The Dalai Lama doesn’t give many interviews, dividing his time between his home in McLeodganj, Himachal Pradesh, informally advising the Tibetan government-in-exile located there and travelling the world delivering lectures, giving audiences and sharing his world view with the world’s most powerful people, including US President Barack Obama. En route to the US, where the Tibetan community is celebrating his 80th birthday, the Dalai Lama met Senior Writer Jyoti Malhotra for an exclusive interview, speaking candidly about issues that have simmered beneath the surface for decades—his relationship with China, a possible reincarnation and his years in India. Excerpts:
- Your Holiness, you have spent 56 of 80 years of your life in India. What does that mean to you?
- One aspect of my life is that I am a refugee, having lost my homeland. I feel sad about that. However, over a thousand years, Tibet and India have had a very unique and close relationship. We have always considered India our guru. I think of myself as a student of the Nalanda tradition. So this is my spiritual home. My (physical) home may be lost, but I live very happily in my spiritual home. Also, because of the freedom India offers, I have the opportunity to meet many spiritual leaders, scholars and scientists.
- Do you still think of yourself as a refugee in India?
- No, I am the longest guest of the Indian government!
- Would you like to go home? Back to Tibet?
- Yes, because being a Tibetan, more than 90 per cent people trust me there. They are very eager to see me, and I have full confidence that I can serve the Buddha dharma in Tibet.
- Would you like to assure the Chinese government that Tibet will not split from China?
- May I say that many officials,
especially hardliners, cannot see the reality. Throughout their lives, they have believed in one-sided information provided by Chinese historians. The reality is that during the 7th-8th centuries, there were three separate empires—Tibetan, Mongolian and Chinese… but that is in the past. I have always admired the spirit of the European Union as well as India. Before India’s independence, there were many small kingdoms and rajas. But now that times have changed, it would be quite foolish for one raja to say, I am independent, I want a sovereign state. Similarly, historically, Tibet has been a separate country. But we want to look forward. It is in our interest to remain within the People’s
YES, I WANTED TO MEET
XI JINPING BUT,
OF COURSE, IT WAS
NOT EASY. I HAVE
ALWAYS WANTED TO
MEET CHINESE LEADERS.”
Republic of China. At the same time, we should have the full authority to take care of our culture, our rich Buddhist tradition and our environment. This will be to our mutual benefit. (Meanwhile) in China, Buddhism is growing… there are about 400 million Chinese Buddhists today.
- Have you met any of these Chinese Buddhists?
- Yes. Many Chinese Buddhists come to Dharamsala. Many of them are scared about the reaction they will face once they meet Tibetans. But once they listen to my teachings, many even begin to cry.
- Your interlocutors have had
several rounds of talks with China. Why have they not been successful? A. China knows that we are not seeking independence or aiming at separatism. But many hardliners don’t want me to return. Therefore they deliberately try to create an impression that the Dalai Lama is a splittist. Some Chinese officials describe me as a demon. When I hear this, I say, yes, I’m a demon with horns (laughs). The hardliners give the impression that the Dalai Lama is a troublemaker and they have every right to keep him away.
- You have met Chinese President Xi Jinping’s father. His mother is a devout Buddhist…
- Not only him. Many Chinese officials, including those in the military and members of the Communist Party of China who outwardly show that they are atheists, actually believe in Buddhism. Last year, when he visited Europe and India, Xi Jinping publicly said that Buddhism is a part of the Chinese culture. It was quite surprising that a Chinese Communist leader, whose party had once declared that all spirituality is backward, particularly Buddhism, the chief of that very party was saying something positive about Buddhism.
Now, Xi Jinping is carrying out an almost impossible struggle against corruption. The previous two Chinese presidents, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, also knew about the corruption problem but were too scared to tackle it. But Xi Jinping is boldly dealing with it and I admire his courage.
- So things are changing in China ? A. Yes… Xi Jinping is still quite young. I am old but may I say that he is a bit too overweight. He should exercise and lose some weight! But I really admire his courage and his way of thinking. Judging from his actions, he seems quite realistic. However, the entire system is such that bringing about a change is difficult.
- When Xi Jinping came toDelhi last year, there was speculation that both
ERESTTO BE WITHIN CHINA”
of you were going to meet.
- Yes, my friends, one of them a Chinese (businessman), had that idea, that wish. I also wanted it to happen, but of course it was not easy.
- You wanted to meet him?
- Yes. I have always wanted to meet Chinese leaders. One time I was in Texas in southern US, when Hu Jintao was visiting Washington. At that time also I had sent a message that if possible, I would want to meet him.
- So you and Xi Jinping can come together and resolve the problem of Tibet?
- I don’t know. I don’t have a direct responsibility for Tibet. But as I mentioned earlier, all problems can be resolved through talking and meeting. Not through suppression. Now nearly 60 years have passed, and I have said this before—the Chinese system worships the gun. Chairman Mao has himself said that power comes from the barrel of the gun. But only during war, or civil war, this kind of thinking is relevant. When I first met Mao Zedong and other top officials in Peking, I
really admired (them) and (was) very much impressed by them. They were truly dedicated, serving people, particularly the working class who suffer the most. I was so impressed that I had even expressed a desire to join the Chinese Communist Rarty. As far as socio-economic policy is concerned, I am a Marxist. That’s no secret. But I’m totally against Leninism, it means too tight a control. China, I’m hopeful, will become an open-minded communist country. It has a population of more than a billion, it can make a significant
INDIA IS OUR GURU,
TIBET IS THE CHELA;
PROBLEMS, THE GURU
HAS A RESPONSIBILITY
OF SOLVING THEM.”
contribution to world affairs. To o< that, respect and trust from the r~ of the world is very essential. Bi : society where everything is a sii • secret—that is very harmful developing trust.
- Would you like the Indian government, whose guest you have been * so many years, to assist you in y – – talks with China?
- I think not only India but the fr— world has some responsibility to sc * the problems and suffering of az community. India has a long bore-– with Tibet, so the Tibet issue is a_~ an important issue for India. Our re tionship is unique. Sometimes I j • ingly say, Tibet is India’s first line :t defence. This will remain so as long the Tibetan culture, Tibetan spiritns!- ity remain intact. India is our gu’- Tibet is the chela; so when the cl : has some problems, the guru also Irresponsibility of solving them.
Q. From the time of Jawahari Nehru, you’ve had very close relz tions with all the prime ministr – of India. What about PM Narendrz