Episode 59 - Robert Thurman: Why the Dalai Lama Matters
“I’m Robert Thurman, and I’m having a lovely time on Living Dialogues with my friend Duncan Campbell. I learned a lot today from Duncan about America and about the Persian poet Rumi, about many things, about even Tibet.
And I shared with Duncan the insights and inspirations in the book I have written, which is my tribute to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, called Why the Dalai Matters: His Act of Truth as the Solution for China, Tibet, and the World. And this book is to inspire us and lift us out of our depression, that “NO we can’t”, which is what we’ve been hearing much too much of, from the world and media and everything.
And luckily now we are hearing “YES we can”, and we have to even hear that and say that to ourselves all the time. We must never accept that something is impossible and is hopeless. With despair comes violence, internal violence of depression, external violence between people. But out of hope comes love, friendliness, heroism, and that’s what we need today, together today, and that’s what we can manifest. And it is what together we are manifesting in this dialogue. All the best to you.” -- Robert Thurman
“In your book you’ve collected from your 45 years of deep friendship with the Dalai Lama many stories of how the Dalai Lama is really, we might say, the great practitioner of what I call ‘the art of dialogue’, the art of communication, both inner dialogue with himself and understanding with great compassion and truthfulness, his own, we might say foibles as well as merits, and those of others…And what you brilliantly illuminate here is why the Dalia Lama matters at every level. This is not just the “nice man’ who’s talking about being spiritual and kind. He has a profound and pragmatic understanding of the nature of the planet, including our human hopes and desires, the crises we are all in, and very practical ways to deal with them.
And I will introduce this dialogue by saying that in it, Bob, you also compellingly describe your own analysis and five-part plan, from what we might call a global political perspective of how and why the Dalai Lama and China together could be a key to avoiding World War III. And so I want to honor you for your life work and for this particular work, but also say what a deep pleasure it always is when you and I come together in these dialogues, and to acknowledge the role of the deep listening audience which is virtually present here that contributes to what has been evoked here in this dialogue. As you say, “we are all one ocean of dialogue”.
And that is why we are inviting everyone into this dialogue, including the Dalai Lama’s virtual participation as well (whose name ‘dalai’ literally means ‘ocean’, while “lama” means ‘developed person’), since he does not proclaim “listen to what I say”, but rather: “if you listen to what’s in your own heart, you yourself will have this inner dialogue that will show you and energize you and inspire you to right action”. And it’s in that spirit that we celebrate this dialogue by honoring the ‘Dalai Lama’ in all of us.” – Duncan Campbell
“Duncan Campbell, I heard about your podcast a few months ago, and have been deeply listening to all the dialogues with your fantastic friends/guests. Your words, ideas, and wisdom are truly inspirational. You have evoked a new appetite for knowledge in me that I hope to share with a starving younger generation. Thank you for doing what you do, and creating a unique space, void of boundaries and classification. A breath of fresh air! Much love and respect.” – Amit Kapadiya
In furtherance of creating and maintaining the planetary dialogues now required in the 21st century, I will be featuring a special series of dialogues on this site with myself and other elders in the next few weeks during and after the 2008 Olympics hosted by China and the U.S. election season. These dialogues will address various specific political aspects of our planetary crisis, with its dangers and opportunities for a visionary and evolutionary shift. (We remember that the Chinese character for “crisis” is often described as meaning both “danger” when visioned from a fear perspective, and “opportunity” when visioned from a wisdom perspective.)
Following last week’s dialogue with Ted Sorensen, counselor to John F. Kennedy, and this week’s dialogue with Robert Thurman on the Why the Dalai Lama Matters: His Act of Truth as the Solution for China, Tibet, and the World, other elders who will join me in coming weeks include Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss on Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World, former Senator David Boren on A Letter to America, George Lakoff on The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st Century Politics with an 18th Century Brain, and others.
In my preceding dialogues I have talked in various ways about the need to generate dialogues across generational, ethnic, gender, and national boundaries -- building bridges of understanding and wisdom in the cooperative spirit and reaching out required by our 21st century realities, and the essential roles that we all are called to play in our evolution for it to take place.
In this particular dialogue, Bob Thurman describes the world-affecting drama that China is currently engaged in with the Tibetan people and the associated environmental destruction imitative of our own Western past. I bring in parallels with the European settlers of Australia, and of North and South America, and the conscious and unconscious genocide of the native peoples that took place in that settlement, the karmic effects of which are still with us, partially but not entirely expunged, and the restorative efforts recently being made by Australia and Canada -- as well as the issues of New Energy and what’s at stake in the U.S. and elsewhere to make dramatic changes in our energy habits and relationship to the natural world.
Of particular interest is Bob’s metaphor of Tibet as a crucial environmental zone for a great part of Asia, the “water tower” of that part of the world, and his statement of the essential need to keep the water clean that flows down from there, what is often called the “roof of the world”, the source of so many great rivers.
In reference to this, I describe water being both external and an inner symbol, mentioning the words of the poet Rumi (honored by UNESCO in naming 2007 the “Year of Rumi”): “we all know the taste of pure water”, and going on to say: “We need to protect not only the water tower of Tibet on the high plateau in protecting the rivers and Lake Manasarovar, but also protecting what you Bob have called the “inner revolution”, what I see as that inner stream of ‘pure water’, consciousness that can literally water our psyche and cleanse us of what the historian Joseph Ellis has referred to as the ‘original sins’ of how peoples have dealt with other peoples, such as slavery and de facto genocide, of the fear-based psychic contractions we all have individually and as nations.”
