from 1993 Thresholds Quarterly

A Human Approach to Global Peace

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the head of the Tibetan government in exile in India and also the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. He was born Lhamo Thondrup in a small village in northeastern Tibet in 1935. He met his destiny when at the age of two a search team of monks came to his village seeking the reincarnation of the deceased 13th Dalai Lama. Dalai Lama means “Ocean of Wisdom” and according to Buddhist tradition the Dalai Lamas are incarnations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. A Bodhisattva, one on the path to enlightenment or Buddhahood, lives a life dedicated to service.
Led by a series of signs, the monks arrived at Lhamo’s home. Their leader pretended to be a servant, but the child recognized the monk and demanded to be given a set of beads the monk wore, saying, “It’s mine. It’s mine.” The beads had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama, who had died in 1933. Given similar objects -- rosaries, walking sticks, drums -- young Lhamo chose the objects which had belonged to the previous Tibetan leader. The precocious young boy also had eight bodily marks that traditionally distinguish Dalai Lamas from others, including long eyes, large ears and streaks somewhat resembling a tiger skin on his legs. The child was enthroned at the Potala palace in Lhasa at the age of four.
Raised as a Buddhist monk, His Holiness assumed full religious and political leadership of Tibet in 1950 at the age of fifteen. This was during a time of crisis, when China invaded Tibet threatening their independence and culture. The Dalai Lama entered into peace negotiations with Chinese leaders Mao Tse-Tung, Chou En-Lai and Deng Ziaoping, relying upon his firm belief in non-violence as the means for responsible change.
As Chinese oppression of the Tibetan culture, religion, and people increased, His Holiness fled to India in 1959 with 100,000 Tibetans, seeking refuge. While the Dalai Lama established a democratic Tibetan government there for Tibetan refugees, providing schooling and religious training to keep Tibetan traditions alive, the Chinese in Tibet proceeded to destroy most of the thousands of monasteries and deny the native's freedoms of religion, assembly and press. The Chinese made worshipping the Dalai Lama a virtual crime -- though the mere mention of his name in Tibet even today elicits worship.
In 1989, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his compassion and dedication to humanity. Today he travels worldwide to educate the international community about the needs of the Tibetan people and to spread the universal message and teaching of compassion. In his own words, “In Tibet we say that many illnesses can be cured by the one medicine of Love and Compassion. These qualities are the ultimate source of human happiness, and our need for them lies at the very core of our being.”
It was a great honor for Senior Editor Laurel Fuller to be chosen as one of a small group of reporters who interviewed the Dalai Lama during his recent visit to St. Louis, Missouri. In keeping with the simplicity and genuine frankness of His Holiness, we have published his words verbatim.

Q: Have you considered new ways of picking the fifteenth Dalai Lama?

Dalai Lama: No. The future Tibet completely be developed and changed. Now the next question is whether the institute of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. In 1969, I make clear in one of my official statements that institute of Dalai Lama should continue or not, will be decided by the Tibetan people themselves. So now, in case Dalai Lama situation should continue, then next question, how to select? Whether we should follow his past position like they choose in the India nation, that way, or like a post as a way of choosing this position. Or some other way, like seniority, which many high Lama institution in Tibet use. Some do like that, seniority.

Q: How would you reincarnate yourself?

Dalai Lama: Myself? As nobody. (Laughs). Of course, I am Buddhist, I do believe in the rebirth theory. Not only that, although I know very little of mysterious appearances, in some of my past lives, past rebirths, sometimes it seems there is some indication or some imprint of what is to be. So, of course to be a Buddhist monk who practiced altruism, who considered altruism as the key. So in my own rebirth it will continue. There is one Buddhist verse, one scripture, that states, “So long one stays the way they are, so long sentient beings suffering the way they are, I will be back.” That’s my most favorite verse, because it is fair. Whether they get used to it or not, I don’t know. Not in this shape, but in more suitable form. According to Buddhist belief, not only in this world, but there are infinite lessons and rebirths, so rebirth not necessarily in this place, in this earth, this universe alone.

