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NHK Interviews His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Osaka

His Holiness the Dalai Lama being interviewed by NHK television in Osaka, Japan on May 9, 2016. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
This morning His Holiness the Dalai Lama drove from Narita to Haneda Airport in Tokyo under grey skies to take the hour long flight to Osaka.

Descending through thick cloud the plane landed at Itami Airport in pouring rain. His Holiness drove to his hotel in time for lunch. Immediately afterwards he gave an interview to Makoto Oda and Eisuke Takahashi, correspondents from NHK, Japan’s national public broadcasting organization,.

They began by asking about the real situation in Tibet and His Holiness told them they had better send Japanese journalists to visit the towns, villages and nomad encampments there to find out for themselves.

“Compared to the Cultural Revolution things are better in Tibet and China, but in Tibet there are hardline officials whose policy is to see anything unique about Tibet, whether it is our language, culture or religious traditions, as portending separation from China. Fearing that, they exert ever tighter control. The teaching of Tibetan language in schools is either banned or restricted. Students who excel in their study of Tibetan are held back, while those who do well studying Chinese find jobs or more easily go on to university. Since the mid 80s Tibetans have felt that a semi-cultural revolution has been imposed. This is what stoked the 2008 crisis. Peking depends too much on local authorities who tend to be narrow-minded and exert too tight a control.

“In terms of material development housing and the shops in cities have improved, but as far as Tibetan Buddhism is concerned, a proper training requires 20-30 years study with a proper teacher. This is difficult to find in Tibet. Most of the learned masters either escaped to India or died in prison. Very few remain. Meanwhile the number of monks has drastically declined. In Drepung Monastery where the 2nd Dalai Lama was abbot, for example, there were 8000 monks when I took my final exams in 1958-9. Now there are 400. The monastery used to accommodate monks from right across Tibet and beyond. Now the authorities send those who have come from afar back home. Monks who are admitted are subjected to political re-education.

“The party proclaims that all is glorious, but there is neither freedom of expression nor freedom of the media. The government imposes censorship that only allows one-sided information.”

Asked about the more than 140 self-immolations that have taken place since 2009, His Holiness said each one was very sad. He expressed admiration for the courage of those who in doing this have done others no harm. He recalled telling a BBC correspondence this when these drastic actions first began adding then that he doubted whether such steps would really help the Tibetan cause.

Regarding the status of Tibet he said:

“We are not seeking independence. Yet Chinese history books record the existence of three distinct and equal empires – China, Mongolia and Tibet – in the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries. However, that is the past. Now we are looking to the future. I admire the spirit of the European Union in which members accord greater importance to the common interest than national sovereignty. We need greater material development in Tibet and China can help us with that, provided we can keep our own language and traditions alive.

“Tibetans retain the most comprehensive presentation of the Nalanda tradition which involves memorization, study and debate, and practice. The survival of Tibetan Buddhism is of interest not only to 6 million Tibetans, but also to 400 million Chinese Buddhists, as well as Buddhists in Japan. Today, scientists too are recognising that peace of mind is crucial if individuals, families and nations are to be happy. Technology and material development by themselves are not enough. Happiness is related to our emotions, so, just as we observe physical hygiene to stay physically healthy, to be mentally healthy and happy we need to observe some kind of emotional hygiene. The Tibetan Buddhist tradition includes a great deal of knowledge about how to deal with our emotions. We have a right to preserve this, but it can also certainly be of benefit to others.”

Regarding prospects for reconciliation with the People’s Republic of China, His Holiness recalled contacts being established in the 80s after Deng Xiaoping told his emissary that besides independence everything was up for discussion. These contacts ceased in the 90s. They were revived again in Jiang Zemin’s time, but came to an end again in 2010. He remarked that he holds the name Dalai Lama and that the 5th Dalai Lama visited Peking. Meanwhile, on the one hand millions of Chinese Buddhists seem eager to listen to him teach and on the other Xi Jinping, a Communist leader, stated in Paris and repeated in Delhi that Buddhism has a crucial role to play in Chinese culture. His Holiness also mentioned the 1000 or so recent articles in Chinese that express support for the Tibetan Middle Way Approach and criticize the stance of the Chinese government.

His Holiness also noted that the tight control of totalitarian regimes is out of date. A more liberal approach would be in both the Chinese people’s and their government’s interest. He said the 1.3 billion Chinese people have a right to know about reality and are capable of judging right from wrong on that basis. In such a context blanket censorship is both immoral and wrong. He took the opportunity to add that he did not mean to imply that he is opposed to Marxism as such. He is fully in support of the idea of equal distribution of wealth and opportunity, but opposes the draconian measures that Lenin introduced that subsequently spoiled it.

To a question about who will be the next Dalai Lama, His Holiness replied, “Who knows?” He went on to say that he has not only retired from political responsibility himself, but has also put an end proudly and voluntarily to the Dalai Lama’s traditional involvement in political affairs in addition to their spiritual role. Consequently, a future Dalai Lama would only be a religious person like the Sakya Trizin and the Karmapa. On the other hand, he said, it would not be a problem if there were no future Dalai Lama. He observed that there no reincarnations of either the Buddha or of Nagarjuna and yet their teachings continue to flourish centuries after they lived.

He clarified that non-violence is not his personal predilection, but the proper way to solve problems. He said you only have to look at what is happening in the Middle East to see that, asserting that no one wants to perpetuate violence and killing.

His Holiness suggested that modern education with its focus on material goals and a disregard for inner values is incomplete. There is a need to know about the workings of our minds and emotions. He mentioned the recent drafting of a curriculum to introduce secular ethics into the general education system in which he places great hope.

“I will not live to see the emergence of a more compassionate world,” he said, “but if we start and make an effort to educate those who are young now in inner values, they will see a different, peaceful, more compassionate world in the future. Problems created by human beings have to be solved by human beings. Basic human nature is compassionate and this is our source of hope.

“Friendship too is important. If you show concern for others and respect for their rights you will establish trust; and trust is the basis of friendship. I was very encouraged to hear from the BBC that increasing numbers of young people today regard themselves as global citizens. This is a positive development.”

Asked his thoughts about speculation that President Obama may visit Hiroshima at the end of this month, he replied that it would be wonderful. He added that he often remarks how impressed he is that Germany and Japan arose from the ashes of the Second World War and express no rancour for what happened to them.

Regarding the way everyone bows to Chinese pressure, which can make things more difficult for him, His Holiness replied that in the long run the power of truth surpasses the power of the gun. He said many foreign leaders remain fundamentally sympathetic to the cause of Tibet and Tibetans are fully committed to non-violence. Observing that human nature is basically good, he said that at the age of nearly 81 he remains optimistic.

Tomorrow His Holiness will begin to teach Shantideva’s ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ to an audience of about 2700 including Chinese, mostly from Taiwan, but some from the mainland, Koreans, Mongolians, Russians and Japanese.

 

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