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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."

A Life in the Day: The Dalai Lama

April 27, 2009

His Holiness the Dalai Lama on prayer power,
surgery, and his tireless fight for his people
The Times (UK)
April 26, 2009

My day starts at 3.30am.

I recite an inspirational stanza in praise of Buddha Shakyamuni.

It reads:

"Enthused by great compassion
You taught the immaculate teaching.
To dispel all perverted views
To you, the Buddha, I bow."

I recite that with prayers in prostration. After
that, analytical meditation. What is Buddha? What
is self? I reflect on emptiness -- the ultimate
reality -- and altruism. All human beings are the
same: we all want happiness and we do not want
suffering. Then the treadmill, jogging for 40
minutes. If you hold the rail firmly you can
recite a prayer and meditate too. But you must take care or you might fall off!

Breakfast is at 5.30, a porridge called tsampa,
made from roasted barley. Delicious and good
protein -- quite heavy, but necessary, because
empty stomach since lunch the previous day. Then
heavy work in the bathroom or toilet. Before my
gall-bladder surgery in October, this not so
certain: sometimes you have to force your way
through! But now seems more regular.

I listen to the radio, mainly BBC or occasionally
a Tibetan broadcast from America. Then
meditation, for five hours if possible. This
includes visualisation of the mandala, or
deity-yoga meditation. We say that these
meditations can prepare one for death and give
some power of control when it happens.

Mid-morning in Dharamsala, where I live, I go to
my office or to a meeting. If I’m not in a hurry,
I study Tibetan scriptures, then the Indian
newspapers and perhaps Time and Newsweek. The
hours simply fly by. Lunch is at 11.30. For
Buddhist monks, lunch must begin before noon.
Except for two days a week, it is vegetarian food
which in India is excellent. Sometimes in the
West the food is very good quality, very poor
quantity. Then you need three or four bowls of rice to fill up.

People say: "Dalai Lama, where is home for you
now?" I spent my first 25 years in Tibet, but I’m
nearly 50 years in India, so now Dharamsala is
our home. The scenery here is beautiful and the
temperature is very good. My garden is very
special to me. I love tulip, hyacinth and
delphinium, lupins and cyclamen. Friends bring me
beautiful orchids, but most cannot survive in our
climate. I designed something to water them and
regulate the temperature, but still they die. It
struck me that my design is like a cemetery for
orchids! I also like polishing stones and beads,
and I am good with mechanical things

Two American ladies, years ago, came to see me.
Their camera had broken, and they asked me to
repair it. I said, "I am not 100% sure," but I
opened the camera and found the damage, so I
fixed it. But I have no knowledge of computers
and I don’t even own a mobile phone.

Buddhist monks take vows of simplicity, which
means refraining from gathering wealth for
oneself, as it hinders one’s spiritual growth.
That is a joyous part of my life. A reporter said
to me: “Dalai Lama, you are the most respected
leader for the people." I said: "I’m just a
simple Buddhist monk.” One thousand years ago, a
Tibetan master said: “When many people respect
you, you must feel you are the lowest, so you
will not develop prejudice or arrogance." This I always practise.

In the afternoon I go to my office again. I do
interviews or meet the Kalon Tripa, the head of
the Tibetan government in exile. Now I’m older my
physicians advise me to do less. But I like to go
daily to meet my people who have come from Tibet
to India. After the riots in Tibet on March 10 of
last year, the Chinese always say: “These crises
are originating from the Dalai Lama.” In fact,
I’m always telling the Tibetans we must work and
not demonstrate. But then it happened like that.

At 5 I have tea. Then meditation again, for one
or two hours. This helps me in many ways. If the
plane should be delayed, when I meditate I can
wait one or two hours and I have no impatience.
Around 7pm, sleeping. Sleep is the most important
meditation. Sometimes nine hours without
disturbance. No sleeping pill. Nothing. A doctor
examined my body recently, and he said: “Your age
is 73, but your body element looks like 60." So
that brings some hope I will live another 10, 20,
even 30 years! Would I like that? I don’t know.
Until we see a solution between the Tibetans and
Chinese, it’s difficult. Should that change, then
if death were to come tonight, I would have no regret.

Interview by Beverley D’Silva.

Photograph by James Nachtwey
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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