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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Dalai Lama's lesson in love for human beings... and MPs

May 24, 2008

By Andrew Gimson
The Telegraph (UK)
May 22, 2008

When the Dalai Lama returns to India and is asked what spiritual leaders he met in London, he will be able to say he had the honour of being introduced to the Lembit Opik. The ceremony was performed by the little-known Nick Clegg, who had lined up a group of the even-less-well-known Liberal Democrat MPs to welcome the Dalai Lama to the Palace of Westminster.

Not everyone, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader will report, is convinced that the Lembit Opik is a living deity, though he marked himself out from the other Lib Dems by being the only one who bowed twice to the Dalai Lama. The Lembit Opik is also the only Lib Dem MP who has got engaged to be married to one of the Cheeky Girls, who has perhaps decided he is a love god.

As the Dalai Lama departed from New Palace Yard, he was pursued by the Harriet Harman, the deputy leader of the Labour party, who presumably wanted to solicit his endorsement in her party's forthcoming leadership battle.

The Dalai Lama was soon afterwards greeted by the Mike Gapes, the Labour loyalist who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of MPs. One of the delightful things about the Dalai Lama is that he treats important and unimportant people on a basis of equality, shaking hands with clerical staff as enthusiastically as with the Mike Gapes.

After the Dalai Lama had sat down in the committee room, he engaged in light-hearted banter with the journalists, and started to show them the contents of his bag, which included a sweet in its wrapper. Another delightful aspect of the Dalai Lama is his willingness to chuckle or give a quizzical smile whenever something amuses him, which is quite often.

The Mike Gapes decided the time had come to assert his authority over the meeting: "Order. Switch off your mobile phones or put them on silent."

Some of us asked ourselves, for an uncharitable moment, whether there was a way to switch off the Mike Gapes or put him on silent, but he plunged bravely into his questioning of the witness: "Your holiness, I'm very glad that you found the time... what is your current assessment of the human rights situation in Tibet?"

The Dalai Lama said the situation was "very sad, very sad", and told us of the abbot of a monastery, a man more than 80 years old and a great scholar, who had had his leg broken and been subjected to "horrible torture".

But the Dalai Lama spoke of these things without bitterness, and later told us of a monastery near Llasa, the capital of Tibet, which has collected money for the victims of the Chinese earthquake. He said he personally felt "very sad at this one child policy", which must give "how much pain" to Chinese parents who have lost their only child in the disaster.

The John Horam (C, Orpington) asked if the Dalai Lama minded that he would be meeting the Gordon Brown at Lambeth Palace instead of 10 Downing Street.

The Dalai Lama replied that to him it did not matter, what mattered was to meet and talk, and it also didn't matter to him whether someone was "president or prime minister or beggar" we are human beings." The John Horam asserted: "We are human beings too."

Never mind questions of divinity. We were now being invited to believe in the humanity of our legislators. When the Dalai Lama realised what had been said, he laughed in the most charming way.
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