On the eve of the Bejing-hosted Olympics, I mention examples from past Olympics illustrating these parallels between the history of the West and the East, and Bob describes in detail his five-part plan, inspired by the world-wide work of the Dalai Lama, for how China could accept the overtures for dialogue from the Dalai Lama and develop a multi-faceted cooperation, both political and ecological, that could be a model for the world as well, based on “treating gently those in our power” and ourselves.
Bob observes at one point: “It’s very hard for us to have faith that good things can happen, but if we’re more realistic, if we look at and follow the science as the Dalai Lama does, if we look at the reality and have faith in it, we will see that really there is only one way the planet can go and that we are rational beings and we do like our lives, and we like the lives of our children…so this approach, this kind of action, will sway realistic beings, which human beings basically are. We got our evolutionary power by adapting, by being realistic, we will adapt in this crisis moment, in the twenty-first century, and we will save the planet and ourselves. No question about it.”
Echoing that, we can conclude that kindness and altruistic outlook are not simply good things to embody, they are the truly wise and necessary practical tools of planetary co-existence – cultivating the deeper forces and energies that will lead us into a “kinder, happier twenty-first century”. As the Dalai Lama’s spoke in addressing the European parliament after 9/11: “In place of war, which is obsolete now on this planet, reconciliation has to come through dialogue.”
And there is much more in this stimulating and enriching conversation. Please join us.
This is the time for renewed dialogue, for visionary and inspiring discourse producing practical and innovative solutions together, to engage our own elder wisdom and youthful inspiration, and in so doing to experience and exemplify that “Dialogue is the Language of Evolutionary Transformation”.
And that is what we all do, in our mutual roles as host, deep listeners, and guests, when we gather together here from all parts of the globe in Living Dialogues.
Other programs you will find of immediate interest on these themes are the Dialogues I have had with mythologist and keeper of world stories Michael Meade `(Programs 48-51), world-renowned cross-cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien (Program 52), poet and translator of Persian poet Rumi Coleman Barks (Programs 3, 53-54), as well as Programs 13 and 14 with Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell (editor of The Enlightened Heart, which contains the poem The Swan by Indian poet Kabir which I mention in Part 3 of my Programs 55-57 with African teacher Sobonfu Some) and Program 58 with Ted Sorensen, counselor to John F. Kennedy. Also of directly related interest in terms of the founding and traditions of the U.S. during its tipping point 2008 election season, with its implications for global shifts, are my dialogues with historian Joseph Ellis, honored as “the Founders’ historian” by The New York Review of Books (see Programs 38 and 39).
After you listen to this Dialogue, I invite you to both explore and make possible further interesting material on Living Dialogues by clicking on the Episode Detail button at the top left of this program description, and by taking less than 5 minutes to click on and fill out the Listener Survey there (or click on the Listener Survey icon to the left of this column).
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Robert Thurman: I am Robert Thurman, I am having a lovely time on LivingDialogues with my friend Duncan Campbell. Learned a lot today about America and about Rumania about many things, about even Tibet.
Shared with him the insides and inspirations in the book which is, “My Tribute to His Holiness the Dalai Lama” called, ‘Why the Dalai Lama matters’ and his ‘Act of Truth did’. And by the way ‘The Act of Truth’ means that you could make the Gages flow backward if you stick strong enough to the determination to the truth, it’s the same as the Gandhian Satyagraha, its equivalent to that.
Satyagraha holding onto ‘Satya’ the truth. His act of truth, as the solution for China, Tibet and the world, and the world of course includes America. And this book is to inspire us and lift us out of our depression, that ‘NO’ we can’t, which is what we’ve been hearing much too much of, from the world and media and everything.
And luckily now we are hearing ‘YES’ we can, and we have to even hear that and say that to ourselves all the time. We must never accept, some to me is impossible and is hopeless and it is despaired. Without despair, in addition to it, it becomes violence, internal violence of depression, external violence between people.
And out of hope comes love, friendliness, heroism, and that’s what we need today, together today, and that’s what we can manifest. We are manifesting in this dialogue and we will, and all the best.
[Music and commercial break]
Duncan Campbell: Welcome to LivingDialogues, I am your host Duncan Campbell and with me for this particular dialogue, I am truly delighted to have my great friend Robert Thurman as my guest. Robert Thurman is know to many of you as a friend of the Dalai Lama for the last 45 years, the first American to be initiated as a Tibetan monk and of course as the co-founder of Tibet House in the US in New York city.
He is also the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Buddhist Studies for many years at Columbia university, he’s the translator and author of several key works of Tibetan literature and analysis, he is also the author of ‘Circling The Sacred Mountain’ when we did our first dialogue together, 10-12 years ago now, about the, circling of Mount Kailas, in western Tibet, one of the great places of Pilgrimage on the planet and he is the father of Uma Thurman.
And so there are many ways to have excess to Bob Thurman and all the great work he is doing. He’s also a tremendous lecturer with great insight. He is very entertaining and powerful speaker and he is now dedicating a good deal of his time to illuminating the world on the subject of his latest book, ‘Why the Dalai Lama matters’. His ‘Act of Truth’ as the solution for China, Tibet and the world.
And so Bob, it’s just a deep pleasure, as always to have this time to spend together.
Robert Thurman: Well it’s great to be here with you Duncan and especially in dialogue format its always fun.
Duncan Campbell: And one of the things, I think is great about this latest book of yours, is that not only it had your numerous book of great scholarship but then books of high adventure like ‘Circling the Sacred Mountain’ in Tibet which enabled people to see, really across cultural dialogue in many different dimensions. Not just academic, not just spiritual practice, but really helped people encounter one-another literally on the ground.
And this latest book, you’ve actually collected from your 45 years of deep friendship with the Dalai Lama. Many stories of how the Dalai Lama is really, we might say, the great practitioner of the art of dialogue, the art of communication, both inner dialogue with himself and understanding with great compassion and truthfulness, his own, we might say foibles as well as merits.
