Judit Kawaguchi

Words to Live by: His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Interview by Judit Kawaguchi

His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, 80, is respected by the Tibetan people as their temporal and spiritual leader. At age 2, he was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion and they embody wisdom, contentment, forgiveness and self-discipline. There’s plenty to forgive: the brutal Chinese invasion of Tibet by Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army in 1949 and the continuing oppression of the Tibetan people. So far over 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed and 6,000 monasteries destroyed. The violence is still ongoing. Forced to flee the mayhem in 1959, the Dalai Lama has been living in exile in Dharamsala, India. For his message of peace and compassion, he has been presented with countless awards, including the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent campaign for the liberation of Tibet.

We’re all the same mentally, emotionally and physically. I consider myself just one of 6 billion human beings. Prime ministers and street children — we are the same. Everybody has the desire to achieve a happy life and everyone has every right to achieve a happy life.

All major religions have the same potential to bring inner peace. These different religions have different practices, but the main message is the same: compassion.

Happiness very much depends on trust. Money and power may provide you with some satisfaction, but now scientists, many in the medical field, agree that the ultimate source of a happy life depends on a healthy mind. Even a healthy body depends on a healthy mind.

History has many versions. You must investigate the truth for yourself! For example, the Chinese prime minister said: “China has never invaded a country.” That’s the Chinese official version of Tibetan history. But there are three versions: The second version is by the Tibetans and the third is the Western viewpoint.

In order to contribute to the world, Japanese must learn English. The reality is that the universal language is English. Due to the language problem, Japanese people can’t contribute enough. It doesn’t have to be perfect English! My English is broken but I can still communicate!

If you have genuine concern for the wellbeing of others, there’s no space for violence. Religious harmony is viable. India has had a tradition of nonviolence called Ahimsa for thousands of years. Sure, occasionally there are some problems, but basically it’s all very good. I describe myself as a messenger of India and I bring the idea of religious harmony with me everywhere I go.

Tragically, one can never be too young or too old for prison. I found the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama in Tibet, a boy named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, but the Chinese government abducted him. Since May 14, 1995, when he was 6 years old, he’s been imprisoned and his whereabouts and well-being are still not known. China has installed their own Panchen Lama, which is a gross violation of religious freedom.

The issue of U.S. bases in Okinawa can be seen from two levels. One is on the national level: Military bases of a foreign power in another country are unacceptable. On a global level, however, Japan is indeed a free country, but both North Korea and China have nuclear weapons and are unpredictable nations, so the U.S. military bases are relevant. In the face of the North Korean threat, the United States must support Japan. Of course, if all of Asia is free, the U.S. bases should be removed.

The definition of superpower must be based on human values. China is becoming more open and free and the rule of law is more respected. That’s why, not only the Tibetan issue but also the trust between China and all countries, will improve. Eventually China will become a superpower. But a superpower should not base its power on military weapons, as those can only bring fear.

Wars increase problems. Violence increases problems. Once the method is violent, it always has unexpected consequences; for example, terrorism.

It’s most helpful to look at a problem from various angles. This analytical process is central to Buddhism. We debate, we develop the mind and this creates a peaceful heart. Buddha said: “All my followers should not accept my teachings out of respect, but through their own investigations.” Analyze everything by yourself!

We’re social animals so we need cooperation and friendship. I love this watch, I could kiss it, mmmwahh!, but this watch can’t show me affection. A dog or a cat is able to show affection. Our life is based on affection. We survive thanks to our mothers’ care. Those individuals who received deep affection at a young age are much happier. Those who suffered fear as children, even if wealthy now, have a sense of insecurity.

Too much attachment to one’s own nation’s interests is not fit for the 21st century’s holistic approach. The problem of global warming is that it’s not a problem for some nations. Those nations only care about their country and not about others. But we are interconnected more than ever before.

The gap between “us and them” must be lessened. The entire human race is part of “us.” Race is not important. “We” are six billion humans. The gap between the rich and the poor is huge in many countries. This is wrong not only morally, but also technically.

Government leaders should have a long-term vision and a open mind. In ancient times, each nation could survive on its own, but now we are much more interdependent. That’s the reality, but some people’s thinking is old-fashioned; they think about “me, my nation.” This kind of insularity creates problems.

The 21st century should be the century of dialog and peace, based on compassion. My generation belongs to the 20th century, a century of violence. Two hundred million people were killed. Even though we have wars now, we mustn’t lose the confidence and courage to believe that peace is achievable. There’s a Tibetan saying: “Fail nine times; make nine times the effort.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, in Nagano, Japan. Photo by Judit Kawaguchi
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, in Nagano, Japan. Photo by Judit Kawaguchi
Hi Holiness the Dalai Lama is interviewed by Judit Kawaguchi in the shinkansen on their way to Nagano
Hi Holiness the Dalai Lama is interviewed by Judit Kawaguchi in the shinkansen on their way to Nagano
Hi Holiness the Dalai Lama and Judit Kawaguchi in the shinkansen on their way to Nagano
Hi Holiness the Dalai Lama and Judit Kawaguchi in the shinkansen on their way to Nagano

A version of this interview appeared in The Japan Times on July 8th, 2010

This Quote

We’re all the same mentally, emotionally and physically. — His Holiness the Dalai Lama