Q: I’ve just come back from the Parliament of the World’s Religions and I’d like to know how you think we can keep the spirit of the Parliament alive?

Dalai Lama: I think the circumstances itself compel upon us, there is no other alternative except the spirit of harmony between different religions. Clearly that is the significance of the event. There are many situations and factors now present in the world that point towards indispensability of harmony for religions. There is no other alternative but to seek this harmony. So because of this, meetings like this one which was just held, the Parliament of World Religions, indicate this urgent need. At that meeting I expressed that each member should carry the each participant must take the spirit back to their homes. But it is very difficult to say whether this will be the case. So, as some other participants also voiced this concern, but I also stated the need to carry on this spirit and promote it as much as possible. So perhaps there is a need to set up some sort of working committee that would insure that this spirit is kept alive. Although there are many other organizations with the same objective and then one new committee can be set up as the coordinator of existing organizations, and in that way it can be more effective, rather than working with specific projects, acting more as a coordinator of already existing, various inter-religious orders.

Q: What do you want Americans to do about Tibet?

Dalai Lama: The last fourteen years of our experience, our own effort will not reach satisfactory agreement so the only alternative is world pressure. In that respect, America, the most powerful nation, and also China, considered good relations with China, very, very involved. You have leverage. So in showing more concern, United States must put some pressure on China. The people of this country, friends here, should engage more pressure upon your own government. I think traditionally the American view about freedom and seems in the minds of the American people there is some kind of natural attraction towards men of the democratic ideas. So naturally the Tibetan issue is one of movement and freedom, so therefore the sympathy is there. But then as a government we have to think of many other factors. So in this democratic country, so already many senators, many congressmen already, you see, have put their pressure on our side. Furthermore, on the public side, people must show their concern. There are various Tibetan support groups, Tibet Friends Society and so on, what you could do is channel your support through these organizations so they can be more coordinated and effective. And also one thing which is very important is to request your own members, your own constituents, that your voice could reach at the government level. It is also beneficial when Chinese delegations visit this country to voice your concern and remind them of this issue.

Q: If instead of speaking to a group of American reporters, you were speaking to a group of Tibetans still in Tibet, what would you say?

Dalai Lama: Keep your spirit. It is very important to show them the quite good spirit of solidarity in the outside world. In the meantime I think it is important to practice non-violence and keep the spirit in spite of many obstacles -- is most important.

Q: I have several questions. Let me ask the first. Can history be turned back in the sense that a very repressive government in China is destroying Tibetan culture? How can this be reversed -- and I don’t mean just in the sense of public pressure from the United States, but more specifically, China seems to get to do what it wants to do to its own people. We’ve seen that since Tinneman Square. I’m just curious as a student of history, how one reverses that or turns it around using non-violence. And is there something acceptable that’s less than full independence -- i.e., some sort of autonomy arrangement in your mind?

Dalai Lama: The first part, the Tinneman event I see as a temporary setback for democratic movement. Democratic movement still exist in India and China; their spirit very alive. I do believe very firmly the totalitarian system too much rigid system. That’s why I think before long going to be disbanded. So in Chinese case I think only a matter of years, a matter of time, things will change.
Now regarding Tibet, it is quite clear, in the last fourteen years my approach actually based on Chairman Mao statement, that he stated that beside complete independence anything can be discussed. He stated that, was early ’79, at my personal emissary’s first meeting. So my approach usually I call middle way -- I did not ask complete independence or complete separation from China. And meantime, the present period of time, the so-called autonomous region meaningless...all remaining in the hands of Chinese. And all this area in spite of name of autonomy of Tibet. These autonomous areas of Tibetans, in spite of name of autonomous areas the Chinese population increase. As a result, the entire community compelled to speak Chinese and compelled to act like Chinese. So they are forcing to change. So the present condition is that kind of situation. In other word, intentionally or unintentionally, some kind of cultural genocide is taking place. So this of course, even from the viewpoint of Chinese constitution, state policy -- this is wrong of course. We have every right to change that, to stop that, to ask Chinese government. So therefore my main concern is Tibetan nation -- must protect. So for that reason I offered different proposals to Chinese government, at least two made public. One is a five-point peace plan that claims, I mention, that the Chinese population must stop. And dumping nuclear waste must stop. And then Tibet eventually should be zone of peace. And then second proposal I made more clear. The foreign policy and the defense be headed by Chinese. The rest of the work -- culture, education, spiritual, economy, all these should be headed by Tibetan themselves.