And he is also very humble and insight for at the same time and he has made extraordinary impact on world leaders and ordinary people, all over the world. And sometimes, people think, “Oh the Dalai Lama, what a beautiful man. Oh! He is a nice man and he says good things like we should all love each other and be kind”.
But you know like, I’m worried about the state of the world and what’s going to happen and what you brilliantly illuminate here, is why the Dalai Lama matters at every level. This is not just the nice man who’s talking about being spiritual and kind. He has a profound understanding of the nature of the planet, the crises we are all in and some very practical ways to deal with it.
And finally I will introduce this dialogue by saying; you also brilliantly offer your own analysis. From a , we might say global, political perspective of how and why the Dalai Lama and China together could be the key to avoiding world war III, and so with that introduction, I’m just going to ask you to, dive-in wherever you want, just start this.
Perhaps with some of the things you say in introduction that inspired you to spend the time and energy to get this word out.
Robert Thurman: Alright, well because I think that it’s all a, this is like relates to American politics at this time, which is swept-up by the tremendous enthusiasm of Barack Obama, who is finally telling people, “Yes we can”. Maybe getting them out of this slow of hopelessness and despair, that everyone lives in.
For this, they are told by the media, by the politicians by everyone in authority and everyone in power and their own habitual, the best they view, that nothing can be done, everything is doomed, therefore keep driving around and just hide in your high security compound, if you have the means to do so. In otherwise basically don’t care about anything but your immediate needs, and this is not the way to do it.
That despair becomes the self fulfilling prophecy. So this book is a attempt to show, I think I do show, I say I must admit I like it when I read myself, I re-convince myself. [Laughing]
It shows that the Dalai Lama is not just a nice guy as you said, but he is a great statesman. He is really living the spirit; he once jokingly said he was the reincarnation of Jefferson. When he went to Martin Shallow, and he saw all the slogans in the Jefferson memorial in Washington about enlightenment education and he is really reviving what was really great about America.
The dream that we had, which we have never lived up to and we just did all this killing of Indians, killing and just slaving Black people and despising our own poor people and so forth. And we had and being too unkind to each other and therefore too depressed.
So something we’ve never really lived up to, but we dreamed it and we’ve had great people dreaming it. Dalai Lama says it, Obama is bringing that back.
The Dalai Lama on the Global level is the one that doesn’t get discouraged and who says, “Yes we can be free in Tibet” and “Yes the Chinese can liberate us” and “Yes we can then join China in a free union”. Because actually the reality is the thing is, we are free and Tibet is free.
No one can conquer Tibet, it is three miles high, and it is the vastest plateau on the planet. It affects the jet streams and totally controls the quality of the weather in the Northern Hemisphere, which as you have noticed has not been too great lately, and that’s because Tibet has been ruined actually. People really knew the story.
And so I am showing how the Dalai Lama is the one who keeps that vision alive and I am glad I really did it, because in doing it I re-convinced myself about how doable it is, and even mentioned the idea, Duncan, that the Dalai Lama not just caring about his own people, but he wants to help the Chinese. He wants to help the Chinese people, and he doesn’t want to just help them get rid of the government.
He wants to help the rulers, people in the government change their ways and imagine the idea of giving HU Jintao or whatever president of China decides to make the turn around, and to get China to begin to act it’s age and act it’s strength by being generous and kind and empathetic to the world and start to recover its own great culture which had Buddhism and Confucianism and Taoism thereby be able to give those leaders of China Noble Peace prizes of their own.
Did anybody ever think such a thing, instead of saying, “Oh, they are so bad; they are the enemy and all that”. Of course they are behaving bad, and they are being enemy of many people and they are trying to make even an enemy of the Dalai Lama, who himself is the most friendly person in the world, and yet he still wants to be their friend, he wants them to have the Noble Peace prize, he want them to be popular with their own people, by sponsoring religion.
He wants them to be happy; he wants the Chinese people to be happy and to enjoy their greatness. That’s why he supported them to have the Olympics, and to show their beauty, what beautiful things they can achieve and do.
So I got into doing that and write it all and the matter shows that it is the Dalai Lama who is the spark plug of our global optimism and not giving into a global despair and getting these things done and it fits very well with things like, Al Gora’s saying ten years we are going to be off this oil addiction. Even Boone Perkins saying ten years we are going to be away from it, we are going to be having wind and so forth. And now I am going to invest in it, the great oilman myself.
This is really an exciting thing after eight years of pretty new disaster around here, that we finally return to our own row and China maybe will set us a big example, by not following all the negative things that we did.
Duncan Campbell: And this is very interesting, because it is very much, I think, the evolutionary perspective that we have been talking about here on LivingDialogues for over the last fifteen years, and that is that the evolutionary transformation of human consciousness that is taking place on planetary basis
Robert Thurman: absolutely.
Duncan Campbell: and may or may not hit the tipping point before we move in the other direction of complete collapse, is precisely to have a both end compassionate consciousness. In other words, the modern mind often breaks things into either-or and leverages a deconstructive view of reality based on fragmentation and taking the clock apart and then trying to put it back together and derive from classical physics of how to make the steam engine
Robert Thurman: Right, it’s going to be grooming on the partners.
Duncan Campbell: Yes, and what’s missing is this sense of accessing the sense of wholeness, it’s not just a matter of using the left brain with its enormous deconstructive power of reason to actually take the clock apart and remake it and have the ability to be powerful and move your economy forward, even as China’s doing right now with all the passel fuel energy.
