A Bridge

The Dalai Lama should do stand-up

The Hindustan Times organise a yearly event called the ‘Leadership Summit’, where world Leaders of something or other congregate to speak about topical subjects. This year, for example, the second day features leader of the Labour Party and UK government Gordon Brown, and current US President Al Gore.

A spiritual leader was also present – the Dalai Lama. He gave the usual speech on how we must find compassion and inner peace, detach ourselves from the materialism of the modern world to find global peace etc etc etc. He’s much better when confronted with questions and coming up with answers off the cuff. Here are some choice remarks from today:

Somebody asked him who could be the next Dalai Lama. I don’t know too much about Buddhism, but isn’t the correct answer “Him again, in a different body”?

Dalai Lama: To me that is not a serious question. I think the Chinese government are seriously looking for the next Dalai Lama, but not me.

He went on to say that ‘it is silly to think this (the Lama) old institution is still relevant. It’s foolish’

Q: Has organised religion failed society totally?
DL: We cannot say a total failure… religion has served me well. But religion is also used for exploitation. I believe once you accept one religion you should be serious and sincere. For example, I’ve heard that the Japanese… there are no Japanese people in the room… I’ve heard that the Japanese at birth perform a shintoist ritual… the wedding is a christian ritual… and at death, they have a Buddhist funeral. What is that?!

He stressed a number of times the importance of, regardless of which religion one chooses, to be serious with it. ” Failure is of the people who follow the religion but don’t implement it seriously” he said, adding that all religions are compassionate. In theory.

He addressed a number of issues. He said that while traditions should be transmitted, he dislikes (with specific reference to Hindu temples), rituals that are not explained and given a context, and that some problems (again directly referencing India) related to tradition need to be addressed, they need to be let go.

The Lama got a roaring applause when he said he considers himself a son of India, and a messenger of ancient India – of ‘non-violent action, related to a peaceful mind’. He said Tibet were trusty chelas (slave/servant but also student or disciple) to India’s gurus.

He also said he believes that of the nearly 7 billion people on earth, the majority are non-believers, and they need to be educated, as well as saying this century needs to be one of ‘dialogue’.

As a last note, I thought it was interesting that a man so devoted to religion and trying to detach himself from the ordinariness of daily life would, he would refer to Tibet as ‘we’. That’s quite a strong claim on identity made around a the idea of a ‘nation’. I know nothing on the history of Tibet, so don’t know how old that identity goes, but the concept of a nation is quite new and often constructed… I wonder how the Dalai Lama defines being Tibetan, and himself as a consequenc


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3 thoughts on “The Dalai Lama should do stand-up

  1. Danielle on said:

    Current US President Al Gore? Wishful thinking?

  2. I find it interesting that the Dalai Lama seems to me to be the only religious leader and also the only political leader at the moment attempting to undermine his own office and reduce its future influence.. I wonder if this came up?

    • Alberto on said:

      It didn’t come up often, but he did often say that the ‘institution’ of the Dalai Lama is obsolete, and that it’s not really needed anymore. I think when someone asked him who the next would be, as well as the reply above he also added something along the lines of ‘its up to buddhism to decide whether a next Dalai Lama is even needed anymore’.

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