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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 sees Tibet's future in education

October 27, 2009

JONATHAN HAYWARD
THE CANADIAN PRESS
The Toronto Star
October 26, 2009

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has an incredible
laugh. It's friendly, deeply genuine and often
accompanied by two large grins -- his and inevitably your own.

It was during a one-on-one interview with Craig where we heard that very laugh.

Asked, "What advice would you give your next
reincarnated self?" the Dalai Lama chuckled and
exclaimed, "I don't know!" He explained he had
never been asked that question before.

The Dalai Lama is not only the Tibetan spiritual
leader, he is believed to be a reincarnation of
Chenrezig, the bodhisattva who embodies
compassion. When the predecessor dies, he is
thought to be reborn as a young boy. After a
search by the other High Lamas, the new leader is confirmed.

But for Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current
Dalai Lama, when his next life comes to being,
passing on advice will be more complicated than
with previous leaders. That's because the Chinese
government has claimed exclusive rights to
approve the selection of the reincarnation.

For 50 years, the monk has lived as a refugee.
After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1949, the
Dalai Lama (only then in his late-teens) traveled
to Beijing for negotiations with Communist leader
Mao Zedong. But, after a failed national
uprising, he was forced into exile in India in 1959.

"It's sad if you look at it from that angle," he
says. "But if you look from another angle, in
India, a free country, I had the opportunity of
meeting with different people, learning through these meetings."

Seeing good is sometimes a hard perspective to
take. But there is certainly truth to his words.

For a half-century now, the Dalai Lama has
traveled the world speaking on behalf of Tibet's
autonomy while maintaining his culture and
tradition from exile. While speaking out has
actually put the institution of the Dalai Lama in
jeopardy, it's also helped spread his message of
compassion and empathy around the world.

It is truly a beautiful message. But it's one
that hasn't much improved the situation in Tibet
or the stability to the Dalai Lama's future.
Demographics are not working in his favour as the
Chinese population increases within the region,
further diluting the Tibetan culture.

Tibet is no closer to independence than it was 50
years ago. A growing number of young people are
expressing that change isn't happening quickly
enough. That's why we asked what advice he had for the next generation.

"I don't think it's necessary for my advice," he
replied. "Now, already last year there was a
show, a crisis, in the entire Tibet area
including four Chinese provinces where ethnic
groups remain there. So, the peaceful
demonstration took place, mainly those people who
were involved in those demonstrations were young
people. Afterward I heard there was a lot of
suffering. Serious. Many killed, many
disappeared, many tortured. And many imprisoned.

"But they all say, the Tibet spirit became much, much stronger."

That spirit will be tested as the Dalai Lama
ages. With Beijing's determination to approve his
reincarnation, it seems the institution will soon
end. That's why His Holiness asks his people to prepare through education.

"What I tell Tibet is education, modern education
is very essential," he says. "We are carrying our
struggle strictly through non-violence. So, in
order to carry on a non-violent struggle effectively: education."

Through that education, he says, while the
600-year-old tradition might end, its teachings will always have significance.

"It is important to have full knowledge about
what is the real Buddhist teaching, what is the
real Buddhist. Then you will get some kind of
conviction," he says. "It is something, not just
ancient tradition. But also, in today's world, it is very much relevant."

Marc and Craig Kielburger are children's rights
activists and co-founded Free The Children, which
is active in the developing world. Their column
appears Mondays online at www.thestar.com/globalvoices
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