Like one coal plant a day and then trying to figure out what to do with the tenth
Robert Thurman: Destroying the environment at an equal pace
Duncan Campbell: Yes, and what we really need is a whole new pyridine of thinking that can see a larger new vision and associated with that, as you correctly say, is new energy that we need to re-connect with the natural gifts of the universe. Sun, wind, ocean and earth’s bio-fuels.
We are talking about re-connecting as our indigenous mind did in the beginning of the species with the natural environment and it will open its secrets to us, if we are receptive and we can go beyond this adolescent mindset of control and competition and wanting to dominate.
And in your book you’ve talked about the parallels, between how China today is dealing with Tibet and how Western Europe dealt with, “The New World” in North and South America, when the colonial age of 500 years ago begin and coincided with the beginning of the industrial age and so on.
And the rise of scientism and reason, the Western Europeans came with their “Superior technology” and enacted essentially a conscious and unconscious program of genocide against the Native American peoples in both north and South America. It’s not often recognized that the greatest holocaust in world history did not occur with the six million Jews in Europe or even the Indians, at the hands of Muslims in India.
But in North and South America there were sixty million who died, either of disease or deliberate extermination, now by contrast, for instance we give the example here and this will lead directly back to what you are saying about, Tibet and China, that our Northern neighbor Canada in June of 2008, Stephen Harper, their conservative pre-mayor issued a speech to the Native American peoples of Canada in which he apologized for the profound mistakes that had been made in the history of Canada.
Robert Thurman: That is so great; it was amazed to hear that. He also met with Dalai Lama, Harper, it was really very good.
Duncan Campbell: It’s extraordinary, but do you know, his Canadian nose I think trumped his conservative policies, because my wife is Canadian and mixed blood Native American and she was so moved that she wept when she heard the speech, as did many of her friends, because he apologized specifically about the kinds of genocidal policies, that are very similar to those that are happening now with the Chinese.
Robert Thurman: Chinese know that, they say that actually.
Duncan Campbell: Yeah, well what happened of course in Canada and we are going to move back to Tibet, so that we make that bridge, is they had the residential school system, where they took all the children out of the reserves, they call them the reservations and denied the joy and the inter play between, the parent and child.
It’s just so cruel and then they took those children and put them away from the reserves and residential schools, where they were sexually abused and otherwise abused by the white peoples running those schools.
Not only were many of them sexually abused and otherwise abused, but there was a huge death rate, up to 50 percent of these children did not survive these schools, which is the implicit genocidal impact of the policy. No one’s actually suggesting that this was deliberate, they are apologizing it now, because they were not properly cared for. So it’s different then the holocaust that happened with the Germans and Jewish people in Europe, for it was deliberate.
Here it was a by-product of a tremendous disrespect for maltreatment of Native American peoples in Canada. And also they lost their language, and basically they had a policy, the white people at one point in Canada that has since been resented, which specifically stated, that the goal of the government was to assimilate all Native Americans into the larger population, which amounts to the extermination of the native American peoples as a culture.
Now these very same issues, including in the form of involuntary sterilization by the Chinese of certain Tibetan women and other methods to eliminate the Tibetan culture continuing, are happening right now in Tibet.
That’s what I linger on this whole, the Native American parallel. So that people can understand, as they are understanding now. Residential schools and other assimilationist policies as in Canada, happened in the US, they have not been apologized for, in the US at this point.
Robert Thurman: It’s still going on in certain ways.
Duncan Campbell: And in Australia, we may remember that ‘movie rabbit prove fence’ made about the residential schools and trauma inflicted upon aboriginal peoples. That has not been entirely resolved to this day. But within several weeks of his election the new prime minister in Australia.
The Liberal prime minister, Kevin Rudd made an apology in February 2008, on behalf of the nation to the aboriginal peoples, predating that one which was made in June of 2008 by Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada to the Native Americans in Canada, in which the Australian government not only apologized, but setup a fund for various programs for health and education for the aboriginal peoples.
Robert Thurman: The Dalai Lama when he was in Australia, he gave 250 thousand dollars that had been raised and given to him by devotees to the aboriginal school in some area of Australia. Precisely where the children were to be raised in their own aboriginal culture.
And it is highly worth it that the Chinese actually are aware of this, and they actually say, “You give America back to the Native people, and we will give back Tibet to the Tibetans”.
Duncan Campbell: But this is terrific, we should hold them to this word and let me just now give one other introduction to get back to you here is that Australia, we remember at the Olympics in Sydney, had the aboriginal Australian women runner who won the gold medal in the 400 meters, she was their premier athlete, just like Rafer Johnson, the Blackman was the first black American to carry the American flag in an Olympics in 1960. Jesse Owens of course was in 1936 and was a great victor in several events, but
Robert Thurman: And he was Native American I think.
Duncan Campbell: No, Jesse Owens was a Blackman. Jesse Owens was a Blackman, you are thinking of the great Native American athlete, Jim Thorpe, who won both the decathlon and the pentathlon, in the 1912 Olympics. And incidentally he is the only American athlete ever to have been stripped of his medals in an Olympic competition on the grounds of allegedly violating his amateur status.
These medals were restored posthumously the end of the twentieth century and he was also named by the US congress the greatest athlete of the century in America, but it does show the discrimination that occurred against Jim Thorpe at several levels, because of the fact that he was Native American and discrimination of course occurred with a decathlon winner in 1960, Refer Johnson, when he returned home.
But Refer Johnson did in fact carry the flag in the Olympics in Rome in 1960, and was widely admired by all of his teammates and was clearly the team captain, despite the fact that when he returned to the United States, there were certain hotels that he couldn’t stay in, and certain restaurants that he could not eat in.
