Dharamshala: A Lebanon based reporter Karim from OTV Lebanon was accorded an opportunity to obtain an exclusive interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on 27 June 2019 at the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala.
Below is the full transcript of the interview.
Karim: Thank You His Holiness for accepting our invitation. His Holiness, Lebanon in the Middle East is a multi-cultural country. We have a Christian President, we have a Speaker who is a Muslim Shia, we have a Prime Minister who is a Muslim Sunni. Talking about myself, I am a Christian married to a Muslim wife. So this is Lebanon and this is Lebanese diversity. I want to ask you first do you think such co-existence can hold on and survive?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Oh yes. I believe that is the only way. In ancient time, you see people are more or less isolated. Now modern time 21st century, information comes from different parts of the world which makes the world smaller. Similarly, in religious faith, you get different information about different religion which is always available. Then, a different mental disposition is useful for different ways of approach. Therefore pluralism of religion in the modern time is the reality. Based on that reality, mutual respect must be practised and consider religious faith as a personal matter. It is very good that you as a Christian husband and your wife as a Muslim is a wonderful thing! One of my commitment is the promotion of religious harmony and I have full confidence that religious harmony is possible. Look at India, over 2000 years different religious traditions have developed and over 3000 years India’s own traditions emerged then followed Jainism, Sangya philosophy, Buddhism and later Christianity and Muslim, etc. All these religious traditions coexist harmoniously without any issue. I have never heard any problem or complain between Sunni and Shia in India. I have spent a few decades now in India and have only noticed religious harmony that exists here but when I saw and heard people killing each other in the name of religion particularly in the name of Sunni and Shia in Arab, Syria, and Afghanistan it is unthinkable! All of them are the followers of one Allah likewise all follow Kuran and pray five times a day so there is no reason to fight each other. I am really saddened by such news. While religion is the remedy to reduce destructive emotions it has now been used to cause destructive emotions. Just like medicine that becomes poisonous. Such problems arise due to lack of communication. Therefore, religious harmony is very much possible similarly reconciliation between Shia and Sunni is very possible too. Next week I am going to Delhi to meet a Muslim group mainly Muslims from Ladakh. There is going to be a national level Muslim conference which is initiated by Ladakhi Muslims. Since among Shias and Sunnis in India, there is no religious discord as such I have suggested the Indian Muslims to being more active regarding the promotion of religious harmony in general but particularly between Shia and Sunni. The meeting will have the participation of representatives of various Muslim communities in India. I wish in this meeting the Indian Muslims will make an effort to show outside world that religious harmony is possible. This will eventually let countries like Syria and Afghanistan to India to witness the possibility of religious harmony in India.
Karim: You are very optimistic His Holiness about that. There are extremism and fanaticism in our society. People are suffering from extremism.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Yes I am. We are a human being whether created by God or nature, we are born with this special brain which has the ability to see, perceive the holistic view of everything. So if you use this human intelligence and the human brain properly then it is very easy to understand. We, humans, live in different areas so naturally, we are of different cultural values, we face different climatic conditions and have a different mental disposition. These are all understandable. But what is important is that all religious traditions carry the same message i.e message of love.
Karim: This is the best message you can give to Lebanon and the Lebanese people in particular because we need such a message in our countries. There are so much suffering and crisis in the area.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Yes, whatever I can even to make a small contribution is my duty. I always emphasise we 7 billion human beings are truly human brothers and sisters whether we like it or not, we have to live side by side on this planet. On top of that, global warming is quite serious so under such circumstances it is time we think globally. The 7 billion human beings represent the oneness of human being. then comes different cultures, different languages, and different religions which are the secondary and individual matter. I am Buddhist, but I have many genuine spiritual friends among the Muslims, Christians, Hindus and perhaps I may say among Communists. His Holiness chuckles. So basically, we all are same human beings, the way we were born is the same. We all received the maximum affection from our mothers so compassion is the key thing, loving-kindness is the key thing for our survival. That is the real message of all religious traditions. And there is, of course, different religious philosophies. Bishop Tutu, for instance, is one of my best spiritual friends who I always admire. We are always teasing each other whenever we meet. He jokingly describes me as a mischevious Dalai Lama while I, on the other hand, responds him with mischevious Bishop. He would always joke around saying, “I am Christian so after I die, I will go to heaven but you Dalai Lama is a non-believer in god so you will go to a different place probably hell”.
