Your Excellency, President Dr. Vaclav Havel, Dr. Otto Count Lambsdorff, Oldrich Cerny, Jan Ruml, and many of our long-time friends who share their solidarity with the Tibetan cause, I am very happy to be here today, though only briefly.

First of all, I would like to thank Dr. Havel for coming here and giving us such an inspiring talk. I will have the opportunity to brief Dr. Havel again in the afternoon and have further discussions with him. I would like to also sincerely thank Freidrich-Naumann-Stiftung and Forum 2000 Foundation for assisting in organising this Fourth Conference of Tibet Support Groups.

Today, we have with us Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, the first ever democratically elected political leader, who has already briefed you in detail on the Tibetan issue. Samdhong Rinpoche, who will be here for the next three days, has been shouldering the main responsibility for administration since his election. So much so that now I consider myself to be in a state of semi-retirement and will now get some free time. As I am nearly seventy, I think I deserve it too.

As you all know, I have had three commitments in my life. My first commitment is as a human being to serve humanity and the world. My way to serve humanity is based on my own experiences and the lessons that I have learnt from my tradition. The ultimate source of a successful life or of happiness is related to an individual?s inner qualities. These qualities do not necessarily come from religious faith; the potential is there in us since birth. The question is whether we pay sufficient attention to it or not. Hence, I always make it clear that the ultimate source of a happy life is within us and therefore I look more inward and then I try to promote these inner values. That is my first commitment.

At another level, as a Buddhist monk and a religious believer, my next commitment is to promote harmony amongst various religious traditions, on the basis of mutual understanding, mutual respect, and mutual admiration. I am committed to these two till my death.

My third commitment comes from being a Tibetan and as the Dalai Lama. For the past 360 years from the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama, this institution has always been closely involved with the Tibetan people?s interests. Till now, I have carried this responsibility in accordance with past tradition and I have done my best. At the age of 16, I took over the responsibility of the Tibetan people?s welfare and rights. Irrespective of whether I have achieved something or not, my motivation has always been sincere. I have tried my best.

Now, for the first time in Tibetan history, we have an elected political leadership. I feel very, very proud about this. I think that work on the democratisation of the Tibetan polity started four decades ago, soon after we first reached India. Step by step, we made many changes, which finally, two years ago, gave us our first elected political leadership. After five years when Rinpoche?s first term ends, I do not know who will compete with Rinpoche. I am waiting for that person. Whether Rinpoche will have another term or not, I do not know. Anyway, I think this is a very healthy development and it now does not matter much whether the Dalai Lama is there or not because we now have a process for the election of a political leadership. So I think now there will be some limits on my responsibilities towards the Tibetan issue.

Certainly, when a genuine understanding is reached with the Central government of the People?s Republic of China then, of course, my commitment towards the Tibetan people will be fully completed. Then I will have genuine retirement. I am 68 years old now so perhaps after twenty or thirty years this will happen. I do not know for sure when I will have permanent retirement. Then I will say my final good bye to you all. I also have another responsibility – to prepare for my next life, which I think, is a natural process.

As Dr. Havel mentioned earlier, it is a human nature to feel for our brothers and sisters when something happens to them. Even amongst animals when one is dying the others lick the dying one, showing their concern and sympathy. As human beings we respond automatically when someone else is suffering. Moreover, when a natural disaster strikes somewhere, people rush to help. No one calls this interference. The causes may be different but we too are experiencing similar suffering. Torture causes physical as well as mental pain. I think the physical pain caused either by an earthquake or by torture is the same. Pain inflicted by another man is particularly worse. Therefore, a sense of concern and willingness to help another person in pain should not be labelled as interfering in internal affairs. Conversely, I think the concerned person themselves should help to create a healthy society, a happy society.

At another level, as Tibet is geographically located between India and China, the genuine normalisation of the situation there is in the interest of development of mutual trust between the two Asian giants. This is very important, very crucial. Another geographical factor is the delicate Tibetan environment due to its high altitude and dry climate. The extreme exploitation of the Tibetan environment without any care will have adverse repercussions in the region.

Another concern of mine is the preservation of Tibetan culture. Like many other religions, the foundation of Tibetan Buddhist culture is compassion. Since the advent of Buddha dharma, the whole Tibetan way of life has changed. Comparatively, the Tibetan people are generally quite peaceful and quite jovial and happy.