What I am saying is that these countries have often used the Olympics as a way to sort of highlight their best side. And so Australia had an aboriginal women, one of their best athletes light the Olympic flame in the cauldron at the Olympics in Sydney. In trying to put their best foot forward, made the symbolic gesture to say, “We are making progress on this issue”.
Now what I think is so interesting about your book, is that you are suggesting that the Chinese have an opportunity that the Olympics of 2008 to put their best foot forward and to convert the Dalai Lama from the demonized enemy. They have made him into an ally, which he repeatedly says; he is ready to do,
Robert Thurman: Absolutely.
Duncan Campbell: As long as his people get respect and cultural autonomy. He even said on news report, I happened to be watching CNN, and right there on CNN there was a report of a women interviewing the Dalai Lama, this was by the way, not contemporary, yes I have to say it was not on television, this was on a television clip, that I was watching in preparation for our dialogue today, that was on UTube.
Accessible on UTube, and there he was being interviewed and women was saying. “Now tell me are you willing to become a Chinese citizen?” and he said, “Well, as soon as we have proper internal autonomy for our people and our people are happy in their culture, of course”. Now, are you telling me you are willing to be a Chinese citizen? “I am”.
Well you know the Chinese are saying that you are trying to undermine these Olympics and sabotaging? “No I am not”. Will you say that again? He said, “look I am a human being”, I’ve said this over a hundred times, and so I am quite now, because I have said it over and over and no one will listen, and the Chinese keep saying that I am sabotaging the Olympics. In fact, I am in favor of the Olympics as I have said.
So here we are in cusp of the Olympics, as you and I, since we are recording this, it doesn’t look like the Chinese are going to carpe DM, grab their historical moment, they are going to miss
Robert Thurman: No, they are really going in the wrong direction, but they still could and they could do it after, doesn’t matter when they do it, as long as they do it. They can do it, they can change their way, anybody can, we hold our mind open for them to go. We don’t prejudge what they are going to do.
But now they are going the wrong way, they are continuing to authorize a person named Zhang Jing Lee [sp] who’s like a communist party boss in Tibet and is like an old fashioned cultural revolutionary. He’s so far behind the time, and he’s misinformed him of course about every thing, and they are completely misled by him, the Chinese people and the government.
And the leaders HU Jintao, and if HU Jintao and they could really wake up, they would of course immediately relieve this fellow of duty and they would really take the opportunity to show that they can try to repair the damage that they have caused in Tibet.
Everywhere and instead of perceiving that as a weakness or something bad about them, everybody in the world would love them for it, then they would finally get the love and respect they are seeking through the Olympics.
But they are, see the problem with China is they have two faces. They have one face that is the new modern face, that was just too good, wants to look like Stephen Harper, it’s like somebody who has a conscious, has a human face.
And that face is trying to emerge but it’s being controlled by the face of the old communist at who the capitalist world is our enemy, they are all imperialist, anything we do therefore justified to defeat them.
And we can act like them and that we are innocent, we are righteous so we can do anything, that they might have done, we can be imperialist of course, but because we are liberating people ultimately .
So the old communist entrenched culture revolutionary and violent gap minnow power comes from the barrel of a gun. People is still stuck, that’s where the government’s momentum is stuck.
What the Dalai Lama wants is to coaxed out within the leadership of China and the people of China that good face, that wonderful face that they have, which is they are trying to show with the Olympics and they are gradually thinking they can somehow smolder the vision of the old ugly face, what I feel the old ugly face controls them.
So this is the problem, it’s the two Chinas and we are waiting to talk and we are still friendly, we are waiting to talk to the new nice China and we want them to show the world leadership in that regard and I am sure they will actually, it’s just a matter of when, that’s what we don’t know.
Duncan Campbell: And this is very interesting that you just said Bob, I am sure they will because part of the power of the inner revolution of attaining that kind of spiritual tranquility and goodness within one self and of allowing ones own inner positive face to show forth.
Is holding the view that all people are capable of doing the higher activity and higher kindness and here I am reminded of your saying that the Dalai Lama is a great proponent of the religion of kindness. This says that life is the religion not any particular any dog mark and kindness is the action.
It reminds me of Rummy the great Persian poet of the thirteenth century after whom UNESCO named 2007. 2007 was named by UNECSO as the year of Rummy, because somehow over eight centuries, his voice can be heard saying things like, “If you believe there is a fundamental difference between Hindu and Christian and Buddhist and Muslim you are divided within your own heart”, life is the book and the practice is kindness, just as the Dalai Lama is saying.
And so here I see the great wisdom of one of the early church father’s that was quoted on one of these dialogues programs by one of my guests. And it is Philo of Alexandria, who said beautifully in the third century, “Always be kind, because everyone you meet is engaged in a great struggle”
Robert Thurman: Ah that’s good,
Duncan Campbell: And I thought it was beautiful
Robert Thurman: That’s very nice. Jack Kerouac had said the same thing. And Jack Kerouac with punitive experience, he said “Kindness is the key”
Duncan Campbell: “Kindness and rest” Yes, that was in the ‘The Dharma Bums’. It was not only in the ‘The Dharma Bums’ but in the ‘Golden Eternity’ it was the response he had to Gary Snyder, who said “you are so inspired by Buddhism, and at this point try to write a sutra” and he wrote a sutra which was called ‘The Golden Eternity’ and it he said exactly what you said, and he also said “Rest and be kind”.
And this is Jack Kerouac the one who is speeding around the country in the popular imagination ‘on the road’ with a manic, Neal Cassady, [xx] character drive-in. But actually in his deepest realization, Jack Kerouac was we might say very much like the Dalai Lama.
And he got that boost insight and so one of the things that I want to just now say about the positive vision that you are holding also, is that David Maraniss has just written a new book on the Olympics 1960, called ‘Rome 1960 the Olympics that changed the world’.