Q: And an end or halting of Chinese colonization of Tibet? In other words Chinese moving into Tibet to increase the Chinese population -- you would like to see that stopped? So you would like to see the population of Chinese reduced?

Dalai Lama: Then Tibetan can sustain their own cultural community.

Q: But you would allow defense and foreign policy to be controlled by the Chinese?

Dalai Lama: Yes. Up to a certain period, limited Chinese forces can be stationed in Tibet. I think this is a good proposal. Defense -- very similar ideas. Eventually some kind of peace conference by regional countries. Regional peace conference and through that way eventually Tibet should be given a chance. This is my main idea. Then can be great benefit, not only citizens of Tibetan people, but also tremendous benefit for both India and China and some other states. In respect of what is their political status, this is my main idea. According to this I made every attempt, in the last fourteen years. I made attempt for future, this is my focus. In last fourteen years no response to some sort of concrete plan, no Chinese response. So that’s why I am appealing to international community. That does not mean I stop the dialogue with China -- no. In spite of criticism for Tibetans inside Tibet as well as outside Tibet. My middle way approach, many people criticize this. In spite of that I am awfully committed. So now I am seeking the international community’s help, support for reaching meaningful negotiations in China. After all this problem between China and Tibet, international community can put pressure on China because China is very much needed because of their economic development. For that Western help because they are very much important.
And another thing, democracy, freedom in China is indestructible. In China, 1.2 billions of population, with the Marxist totalitarian ideas system. The most populated nation. The most populated nation and historically, quite proud nation. The totalitarian system which itself is bad; any totalitarian system is bad idea. But the Chinese, the Communist case, that totalitarian system actually legalized, like Saddam Hussein. Leadership, but not because legalized or by any institutionalized system, but in Communist tradition is institutionalized so is more. So because of the institution this tradition will continue.
Thirdly I have agreement with some of the Marxist ideology. I have attraction toward some of Marxist ideology. Still, yet, in Marxist ideology they are too much toward using violence and hatred. So and because of that, all communist countries historically, always they spend more on military and defense process. China already nuclear weapon. Now, economy development goes without changing these things, it changes not only in Tibet. Tibet already finished. The cold war -- all that was the Asian regions. Outwardly that is something to be concerned. Therefore, the interest of the world, world peace, interest of the peace of Asia, world community has moral obligation to help the forces of democracy in China proper or outside, among the Chinese.
So I wanted to mention, I look to this situation in China in three categories of people: one category, Chinese leadership and those genuine believer in that kind of system, that’s one category. The second category, the Chinese intellectuals and students who really committed themselves for democracy and freedom. The third, Chinese Marxists, mainly farmers. Now here, democracy literally bring in China by this category. Now this leadership, their main concern is power and stability. Stability means their power can remain. Their main concern is in this life -- food will be available if the inflation not too harsh. Then these people quite satisfied. Their daily life, democracy not much as a way of life. So if the economic development continue then some kind of stability which they want, that will continue. Then this category of Chinese people will demoralize, that is tragic. At least we can express, ask a freedom of solidarity of these people. This group must clearly show disapproval of this totalitarian system and inquiry about human rights, about cultural genocide, all these sorts of things.
Universally, the international community have the moral obligation to disapprove of those activities which intensify human rights violation and which disrespect ethnic culturalism, identity, and their right of self rule. So this is my concern. When I seek the international community’s pressure on China, does not mean for Tibetan people -- for Chinese people as a people of China or China as a country -- of course we traditionally have very close link as sometimes we fought with each other. Sometimes the Tibetan people dominate a large part of China. They are our neighbor -- it’s our Eastern neighbor -- sometimes troublesome, sometimes good relation. Then our southern neighbor, India, are our guru, our teacher. So whether we like it or not, we have to remain like that. So what I want is in the future, all of us must remain in the spirit of harmony. So that’s the reason I particularly emphasize the importance of non-violence. If we indulge more in violence, use force, then long term our good relation with China will spoil. While we carry our nation through sincerely, genuinely non-violence we can cultivate, I think, good impact on millions of Chinese heart. Now today already, among Chinese, if this grow in number, who really showing their sympathy and in some cases they usually express their appreciation for what we are following, what we are practicing, non-violence.

