The Dalai Lama told Nezavisimaya Gazeta (NG) about a little-known promise, made by Deng Xiaoping. In the 1970s, the Chinese leader promised the leader of the Tibetans that any question, with the exception of Tibet’s independence, may be discussed. The Dalai Lama proposed to discuss autonomy. But as a result, the Chinese leadership called him a secessionist and retracted Deng’s promise. Nevertheless, communication with Beijing continues. In connection with the changes occurring in China, the Dalai Lama believes that reaching an agreement is possible.
The press conference followed the high priest’s meeting with Tibetans, who have made the difficult journey through the Himalayas, bypassing the border guards, in order to get his blessing. It was prohibited to photograph the pilgrim’s faces; otherwise, they will face jail time upon return.
The Dalai Lama thanked the pilgrims for their perseverance, and urged them to be true to the national culture, language, and religion. However, faith – as was taught by Buddha – should not be blind. It is necessary to keep up with advances in science, to learn. Only then will Tibetans be able to benefit from China’s economic accomplishments.
Beijing removes natural resources from Tibet. Nevertheless, the Dalai Lama did not urge his compatriots to oppose this. Otherwise, the request for independence would be unrealistic. The more popular Buddhism becomes in the world, the stronger will be the pressure of the global community on Beijing. One needs to study his faith, and not only pray. The Tibetan exiled government will do everything possible to help those suffering under the yoke of the Chinese government.
While responding to a question, posed by NG’s correspondent, the high priest said that in the 1970s he was hosted by the architect of the Chinese reforms, Deng Xiaoping. He said that anything can be a subject of discussion, with the exception of independence. “I presumed that if China allows us to keep our culture and Buddhism, then Tibet will be able to receive financial benefits, by remaining in contact with China. But later, in connection to suppression of the democratic movement on the Tiananmen Square, China’s position became more rigid. Chinese officials started calling me a secessionist and even a devil.”
Nevertheless, under the leadership of Jiang Zemin, talks between Chinese officials and Dalai Lama’s messengers resumed. More than eight rounds of talks have taken place. After the violent clashes in Tibet in 2008, China’s leader, Hu Jintao, said that he plans to have a meeting with representatives of the Tibetan government in exile. But, it never took place.
And yet, hope to reach an agreement remains. In a few years, there will be a new leadership in Beijing. And it may have a different approach to negotiations, especially because Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao spoke about the need for political reforms.
Another positive point – the revival of Buddhism in China. Currently, there are 200 million Buddhists in the country. Many Chinese come to Dharamsala, where Tibet’s spiritual leader resides, to listen to his sermons. They become convinced that the middle way approach, which he advocates, corresponds to the morals of the Buddhist teachings, while censorship and total control, which are practiced by Beijing, are amoral.
The Dalai Lama is a wonderful orator. He repeatedly evoked laughter in the audience by either depicting himself as the devil or citing the question posed by Italian journalists, who asked if the next Dalai Lama could be a woman. It very well may happen, he said. The high priest is 75 years old. And Tibetans are, of course, worried about what will happen when he steps into another world. The Dalai Lama is preparing the faithful for this event. The institution of the Dalai Lama has existed for a few centuries, and Buddhism was born much earlier. Everything will depend on the will of the Tibetans. Tibetan immigrants, living not only in India, but in other countries as well, have created their democratic institutions and are now, again, planning to hold a parliamentary election. In India, the pre-election campaign is going smoothly, but in the neighboring Nepal and Bhutan, the pre-election procedures have been complicated under the pressure of Beijing. Nevertheless, it will be the elected representatives of Tibet who will decide what to do with the institution of the Dalai Lama.
The high priest says that he is half retired. Nevertheless, because 98% of his compatriots trust the leader, he feels a sense of great responsibility before them. I asked: what will happen if China appoints its Dalai Lama? Nothing terrible will happen, answered the orator with a smile. Perhaps, there will be two Dalai Lamas.
The current leader of the Tibetans receives many invitations from Russia’s Buddhists. He has warm memories of his 1979 visit to the USSR, and then of his trips to Russia under the presidency of Boris Yeltsin. But the last time he had made a short pastoral visitwas to Kalmykia. Since then, he has not been able to communicate with coreligionists in Russia. Why? “You, Russians, know that better,” concluded the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
With permission from Russia Beyond the Headlines