He shows how the Olympics have been a stage for this internal struggle that every individual is involved in and every country is involved in. There is one face, which is Rafer Johnson the Blackman honored as the team captain holding the flag of the United States.
Winning the decathlon and then the hidden face of America which was still deeply involved in racism, in 1960 we had yet to have the civil rights movement completely flower. Martin Luther King was just getting started.
We didn’t have the ‘voting rights act’ we didn’t have the ‘civil rights act’. So, here as we look at our own history in the United States we can see the upcoming history of china with compassion, rather than judgment and see that there is a struggle going on as you in and like us, within China at one level there are people within China.
You say in your book, intellectuals and other prophets and missionaries that are saying, “We need to move beyond this polarization, we need to make an accommodation with the Dalai Lama” and so what I think would be interesting to do now is to recognize.
That one final point you make in your book, I thought was very interesting. So many people do not have a good knowledge of history and don’t appreciate that some of the dramas that Philo of Alexandria was referring to, “Always be kind, because everyone you meet is engaged in a great struggle” is something that has been going on since the beginning of the human race.
Since the beginning of time and you point out today, if we look at the European Union and if you know the history of the last several hundred years, you say “This is a miracle”. Actually who would have ever thought, as you say that England and Spain had war for so many decades, are now together, and France and Germany who had been such great enemies are now joined as leaders in the European Union.
So with that backdrop, give us now Bob, the history of the inter relationship between Tibet and china and then layout, as you beautifully do in this book, your vision for how president HU for instance, could in fact depopulate, we might say or de-migrate, some of the Chinese Han who are struggling to survive, above ten thousand feet, would not even disagree with.
Robert Thurman: They can’t because they want to stay there.
Duncan Campbell: But you have a beautiful program, I’m not going to let you just lay it out, how you see this can come up.
Robert Thurman: The basic thing is that, China is a very sophisticated ancient civilization. They have been molested by outside powers including the Manchurians who were not Chinese. The Mongolians before them even the Tibetans conquered china briefly in a thousand or thirteen hundred years ago before they were Buddhist, and then the westerners showed up, and the westerners are still there.
This is what is funny, the Chinese say, “we were so harmed by imperialism, and now we are just doing great”. But actually, both Marxists-ism and the form of Maoism is a total western imposition on china actually, from the Russians and then un-vital the capitalism and environmental self destruction is imposed by the global corporations.
And is actually not entire internally Chinese. The Chinese are much more sensitive to their environment, they are beautiful gardeners. They had a very beautiful and exquisite culture for thousands of years. But because of what happened recently, they have lost contact with that culture.
But the Dalai Lama sees through surface imposition by the west. In just sort of compete as a super power or something, or being an imperialist power like in the nineteenth century. And sees through that and sees their the soul and heart of the Chinese, who were great Chain masters, they were great Buddhist, they were great Tao’s, they were great Confucian, they had a model government.
They actually invented things like gunpowder and other things, and they didn’t use them to conquer other people and do genocide on other people. They’ve sometimes had some harsh moments amongst themselves. But they’ve been basically gentle and sweet people for a thousands of years, and have been somewhat abused, sort of like the Indians.
So, now what we are going to see in China. I’m confident, and I layout on my book and the Dalai Lama sees, is the Chinese are not going to go the way of Japan, or go the way of America or Europe and try have their shot at conquering the world. Which everybody who tries to do looses in the long run. They can’t do it no one can really conquer the world.
That one, the Jenghiz Khan being the closest and he was also was Jew and then Mongolians became peaceful Buddhist. So the Chinese don’t need to go through that, they can simply return to their own Chinese-ness. The real Chinese, that is which is not being modern capitalist and not being a Marxists, is being a good gardener and being a kind person and being a Buddhist enlightenment seeker and being a Tao’s sort of magician and a mystic and being a Confucian ethical person.
That’s what they can get back to, and the Dalai Lama has a way of helping them. And the easiest place for them to turn around is in Tibet. Because they do have the Dalai Lama as a friend and they have the Tibetans, who are resisting their imperialism and their colonialism, which they are doing and their communist thought and reform and these kinds of things, and their genocide.
And resisting that non-violently, which it self is a miracle. Sixty years of genocidal oppression and they still, in the main, [xx] but in the main, they’re ready to go with non-violence and dialogue and reconciliation with the Dalai Lama.
A monk is the great world leader of this, telling everyone after 9x11, talking in every place that we mustn’t solve this problems with violence. War only creates more problems, you have to go dialogue, you have to find out what the code and good enemy means, and then they can become your friends.
Now the specific plan is, what he has asked for what he calls the ‘middle-way’ of HU Jintao, or whoever is the rulers of China. He is said, “Recognize the uniqueness of the Tibetan plateau, it’s where the headwaters of your own rivers come from, it is where you had the blessings of the Tibetan spiritual people for thousands of years.
The Tibetans helped you, they told the Mongolian people who conquered you, not to be so harsh with you. They talked the Manchurian people who conquered you, not to be so harsh with you. And they tell the world not to be harsh with you, if you would let them be your friend and work with them.
And so by recognizing that, you should do a number of things:
1] Reunify the Tibetan plateau. So that the Tibetan people can all be in one administrative unit together.
2] Remove your communist and your oppression troops inside Tibet, keep people on the boarder incase some Indian yogis decide to invade, but otherwise let the Tibetan side be independent in itself and that the Tibetan police themselves.
3] Let them have one country two systems, their own Tibetan way of government and their free religion and so forth.