Q: I was wondering how you feel, based on your efforts and the response of the Chinese government, about the future you’ve been talking about. Are you optimistic? Do you feel that your country still has a chance?

Dalai Lama: In long term, I’m optimistic. In short term, pessimistic (laughs).•
An Offering for Peace

Addressing the United States Congress’ Human Rights Caucus on 21 September 1987, the Dalai Lama proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan.

• Transformation of the whole of Tibet into a zone of peace.

• Abandonment of China’s population transfer policy which threatens the very existence of the Tibetans as a people.

• Respect for the Tibetan people’s fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms.

• Restoration and protection of Tibet’s natural environment and the abandonment of China’s use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping of nuclear waste.

• Commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and of relations between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.

Chinese leadership rejected this proposal in October 1987, accusing the Dalai Lama of widening the gulf between him and their government.

Today, the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government firmly believe that the only way to start negotiations for the peaceful solution of the Tibet problem is without preconditions from either side. It is encouraging to find that many governments have supported this position.

"...I feel honored, humbled, and deeply moved that you should give this important prize to a simple monk from Tibet. I am no one special. But I believe the prize is a recognition of the true value of altruism, love, compassion, and nonviolence which I try to practice, in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha and the sages of India and Tibet.
I accept the prize with profound gratitude on behalf of the oppressed everywhere and for all those who struggle for freedom and work for world peace. I accept it as a tribute to the man who founded the modern tradition of nonviolent action for change -- Mahatma Gandhi -- whose life taught and inspired me. And, of course, I accept it on behalf of the six million Tibetan people, my brave countrymen and women inside Tibet, who have suffered and continue to suffer so much. They confront a calculated and systematic strategy aimed at the destruction of their national and cultural identities. The prize reaffirms our conviction that with truth, courage, and determination as our weapons, Tibet will be liberated.
No matter what part of the world we come from, we are all basically the same human beings. We all seek happiness and try to avoid suffering. We have the same basic human needs and concerns. All of us human beings want freedom and the right to determine our own destiny as individuals and as peoples. That is human nature..
In 1987, I made specific proposals in a Five-Point Peace Plan for the restoration of peace and human rights in Tibet. This included the conversion of the entire Tibetan plateau into a zone of Ahimsa, a sanctuary of peace and nonviolence where human beings and nature can live in peace and harmony....
As a Buddhist monk, my concern extends to all members of the human family, and indeed, to all sentient beings who suffer. I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction.
Yet true happiness comes from a sense of inner peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness, and greed....
I believe all religions pursue the same goals, that of cultivating human goodness and bringing happiness to all human beings. Though the means might appear different, the ends are the same...
I pray for all of us, oppressor and friend, that together we succeed in building a better world through human understanding and love, and that in doing so we may reduce the pain and suffering of all sentient beings. Thank you."

His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke during the Seventh Annual Interfaith Gathering for Peace at St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis. The service began with a procession of clergy from the St. Louis religious community representing the following faiths: Baha'i, Buddhist, Roman Catholic Christian, Islam, Judaism, Orthodox Christian, Native American, Sikh, Protestant Christian, and Vedanta. Tibetans who have been resettled in St. Louis also joined the procession. Following prayers given by each of the representatives of the religious traditions, the Dalai Lama gave this address on “A Human Approach to Global Peace.”

