1 Interview of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for NDTV

Barkha Dutt’s Interview of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for NDTV

Dharamsala, India, 7th July, 2010. Transcript of the interview of His Holiness the Dalai Lama by NDTV presenter Barkha Dhutt that was originally broadcast on July 6th, 2010. The interview was conducted in front of a live audience at His Holiness’s residence in Dharamala, India, on July 4th, 2010.
(View the video of the interview here http://dalailama.com/webcasts/post/116-in-conversation-with-the-dalai-lama) First Second part.

NDTV: He is easily one of the world’s most respected and more importantly, the most loved political and spiritual leaders. He was only 2 years old when he was recognized as the future Dalai Lama, in fact, the 14th Dalai Lama, only 6-years-old when he began his monastery education. And today, as he turns 75, we are extremely privileged to be with him in Dharamsala at his monastery, a home away from home not just for His Holiness but also for the Tibetan people in exile for decades now. We look back and ahead at his life and times. We also have with us today in our special audience not just his followers but also people who visit and come to Dharamsala, which has got an international name because of his holiness, and of course tourists and foreigners and followers come from all across the globe and like I said it’s clearly a privilege to be with you your holiness. You know, most of us mere mortals when we approach our birthday, sometimes we are happy, sometimes there is a sense of fear that life is slipping by, that we are getting old, but you seem to be perennially young. How do you manage to stay so young hearted?

The Dalai Lama: I think sufficient sleep and..

NDTV: I never get enough of that, I think that’s the problem.

The Dalai Lama: As a Buddhist monk there is no dinner but a very heavy breakfast and lunch so sufficient food. I think physically these things are important, but another factor, nowadays according to latest scientific findings is that a healthy mind is very important for a healthy body. So I think in my own case, comparatively I think my mental state is quite peaceful. Whenever I am hurt or face some problem, I look at it from a wider way, a holistic way and that also helps to reduce anxiety so perhaps my mental state is quite peaceful, quite calm so that also one factor.

NDTV: Many people describe you as a twinkly-eyed, you know there is a twinkle in your eyes, you are always laughing, you make us laugh, you make everybody who meets you happier, calmer, do you always internally feel as positive as you appear or do you feel the need to appear more positive than you feel because of the millions who follow you everywhere?

The Dalai Lama: No mostly as I already mentioned, my mental state is quite calm and then also I consider every soul as human being, basically we are all the same, nothing different, physically we are the same. Of course there is a little difference in colour, or size of the nose, otherwise you see we are completely same. If you ask scientists what are the differences in the brain or in the neuron… nothing. We are therefore emotionally same, mentally also same. So I never look at human beings as the President or King or Prime Minister or beggar… in my eyes all are the same. So whenever I meet these people I say, “look at them, they are just  other human beings… our brothers and sisters.  So this also creates more peace in my mind. But I may not be that level of mind not always, occasionally I burst.

NDTV: You get angry?

The Dalai Lama: Oh yes yes.

NDTV: You get angry?

The Dalai Lama: Oh yes, if you ask some silly question repeatedly, then I may lose my temper.

NDTV: Now I am scared.

The Dalai Lama: Actually once it happened in America, I think most probably in New Jersey…one New York Times columnist, one lady, she asked me, first some other questions, then she asked me, what I want my name or legacy to be in future. And I told her, I am a Buddhist practitioner and I do not think of my name like that. Then we had some other discussion, then again she asked me the same question, and I answered in the same way, then again after some time she asked me the same question… then I lost my temper.

DTV: This is a lesson for me to ask only once.

The Dalai Lama: Good, good. 

NDTV: But when you get angry, do you express it? You know in modern urban life, a lot of us get angry very quickly, we lead highly stressful lives, we have short tempers, when you get angry how do you control it? Because you are a Buddhist, a spiritual leader?

The Dalai Lama: You see when I get angry or irritated due to very small mistakes of some other people, then I just express and then finish, but sometime when it is a more serious form of anger, I try to separate myself from anger, then watch my anger, that emotion… then immediately the strength of anger diminishes, according to my own experience. And then, I  also share with my friends, just as these, in order to bring more calmness to my mind. You cannot have some sort of special practice for each case, but you must build your basic mental attitude in a healthy way, like in the case of a healthy body if the immune system is strong then some virus or germs can’t disturb you much, so  similarly, your mental attitude has to be calm, then if some disturbance come, even if some negative emotions come, they remain for very short period, all the emotions remain on the surface, and do not disturb much in depth.