4] Then the Dalai Lama could safely return to Tibet and rekindle Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan spirituality which would make them really happy. And then
5] Give Tibet to the world as an environmental preserve the entire million square miles plateau belonging to you China of course, but donated to the elgores [sp] of this world the people do and donated to yourself, because the headwaters of your own rivers come from Tibet, and if you spoil the Tibetan environment, you are dooming your own people to drought, famine and really global than national disaster.
And not to mention, that’s the Iravadi, the Mekong, the Salween River, Brahmaputra River, the Ganges River the Indus Rivers. The great rivers that nourish all the Asian people, 3.7 billion people, show the world your friendliness by letting them have their water tower back, nice and clean. Taking care of by those who have taken care for it for thousands of years. Who are acclimatized to the altitude, who can live there without subsidies and are happy to live there, which is namely the Tibetan people.
In exchange for that what we will do to satisfy you, is of course we will preserve our environment, we will vote as a people to be citizens of china, we will give you the only way you can really get legitimate sovereignty in Tibet, is not by your army of occupation, and not by your oppression and genocide of the Tibetans.
That well, you can do that because you have the power and we are non-violent essentially, but that is not legitimate, that’s simply is illegal, in the post world war II. Post United Nations world, which you have signed all the declarations up.
So you can’t did get that way, but you can get sovereignty if the Tibetan people do a [xx] freely and freely vote to join Chinese union, seeing it like the European union and seeing it as the seed of the Asian union, that Ban Kim Moon talks about in his ‘in love with’.
You yourself, that depends themselves will vote, we will be part of china as long as we have our autonomy on our plateau, and our beautiful clean autonomy is not spoiled by environmental destruction and by the attempt of people who can’t really live there healthfully because the one thing that you can’t add to Tibet, you can build infrastructure, you can build railways, you can build buildings, you can import food from China. Rice which doesn’t grow in Tibet, but you cannot import oxygen.
And you people have less than half of the oxygen you need and it makes you sick within a couple of years and therefore you can’t live there. If you could live there, you would have been there by the tens and millions and we really would be Chinese, you would have been there five hundred years ago or a thousand years ago.
It is a huge land right next to your land and you have lots of people, we all recognize that’s one thing you are very good at, is having lots of people. So we will vote and you will have legitimate sovereignty. We will give you; we want to give you our country if you take care of us. If you oppress us we’ll never want you in our country, we will never give-in although we will resist you non-violently to the last man and woman.
And the world will see you as not friendly and they will fear you and they will never do business with you, really the way you want. So use us as an opportunity to show you can be gentle to someone in your power, which is the one way you show your trustworthiness to the world and you’d get the admiration and the respect and honor and the glory from the world.
Then also we will, if I don’t do it, Bishop Totte will, Daizy Alwin will. We will nominate you for noble peace prizes of your own. So you gone get sovereignty, you going to get noble peace prizes, you gone to get happy Tibetan, you world respect. And then I will also do something else for you, I will help you with your own internal harmony in china itself. Because I will travel in china, we will have two noble prize winners, which will be you president HU and me.
The Dalai Lama says you claim me as your citizen and I will vote to be your citizen, there will be two of us right away with noble prizes. I will travel your country, I will help people rekindle their spirituality, they will then become more content, they won’t be so angry with you because they don’t have Mercedes like you do, because they don’t have billions of dollars like you do.
They will be peaceful about the fact that, some people will be content with less. They won’t be riots and they won’t be doing protest, and also I will help rekindle, I will support Confucianism and I will support Taoism and help them rekindle the ethics of your people, so your officials will not be corrupt and will not rip-off their people under them.
They will get into the Confucian ethic, they will be re-educated by Confucius, who taught people not to lie, who taught people to take care of the people, who said you have to have the mandate of heaven and we will help confer upon you the mandate of heaven to make you popular amongst your own people, so then even if you did follow the example of Russia and other eastern European countries and former communist countries, and moved gradually over decades, never mind no rush into a multiparty democratic system, which would be helpful to you.
We will not believe that Chinese people are not human people like other people and do not need democracy. All these want democracy; they want equality amongst their people. And then you will be able to safely do that and you will be powerful enough to be elected. Imagine that you don’t have to just impose your power on your people.
You could be elected by them, because they will love you, you could be the Obama of your people and we would have them love you. Would help you with that by rekindling spirituality in china, and then finally in the future because you will be the great world power that you are coming to be, especially if your own people are more content and you are sharing your wealth better than you are now, instead of being paranoid, allegoric sitting on top.
The communist party is now paranoid, capitalist allegoric sitting atop of a lot suppressed Chinese people and I will help you with that. And then I will be your foreign ambassador and I will help you gain popularity in the world.
That I will join with you in offering all of Tibet as a global environmental preserve making Al Gore’s heart slowing global warming, doing carbon offset and of course help you like slow down on the coal burning and turn getting back solar power.
We can have huge solar power stations in Tibet, where we have tremendous amount of sunshine, and we can pipe that power down, you don’t have to drain the lakes and ruin the rivers and so forth, like you’re trying to do now, in the wrong kind of engineering.
You don’t have to fight our oil resources and because you are going to be such a big power, the western powers, Japan you going to need mediation, you going to need goodwill ambassadors, and I will be your goodwill ambassador.
So, the Dalai Lama has a great deal to offer the Chinese leadership and the Chinese people. The Chinese have a great deal to offer to the Tibetan people, by letting them have their freedom. And you know, sometimes Chinese have told me, in relation to what you talked about earlier Duncan, they have said, “Well you Americans you no ones to talk, you killed off all the Indians and you didn’t give them back their country which you stole from them, so why should we give Tibet back”, which in a way is admitting they did invade and they kind of stole it.
But we know, they had first they say it just our country anyway but then later they will use that argument, and I will say look we are heartaches for the Native Americans. This younger generation of us will do whatever we can to make repressions. Sooner or later our Stephen Harper will make an apology to the Native people.