I am very happy to have this opportunity to participate in interfaith service dedicated toward peace in this wonderful place of worship and I believe that this occasion not only sets a wonderful example but also it will make a contribution toward its goal.
All the world religions have indeed different philosophy and metaphysical beliefs, but all of them converge on many of the ethical messages, therefore they all share the same message. Throughout centuries what is very clear and what has been very clear is that these diverse world religions have benefited millions of people in the past and will continue to do so in the future and they continue to make contributions to the lives of many people.
Because of that factor the harmony or unity or the close relation between different religions is very very essential. Because sometimes the religions also become another factor creating more divisions among humanity and worse thing, in the name of different religions sometimes the conflict, killing one another, that also happens. So that is very, very unfortunate. So, and then on the other hand, with the many material developments still humanity needs some identity to birth spiritual value. Without that, human being is something half, I think. So therefore in this, now we are entering 21st century, even in this moment still religion is something relevant.
So now this kind of gathering, at one place they pray together by different people from different religious traditions, is extremely useful. Now I would like to share with you some of my own experience. When we accept religions then what is important, that is the religious idea must become part of your life. Otherwise when you enter church or some holy place then [for] a few moment [it] seems like [you are] a good person, but then when we deal in every day life without facing the religious faith, that is wrong. So actually when we deal with the reality or the true life, at that moment the religious idea or thought must be there. Through that we really learn, we gain the value of the religious faith, religious belief. So for the follower of different religions it is very, very essential the idea or the message which is taught by all form of religion must be implemented in our daily life. It is not sufficient that religion just merely remain on intellectual level. That must be implemented in our daily life so that it is important if we sincerely implement the religious idea such as compassion, love, forgiveness toward others, these things, then not only you get the happiness but also you will develop the awareness or understanding about the value of other religious traditions. So on that basis the genuine mutual respect, mutual understanding will develop.
So therefore, the first step, ourself, I think the believer ourself must be a true believer. Of course, whether we accept religion or not it is individual right, without a religion it is all right, but if we accept a religion then be a very sincere practitioner or a very sincere follower. Then there are commonalities between various religions in spite of different philosophy some differences are the fundamental differences. However all religions teach us [to] be good human being, warm heart person. Now essential to me, I believe the essential part of all the religious teachings is, I consider, compassion, love. Love, for example, is in many religions which their fundamental faith is Creator, then you see love for God, love for fellow human being. Now to me I think the real message is the love for fellow human being. Now that’s I think the main message. In order to, what that practice, what that message -- to back it is that love for God.
So therefore if those people who sincerely implement love towards fellow human being, these people are truly practice of love to God. If, the other case, those people who not much love toward fellow human being, then these people, even if they repeat a hundred times, “Love to God, love to God,” I think not much meaning. So you see, I think this truly is a test, if that person truly has love for God or not, is his or her attitude towards fellow human being. I think that is very important. So therefore the essence of all religions is a good heart.
Now, a good heart in other words is motivation. So if the motivation is good, positive, compassionate motivation, then every human action becomes positive, constructive. Now for example, you see the economy, technology, science, engineering, law or the economy, politics, even warfare. If the person has the sincere, affectionate motivation, compassionate motivation, even warfare becomes less destructive. If the person’s motivation is negative, even religion becomes dirty religion. So with the human motivation or affectionate motivation all activities become something constructive, that means through all human activities will bring benefit for humanity. If motivation is negative the activities become destructive. So therefore the key factor is the motivation. Now here motivation means the affectionate attitude, the compassion. So the central thing is the compassion, love. In order to keep the compassion you need forgiveness. Tolerance and forgiveness you should not consider as signs of weakness. But actually this is sign of strength. If the person is more self confident, more will be developed then the purpose of forgiveness becomes easier. If is a person who has less self confidence, he is full of fear, and find more difficult to give forgiveness. So this shows tolerance, forgiveness are a sign of strength. The central thing is showing compassion. So all religions carry the same message -- that is compassion.
So with that, the genuine peace will develop within one individual, and within family. And through that way there is the real possibility to achieve the genuine, lasting world peace. So I think it is quite impractical or quite impossible to expect genuine lasting world peace through hatred, through weapons, impossible. Through mental peace, through harmony, through spirit of co-existence, there is a real chance of genuine lasting world peace.
Thank you very much.•
©1993 Vol. 11 No. 4

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