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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Dalai Lama Reaches out to British Atheists

May 29, 2008

The Associated Press
USA Today
May 27, 2008

LONDON (AP) -- Late-night revelers in London's pricey Mayfair
district may see a light on if they amble past the London Hilton at
3:30 a.m. That's when the Dalai Lama rises for four hours of
meditation, even when he is on the road.

His pronouncements about China and the Olympics have made headlines,
but the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader's 11-day visit to Britain
has a religious dimension as well, particularly in the coming days as
he delivers a number of lectures on nonpolitical matters.

The Dalai Lama told The Associated Press that several of his talks
will deal primarily with Buddhist themes but that most will be aimed
at non-Buddhists, including those who hold no religious beliefs and
do not believe in God.

"Mainly I'll be talking about human values and what I usually call
secular ethics," he said of his packed lecture schedule, which
includes several talks in Nottingham in central England. "Using
secular ethics and a secular way of approach. That is my main
objective and I plan to talk about that."

He said these talks, focusing on compassion and ways to lead a happy
life, can be useful for nonbelievers and those who adhere to other
religions. The same is true of his talks on the final two days of his
visit that will be specifically about Buddhism.

"My usual explanations about Buddhism are mainly about the philosophy
and the concepts, not about how to practice daily," he said. "So, of
course, non-Buddhists and even atheists can participate. I was in
America teaching and a Catholic monk also participated with me."

The Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, is now 72 but
shows few signs of slowing down.

His dramatic life was changed forever at the age of 2 when he was
recognized, according to Buddhist tradition, as the reincarnation of
his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama. He was taken from his small
village in northeastern Tibet to the capital, Lhasa, where he started
his education and religious training at the age of 6.

He assumed political power in Tibet at the tender age of 16 in 1950
and had to deal with the advance of the Chinese military into his
homeland, which eventually led to his exile in northern India in 1959.

He has fought since then to keep the fate of Tibet on the world's
agenda, and to preserve the Tibetan Buddhist tradition despite the
political pressures. Still, his unlined face, usually defined by his
familiar, full-court smile, has changed little over the years.

The only obvious concession to age comes when he walks down steps --
his aides have started to warn him when the steps are coming up so he
can negotiate them with extra care.

He still keeps his intense meditation schedule, said Kelsang
Gyaltsen, the Dalai Lama's envoy.

It's a daily routine that helps the Dalai Lama keep positive and
focused and prepared for the meetings with journalists, politicians
and Buddhists that will fill up his day, Gyaltsen said.

"He calls it an analytic meditation," said Gyaltsen, who has worked
with the Dalai Lama for many years. "He's trying to reason, trying in
his own way to shape his mind so that his thoughts are energized and
so that he can spend his whole day serving as best he can, being
useful to other people."

The Dalai Lama usually has breakfast before starting his meetings at
9 a.m., and also eats lunch, but -- like other Buddhist monks -- he
does not eat solid food after that, the envoy said. That rules out
lavish dinners or other evening engagements.

Usually his schedule shuts down at 5:30 p.m., even when he is in
London or other world capitals, and he often goes to sleep by 7 or 8
p.m. after a final cup of tea, Gyaltsen said.

The Dalai Lama hopes to continue his spiritual role until his last
days on Earth, but he would be happy to jettison his political role
if an agreement over Tibet's future can be reached with China, the envoy said.

"As soon as there is an understanding and we can solve that problem,
he will hand all his political authority to the legitimate Tibetan
government and from then on he will have no political role," Gyaltsen said.

Unlike most visitors on an 11-day sojourn to England, the Dalai Lama
does not have the time to take in the sights. He is too tightly
scheduled to visit the Tate Gallery, St. Paul's Cathedral, or the
Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.

Doesn't he wish he had time for some impromptu sightseeing as
springtime envelops one of the world's great cities?

"These days I think I'd prefer complete rest," the Dalai Lama said,
laughing once more before rushing off the meet the Archbishop of
Canterbury and the British prime minister.


* There are about 370 million Buddhists worldwide; 1 million live in the USA.

* All of Buddhism's numerous philosophical branches stem from the
Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path taught by the Buddha 2,500 years ago.

* The Four Noble Truths: There is suffering. There is a cause for
suffering -- usually described as craving or attachment. There is an
end to suffering by eliminating craving. And the way to end it is by
the Eight-fold Path.

* The Eight-fold Path: Having the right view; the right intention;
doing the right action; using the right speech; living a right
livelihood (through ethical living); making the right effort; right
mindfulness; and right concentration.

* Christians and Jews have adapted Buddhist techniques such as
meditation. Contemplative prayer is popular among Catholics.

By Cathy Lynn Grossman
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