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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

Dalai Lama describes himself as 'just one monk'

July 20, 2008

By David O'Reilly
Philadelphia Inquirer
Fri, Jul. 18, 2008

The most famous Buddhist in the world insists he is "nothing special."

"I am just an ordinary human being," the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of
Tibetan Buddhism, said yesterday, one day after his daylong visit to

Some people think of him "as a living Buddha," he said, and laughed.

Others revere him as "a god-king."

"Nonsense," he said again, this time leaning his head back as he laughed.

"Then some describe me as a demon, or a wolf with a Buddhist robe. That
also I think is nonsense.

"I am just one monk. That is all."

And that was how the 73-year-old Dalai Lama came across in an interview:
spiritual, intelligent, extroverted, eager to make a personal
connection, and, above all, happy.

He claps you on the shoulder to make a point. He leans forward to listen
to a question, looking right into your eyes. He turns serious, then
breaks out in a broad smile that just may explode into a belly laugh.

"Talking with people" and engaging with others as "human brothers and
sisters" is what makes him happy, the Dalai Lama said, sitting in a
chair in his room at the Four Seasons.

And when he hears that his teachings have changed a life and made a
person happier, "I feel my life becomes something purposeful."

In person he seems not to have a care in the world.

Yet this man in a simple gold and red robe has carried the troubles of
Tibet on his bare shoulders since he was a small boy.

In 1937, when he was just 2, a delegation of senior monks arrived at his
parents' farm and pronounced him the 14th reincarnation of the Dalai
Lama: head of state for all Tibet and spiritual leader of all the
millions of Buddhists in his country as well as Nepal, Mongolia, Bhutan,
northern India, and the rest of the high Himalayas.

He might have lived a life of isolation, little known to the outside
world, had not Communist China invaded the capital of his mountaintop
nation in 1951.

The boy-king was just 16.

After eight years of fruitless accommodation with the Communists, whose
troops demolished an estimated 6,000 monasteries in the hope of wiping
out Buddhism, he fled on foot in the dead of winter to neighboring Nepal.

Later he moved to the northern India village of Dharamsala, where he and
his followers built the monastery complex that serves as his home and
headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile.

By force of his personality and spirituality, he as grown from a minor
Cold War figure to someone akin to pope of the world's Buddhists, and
the face of Eastern spirituality to many in the West.

In 1989 he won the Nobel Peace Prize, and still leads the struggle to
regain Tibet's independence from China while circling the globe to
lecture on tantric, or Tibetan, Buddhism.

"I am busy," he admitted, but he maintains his energy, he said, by
caring for his body.

He ends all his public events by 4:30 p.m., he said and - like most
Buddhist monks - eats no dinner. He sleeps eight or nine hours a night
and arises each morning at 3:30 to meditate four or five hours every day.

"So I'm healthy," he said, and held a bare arm out to show it off. "My
body is good."

He is "hopeful" and "optimistic" that the world will become a better
place in the 21st century, he said, provided people promote the "inner
values" of peace and compassion at the heart of Buddhism.

But he does not anticipate the West will turn Buddhist - a prospect that
worried Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders.

"I don't think so," the Dalai Lama said. "A few hundred thousand, even a
few million," might convert. "But the majority will remain Christian, as
it should be."

Some Buddhist practices, such as meditation, "can be used according to
your own faith. . . . Already some Christian monks and Christian
ministers are practicing Buddhist methods or techniques without changing
their religion."

He chided some Western practitioners of Zen Buddhism who shave their
heads, wear Zen robes, and "even change their furniture," he said,
laughing once again.

"That's not necessary," he said. "Religion is in the mind, not in costume."

The goal for any human is to "minimize such emotions as fear, hatred,"
he said, and "try to increase love, compassion with forgiveness."

"On that level, I don't think there's much difference between Eastern or
Western religion," he said.

He has turned over much of the administration of the Tibetan
government-in-exile over to others, he said, and so is "semiretired"
from that duty.

But as for the other two duties of the Dalai Lama - "promotion of human
values and promotion of religious harmony . . . till my death I am
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