Karim: You are so peaceful when you are talking about this. Usually, people are worried and fear death. I want to tell you when you went to the hospital, the whole of Lebanon was worried. You are very well known in Lebanon and we all pray for you.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Thank You. As I mentioned earlier, we have this very unique brain so it is very important to analyze and not just analyze one point of view. We have to look at things more holistic way.
Karim: You always invite people to keep their own religion. Do you think they accept such kind of message?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: This is the reality and this is the only realistic way. For a Muslim, Islam is the best religion for them, therefore, it is much better to keep their own religion instead of changing their religion. If someone was to ask me what religion to follow if the person is Hindu, Christian or Muslim, I usually will tell them it is better to keep their own religious tradition. And now because of different mental disposition, there are different philosophical views. Even within Buddhism, there are many different schools of thought. Buddha even though one teacher of the school of thought taught different philosophies. Why?. Among his own followers, there are different mental dispositions so they need different philosophical views. Therefore, I never state Buddhism is the best religion. For me personally, Buddhism is best but to others, according to their own mental disposition they can choose to follow a religion that is more suitable, more effective to them. That is the best religion for them. Just like medicine, we can’t say pick one medicine and say this medicine is the best. How can we say that to different patients dealing with different illness? Only by judging their physical condition you can say this so and so medicine is the best for you.
Karim: Lebanon is proof that when nations are strong abled we can rebuild what has been destroyed from the war between many confessions and now the new Lebanon which we are striving to build is the reflection of hard work of all communities working together regardless of gender and religion. I hope that we will succeed. It is very important that we have to be united.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: That is the only realistic way. As I already mentioned, the world is becoming smaller and we 7 billion humans having different culture, language, and religious traditions must live side by side. I always consider myself as part of 7 billion human beings and with this feeling wherever I go, I always developed an immediate friendship. I have never felt separated from others. I never say I am Tibetan and Buddhist first and never felt that way. If God is one father then according to the belief, we all human beings are brothers and sisters of one father. therefore it is unthinkable fact the killing in the name of religion. We come from one father and that father has infinite love and we all are children of that kind of father. So we have to share love and kindness as real brothers and sisters. Due to small differences fighting, division and worse killing are indeed unthinkable. Now one of my wishes is to make this world demilitarised. I don’t think weapons are the creation of God but rather a creation of our destructive emotions. If we truly follow God’s path then no need for the weapon. Yes, small differences always happen even an individual go through different ideas in a day. So, naturally different people could have different concepts. The only way to sort out the differences is through dialogue. If there is any conflict of interest, solve it through dialogue. Using the weapon to resolve the conflict and issue is outdated now. In ancient time, yes, the use of weapons were relevant but today’s world is not like that. Therefore, this century eventually should be a century of peace and in order to do that no longer money has to be spent for a weapon. So, the demilitarised world should be the goal. In order to create external disarmament first, we need to create internally disarmament.
Karim: This is one of your struggles against violence in the world?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Yes, I am committed to this till my death. Whether I achieve this or not it is worthwhile to try. Life is precious but then also I feel the war is very much related to the feudal system. So, one royal family including some religious leaders feel the need for authoritarian control commands soldiers to rage war. Each of these soldiers life is precious to them. Given freedom, they will not sacrifice their life. Yesterday on Television I watched about the D-Day. People were praising their heroic actions and in the meantime, I felt oh. millions of German soldiers, German people also suffered. They are also human brothers and sisters. We should remember them also.
Karim: Yes. During the second world war, between German and all Europe and now Europe is creating a new Europe and new community.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: That is right. Yesterday some big ceremony was held where they only talked about the Western ally which I think is incomplete. If you see during the first and the second world war many people in Germany were killed. I am a great admirer of the spirit of the European Union. During the second world war, both the Presidents of Germany and France were arch enemies but due to the changed circumstances, they realised that common interest is more important than national interest As a result, European Union was formed. Thus I feel that even in the Middle East some kind of Union should begin.
Karim: But for that, we need values and principles like Europe. We need to think about it deeply and forget about religion, fanaticism and about extremism. You said once that the world is better now. How could it be with so many conflicts? our territory is all around the world.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: There is a problem, therefore, we must be determined to change this. If life goes on without any problem then we can relax but it is not the case. Now global warming is an issue. Within the next few decades, the world might turn into a desert. We should use our wisdom as opposed to just following emotions.