We will make repression. We will restore whatever they are. People are reborn and reincarnate we will not consider that and we will repair, everyone will repair, there is such a thing as forgiveness, there is repression, there is repentance, there is generosity and we will do it.
Why should you dig yourself such a deep hole as we are in morally and conscious wise, as we are, you are in the twenty-first century, that was the nineteenth century, the eighteenth century, the seventeenth century.
People were more ignorant in those days, they didn’t have the knowledge of reality that we all have now. But the inter twines of human beings, so please dear people of china, don’t be like us, like we or our grand forefathers were and don’t put yourself in such a position, generations in the future.
Show your superiority and you say you are the great central country, the great supreme people, show that by being generous. Don’t be like the Germans who tried to conquer everybody two or three times before you finally join a European Union. Join an Asian Union right now, be the heart of an Asian Union right now.
Make peace with India which helps liberating Tibet internally, autonomously ,will instantly give you peace with India for example, the other great power the other biggest power in Asia, then the Vietnamese, the Thais, the Koreans and the Japanese, Mongolians, the Russians, everybody.
The Turkistan’s everybody, because Turkistan they are all relaxed, and they will no longer fear the gobbling dragon of china, that wants to gobble everybody up, because you won’t gobble, because there is no point in gobbling. You have enough yourself, you have enough knowledge, enough education, enough civilization show it and don’t listen to the sinologist who pretend to know about you that you are somehow less than us because you have to save your word, more word about your face.
You actually make a mistake and repair something just like anybody else and we know that you are same human being as we are and we love and respect you.
And so that’s what the Dalai Lama has to say to them and that’s what he offers them in his hand of friendship. Total genuine, sincere, heartfelt friendship in spite of the history of sixty years of genocidal oppression, he is ready to be their friend and be of great help to them.
And so my book lays out, from his speeches and from his really heart, not my I am not capable, if somebody did that to me I’d probably wanted to shoot them like George Bush. I’m just an evil person myself, but I do am inspired by the Dalai Lama and I can see what he really wants to offer them. And I think that they really, I am encouraging them to creating and visioning encouraging them to take in and then imagine if that worked and if they did that and if they showed the power of non-violence and they respected the Dalai Lama’s non-violence theme, then America would have to like to turn to non-violence.
And all of the countries where violence is causing these terrible damage to this planet, we would begin the whole process, that we must begin Al Gore issue is a ten year challenge to get off a voile, but the other thing is we should be having a ten challenge to get out of militarism on the entire planet.
We don’t have hundred years to do that, we have to do that in ten years. You know the pentagon should be there to repair New Orleans, the pentagon should be repairing the Mississippi, the dykes and they shouldn’t be making war, misuse of fuel, some other country to gain some gas stations.
So all of the country and the dictators in Africa should not be buying weapons, they should be buying well drawing equipment and hospital equipment and school teaching equipment and computers for their people and so on. That’s what they should be buying.
So this is another challenge in ten fifteen years we have to turn from war to peace on this planet. This would be the first huge step and the great credit would go to the Tibetans and the Chinese for this step. Okay that’s my picture, write it all and it matters.
Duncan Campbell: Hi! Terrific and I have to say that this really is a dialogue that has to take place all across the world because it’s an illustrative example of what you just said for between Tibet and China of what needs to happen still in Europe, of what needs to happen in India, needs to happen in the United States.
And here I go back to another one of the persons that I’ve done this dialogues with named JosephEllis who’s regarded by the New York review of books as ‘The founder’s Historian’ now winner of the Pulitzer Prize, winner of the National Book Award. For the books his done on our founders, which include ‘Founding Brothers’
Robert Thurman: ‘Founding Brothers’ that’s wonderful.
Duncan Campbell: Yeah, and which include His Excellency George Washington, ‘American Sphinx’ on Jefferson and most importantly his most recent book that we have dialogues on called ‘American Creation, Triumphs and Tragedies’.
In this latest book he shows that the person who is really the great unifier, was not Jefferson it was actually Washington and that Washington wanted to repair, what I think Joseph Ellis very appropriately calls, ‘the two original sins of America’ and they were slavery, how we treated the Black people and how we treated the Native American people.
Robert Thurman: Absolutely.
Duncan Campbell: And what we find, is that it is George Washington alone among all the founders, to some degree abided by Ben Franklin, but he was older and getting infirm at this point, but it was George Washington alone who wanted to eliminate slavery and who wanted to make a peace with the Native Americans, and he was frustrated in that.
Number one by Jefferson and Madison who sided with the South on the issue of slavery. Jefferson did not ban slavery in the new territory of Louisiana, 1803.
Robert Thurman: But he tried to in the Virginia Legislature before he was the president. He introduced the bill two or three times but it didn’t go so he gave it up, but he did try.
Duncan Campbell: In Joseph Ellis’s understanding of history, having spent five years reading Washington’s papers and Jefferson’s papers, he concluded that had Washington pushed for a resolution of the slavery question in the Federal government, that Jefferson and Madison both would have been on the side of the South and would’ve resisted it.
Okay so what I am talking about is the real historical role that Jefferson played, was not a role purification.
Robert Thurman: Yes
Duncan Campbell: Yes, very much not so and when he was president in 1803 and had the opportunity and was being pressured to outlaw slavery in the new Louisiana territory, he came down on the other side and he pushed it off. It took Lincoln the great unifier, another fifty years before he could push it and take accountability in a way that Jefferson did not.
So, I actually see the Dalai Lama not as a Jeffersonian reincarnation, much more,
Robert Thurman: Washingtonian
For full transcript, please contact Duncan Campbell