Dharamshala: Below is the English transcript of an internet question and answer session His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader held live from his residence in Dharamsala with China-based civil rights activist Teng Biao and human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong. This interactive session was arranged by noted Chinese writer Wang Lixong on 4 January 2011.
Questions put forward to His Holiness the Dalai Lama by Chinese people from various cities in Mainland China.
1. Your Holiness, what is your view about Ngabo Ngawang Jigme? He was the representative delegated by you to negotiate with the People's Republic of China and also the one who signed the 17-Point Agreement [in 1951]. Even if you had not granted him [plenipotentiary] powers [to sign the Agreement], you had later accepted that agreement. Eventually, most of the time, he stood against you and acted like the spokesperson of the Chinese government on the Tibet issue.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: I knew Ngabo even before 1950. People who knew Ngabo at that time viewed him as an honest person, someone of integrity. I also viewed Ngabo as progressive and trusted him. He was then one of the main people who had my trust and confidence. After the signing of the Agreement, when I met Ngabo in Lhasa, he told me that they were compelled to sign that Agreement because, had they refused to sign, it would have resulted in an 'armed liberation' of Tibet. Thus, he felt that a 'peaceful liberation' was better than an 'armed liberation'. He, however, also said that when they signed the Agreement, even though they were carrying the Chamdo governor's official seal, they did not use it. They instead had to use a forged seal provided by the Chinese government.
Similarly, in 1979, after Deng Xiaoping displayed significant flexibility, I dispatched fact-finding delegations to Tibet. At that time, when my delegates met Ngabo, he told them to be aware about the fact that whether in times of the Qing dynasty, or for that matter, the rule of Guomingtang, places within the territory of Ganden Phodrang [Government of Tibet] never paid taxes to them. Ngabo thus gave a clear indication of his patriotism.
Similarly, in 1989, during a session of Tibet Autonomous Region People's Congress, Ngabo refuted as factually incorrect the official Chinese paper claiming that the Nanjing government (of Guomingtang) made all the decisions regarding the enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama, as well as on matters relating to the identification and recognition of the Dalai Lama. Ngabo said that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama was recognized by the regent of Tibet in accordance with religious tradition and that there was no foreign presider at the enthronement ceremony. The aforesaid claims, Ngabo said, were not true as asserted by the Guomintang officials. Even though I was a minor at the time of the enthronement, I still vividly remember that there were representatives of British India, China, Nepal and Bhutan uniformly seated in one row. Thus, in these matters, Ngabo had done his best in clarifying the actual facts. Following his demise, we organized a memorial service. In fact, some of our friends criticized our memorial service for him as inappropriate. We all know it is a fact that people under fear are forced to speak diplomatically according to the given circumstances. This is the reason why I always had complete trust in him. Even though he has now passed away, I always pray for him.
2. Your Holiness, are you losing control over the behaviour of a few Tibetans in exile? What do you think if that happens and how are you going to work on this?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: There are over 150,000 Tibetans living in exile, out of which perhaps 99 percent share common concern and sincerity on the issue of Tibet. Of course, there will be difference of opinions and it should exist since here we are following the path of democracy. I tell my people that they have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of thought, and they should express themselves freely. So there will be different opinions. Take the example of the Tibetan Youth Congress. They struggle for independence and criticize our Middle-Way policy. During my occasional meetings with them, I tell them 'the Chinese government expects that I should arrest some of you', but we cannot do such things here in a free country and I would never do such a thing.
3. My question to you, my teacher, is the struggle of non-violence and truth (non- cooperation) effective in confronting communist China? If yes, in what ways the Tibetan people are benefited by non-violence and truth?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: I always tell the same thing to Tibetans. And I want to mention here that even though our consistent stand of middle-way policy based on the foundation of non-violence has not yielded tangible result through dialogue with the Chinese government, it has helped us in getting strong support from the Chinese intellectuals, students and those who are interested in and aware of the reality. This is the result of my efforts.
It is difficult to deal with the Chinese government, but I think despite our inability to maintain extensive contacts with the Chinese intellectuals and public, our stand will win their support and it will continue to grow. It was some months after the Tiananmen event, I met some Chinese friends at Harvard University as I happened to be at that time in the US. After I explained to them our position, they said the entire Chinese people would support the stand of the Dalai Lama if they know about it.