Karim: You talk about happiness, about the friendliness. How to reach happiness? How to achieve happiness knowing we need to spread that happiness?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: To give a very simple example, this very moment if we smile at each other and have sincere motives against each other, it is happiness. If I give a stern look right now no one would feel comfortable. Happiness is like that. Not artificial and sarcastic smile but genuine smile. That will bring friendship, trust.
Karim: There is a lot of hypocrisy in society today. It is very important to not be fake, to be real. is it possible to spread happiness and joy at this very moment?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Oh certainly yes. I feel through education it is possible. Usually, I tell people that from kindergarten we teach the hygiene of physical but now we should include the hygiene of emotion. Children receiving modern education tend to create a materialistic way of life, materialistic culture. This materialistic life is only catered to the needs of the five senses of organs. In due course, we neglect the sixth mind. Anger, attachment comes from this sixth mind so the remedy must be developed within the mental state. It is always nice to hear good things and listen to good music but these are only sensorial experiences and it is secondary to the mental experiences. The western or modern education is often materialistic oriented and ignores the ways to tackle inner emotions. Therefore, today’s education should include education about the inner self, about mind thus hygiene of emotions must be taught from kindergarten. It has nothing to do with the religious matter but an academic subject.
Today’s global problems we are facing is essentially created by us humans. Initially, human beings basic nature is more compassionate, each human being wants a happy life yet we create many problems. Why? it is because we lack in knowledge to tackle our emotion.
Karim: You think we need to evolve our programs for students in schools to teach them how to feel and move their emotions? What do we have to change in our program? Do we have to add something to our new generation?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Yes from kindergarten we should teach children. Of course, every child loves to smile and they love their mother’s affection so we can teach them how to develop and preserve warmheartedness through knowledge and not through prayers. So I feel the education system should include how to develop the peace of mind. And in order to know the peace of mind, we must first know what is the destroyer of the peace of mind and what is the available antidote.
Karim: Is this the way to reach the peace of mind?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Yes that is right. My own experience as now I am 84 years old, I have lived a difficult life major part of my life. At the age of 16, I lost my freedom and then at the age of 24 I lost my own country and since then a lot of problems but I have managed to maintain a peaceful mind despite all of it. We deal with many events in life and if we look at those events through a narrow-minded and shortsighted then it will create unhappiness, fear, and frustrations. But the same event, if we look at it from a wider perspective we will realise yes that one aspect of the event was very bad however, that also had a positive impact too. If we practice that then we can certainly sustain our hope.
Karim: But there is a tendency for criminology. Human beings are born with this tendency. How to stop that tendency?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: No I don’t think we are born with such tendencies. As scientists always pointed out that human nature is more compassionate. Also, medical scientists say, constant anger and fear eat away our immune system. Then the experience of young children, they don’t care what is religious faith, or nationality, about rich and poor so long they play together with a smile on their faces. That moment the sense of oneness is very fresh. Then they get education about different religious faith, different nationality and they learn about money, power, as a result, the basic human nature becomes dormant and other manmade artificial feelings grows. Therefore, we have to think the existing education system should add education about our internal peace of mind. That is very important.
Karim: Thank You His Holiness for your time. We need maybe to give more programs to evolve in the Arab world. The old mentality was to create people to control but now we have got to dismantle the old mentality. Can you please give the last message to the people of the Middle East and Lebanon?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Firstly, I feel a great honor to express my own views through this media. Then East Asia and the Middle East, Africa and then Latin America are geographically different including the climatic conditions but we all want a happy life. Through the centuries, people in different places try their best effort to achieve a happy community, happy life. Now the modern time we have to think the entire globe as one home for all humans and each other as human brothers and sisters. I think that is the only realistic and necessary way. In ancient time, people are more or less self-supported but today’s world is completely different therefore a sense of oneness is very important. Then different cultures, different languages, and religions are a personal matter. We are the same human beings who only want a happy life. I also practice that and it is very important and useful. So I want to share with you the sense of oneness of the entire 7 billion human beings. Thank You that I had this opportunity to meet Karim and his team. I had the opportunity to express some of my feelings and without your help, my thinking is limited but with your help, my idea reaches more people. Some people may find it useful and I am very happy. If some people find it nonsense then it doesn’t matter. His Holiness chuckles.
Karim: Thank You. It is always a big pleasure to be with you His Holiness.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Thank You.