We are all social animals and compassion, care and concern for others brings us together. Animals may be violent but only human beings make war. However, this may be changing. In the early part of the 20th century, when one nation declared war on the other, every citizen joined the war effort, without asking questions. This has no longer been the case from the latter part of the 20th century. When a government declares, or contemplates war, quite often citizens speak up against it. Many Americans were against the Vietnam War and during the Iraq War, millions expressed their desire for peace. So humans, I feel, are becoming more mature. They also know that war brings with it immense destruction. There are no winners. Everyone suffers. I am an admirer of the European Union. I think if the European Union hadn’t been formed, there would have been fighting among member states. Therefore, this is an indication that people are fed up with violence. People now consider common interest to be more important than just personal national interest and I admire this. I think there is hope.
On a world without violence
I think theoretically it’s possible. Now it all depends on our efforts, mainly through education and closer contact. The only way to remove suspicion is close friendships. Unfortunately, there is violence in the name of religion. Look at Iraq and Syria. Thousands and thousands of young children are dying in Syria. How could we have created such a situation, how can we see another human being dying and remain indifferent. I am fully committed to the oneness of humanity. If we share these common feelings, then we will have no ground for violence or war. It’s difficult but possible to achieve, through education, not through prayer. I met someone who asked me, please pray. I said, I am a Buddhist, I have a daily practice of prayer but I do not believe prayer brings a peaceful world. We can keep praying for a thousand years and nothing will happen. We should be realistic. If you have the opportunity to meet the Buddha or Jesus Christ, ask them to bring peace to this world and they will certainly ask you, who creates violence? If god created violence, then yes, it’s relevant to appeal to god. I am certain that Buddha and Jesus Christ would tell us, you have created the problem, so it’s your responsibility to solve it. Work for peace, the easy thing to do is pray.
On the role of education
Modern education is oriented towards material values. So where inner value is concerned, we totally rely on religious faith. In ancient times it was fine, ethics were the province of religion but now out of seven billion human beings, more than one billion declare that they have no faith. Among those who claim to have faith are many who lack conviction. All major religions teach us forgiveness, tolerance and love, then why do people who follow religion create violence? We don’t take the real message of one’s own faith seriously.
Education should include the value of compassion, irrespective of whether you are a non-believer or a believer. The existing education system must include lessons about the importance of inner peace. My commitment is to promote deeper human values, not through prayer or religious faith, but through education, awareness, scientific findings and common sense. That’s my number one commitment. My second commitment is to promote religious harmony.
On the next Dalai Lama
As early as 1969, I had said that whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue, is up to the Tibetan people. That is still my principle. During meetings with spiritual leaders, we decided that when I am around 90, then we will discuss the issue seriously. The Chinese Government seems to be more serious (about it). Sometimes I jokingly say that in order to know more about reincarnation, Chinese Communists should first accept the concept of reincarnation. Then they will have the moral right to show concern about the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation. If the situation remains like this, then I will die in this country. Reincarnation does not necessarily happen in the place where the person has died. But in a place of no freedom — how can it be, (it’s) impossible.
On a free Tibet
The Chinese government is constantly describing me as a splittist, which is absolutely not true. Since 1974, we are fully committed to not seek independence. As I said earlier, I’m an admirer of the European Union, so we in Tibet look at them and have decided to remain with China. It is of immense benefit to us. But we must have complete freedom to preserve our own culture and rich Buddhist knowledge. Many Chinese are showing a genuine eagerness to learn from our tradition. Preservation of Tibetan language is important. In Tibet, some narrow-minded local authorities are trying to eliminate the language. This is due to short-sightedness and fear. Since we are not seeking separation, (Tibetan) language and knowledge is part of the culture of China. Therefore, there is mutual benefit in not seeking independence, to remain with the Republic of China. But we should have freedom to preserve our own culture and language. The Chinese Constitution itself recognises this. The minorities must be respected.
On the disciple turning guru
Before Buddhism reached Tibet in the 7th century, we had our own traditional religion that was not very sophisticated. In the 8th century, a top scholar of Nalanda, Santaraksita, was invited to Tibet where he established Tibetan Buddhism according to the Nalanda tradition. Uptill my generation, we studied the Nalanda tradition extensively. All our main texts were written by Nalanda philosophers. Therefore, I consider Indians to be our gurus. But now I think the chela has become the guru. I am dedicated to the revival of ancient Indian knowledge in this country. We should be committed towards creating a draft about secular ethics that can fit in the secular educational field. We are now thinking seriously about this ancient knowledge that we have kept intact. We are determined to share it with Indians, the traditional owners of this knowledge. In my lifetime, I want to preserve and revive ancient Indian knowledge. The modern Indian is completely ignorant about these things. People follow rituals but don’t study them. They need to be studied rigorously. We are already thinking on those lines. At monastries and institutions, we should set up study groups where not just nuns or monks but even lay students can come and learn.
On the meaning of ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’
The mantra is the manifestation of Buddha’s compassion. ‘Om’, the word with three syllables, represents the body, speech and mind. It represents the self. ‘Mani’ means jewel and represents warm-heartedness—karuna, mahakaruna. ‘Padme’ means wisdom, the ultimate reality and ‘hum’ means inseparable. So warm-heartedness and understanding, these two practices should combine, should conjoin. In order to purify ‘I’, compassion and wisdom must combine. Through that, the self can purify and reach a permanent state of happiness, nirvana. That’s the meaning of ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’.
On violence in India
India is the most populated democracy and there will be some mischievous people. So these things happen, it’s normal and they are reported in the media. The media has an important responsibility. It should report all that is happening — murders, rapes — but at the same time if the news is always negative, then the reader may start thinking that basic human nature is negative and the future of humanity is doomed. So, we must report on whatever is happening but at the same time, we must occasionally provide readers with something positive.