4. Your Holiness, please explain how reforming the system of reincarnating lamas is permissible? Does such a reform contravene the Buddha's teachings?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: From the outset, I want to ask the questioner to read a little of the Buddha's teachings as contained in Kagyur (teachings of the Buddha) and Tengyur (Commentaries by Buddhist masters). The custom of recognizing reincarnate lamas did not develop in India. Similarly, the tradition of reincarnation of lamas did not develop in many Buddhist countries such as Thailand, Burma and China. There is a system of recognizing someone as a reincarnation of an enlightened being, but the system of recognizing someone as Tulku or Lama does not exist. In Tibet, the first ever reincarnation was recognized after a little child who clearly remembered his past life and which was proved to be true. Later on, this system slowly and gradually nearly became a class structure in society. Because of this I have made it well known that there is a difference between Tulku and Lama. A Lama need not be a Tulku and a Tulku need not be a Lama or one could be both Lama and Tulku. The one who is qualified as a result of one's own study and practice is known as Lama. A Tulku, even without such a standard of education, enjoys status in society in the name of the former Lama. And there are many who lack the Lama's qualification and even bring disgrace. So I used to say since some forty years ago that there needs to be some system to regulate the recognition of Tulku. Otherwise it is not good to have many unqualified ones.
I consider my interest in the system of reincarnation as a service to the Buddha's teachings. In the case of the Dalai Lama's reincarnation, the four hundred year old tradition of the Dalai Lama as both spiritual and temporal leader ended with the direct election of political leadership by the Tibetans in exile in 2001. In 1969, I made it well known in my official statement that whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not would be decided by the Tibetan people. In future, to decide whether to have the Dalai Lama's reincarnation and if there is a need, it is not necessary to always follow the past precedence but we can act in accordance with the given circumstances. This conforms to the teachings of the Buddha and do not go against them. When I explain about the possibility of reincarnation of Lamas in general and that of the Dalai Lama in particular, some Tibetans from inside Tibet and as well as Chinese friends wonder if this is in line with our religious tradition.
5. At present there are a lot of people in China who have a deep-seated anger and animosity to you. What do you have to say to them?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: At one point the Dalai Lama was called a demon. On a few occasions I was asked what I thought on the Dalai Lama being called a demon and I told them in good humor, "I am a demon. I have horns on my head".
This is understandable since the Chinese people have access only to one-sided and distorted information. For example during the Olympic torch relay, I especially requested the concerned people that the Olympic Games were a matter of pride for the 1.3 billion Chinese people and that we must never create any problem. Moreover, even before the right of hosting the Olympic Games was awarded to China, when I was visiting the US capital city of Washington, D.C., some journalists asked me about my viewpoint. I told them that China being the most populous country with a rich cultural heritage and history was worthy of hosting the Games. This is a factual account.
But still the Chinese government greatly publicized that we were creating obstacles for the Olympic Games. Because of such propaganda, the Chinese people are not aware of the entire situation and thus we cannot blame them.
While on the other side, there are many people around the world who respect me.
Therefore, I want to urge my Chinese brothers and sisters to examine the minute details and thoroughly research the information you receive from all sources. When I meet Chinese students, I tell them that being in a free country they should fully utilize both eyes and ears.
6. As far as we know, the central government of the Republic of China participated in the selection process and enthronement ceremony of the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. So, Your Holiness, do you recognize the Taiwan-based Republic of China and how much of an influence do you think the Taiwan government will again have in the reincarnation process?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: It is similar to my earlier account of Ngabo's story. Generally, when I am in Taiwan, I have supported the call for 'One China'. But eventually it is up to the people of mainland China and Taiwan to decide whether they want to be united in the future. What is more important is that Taiwan's democracy, its robust economy and Taiwan's good standard of education should be properly safeguarded. This is what I usually say.
Wang Lixiong: We have virtually seen the Dalai Lama, just that, as Your Holiness said we could not smell each other. Using the Internet in the 21st century, we consider this opportunity of interacting with Your Holiness as of fundamental importance. Thus, if interactions like these are deemed constructive for Sino-Tibetan relations and understanding each other further, then in the future I think and I hope that many Chinese scholars and concerned people will take part. Tashi Delek.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Very good. If it is convenient for you, I am always available and fully prepared to interact using modern technology and clear the doubts of Chinese friends. I always say, "Han zang da tuan jie" (Friendly relations between Chinese and Tibetans).
If we get the opportunity of frequently holding similar meetings and interactions, it will help build genuine trust and understanding amongst us. We will not be able to build trust by standing far apart. The clearer we discuss our issues the more trust we will gain in each other. If there is trust then there will be cordial relations and with cordial relations, even if there is a problem, we can solve it.
Can you see my face clearly? Can see my grey eyebrows? See you later. Tashi Delek. Thank You.
N.B. Translated from the Tibetan original. In case of any discrepancy please consider the Tibetan as final and authoritative.