September 18, 2003
Dalai Lama Says Terror May Need a Violent Reply
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
he Dalai Lama, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and one of the world's most prominent advocates of nonviolence, said in an interview yesterday that it might be necessary to fight terrorists with violence, and that it was "too early to say" whether the war in Iraq was a mistake. "I feel only history will tell," he said. "Terrorism is the worst kind of violence, so we have to check it, we have to take countermeasures."
The Dalai Lama spoke in his first visit to New York City since the 2001 terrorist attacks. He is on the last stop of a United States tour that has highlighted his dual roles as Buddhist teacher and head of state. In the past 13 days, he has met with Tibetan exiles in several cities, dedicated an interfaith temple in Bloomington, Ind., and pressed the Tibetan cause in Washington.
At a time when many political and religious leaders are saying that the American antiterrorism campaign and the war in Iraq are only fueling additional terrorism, the Dalai Lama refused to pass judgment. But he emphasized that "the real antidote" to terrorism in the long run is "compassion, dialogue — peaceful means" — even with terrorists. "We have to deal with their motivation," he said. "Terrorism comes out of hatred, and also short-sightedness." He likened Osama bin Laden to a butcher who had grown inured to slaughtering animals. With terrorists, the Dalai Lama said, applying a Buddhist analysis, "their whole mind is dominated by negative emotions."
He rejected the prediction popularized by some scholars that the world is headed toward a "clash of civilizations" between Christian and Muslim nations. He cited the citizens in the Soviet Union who once expressed hostility to the United States and the West and have now changed their minds. The Arab world can do the same, he said.
The Dalai Lama, 68, was interviewed in a hotel room in Manhattan as he prepared himself for the first of four days of teachings in Buddhist philosophy at the Beacon Theater. On a table next to his armchair was a stack of thick paper strips with handwritten text that contained the teachings of a 17th-century Tibetan scholar. He planned to use the texts for the day's lecture.
He sat cross-legged in the armchair, his eyebrows bouncing in amusement behind his glasses. He spoke in English with occasional help from his translator, Thupten Jinpa, and his representative in the United States, Nawang Rabgyal. He had just posed for pictures with a celebrity visitor, the singer Ricky Martin, who left wearing a long white scarf called a kata that is traditionally bestowed as a blessing.
Since the Dalai Lama was driven out of Tibet 44 years ago by the Chinese takeover, he has never been back. But he said that he "certainly" expected that China would eventually allow him and other Tibetans living in exile to return. He long ago abandoned the goal of independence from China. Instead, he says, he seeks autonomy.
The Chinese government has relocated many Han Chinese into Tibet as part of its strategy to assimilate the region. The Dalai Lama said he was concerned about this "population transfer," and had pressed this point in his meetings with President Bush and members of Congress. The Chinese are now building a rail line through Tibet that will ease Chinese settlement there. But the Dalai Lama said that the line was "basically welcome" because it could help economic development. He said one reason he advocated that Tibet remain part of China is that "we are materially very much backward."
As his entourage left the hotel, the Dalai Lama was greeted by a crowd of Tibetans, some nannies pushing strollers, many weeping. "We are so happy and we are so sad, too," said Pasang Keyray, a Tibetan born in India who arrived in the United States two years ago. "We haven't seen him for a long time. We are lucky we have such a good leader." Pointing to the Tibetan flag flying from the hotel awning, she said, "I am hoping to put this flag on Tibet one day."
At the Beacon Theater, doubled-up lines stretched for more than a block
in two directions, and the police closed off 74th Street to cars. Inside,
the Dalai Lama greeted more than a hundred monks in yellow and crimson
gathered on the stage, and took his place on a raised platform. He spent
the rest of the day preaching in Tibetan, reading from the strips of ancient
text in his lap.