Love Makes the Difference
The Dalai Lama draws lessons for all of us from his own
experience dealing with difficult times. From a conversation with Mary
Robinson, former prime minister of Ireland and U.N. high commissioner for human
rights, moderated by Pico Iyer and presented by the Tibet Fund.
Pico Iyer: Your Holiness, many people in the United
States are suffering because of the recent economic downturn. You’ve seen so
much loss in your life and yet you remain so confident. How do the rest of us
find confidence when our lives are unraveling?
The Dalai Lama: Yes, this is quite serious and very sad.
I feel that those people who just think about money, people whose whole hope is
based on money, have found this global economic crisis much more of a disturbance
than others have. Then there are people with different values. Yes, money is
important to them—after all, without work, without money you can’t survive. But
for people who are full of love and compassion, whose values are based on
family, neighbors, community, I think they’re much happier, even though they’re
having the same difficult experiences.
I think it’s good to be reminded that there are
limitations. Many years ago, when the Japanese economy was growing very
rapidly, I said during a visit there that it might not always be like that.
When the Japanese economy started to have problems, some economists and
businessmen there said they appreciated my view.
The present crisis in the world economy is the result of
too much greed, speculation, hypocrisy, and lies. But if we are honest and
realistic, then these kinds of things might not happen.
Mary Robinson: Given that we’ve had this crisis because
of, as you said, greed and hypocrisy, how do we get to a more ethical, fairer
The Dalai Lama: First, there’s a gap: the rich and poor.
This is very serious on both a national and global level. Even in the United
States there are still pockets of very poor people while the lifestyle of the
richer people is luxurious. That is not only morally wrong but a source of
problems. The poorer people always feel frustration. The frustration transforms
into anger. Anger transforms into violence. We have to think seriously about
how to reduce this. I think the immediate possibility for the poor is to get
them skills through education, and most important, give them self-confidence.
The reality of our planet now is that every nation is
interdependent, interconnected. So, the concept of “we” and” they” is no longer
valid. The entire world should be part of “we.” One’s own future entirely
depends on the rest of the world. Yes, the United States is the biggest nation,
the most powerful economically, but your future depends on the rest of the
world. That’s the reality. So treat others as a part of yourself. We need a
concept of oneness, of humanity. We need a sense of global responsibility.
Mary Robinson: I’m very pleased about a new kind of
women’s leadership that is connecting women who have access to power and
influence with women who are suffering in poverty in places like Darfur and
Chad. This is exactly what you’ve recommended—developing connection, empathy,
and compassion, and using leadership to change people’s lives.
The Dalai Lama: The time has come to emphasize the
importance of loving-kindness, affection, compassion, and wholeheartedness,
rather than simply education. I think, generally speaking, women have more
potential for this. So women should take a more active role. I truly feel that
we might be safer if more women were the leaders of this planet.
Pico Iyer: Your Holiness, when you arrived in India in
1959 after the Chinese invasion, knowing you had to reconstruct Tibetan culture
in exile, what were your priorities and inspirations?
The Dalai Lama: When the 1959 crisis happened in Tibet,
I did my best to cool down the situation, but I failed. Once in exile, the
immediate task was to look after the several thousand Tibetan refugees who had
followed me. Then the longer-term challenge was to preserve Tibetan culture,
and at the same time to promote modern education among our people.
At that time, our slogan was “Hope for the best, but
prepare for the worst.” We hoped that within one or two years we would be able
to return to Tibet or find some other solution. Now, fifty years later, I still
don’t know how long it will take. But we had always prepared for that
possibility, and when I look back, all our major decisions seem correct. When
we planned our struggle, we planned for the worst. We knew it could take
generations, so we planned accordingly.
I think we have one of the most successful refugee
communities. The preservation of our culture and heritage has been quite
successful. Today, many people come to India from Tibet to get Buddhist
teachings and modern education. We feel quite proud of that.
Mary Robinson: I don’t think I’ve ever told Your
Holiness how difficult it was when I was invited by China to visit on the
fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in 1998. I
was U.N. high commissioner for human rights at the time and I told them that if
I went, I wanted to go to Tibet. They said no, but after many discussions I got
It was an extraordinarily special visit for me. One thing
I recall vividly was going to a school in Lhasa. I had little copies of the
Universal Declaration in the Tibetan language, and we gave them to the
teachers. They had never heard of the Universal Declaration of Human Right, and
I was very happy to give them out so the teachers could use them. One of my
human rights officers whispered to me that this was probably against Chinese
law. But I was the high commissioner for human rights, so I said that I didn’t
I went back in China on a number of occasions. Although I
never was able to get back to Tibet, it was always an issue I raised with the
Chinese Government. It’s unacceptable that the human rights situation in Tibet
has been continuing and has not been effectively addressed. It’s heartbreaking
from a human rights point of view.