the situation in Tibet
On the significance of the actions of one individual
Q: I can understand
how my own mind and actions can affect my own causes and conditions.
Can they also affect world conditions like hunger, poverty, and
other great sufferings of beings everywhere? How?
A: Initiative must come from individuals. Unless
each individual develops a sense of responsibility, the whole community
cannot move. So therefore it is very essential that we should not
feel that individual effort is meaningless. The movement of the
society, community or group of people means joining individuals.
Society means a collection of individuals.
On dealing with Tibet
and a large non-Buddhist Chinese population
Q: If you returned
to an independent Tibet, would it be difficult to reconcile the
Buddhist principles of compassion with the reality of governing
a state with a large Chinese non-Buddhist population?
A: I have already noticed during the last few decades
so much degeneration in Tibetan culture and the Tibetan way of life.
Besides our Chinese brothers and sisters, even among Tibetans it
seems there is some danger. Take, for example, some young Tibetans
who have escaped from Tibet in the last few years-although their
sense of being a Tibetan is strong and very good, certain aspects
of their behavior make me grow more anxious. They immediately fight
or use force. Every other aspect of their motivation is excellent,
but there is so much degeneration in their humbleness or honesty
and compassionate attitude. But then that’s reality, so we
have to face it. Still, I believe that when we have freedom-freedom
of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of movement-we can minimize
these things. Although in the future, when we have freedom, I will
no longer be the head of the Tibetan government. That is my final
On His Holiness’s future role in
Q: Your Holiness,
you said that the changing attitudes of some of your Tibetans makes
you anxious. So I wondered why you have decided to give up your
historic authority in Tibet when it would seem that young people
need spiritual rather than political guidance.
fact that I will no longer be the head of the. Tibetan government
does not mean that I will give up my moral responsibility or commitment.
Of course, being a Tibetan, particularly since I am so trusted,
it is my obligation to serve, to help humanity in general, and particularly
those people who very much trust me, till my last breath.
Also, if I continue to carry the responsibility, although I think
many Tibetans might appreciate this, indirectly it would become
an obstacle for the healthy development of democracy. Therefore,
I decided I must be out. There is another advantage: if I remain
as the head of the government and a problem develops between the
Tibetan central government and local people or an administration,
then my presence could lead to further complications. If I remain
as a third person, then I can work to solve such serious matters.
On using violence to free Tibet
Q: Your Holiness,
wouldn’t sacrificing your beliefs in using violence to free
Tibet be a worthwhile action, as this would result in the alleviation
of suffering of the Tibetan people?
A: No, I don’t
think so. In that situation, more violence would happen. That may
lead to more publicity and that may help. But after all, the most
important thing is that China and Tibet have to live side by side,
whether we like it or not. Therefore, in order to live harmoniously,
in a friendly way, and peacefully in the future, the national struggle
through nonviolence is very essential.
Another important matter is that the ultimate agreement or solution
must be found by the Chinese and Tibetans themselves. For that we
need support from the Chinese side, I mean from the Chinese people’s
side; that is very essential. In the past, our stand was the genuine
nonviolent method; this already creates more Chinese support, not
only from the outside but inside China also. There are more supporters
amongst the Chinese for our cause. As time goes on, more and more
Chinese are expressing their deep appreciation and their sympathy.
Sometimes they still find it difficult to support the independence
of Tibet, but they appreciate our way of struggle. I consider this
to be, very precious. If Tibetans take up arms, then I think we
will immediately lose this kind of support.
We should also remember that once we cultivate a compassionate attitude,
non-violence comes automatically. Nonviolence is not a diplomatic
word, it is compassion in action. If you have hatred in your heart,
then very often your actions will be violent, whereas if you have
compassion in your heart, your actions will be nonviolent. As I
said earlier, as long as human beings remain on this Earth there
will always be disagreements and conflicting views. We can take
that as given. If we use violence in order to reduce disagreements
and conflict, then we must expect violence every day and I think
the result of this is terrible. Furthermore, it is actually impossible
to eliminate disagreements through violence. Violence only brings
even more resentment and dissatisfaction. Nonviolence, on the other
hand, means dialogue, it means using language to communicate. And
dialogue means compromise: listening to others’ views, and
respecting others’ rights, in a spirit of reconciliation.
Nobody will be a 100 percent winner, and nobody will be a 100 percent
loser. That is the practical way. In fact, that is the only way.
Today, as the world becomes smaller and smaller, the concept of
“us” and “them” is almost outdated. If our
interests existed independently of those of others, then it would
be possible to have a complete winner and a complete loser, but
since in reality we all depend on one another, our interests and
those of others are very interconnected. Without this approach,
reconciliation is impossible. The reality of the world today means
that we need to learn to think in this way. This is the basis of
my own approach-the “middle way” approach.
I consider human rights violations and similar sorts of problems
also as symptoms. For instance, if there is some swelling or pimple
on the surface of the skin, it is because something is wrong in
the body. It is not sufficient to just treat the symptoms-you must
look deeper and try to find the main cause. You should try to change
the fundamental causes, so that the symptoms automatically disappear.
