An Interview with His Holiness, the 14th the Dalai Lama
by Yolanda & Lobsang Wangdu
(Richmond, California, US)
Photo of Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama of Tibet
I had the wonderful honor of interviewing His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at his residence in Dharamsala, India in February of 1996. He spoke on his future reincarnations, on asking Tibetans to return to Tibet, and what he likes and doesn't like so much about his "job."
Thanks for this website, and for sharing stories and pictures of His Holiness. Here is the first part of the interview, see the rest here:
The morning of the interview dawned clear and February cold, the Dhauladhar range of the Himalaya shining bright white from several days of heavy winter storms. The schedule went somehow haywire, and His Holiness' press secretary, Tenzin Geyche, hustled me and Gerardo Stansky, an Uruguayan journalist who had asked to sit in on the interview, into the spacious audience room, a blend of sedate western furniture with the riotous colors of Tibetan religious art.
Flustered and out of breath from literally running up the stairs, the three of us were still fumbling with tape recorders and cracking nervous jokes when His Holiness' entrance caught us by surprise. He was halfway across the room before we even realized he was there, and I was struck for a moment by his height and dignified bearing, having always seen him stooped in humility in his public audiences.
His face lit up in greeting as we scrambled to our feet, and he bowed over his clasped hands, smiling up over his fingertips before shaking our hands with a kind of grave pleasure.
In an instant all the noise and activity stopped, as His Holiness settled into a chair, adjusted his robes, and after a few pleasantries, leaned his large head to one side and narrowed his chocolate-brown eyes in focus, indicating his readiness for the interview to begin.
You've said several times that you might be the last Dalai Lama, or that the next Dalai Lama might be chosen differently than you were chosen. Does that mean you would choose not to re-incarnate?
No...no...my own rebirth you mean? Whether I like it or not (laughter) as a Buddhist believer, my re-birth always takes place. In my own case, of course, there is some voluntary...or deliberate aspect of rebirth. You see, my one most favorite prayer is: "So long as space remains and suffering of sentient beings is there, I will remain in order to serve." It is that sentence which gives me inner strength.
You see time does not matter. Eons and eons...limitless eons...don't matter so long as in your life...there is some fulfillment...some purpose. And the purpose means helping others, supporting, serving others.
Many Tibetans inside Tibet physically and mentally undergo very much that is difficult. I cannot do much, but in their minds, they feel, "Oh, the Dalai Lama is still there," so there is some kind of consolation...some usefulness.
Now regarding the institution of the Dalai Lama, whether that institution should remain or not is not my business, not my concern. The people of Tibet, they have the right. If they want to keep it--OK--it will remain. If for them it's not relevant--all right--it will cease.
Your Holiness, I've been hearing from Tibetans that you and the Tibetan government-in-exile are encouraging Tibetan refugees to return to Tibet. Do you believe that if they return that they won't be in danger or have...?
Of course... oh, danger! Recently, I think since the summer of last year, the Chinese "stepped up" their control, made more tight controls... so those Tibetans who study here in exile, sometimes when they return, some of them are arrested, but then after a few months, generally they are released.
So, some danger is always there .... but of those who recently come from Tibet there are those young ones who join our schools to study for several years, and monks, who join our monasteries here. In principle these we encourage to eventually return to Tibet and serve there.
(Yowangdu is an online Tibetan shop; 100% of proceeds of sales of articles related to the Dalai Lama benefit the Tibetan Community Center project of the Tibetan Association of Northern California.)