Do you think that’s a good way for people to be able to contribute? With lovingkindness prayers?
Oh, there’s no question. In the realm of prayer, praying for the Chinese may be the most effective.
What kind of prayer would you say?
That their actions would be in line with a positive future, for happiness, that they would achieve happiness and the causes of happiness in the future. The only way you can do that is being altruistic, creating merit.
Their actions in Tibet are based on ignorance—a literal kind of ignorance, of not understanding the Tibetans, not understanding really what’s going on there.
This is an extraordinary opportunity for them right now to transform not only themselves but how they’re perceived in the world. And as such, you know, we all have to encourage them, whether we’re president of the United States or we’re doing our practice in our meditation rooms.
It is a crux moment. Clearly, the Chinese want to be respected in the world, and they deserve to have their greatness. But these kind of actions, and the actions of the last five, six decades is not going to achieve a lasting greatness for them. So, they need to break with their past and have a positive vision that encompasses truth, freedom, and compassion for all people.
What do you think it would take to have a shift like that occur?
Well, it’s hard to say because the people that are now running the country came up through the communist party. That does not foster free thinking.
It seems like the way this is going--because they seem to be so ill-equipped to make the kind of changes that are necessary to transform themselves--that this kind of violence is probably going to manifest again. Not just in Tibet, but we’ve seen it in China, as well. I think they’ve admitted to over 80,000 demonstrations of Chinese against the government last year. Now, if they admitted to 80-some thousand, you can imagine how many there really were.
You’d think that any sane leader would look at the situation and go, "Okay, we need to take a deep breath here, really look at ourselves, and look to the world."
And how can the U.S. and the general public use the Olympics to create peaceful change?
I’m of two minds about this. I don’t think that boycotting is a positive strategy, because I do think that just interaction of peoples brings change in a much more evenhanded way, natural, organic way.
But in a case like this, it’s very hard, in the midst of this kind of brutality and this kind of violence, to ignore it. And business as usual I don’t think is going to be appropriate this year.
It’s not enough to say that the Olympics is an athletic contest outside of politics, because it’s not. The Chinese clearly are using the Olympics to recreate how they are viewed in the world and how they view themselves. And they can’t have it both ways. If you want the spotlight, you’re going to have the spotlight.
So it sounds like you’re advocating the Middle Way, which is not boycotting, but not business as usual.
Well, I would leave boycott as a possibility. And it’s really up to the Chinese. They’re under the illusion that they could keep the genie in the bottle and suggest to the world that they would be open to journalistic scrutiny. And we’ve just seen that they’ve totally locked up Tibet. They had previously locked up Mount Everest. There’s now not going to be any live coverage in Tiananmen Square. There may not be live coverage of the Olympics itself.
I think they’re a little naïve, thinking that they can control these things. I was talking to friends who deal with Chinese officials quite a bit, and they’re just so amazed that they are asked these tough questions by international journalists. They’re so habituated to controlling everything that the idea of freedom is so alien, they don’t even know what it is, nor do they see the strength that is inherent in a free press and free discussion of peoples.
So it remains to be seen a little bit what will happen in the next couple of months.
If there is a continued "cultural genocide" with Tibetan Buddhism, how does that affect people around the world who practice Tibetan Buddhism?
Well, the institutions are strong outside of Tibet. All the major monasteries have been rebuilt in India and in Nepal. And they’re thriving to the degree they can as an exiled community. Tibetan teachers are around the world right now. Part of their pain and suffering has been the joy and happiness of the rest of the world as Tibetan Lamas and Tibetans move freely. Having great teachers amongst us has been extraordinary for us. It wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
[But] Tibet is a cradle. Would it be like Jerusalem for a Christian being blown up and lost forever? It’s just unthinkable. And it’s still filled with possibility. It’s still relatively untouched in terms of environment, and architecture--outside of the major cities. There are vast areas of Tibet that are still Tibet, and they can be saved.