Similarly, I think that there is something wrong with our basic
structure, especially in the field of international relations. I
often tell my friends in the United States and here: “You
cherish democracy and freedom very much. Yet when you deal with
foreign countries, nobody follows the principle of democracy, but
rather you look to economic power or
military force. Very often in international relations, people are
more concerned with force or strength than with democratic principles.”
We must do something about these beautiful but awful weapons. Arms
and the military establishment are intended
to kill. I think that mentally there’s something wrong with
the concept of war and the military establishment. One way
or another, we must make every attempt to reduce the
On support for Tibet
Q: What would your
Holiness like the members of the audience do to help the Tibetan
A: Although I am very,
very encouraged to receive great
support from many different places like the United States
and here in Britain, we still need more active support. You see,
the Tibetan issue is not only a human rights issue, it also involves
environmental problems and the issue of decolonization. Whatever
way you can show support, we appreciate
it very much.
Q: How can meditation
help bring about contentment?
A: Generally speaking,
when we use the term “meditation” it is quite important
to bear in mind that it has many different connotations. For example,
meditations can be single-pointed, contemplative, absorptive, analytic,
and so forth. Especially in the context of the practice of cultivating
contentment, the type of meditation that should be applied or engaged
in is more analytical. You reflect upon the destructive consequences
of a lack of contentment and the positive benefits of contentment
and so forth. By reflecting upon these pros and cons, you can enhance
your capacity for contentment. One of the basic Buddhist approaches
in meditation is to engage in a form of practice during the meditative
session so that it can have a direct impact on one’s post-meditative
period. For example, on our behavior, our interaction with others,
and so on.
Q: Karma is the law
of cause and effect of our activity. What about the cause and effect
A: Generally speaking,
when one talks about the doctrine of karma, especially in relation
to negative and positive karma, it is definitely linked with a form
of action. But that does not mean that there are neutral actions
or neutral karma, which can be seen as a karma of inactivity. For
instance, if we are confronted with a situation in which someone
is in need of help, suffering, or in a desperate situation, and
the circumstances are such that, by being actively engaged or involved
in the situation, you can help or relieve the suffering, then if
you remain inactive that can have karmic consequences. But a great
deal depends upon one’s attitude and motivation.
On gaining confidence in our Buddha
For the Dalai Lama’s Return Home
Q: What is the best
way to gain confidence in our Buddha Nature?
A: Based on the concept
of Emptiness, meaning the objective Clear Light, and also the concept
of the subjective Clear Light, we try to develop a deeper understanding
of Buddha Nature. It’s not easy, but through investigation,
I think both intellectually and through making connection with our
daily feeling, there is a way to develop some kind of deeper experience
or feeling of Buddha Nature.
On why Buddhism is described as a spiritual
Q: Your Holiness,
why is Buddhism described as a spiritual path when everything revolves
around the mind?
A: Yes, it is true
that some people describe Buddhism as a science of the mind rather
than a religion. In the writings of one of the greatest Buddhist
masters, Nagarjuna, it is mentioned that the approach of the Buddhist
spiritual path requires the coordinated application of the faculty
of faith and intelligence. Although I don’t exactly know all
the subtle connotations of the English term “religion,”
I would personally think that Buddhism can be defined as a sort
of combination of spiritual path and philosophical system. However,
in Buddhism, greater emphasis is given to reason and intelligence
than faith. Yet we do see roles for faith. The testimony of Buddha
is not taken simply on blind faith just because he is the Buddha,
but rather because Buddha’s word has been proven reliable
in the context of phenomena and topics that are amenable to logical
reason and understanding. By inferring that Buddha has been proven
reliable in these matters, one can then conclude that Buddha’s
word can also be taken as valid on issues or topics that are not
so immediately obvious to us. Ultimately understanding and investigation
are the judge. Buddha gave us liberty to carry out further investigation
of his own words. It seems that among humanity, one group of people
describe themselves as radical materialists and another group base
themselves solely on faith, without much investigation. Here are
two worlds or two camps. Buddhism belongs to neither one.
On blind faith
Q: What do you feel
about blind faith in order to reach Enlightenment?
A: I think you should
keep in mind compassion with wisdom. It is very important to utilize
one’s faculty of intelligence to judge the long-term and short-term
consequences of one’s actions.
Q: What of the case
of someone who has no religious faith?
A: Whether we follow
a religion or not is a matter of individual right. It is possible
to manage without religion, and in some cases it may make life simpler.
But when you no longer have any interest in religion, you should
not neglect the value of good human qualities. As long as we are
human beings, and members of human society, we need human compassion.
Without that, you cannot be happy. Since we all want to be happy,
and to have a happy family and friends, we have to develop compassion
and affection. It is important to recognize that there are two levels
of spirituality, one with religious faith, and one without. With
the latter, we simply try to be a warm-hearted person.
Meditation and Science:
A Meeting of Minds
An Interview with the Dalai Lama