NDTV: Now tell me something, you spoke about the brain, the human brain, but you are the kind of person who married a scientific temperament of inquisitiveness with spirituality, which is very rare, and I read somewhere that on your table, you have the model of the human brain that you keep assembling and trying to understand… it’s very rare for a spiritual leader to believe so much in science, where did that come to you from?

The Dalai Lama: I believe, firstly, that if you are a genuine religious practitioner, especially a  Buddhist, you have to be realistic. So in order to develop a realistic approach, a realistic awareness, you must know the reality. So in that respect, the scientific way of thinking, their method of investigating the reality is very important, very useful. I think basically some of my friends may already know, that Buddhism in general, particularly the Nalanda tradition, their way of thinking is very scientific. So Buddha himself has made it very clear in one of his quotations that all his followers should not accept his teachings out of faith but out of thorough investigation and experiment. So this is the scientific way of thinking, like for example, Nagarjuna, also one of the great spiritual leaders of Nalanda. Sometimes I refer to these as great masters, from the Buddhist eye they are masters, but from general eye they are Nalanda professors, very brilliant. They have in writing that do not believe in the Buddhist word rather their investigation and logic, so I think that’s the basic way of thinking, it’s the Nalanda tradition.

NDTV: That is practical and scientific.

The Dalai Lama: Yes and investigation, so I am training through that way, and then personally, since my childhood I always had this curiosity…wanting to know what’s this and what’s that. And particularly when I was very young, you know the British Mission in Lhasa… this new person came, he always brought me some toys, so  when I received any information and gave it to the British officers in Lhasa, I was always very excited, what kind of new toy would come?

NDTV: What was your favourite toy?

The Dalai Lama: Trains, you know railway, like that (gestures) and cars, and anyway when I got them, for few moments I would play and I would try to know the system that caused the movement and then I would always open it up. Actually, many times it would be damaged in the process. And then after coming to India finally, I got the opportunity of  meeting people from different religious traditions that was immensely helpful, then meeting people from different professions and then eventually scientists. As I was interested, I became more acquainted with them, had more discussions with them and found them very, very useful, very helpful. 

NDTV: But you know, one of the most compelling facts about you your holiness is that you still retain a child- like, if I may use that phrase, a child-like innocence, a child like humor, yet you were only two years old when you were recognised as the next Dalai Lama. Do you sometimes speaking as a human being and not a holy man today, do you look back and feel that your childhood was lost?

The Dalai Lama: No… I think in a way yes, to some extent, as early an age as 2 years when they recognised me, I think for 2 years or 3 years after they recognised me as the Dalai Lama of the nation, I was still with my parents, my younger brother, elder brother, sister etc and then I think when I was about 5 years, I reached Lhasa and was then separated from my mother.

NDTV: For a child that must have been very difficult?

The Dalai Lama: During my sort of station or living in Potala, at some distance was a building where the people could stay but my mother preferred to stay somewhere else but during summer time, the outer wall was yellow, the inside wall was white and within that building, my mother and family lived there. I think in summer time, every other day they used to come, occasionally I also went to their home, then after 2 years, my tutor put some restrictions that I cannot go to meet her, I felt a little angry but I obeyed his instructions, but sometimes as a child my lessons were not very successful because my mood would be bad, then as soon as the lessons finished I would run to my mother’s place and spend some time there, and in the beginning I would be determined that I would never return for  the lesson but then when the time for the afternoon lesson would come, I would quietly crawl back.

NDTV: So that actually sounds like any other child who was traumatised by exams, but you use this interesting…..

The Dalai Lama: So therefore, in one way I was isolated from my mother, from my parents, but in the other, they used to always come.  Then what happened was that there were sweepers, officials and some sort of a servant for me. Of course in ceremony, in official ceremonies they would show great respect but when I played with them they showed no respect, they would often defeat me, sometimes I would cry, I did not want to be defeated but they treated me in a normal way, including those people who later become my best friends…they are uneducated but very honest, very trustworthy people.

NDTV: You use this word ‘realist’ talking about scientific temperament, this phrase talking about realistic approach has defined your politics, you have 2 avatars, you are a spiritual leader and you are also the political leader of Tibet, your realistic approach where you have spoken about autonomy for Tibet rather than independence is the middle way, is the moderate approach, yet it seems like it hasn’t moved Beijing, it hasn’t moved China, do you regret at 75 your moderate political approach?

The Dalai Lama: No, no, of course among Tibetans and among our supporters, our friends, there are some signs of increasing criticism about our approach but if you look at the whole picture, although there was some positive result from the Chinese government, the whole thing inside Tibet completely failed. From the government side there was no result, but the Chinese people, not the entire 1.3 billion people, but some intellectuals, some professors and writers, and some artists, I think before the Tiananmen massacre happened, very few… after that more and more Chinese are showing their concern and showing their solidarity with us. Then in recent years, particularly in 2008, crisis in Tibet remained stationary by Tibetans. Now a number of Chinese intellectuals are showing us their support, and I can give an examples for that… see in the last 2 years there have been over 1000 articles written in Chinese language by Chinese writers, more than 100 of them living in China and all these articles fully support our way of approach, and are very critical of their government policy.

