Milan, 21st October 2016
His Holiness began his day by giving an interview to an old friend, Pio D’Emilia for Sky Tg 24. D’Emilia began his interview by asking him if his health was still good. “Yes”, he replied, “but I am getting increasingly older and sometimes late in the evening I feel tired. However I regularly sleep 8 or 9 hours each night, so I wake up fresh every morning.”
About the repeated allegations of the Chinese that accuse him of being a separatist, His Holiness remarked: “Historically, Chinese documents show that there were three empires: Chinese, Mongolian and Tibetan. After 1951 we have tried to reach an agreement and we signed an Agreement on 17 Points, a precedent not followed by any other province. For over 60 years we have raised the issue of Tibet at the UN with little effect. In 1970 there was an urgent need to find an understanding with the Chinese Government and in 1974 we formally stated that we were not interested in a real independence, but in the protection of the rights of minorities guaranteed by the Chinese constitution.”
Compared to a possible trip to Tibet or China, His Holiness said that since 1954 he has expressed a desire, which he still aspires to achieve, to go on pilgrimage to Wu Taishan. “China is an ancient country, a Buddhist country, but is now also a totalitarian state where many people are isolated from reality. Some of its leaders are realistic while others persist in taking a hard line.” As for Xi Jinping His Holiness noted that it is difficult to understand his intentions. His family is Buddhist. His Holiness, who knew Xi Jinping’s father, a friend of the last Panchen Lama, admires his efforts to fight corruption.
D’Emilia asked the Dalai Lama to comment on the failure to invite him to the Assisi interreligious conferance. His Holiness made it clear that he considers it more important and more effective to meet the public rather than meet leaders.
D’Emilia then asked for a declaration in respect to his possible successor and His Holiness, after repeating once more that it is for the Tibetan people to decide whether or not to recognize another Dalai Lama, mentioned several possible options. One is to appoint a person himself as his successor. Another is to hold an election of individuals, a “Senior Lama” able to take on this responsibility, as it has been done for the Gaden Tripa. Since he has often urged women to take a leading role in promoting love and compassion, he noted that if a young girl were declared to be the Dalai Lama, “So … why not?”
Pointing out to His Holiness that the Japanese Emperor has admitted his possible abdication and that a Pope has already resigned, he was asked if he ever considered the possibility of doing the same thing. “I have already retired from political responsibility. I suppose I could stop being a monk but I do not think I could ever resign from being a Dalai Lama.”
After lunch, the Dalai Lama, addressing more than 200 Tibetans living in Italy, Switzerland and Spain, said:
“I’m glad that we can meet briefly. We have now been in exile for 57 years. In the 50’s the Amdo and Kham provinces were troubled by the Chinese armed guards who wanted to impose changes in Tibet. Such actions provoked major protests by Tibetans. Ours was a feudal system, but it was not bad at all. There were many servants who alerted their former masters when they were in danger to allow them to escape. This was the standard of honesty and justice that existed between us. When class struggle was imposed on Tibetans, did not work well. However, in 1959 I had to escape.”
“The generation that had experienced these events have largely passed, but the Tibetan spirit remains firm and strong. The hardliners who used force against us thought that when the Dalai Lama went away, everything would resolved in their favor. They were wrong. I have heard that, when Chairman Mao was informed of the use of violence in Tibet, he asked what had happened to the Dalai Lama. When he heard that I had escaped, said, ‘In this case, we lost.’ The extremists thought that, if they had crushed the protest in central Tibet they would win but once again they were wrong. Since the Chinese themselves are keen to preserve and defend their culture, it is surprising that they do not understand that Tibetans are just as passionate about the defense of their own traditions. It is said that now there are 400 million Chinese Buddhists – many of whom are educated people who have learned that Chinese monks do not give accurate explanations about Buddhism, and Tibetan monks are well prepared. All our Tibetan Buddhist traditions have roots in the university of Nalanda, which means that they study the logic and the reasoning in combination with philosophy. No other Buddhist tradition can be proud of that.”
Back in the teaching hall, His Holiness responded to a series of questions from the audience before continuing the explanation of the texts: In Praise of Dependent Arising and The Three Principal Aspects of the Path.
Photo by Laura Catalano.