It's Time to Prepare New Leaders: Dalai Lama
(Time Magazine | July 17, 2000)

His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama says China still has no clue how to win Tibetans' loyalty. Without any sincere offer of dialogue from Beijing, his only hope is that the communist regime will one day be replaced by a more sympathetic government. Until then, he can do little more than lobby for international support. His Holiness spoke with TIME's New Delhi correspondent Meenakshi Ganguly at his monastery in McLeod Ganj about his people's past, present and future. Excerpts:

TIME: You have been in exile now for four decades. Did you think you would be away this long when you left?
Dalai Lama: Intellectually, yes, we were prepared for a long period. But emotionally, we expected that within a few years things would change.

TIME: How much have things actually progressed?
Dalai Lama: On the positive side, it is very clear that Marxist totalitarianism has no future. Now only China is left. It is just a matter of time. It may take another few decades or a few years, but one thing is certain: the communist system is not going to last in China. Another change is that the awareness among Chinese people is increasing, including awareness of the Tibetan issue. The outside world is also much more aware of Tibet. And, most important, there is much more awareness among Tibetans inside Tibet. But there are also negative developments. Now, in many of the bigger towns like Lhasa, Tibetans are a minority. Their lifestyle is changing; their language is half — Tibetan, half-Chinese.

TIME: Do you think more international pressure would help?
Dalai Lama: In the immediate future, no. In the long run, yes. I think foreign criticism causes concern. And in the long run, that is very important and useful in order to create awareness among the Chinese public.

TIME: Do you think China has any policy toward Tibet?
Dalai Lama: No, I don't think so. Just crush. Any resistance, just crush. Suppress.

TIME: If Beijing were to offer fresh talks, what would you say?
Dalai Lama: The same thing I've been saying for 20 years: let's follow the middle path. We don't want complete independence. Beijing can manage the economy and foreign policy, but genuine Tibetan self-rule is the best way to preserve our culture. That way, real reconciliation is possible. That way, genuine stability and unity without a gun is possible.

TIME: Can the Tibetans ever be loyal to a Chinese regime?
Dalai Lama: The other day I mentioned that in the past 41 years, never has the Indian government told us that we should be loyal to India. But because the government of India helped us a lot and respects Tibetan culture, we have some amount of loyalty. This is human nature. Even animals, if you look after them sincerely, become loyal. When I was young, I had a beautiful parrot. One attendant always fed that parrot and so it was absolutely loyal to him. I got a little bit jealous. On a few occasions, I fed it. But it never showed me any loyalty. Then I used a stick. And then the loyalty was absolutely gone. The Chinese are always using the gun. And yet, they want the Tibetans to be loyal to them. How is that possible?

TIME: If you simply went back to Tibet, what would Beijing do?
Dalai Lama: They would kick me out. Or put me in a nice guesthouse. And if anyone asked, "Where is the Dalai Lama?", they'd say, "He is resting."

TIME: Why did the Karmapa run away from Tibet?
Dalai Lama: His explanation to me was that he wanted to serve Tibetan dharma [divine law] and Tibetan people. But these two goals could not be achieved if he had remained in Tibet, even though the Chinese attitude toward him personally was not bad. I asked him why he was uncomfortable or unhappy in Tibet. He told me that he used to hear stories of arrests and beatings.

TIME: The Karmapa is being seen as your heir as leader of the Tibetan people. Is that how you view him?
Dalai Lama: Not in that way. But I have told him — and I have said this publicly — that my generation is growing old, and the time has come to prepare the next generation of spiritual leaders. The Karmapa is one of the important leaders, especially for the Kagyu sect. There are some bright young lamas in other sects, too.

TIME: Why do you need spiritual leaders for political work if you have a government in exile?
Dalai Lama: No matter what we try to do here, the lamas still have control over the people. Especially because our struggle is very much related to dharma. It is not purely a political freedom struggle.

TIME: Are you happy with the way that democracy is functioning here in exile?
Dalai Lama: I think it is working. At the public level, there is a realization that it is important. Now, there are quarrels among officials and all that. But I think that is very good. It is very important to be clear and to discuss everything openly. Nothing that is a state secret. Only totalitarian systems have state secrets.

TIME: There seems to be conflict these days within Tibetan Buddhism.
Dalai Lama: Tibetan history is over 1,000 years old. We have always had six or eight problem monks. There have always been mischief-makers. But Westerners think that everything about Tibet is very good. Then there is some trouble, and their image of Tibet changes completely.

TIME: Are you worried about the Tibetans in exile, specially the younger generation that only wants to go to America?
Dalai Lama: I have said repeatedly that they should go visit America or the outside world for a short period, for education and for training. Take the opportunity, I tell them. But the main Tibetan community in exile will remain in India. The best possibility to preserve and increase Tibetan awareness, Tibetan culture, Tibetan Buddhist philosophy is in India, not in America.

TIME: But will they go back if Tibet becomes free?
Dalai Lama: The majority certainly will. About 2,000 may remain in India, and a few hundred in America or Switzerland. That is not a problem. We can follow the path of the Jewish community. They are in many places, but their spirit is in Israel.

TIME: There is also conflict because Tibetan people are growing impatient of waiting to return to their homeland. Should you change your position in relation to China?
Dalai Lama: Despite all the setbacks, my position has not changed. I am fully committed to the middle path. Yes, from an individual's point of view, 40 years is quite a long time — it is one lifetime. But for a nation's history, 40 or 50 years is nothing. Our cause is just. Even though the result may not materialize in one's own lifetime, the struggle for the preservation of our culture and spirituality is worthwhile.


Friends of Tibet (INDIA)
Friends of Tibet (INDIA), PO Box 16674, Bombay 400050
www.friendsoftibet.org