Interviews and a Conversation about Potential Modes of Expression to Bring Freedom to the World

November 24th 2013

IKyoto, Japan, 24 November 2013 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave three interviews during the morning today. In the first, Ms Kintoyo from Kyoto Seika University, who have been his hosts in Kyoto, prompted him to talk about responding to different images. He told her that whenever he sees an image of Mary carrying the infant Jesus he has a strong sense of maternal affection, which is something with universal impact. Images of Jesus on the cross and the skeletal fasting Buddha have deep meaning and significance, but lack the universal appeal that the conventional figure of the Buddha shares with Mary and child.

He noted that creativity is related to our intelligence, but also observed that we don’t all use our intelligence the same way. He said that he has noticed when he’s teaching that Chinese and other Asians don’t pay much attention, but perk up when there’s some ritual involved. In contrast, people from the West pay avid attention when he teaches and take scrupulous notes. He spoke approvingly of the questioning that goes on in the debate yards of Tibet’s great monasteries, because questioning is a way to open the mind.


Journalists from Sapio magazine interviewing His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Kyoto, Japan on November 24, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
Journalists from Sapio magazine talked to him about the recent incident of the burning car in Tiananmen Square that left two people dead, besides the three in the car, and 40 injured. It is alleged to have been an attack by Xinjiang Uighurs. There have been contacts between exiled Tibetans and representatives of East Turkestan over the years, but His Holiness’s attitude to the resort to violence remains unchanged.

“I feel that our non-violent approach attracts a large measure of support from our Han brothers and sisters. If violence were an effective approach, the Uighurs’ situation should have improved by now.”

In terms of Tibet’s relations with China he asserted that while Tibet is spiritually rich it is materially backward, so it is in Tibetans’ interest to remain with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). With regard to China, he divided the last 60 years into the four eras: Mao’s period of ideology; Deng’s period of opening up and embarking on economic development; Jiang Zemin’s broadening the party base and the ‘three represents,’ and Hu Jintao’s theme of a harmonious society. These showed, he suggested, that the party is capable of responding to a new reality. He noted that the new Premier, Xi Jinping is seriously tackling corruption and seems to be a man of action.

In conversation with journalists from fashion and beauty magazine Anan, His Holiness teased them about having an insular approach, only featuring Japan and Japanese girls. There are plenty of good looking Tibetan and Chinese girls and boys too, he said.

They noted His Holiness’s expressed admiration for Mao Zedong and told him that Xi Jinping had said much the same. They wondered how they are different. His Holiness replied:


His Holiness the Dalai Lama in conversation with journalists from fashion and beauty magazine Anan in Kyoto, Japan on November 24, 2013. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“I met Mao several times and we talked for hours. But Mao had only left China once when he visited Moscow and he had no modern education. Xi Jinping, on the other hand, is well travelled and has had the benefit of a full modern education. Mao retained much of his peasant background. He spoke slowly in meaningful words and told me more than once that the Chinese government regarded the case of Tibet as unique and not like other provinces.”
 
The Anan correspondents asked His Holiness if he ever thinks of himself.

“Yes,” he said. “I take great care of my health and I get a lot of sleep, which only benefits me. However, if I have good health, I’m better able to help others.”

At the Kyoto International Conference Centre after lunch, His Holiness was joined for a conversation about the ‘Potential for Modes of Expression to Bring Freedom to the World’ by well-known writer, Banana Yoshimoto. After the University President, Shigeaki Tsubouchi, had opened proceedings, Ms Yoshimoto read a short prepared presentation. She said she was nervous to be sitting there able to speak to His Holiness. She also admitted having been his supporter for some time and hoped that members of the younger generation would continue this. She said it was His Holiness’s flexibility of thought that impressed her.

She recalled visiting Swayambunath Stupa in Kathmandu with its strong Tibetan associations. She described being very moved by the rich symbols and trappings, but most of all in an inexplicable way by the maroon robed monks. She has concluded that if there are past and future lives, perhaps she was a monk in Tibet at the time of the 13th Dalai Lama.

Coming back to today, she said she wanted to talk about meanness and to tell a short story about it. What she felt is an example of something unpleasant in Japan took place when she was travelling with her husband and child on the Shinkansen. They were on the other side of aisle and the seat next to her was empty. Having experienced a period of disturbing insomnia, she had been able to fall asleep on the train, until she was rudely awakened by the conductor shaking her in irritation at being unable to access the empty seat. He had not spoken to her husband, but had woken her roughly himself. She said that if it had been her, she would have been gentler. She was surprised by his behaviour and took it as an instance of the strong Japanese sense of duty leading to stress and anger.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama and writer Banana Yoshimoto during their conversation at the Kyoto International Conference Centre in Kyoto, Japan on November 24, 2013.
Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan

“Thank you for sharing this personal story,” His Holiness began, “life, with its happy and sad moments like this, in Buddhism we call samsara. When we are born there is physical suffering; at the end of life is death, when we are parted from those we love. In between, we experience illness and old age. Even galaxies have a beginning and end, it’s a natural process. But in addition to this we have a marvellous human brain, with the power to think and analyse, which is also a source of hope and disappointment. Our sensory responses we share with animals, but our brain sets us apart from them.”