NDTV: I agree but do you…

The Dalai Lama: Within the Chinese government there are many officials who personally professionally express their support for our approach, this is what I feel is the positive result, but there is a problem which has to be solved with the Chinese, and we cannot stop it by ourselves. When it’s a civil war, then you solve the problem, sometimes I jokingly tell that these people are new guests without proper invitation, such guests have come with a gun, once they build a trench, they will control everything, the Tibetan way of live, how to be a good Buddhist. Sometimes you will see Chinese media writing about Dalai Lama not teaching true Buddhism, so it seems they know better, so therefore that’s the problem… Tibetan problem created from outside and so we have to find a solution with them, so Chinese people showing their support is very essential. Also the outside world, including the United States, Indian government, European Parliament… all these influential bodies very easily show support.

NDTV: You still have faith in the US since I remember when I met you last time, you had come back from your first trip from Washington and President Obama had not met you, subsequently he did but many people think he acted under Chinese pressure but you still have faith in Washington?

The Dalai Lama: Of course, the President himself when I met, but before of course our physical meeting, I knew him through correspondence and through telephone. He is a very good person, finally America is a democratic country, both  the houses are important, that also is the public thinking. Usually in a democratic country, it’s the public thinking that reflects in the Parliament, in the Houses, that in turn reflects on the administration,  so in America, at the public level, both the houses are very supportive. Then in this country India, the Indian government can easily support our stand. 

NDTV: But the Indian government did not let you make a speech when you went to Tamang in Arunachal Pradesh, they said that you were to visit as a spiritual leader. Do you sometimes think that India is also giving in to pressure from the Chinese because India is trying to form a parallel strategic relationship with China, does that disturb you?

The Dalai Lama: Previously, I used to respond when people asked what is the government of India’s response to the issue, and I have always said that those fields in which the Indian government could help, it has helped maximum, in educational field, in rehabilitation etc… in the political field, government of India’s attitude or policy towards China in general, especially Tibet I would describe as over cautious, it’s understandable, but in recent years, the government of India’s stand on this issue is more firm, now among Indian pandits and other people are now showing their concern over Tibet.

NDTV: Well you remain optimistic about Tibet, we are going to take a quick break and then we will open the floor to the many followers and questioners, so we will be back with this special programme on his holiness’s 75th birthday in just a few minutes.

NDTV: We are in  conversation with his holiness “The Dalai Lama” on the occasion of his 75th birthday in Dharamsala at his monastery so it’s a very special occasion for us as well and for all the people who have known and followed and worshipped and befriended the Dalai Lama, one of the few Holy man with whom you can crack a few jokes. We are going to hear from all of them today and we are carrying from Delhi the special message for you your holiness from one of India’s best known photographers, Raghu Rai, who has spent a long time photographing you and following you around and he loves you a lot and this is the message Raghu Rai has sent for you… 

Raghu Rai’s message: Your Holiness, many happy returns of the day on your 75th birthday and you may look as handsome and as strong like the Himalayas, like you have always looked . Your Holiness you know that we all love you and I personally love you very deeply because each time you have given me a high. My mind, body and soul gets enriched and rejuvenated with the energy that you exuberate. You are a highly spiritual and  evolved person and so my question to you is” Please connect with the supreme energy for ourselves and find out when are we going to go back to Tibet so I can travel back with you in your own land and photograph you all over again. My best wishes again and lots of love. 

NDTV: And I guess Raghu asked the question that so many wants to know. Do you believe in your heart of hearts and I ask you this because you are a realist,  “do you believe that you will ever go back to Tibet in this lifetime?”

The Dalai Lama: Oh yes. 

NDTV: You still believe that?

The Dalai Lama: Yes, Firstly the Tibetan spirit is inside Tibet and despite so much of change or new development and also brainwashing or torture on various matters, Tibet’s spirit never changes because it is forever very strong. Then on top of that many Chinese, according to some information there are over 200 millions of Buddhists in China including many party members and officials who are outwardly “communist, atheist but inside they are Buddhists” . Then the last four eras, if we look closely, much change, so one party system, same system and same party but do they have ability to act according to the reality… so up to now their policy is unrealistic. Sooner or later they have to realise that their policy is unrealistic and will always be counter-productive.  

