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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Dalai Lama: Committed To Promoting Human Value

February 23, 2010

National Public Radio (NPR)
February 22, 2010

Listen to be Story:

Whenever the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of
Tibetan Buddhism, comes to the West, his trips
are fraught with political implications.

That's because China, which claims Tibet as part
of its territory, is particularly sensitive to
Western leaders greeting the Dalai Lama as a "political" leader.

When he met last week with President Obama, the
White House was careful to describe it as a meeting with a "religious" leader.

But that didn't stop China from lashing out at a
man they've called a "wolf in monk's robes" --
and warning of possible negative consequences,
suggesting that a spring meeting with Chinese
Premier Wen Jiabao might be cancelled.

Part of what exiled Tibetans are asking for is
what the Dalai Lama calls "The Middle Way" -- a
measure of political autonomy and greater
protection for Tibet's culture and religion.

In a conversation with NPR's Renee Montagne in
Los Angeles, the Dalai Lama said he is committed
to the promotion of human value and religious harmony.

"Our main concern is 6 million Tibetan people's
basic rights and their culture, including their
language," he said. "My future, no problem. If 6
million Tibetan people are satisfied and have basic rights ... no problem."

A Childhood 'Like Any Other Child'

The Dalai Lama was in Los Angeles as the guest of
Whole Child International, a group that works
with orphanages to train caregivers on how to
foster more nurturing environments for institutionalized children.

It's something he has experience with: He was
enthroned at the age of 4, and spent much of his
childhood away from his family in a grand palace
outside Tibet's capital, Lhasa.

But he told Montagne that he had what he considered a normal childhood.

"My childhood like any other child," he said. I
[loved to] play. I very much reluctant for study."

Though he didn't have other children to play
with, workers at the palace played games with
him, he said. That playtime gave the young Dalai
Lama a sense of the home he had lost.

He laughed that losing at games also taught him a
key tenet of Buddhism -- humility.

 From his mother, he learned a different lesson -- compassion.

The illiterate peasant woman always shown
brightly as a beacon of compassion, he said. Her
first impulse was to help anyone in need.

That lesson helped shaped his desire to seek a
peaceful solution to the worsening situation in Tibet.

A Focus on the Spiritual

When President Obama met last Thursday with the
Dalai Lama, Tibetans in northwest China set off
fireworks to celebrate the meeting.

"Initially they a little bit sort of excited"
about the meeting, he said, adding that Tibetans
know that Americans value "democracy, freedom, liberty."

But Chinese leaders had a different reaction to
the meeting. Though he is regarded as a
separatist leader in Beijing, the Dalai Lama says
that 90 percent of the time, his energy is spent on spiritual things.

"I think the Dalai Lama's main importance in
politics is mainly created by Chinese government," he said.

He reiterated that he supported Obama's decision
not to meet with him during Obama's first
presidential visit to China last fall.

Postponing the meeting until Obama met with
Chinese leaders allowed the president to "engage
more effectively [with China]," he said.

The Future of the Institution

Now 74, there has been speculation on who the
Dalai Lama's successor might be. Amid fears that
China might choose its own candidate, the Dalai
Lama says it's up to the people to decide whether
the institution should continue.

"If people feel that the Dalai Lama institution
is no longer much relevant, then this institution
will cease -- no problem. It looks like the
Chinese are more concerned about this institution than me."

Of course, at this moment in history, the
majority of the Tibetan people have made it clear
they very much do want the institution of the Dalai Lama to continue.

That is likely to keep the man revered by
millions traveling the world for some time to come.
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