“When I was 16,” he continued, “I lost my freedom and when I was 24 I lost my country. And over the last 54 years there has been a lot of sad news from my homeland, tales of violence, destruction and killing, which leave us with a sense of helplessness. However, if you let sadness overwhelm your mind, it will ruin your health. Here human intelligence can help, because by reconsidering them, the very events that provoke a sense of helplessness and demoralization can be used to build inner strength.”

He said that an important factor is warm-heartedness, a sense of concern for others, which brings peace and self-confidence. He told the story of a Tibetan monk he knows who was imprisoned in a Chinese labour camp for 18 years, but who was released and came to India in the 80s. He told His Holiness that he’d been in danger several times during his imprisonment, which His Holiness thought meant a threat to his life. But he clarified that on several occasions he’d been in danger of losing compassion for those who confined him. Throughout this time his mind remained calm, a real example of spiritual practice.

Ms Yoshimoto wanted to know if there had been any occasion or event that His Holiness could identify as having changed his life. He told her that before he was 24 he had visited Peking and met many impressive Chinese leaders including Chairman Mao. In 1956, in India he’d met leaders and freedom fighters, but in 1959 he became a refugee and there was no more need for formality or protocol. Consequently, difficulties taught him to be realistic and broadened his outlook. He’s discovered that if we pay attention every day, we can learn from things that happen to us and just as we lose the hair on our heads, over the years we gather experience.


View of the stage at the Kyoto International Conference Centre, venue for His Holiness the Dalai Lama's conversation with writer Banana in Kyoto, Japan on November 24, 2013.
Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan

Ms Yoshimoto told him, “When I write, I write about what I observe and I try to leave out my emotion. I just try to be transparent. When my heart is moved I write and try to move other people.”

“That’s right,” His Holiness agreed, “when there’s too much emotion the mind is biased and can’t be objective. You can’t see the reality of things.”

He mentioned that he’s been encouraging young Japanese to travel abroad more, because Japan is not the extent of the known world. He’s also been encouraging them to learn English because like it or not that’s the international language and he thinks it important for them to be able to communicate. Even his broken English, he said, serves that purpose.

“When we were in Tibet we liked our isolation. Surrounded by snow mountains we felt safe. We didn’t see the need for establishing relations with others. Japan too is surrounded by sea, but relying on isolation like that is a mistake.”

Taking questions from the audience prompted His Holiness to speak about dreams. He said that they can simply reflect what happened to you during the day, but the key to making dreams useful is to train yourself to recognise that you are dreaming. This will allow you to intentionally control your dreams. And you can take help to do this to begin with. If a friend is present and watches for the rapid eye movement that indicates dreaming, they can tell you in a low voice, “Now you are dreaming.”

In the practice of Buddhist Tantrayana there are important practices that pay attention to the dissolution of the elements of the body at the time of death. When you are dreaming this is easier because a level of dissolution has already taken place and it’s easier to meditate on the dream body. Any practice you do, whether it involves developing compassion or undertaking analysis is easier and more effective in dream-time because the sensory consciousnesses are dormant. Awareness can therefore be even stronger than in the waking state. He added:

“When I wake up in the morning, I remember the Buddha, his teaching about dependent origination and compassion. This is how I shape my mind for the day. If you do this, over time, you can transform your mind.”


An audience member asking His Holiness the Dalai Lama a question during his conversation at the Kyoto International Conference Centre in Kyoto, Japan on November 24, 2013. Photo/Office of Tibet, Japan
In response to a question about freedom and respect for each others’ creativity, His Holiness said:

“We need freedom - freedom of thought to allow our creativity to grow; freedom of speech, because we need discussion with each other and freedom of expression. When we are full of worry, for example, we get relief from expressing it.”

Finally, he was asked by a student who said he and his friends really care about Tibet, what they can do to help. His Holiness replied:

“I’m very concerned about the state of Tibetan culture which remains under threat. So what you can do is to make known that it is a culture of peace and compassion and that it is in danger. And if you can, go to Tibet, see for yourself what’s going on and when you come back share with others what you saw.”

The interaction had gone on forty minutes beyond the scheduled time. There was an exchange of white silk scarves and bouquets of flowers. His Holiness briefly met the student volunteers, who had assisted the event and he returned to his hotel
 

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