy region-- they-- the new policy now all subject must taught through Chinese sort of language. And Tibetan language only just a language-- Other subject must be taught by Chinese language. Then just a few days ago, I received one information-- some school-- the Chinese, local police raided and search different books in students'-- home and they-- all the book-- Tibetan sort of-- Tibetan text or Tibetan sort of-- some books-- they all removed. And-- now, it-- now on-- they only can read and keep those sort of book which officially-- officially sort of issued. So, really tightening.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Tightening. So-- so, Your Holiness, is there anything that Tibetans can do in order to, let's say, resist-- are there tactics that they can use? For example-- boycot? Or somehow resisting in a nonviolent way to what's happening?

DALAI LAMA:
That I think-- this recall 1956 when I was in India. And in-- some Ghandian freedom fighter-- as he told me their experience of how to carry sort of dis-- disobedience and some kind of civil sort of-- movement. Then I told him that British Imperialist quite bad, but still there is independent judiciary and also freedom of expression. Now, the new ruler in Tibet (CHUCKLE)-- no independent judiciary (CHUCKLE)-- and no freedom of expressoin. Mahatma Ghandi from prison-- he can write and appeal to court. But, in the Communist Authoritarian System-- impossible. So-- so, in anyway-- very difficult. So, of course, the other sort of-- the way of sort of expression of opposition or resentment-- then they-- certainly, they will do-- but, there's no other choice except some demonstrations. Then as soon as demonstrations-- they happen-- then they give the name troubling government. So, arrest and once they arrest, s-- sort of serious torture. Many people who arrested then when they come out, either it's broken leg or hand like that.

JIM GLASSMAN:
But, what about support from outside? From the United States? Or from other countries? Would that help?

DALAI LAMA:
Oh Yes. Long run, very helpful. Externally-- sort of-- lot of government and-- and-- including the United States you see raise the human right issues and these things. In the meantime, within the country, intellectuals really showing their resentment. They want more freedom. Freedom of speech like that. So, they're both sides within the country and external. And then also I think those people within the country who really carrying some change-- sort of some freedom are-- see they-- when outside world showing interest, showing concern about them is immense a source of encouragement. It is very, very important.

JIM GLASSMAN:
And you mentioned-- freesom of religion and you also said that the Chinese were trying to-- suppress--

DALAI LAMA:
Yes.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Tibetan Buddhism. How important is religion in the movement for freedom in Tibet? For meaningful autonmy?

DALAI LAMA:
Tibetan spirit very much link with Buddhist faith. Like Polish spirit-- different sort of difficult circumstances given Nazi occupation and given Soviet occupation, a lot of difficulties. But, during these period, the Polish national spirit and Catholic faith combine keep their spirit. Tibetan case exactly same - national sort of interest and-- Buddhist faith combined. And, anyway, I already telling the Tibetan cultural heritage-- basically, I describe culture of peace. Culture of non-violence. Even Chinese officials also say-- admit that. The Xinjiang sort of problems and Tibetan problem. One-- one time-- the one Chinese officials mentioned Tibet-- Tibetan are Buddhists. So, basically, nonviolent. So, they lesser worry. Even offiicals have mentioned like that. So, therefore, the-- Tibetan culture-- culture of peace, culture of compassion. So, that-- eventually, immense benefit to millions of young Chinese men in China. And then also all - now, China look the corruption. Immense. All levels. So, just, you see--

JIM GLASSMAN:
--The moral values--

DALAI LAMA:
Few people you see death sentence killed. That's not answer. Unless some kind of inner sort of spiritual discipline develop. Well, that, I can-- all the different religious tradition immense help and including Buddhism. So, therefore-- long run, China-- for Chinese own interest-- it is-- very important to keep Tibetan-- compassionate sort of spiritual sort of tradition--

JIM GLASSMAN:
To keep the culture alive.

DALAI LAMA:
Yes.

JIM GLASSMAN:
I have one-- unfortunately, we're running out of time. So, I have one last question. So, I have one last question. I wondered if you have a message for people around the world who are struggling for freedom.

DALAI LAMA:
I think people have to carry their spirit-- and their struggle. And I think possibly nonviolent way. Long run, that's more effective. But, sometimes, it's out of desperate like-- Egypt or some other places-- there's some-- exception there. But-- now Libya-- some exception. But-- but, generally, I think should be I think nonviolent way. Like I think the-- the way topple-- Phillipine dictator-- Marcos or something.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Right. Right.

DALAI LAMA:
Peaceful, popular movement. And also Chile I think. So, the popular sort of peaceful movement is now become I would say I think the reality. And I think comparitively South Africa also see peaceful ways, change, finally. So, I think that I want to share. Please keep determination, willpower because we have justice. In my-- the lifelong experience or observation, ultimately, truth always remain stronger than for-- power of force or power of gun. Very clear. The gun temporarily very powerful. (CHUCKLE) Everybody loves one's own life. So, when gun shows-- out of fear, it's a little discipline there. But, that's temporary method. I think world history shows that. So, therefore, the-- the struggle for freedom, democracy is really-- right, reasonable, and everybody have the right to be free.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Thank you. That's excellent-- excellent place to end. Thank you very, very much Your Holiness for joining us.

DALAI LAMA:
Thank you.

JIM GLASSMAN:
Thank you.

And that's it for this week's Ideas in Action. I'm Jim Glassman, we'll see you next time.

Keep in mind that you can watch Ideas in Action whenever and wherever you want. To watch highlights or complete programs just go to ideasinactiontv.com or download a podcast from the iTunes store. Ideas in Action because ideas have consequences.

ANNOUNCER:
For more information, visit us at ideasinactiontv.com. Funding for Ideas in Action is provided by Investor's Business Daily. Every stock market cycle is led by America's never ending stream of innovative new companies and inventions. Investor's Business Daily helps investors find these new leaders as they emerge. More information is available at Investors.com. This program is a production of Grace Creek Media and the George W. Bush Institute, which are solely responsible for its content.


1 Comment

We as a species have been lucky to have been led by someone as giving as the Dalai Lama. His knowledge and wisdom have been instructional and guiding in my life. "The Art of Happiness" is a good start for anyone looking for answers and peace.

Thank you for sharing.

MTS

Leave a comment

Featured Guests

His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

His Holiness is both the temporal and the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He frequently states that his life is guided by three major commitments: the promotion of basic human values or secular ethics in the interest of human happiness, the fostering of inter-religious harmony and the welfare of the Tibetan people, focusing on the survival of their identity, culture and religion.

In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet. He has consistently advocated policies of non-violence, even in the face of extreme aggression. He also became the first Nobel Laureate to be recognized for his concern for global environmental problems.

His Holiness has travelled to more than 62 countries spanning 6 continents. He has met with presidents, prime ministers and crowned rulers of major nations. He has held dialogues with the heads of different religions and many well-known scientists.

Since 1959 His Holiness has received over 84 awards, honorary doctorates, prizes, etc., in recognition of his message of peace, non-violence, inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion. His Holiness has also authored more than 72 books.

His Holiness describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk.

Episode Clips