Yesterday the Times of India asked me to comment on the possibility of the Dalai Lama going to the Beijing Olympics and of course, journalism being what it is in India, outrageously misquoted me. I said that the Dalai Lama should go to the Olympic, because if he did, the people of China would embrace His presence and that could start a non confrontational political dialog that could give some kind of autonomy to Tibet. Of course the Times of India misquoted me as saying that his presence at the Olympics would ’embarrass’ the people of China into provoking a dialog. A little bit of difference between embarrass and embrace, wouldn’t you say ?
I aspire to be Buddhist in nature, and desire to learn from the wisdom of the Buddhist traditions that have been accumulated over the centuries in Tibet. I too fear the loss of that path of Wisdom through the modernization and repression of the Tibetan culture. However, in all my interactions with the people of China through my visits there, I have found a great warmth and curiosity towards India ,and a yearning to learn more about us and our culture. I found far more warmth towards us in China than I find towards China here in India. A large part of that warmth comes from the understanding that Buddhism came to Chine from India and influenced the way Chinese culture developed. And therefore a commonality and kinship with the Indian culture is felt in China. So if the Chinese people themselves are curious and respect the Buddhist traditions (even though they may not officially follow Buddhism) then why this aggression towards Tibet and the Dalai Lama ? Well, partly of course the party line and actions of the government and those of the people are not the same. It’s like saying every American believes in what George Bush and his government do But also the Chinese people feel cornered on this issue. In my conversation with the people on the streets (who were surprisingly aware of the world perception of China), they did not deny that their Government often will not tell them the entire truth of the situation – but want to understand why the world feels that Tibet which (to them) historically can be seen as part of an ancient Chinese empire should be considered an independent nation.
The Dalai Lama has often himself said that the answer lay in peaceful political dialog with the Chinese government. But at the Beijing Olympics the Dalai Lama’s presence will also be very public and give a chance for the people of China to see the compassionate side of Buddhism.