Even today, many people who visit Tibet notice that although the native Tibetans are victims, they look happier than the Chinese living there. In India, too, people visiting refugee communities find them happier than local Indians. Of course, it is quite difficult to know what the person is feeling inside. At least on the surface Tibetan people smile more. This is certainly not because our blood is different from the Czechs. We are completely the same. I think this is due to our culture and environment. I think the Czech people during the totalitarian dictatorship naturally had fewer smiles. Now with freedom, in spite of some difficulties not only are there more opportunities, freedom in itself makes a difference. The Tibetan Buddhist culture, an open culture based on compassion and a peaceful cultural heritage, is useful for developing the right attitude towards oneself, towards fellow human beings and towards animals. Although the majority of Tibetans are non-vegetarians, we always pray for those animals whose meat we consume. This I think is a positive aspect.

The Tibetans also have a peaceful approach towards the environment. I therefore really feel that we have sufficient reasons to preserve the Tibetan Buddhist culture. This will be beneficial not only for the Tibetans but also for millions of Chinese because after all Buddhism is not alien to China. It flourished in China four centuries before it did in Tibet. So I always tell Chinese Buddhists, “You are our brothers and sisters. We are your junior.” I always respect them. I believe Tibetan Buddhism can certainly help them.

Chinese traditional values which have been in existence since 1949, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, have been deliberately destroyed today. This is a great pity. Today, the communist ideology that was forced down upon people has failed. The result of this is that millions of people feel that principles are lacking in society and only concern seems to be to make money. This leads to immense corruption at various levels. Although corruption is found everywhere, its level in China is very serious. Another reason for this is a lack of self-discipline, which is caused by the lack of principles.

Now, the Chinese government, in a way wisely encouraging Chinese nationalism. Nationalism channelled in a proper way is good: to love one?s own culture, language and identity. Yet if we look at the history of China, Chinese nationalism has always been mixed with a sense of superiority and territorial expansion.

In the early 1950s when I met Chairman Mao he stressed that we should not let Chinese chauvinism grow. I think he was very right. Therefore, the Chinese Communist party always criticise Chinese emperors for neglecting the rights of the minorities. The new regime, following Lenin?s policies for minority nationalities, claimed that it would treat the ethnic minorities equally. It was concerned about the rise of Chinese chauvinism. Yet now there is every danger of this happening. But even though this is what the Communist said, I think some hints of chauvinism have always been there. For example, when the Chinese communists combined communism and Chinese nationalism it led to conflicts with Soviet Russia and Vietnam. If all of them were genuine followers of Marxism, they would not have quarreled amongst themselves because Marxism is about internationalism.

The rise of Chinese nationalism without the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of press and the rule of law, will surely have serious repercussions.

Our supporters and our friends who have come here today are sincerely motivated and view the Tibet issue very seriously. I appreciate their support. I would like to repeat here that Tibet with its unique cultural heritage and beautiful environment is now in a very critical condition. From our side we are fully committed to the Middle-Way Approach. It is our belief and our commitment that this will eventually lead to a mutual resolution of the Tibet issue. There is no change in our commitment towards this end.

One year has passed since the reestablishment of our direct contact with the Chinese government. Yet we see no indications of any improvements in Tibet. This is a very serious concern. The real purpose of our direct contact with the Chinese government is to convince them that their present policies in Tibet are not helpful in achieving genuine stability and unity, which, I think, is the main objective of the Chinese government. I agree with the Chinese government when it says that development cannot be achieved without unity and stability.

When the Chinese government announced their Western Development project, I welcomed it because materially Tibetans are backward and we definitely need development. But for that unity and stability is very important. So how do we achieve that? Unity and stability should come from here (pointing at his heart). It cannot be achieved by a gun or by force. One can take the example of the communist states in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, which looked stable yet they were not. Communism was forced upon the people. The situation in Tibet is exactly like the same.

Actually, I believe my way is the best way to achieve stability and unity. So we are trying to exchange these views. We are not separatists. We are genuine about our Middle-Way stand. This approach has led to criticism from some of our supporters, which also include Tibetans. However, despite this we feel that the Middle-Way Approach is the best and the most realistic way. This is our stand.

In the meanwhile, as there is no improvement inside Tibet, the only option before us is to appeal to our international supporters and friends. So during my recent visits to the United States I appealed to the people there. Here also I would like to appeal to you all. I would like to request you all to please think about the kind of approach which would be best suited for us to achieve our goal in the present circumstances. Your suggestions, your advice, even your criticism will be very welcome. Even though this is our movement, due to lack of experience or knowledge, we do make mistakes. So please criticise us if you want to but the criticism should be constructive.

Recently there were millions of people demonstrating just before the start of the conflict in Iraq. I always tell activists that this is a very good way of registering protest but just demonstrations alone will not help resolve the problem. While we are against violence, we must show non-violence as an alternative. This is constructive criticism.