NDTV: Do you ever feel  because while you are a holy leader, spiritual leader but you are also human at heart. Do you sometimes feel that in this issue of going back to Tibet for you or for your people, time is not on your side anymore? Time is running out. 

The Dalai Lama: Oh yes, 51 years have passed but as I mentioned earlier, you see, last 60 years or more than 60 years,  things are  changing , still changing quite rapidly in China so the present situation cannot remain forever. We have to believe that things will change but then if you ask, how soon, that is the question and nobody knows the answer.

NDTV: In your lifetime?

The Dalai Lama: Oh, in the next 5 years, 10 years or I think 15 years, things will change definitely. 

NDTV: You joked once that to retire was also your human right?

The Dalai Lama: Yes, since 2001, since we all achieved elected political leadership of our establishment here, my position is same as a retired position, so now I am looking forward to complete retirement. 

NDTV: Do you think the Tibet movement will remain the same if you do retire because there are many people and young people in Tibet who feels your message of non-violence has actually not worked because it has not managed to move a cold un-feeling government in Beijing. So do you see those young people today, some of them who talk about having a more aggressive approach. Do you worry about what will happen to this movement after you?

The Dalai Lama: No, up to now inside Tibet and a well as outside Tibet I can imagine almost 95% or even I may say 99% of people are totally dedicated to non violent paths. A few individuals, yes it’s possible and also here is possible. Now the difference is that some new organizations want complete freedom, complete independence so here is the where the difference is . Now somewhere a debate going on in our community. Actually from our side, from time to time, we ask people since we are totally dedicated to the democratic principle and also the Tibet issue is the issue of Tibetan people. So finally it’s up to the Tibetan people. So time to time we ask people. 

NDTV: So you are saying is that if Tibetan people wanted complete independence or more aggressive approach you would have not discouraged them ?

The Dalai Lama: As I just mentioned, almost 99% are totally dedicated to non-violent methods. Few of the individuals may not be. But then the difference is about independence and that number is growing and we also sometimes find it difficult to explain because there is failure inside Tibet. Still from time to time we ask just that…I think 2008 in November we had this big meeting here and we asked the people and there were strong voices about independence and criticism of our approach  but finally we joined them and our support exists for the stand. So both will continue like this. 

NDTV: So if the majority opinion within the community changes, you will be willing to change your position? 

The Dalai Lama: Have to. 

NDTV: So if the majority says we want says we want more autonomy?

The Dalai Lama: I am not a dictator. Logically we are criticising these dictator policies and a person who criticises them, how can he practice being a dictator?

NDTV: Why do you want to retire then? What would this movement be without you?

The Dalai Lama: Age… it should be like a democracy and people should carry on the responsibility not just one individual. So now I am 75 and now I am looking forward to and think it time for retirement

NDTV: Are you serious or are you joking?

The Dalai Lama: I am serious, you know I have three commitments: 

Number 1 commitment is the promotion of few values, irrespective of a believer or non believer. So that’s why I have always received invitation from different parts of the world. Not that they invited me as Dalai Lama but Dalai Lama’s thinking is something they feel is quite realistic or suitable so that is my number one commitment.

2, promotion of religious harmony. Both of the these two things I usually describe as ancient Indian thought. So I myself describe me as the messenger of ancient Indian thought. So wherever I go I promote these two things. These two things till my death I am committed.

3, third is the Tibetan issue, so when I retire completely, I will have more time energy and will spent on these two things 

NDTV: Have you set a time frame mentally for this retirement?

The Dalai Lama: No , what’s really difficult is that people put too much emotion and too much expectation.

NDTV: People won’t let you retire? 

The Dalai Lama: Well that maybe difficult, but then also finally I am also a human being and I also have the right to serve my life.

NDTV: Well retirement is your right of life but I don’t think it’s happening. There are so many people and let’s start taking some questions. We have Catherine Levine..

Catherine: I am from Canada and I have studied philosophy of the mind so I am very interested to hear you speak and very honoured to be near today and  Happy Birthday . You indicated that you do have hope for Tibet’s future? What are the main sources of hope for you? 

The Dalai Lama: Truth, Honesty, Transparency. Our voice here is very small and very weak but people trust. Other side, very few trust.  So the truth , honesty and transparency is the source of our hope and source of our strength. I heard some BBC program talking about power of God, power of money, power of truth. These are important now. People usually just thought they have the power of gun. In last days, superpower and power of gun unfortunately find very many difficulties and then power of economy. I think one powerful power of economy is corruption or lie, cheating or not being transparent. So these and then power of truth brings trust and with that self-confidence. Then transparency, which brings trust and trust brings friendship.

NDTV: You have never in all these years lost hope? Not one moment of self-doubt, not one moment of thinking that its been decades and decades and I am not able to change  anything, not one moment of losing hope?

The Dalai Lama: No, of course some disappointments, occasionally come  but basically as I mentioned truth and I am honest. So when we met, my officials and also some Tibetans met with some set of officials here and there. Since we are totally honest, truthful and transparent, so we always feel very easy to talk with them and on their side there is always uneasiness.

NDTV: That’s a very interesting way  of putting it but I think many of us marvel at where do you keep getting this optimism from? We have another question from Jeremy Russell…

Jeremy: I heard you say that you expect to outlook the Chinese Communist Party, I wonder if you still feel that way and whether you feel the change in the Chinese  Communist would be gradual or sudden?

The Dalai Lama: Few occasions these days half joke – half serious communist party inspire lot of discussions. Particularly in the early period  when real revolutionary period was moving on or taking place they were totally dedicated people. When I was in China in 54-55 of course I met several times with General Mao, all those top leaders  and also I met a number of top leaders in different provinces. All of these people were totally dedicated to the well-being of the people. So my impression is  good about this Marxist party. So I offered that “I want to join Communist Party” but then they said no. So I think even they know that their Communist Party will be spoilt so better to not join the party. At that time it was really a wonderful party, really a working class party and really a people’s party. So I think not only are there intelligent people but also ordinary people. So logically now the time has come to retire with grace, however I  have some sort of reservation to say that in China immediately Democracy must start. That I have some reservation about. China, who has 1.3 billion people has never experienced Democracy and large number of people are uneducated. So some kind of centralized authority should be there. So therefore under Communist leadership, there should be a gradual change.  

I think one thing we immediately need is transparency and free information. 1.3billion people have every right to know the reality. It’s immoral and they must have free information, then 1.3 billion Chinese people also have the capacity to know what is right what is wrong. So this propaganda and distorted information  is totally unpredicted. Maybe during war or during civil war some censorship, that’s it. In a free country, during war and some emergency period, they practice that but in a peaceful period this is totally unacceptable. Then the independent judiciary is very very crucial. Look India , I offer to tell my Chinese friend that they should look at India – north Indian, south Indian, west Indian and east Indian” – different languages, even different script, cultural differences but no separation. They have their own language and their own script , separate identity but everybody remains in this union. Kashmir has some problems and that’s with mainly Pakistan. So Chinese should learn these things. So India has advantage of free information and  transparency and independent judiciary. I think China should start transparent and free information and eventually create an independent judiciary. This is very necessary but  party power gradually changes. 

NDTV: Do you still think of  yourself as a Marxist ?

The Dalai Lama: Yes . As far as social economic theory is concerned I am a Marxist. 

The Dalai Lama: Maybe that will give you some ambition to the Communist Party of China. Now unfortunately Chinese Communist Party is no longer a Communist party. One my Nobel laureate friend, a very respected friend whom I admire. So he supports the people of China, a socialist country many years ago.  About two years ago I met him and asked him, “are people from China really socialist ?” He said, ” no, no longer socialist but capitalists and authoritarians.” 

NDTV: Which is a potent combination to deal with. And now to hear from his holiness’s one of oldest friends Professor Sharma, who has also been the former principal of Dharamsala college. Sir since you know his Holiness so well to tell us something that none of us know?

Sharma: That’s a very difficult question to answer.

NDTV: Because we all don’t know him as well as you do?

Sharma: I had moments of great importance with his holiness. My most memorable moment was when a friend rang me up to say that there was very bad news and what was the bad news was that his Holiness was leaving Dharamsala. That was way back in 1989. Something had happened and I will not go into the details. That was at 9:30 in the evening and so in the morning got going and in the afternoon I arrived here at his Holiness’s office but his holiness was very busy as hundreds of foreign journalists were there and I was told that no audience could be granted. I sent a message back saying that I will not leave this place, sit on dharna until midnight unless his Holiness allows me to meet him. He was kind enough that his then secretary sent the word to me that his Holiness will meet me at quarter to six in the evening after he was free from the journalists. I went to meet his Holiness and as usual  he was standing at the threshold. I will not reveal to the public what he said to me when both of us waited for a second at the threshold before entering the room. Only at that moment I wished like Sita for the ground under me to open so I could go inside it and disappear. I was so shocked and then I said no your Holiness let us sit. Then we talked and talked but I don’t know what I talked and a stage came when I started crying like a baby and his Holiness got up and I got up and his Holiness embraced me like anything… that is one of the most memorable events of my life. 

I have the privilege of having his grace and blessing for the last 40 years. 

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