Toulouse, France (CTA): This morning before leaving the hotel, His Holiness was interviewed by former Netherlands MP Ms Erica Terpstra of Dutch Television, Nederland 1.
His Holiness then went to the Zenith where he began his teachings on Kamalashila’s Middle Stages of Meditation. His Holiness began with an introduction on the importance of religious harmony based on study and sympathetic understanding between the different traditions. He cited the example of India which has had an unparalleled record of religious tolerance. His Holiness extended a warm welcome to a group of six Benedictine monks and spoke of the way in which different traditions can learn from each other. Buddhists, he said, could learn much from the Christian practice of charity and service, while some Christians have shown an interest in learning Buddhist meditative practice of one-pointed concentration and mind-training.
During the lunch-break, His Holiness received a group of journalists and media representatives. It was a lively exchange in which a number of issues were discussed.
His Holiness was asked about his recent decision to hand over complete political power. In response he mentioned his life-long fascination with democracy. He said that in his youth he was keenly aware that the traditional political system in Tibet was antiquated and in need of reform. On the other hand, from the beginning of his exile in India, His Holiness was keen to inaugurate the democratic process among the Tibetans in exile. He remarked that, back in 1954, he attended the National People’s Congress in China. There he noticed that during the many meetings, the communist leaders gave very long speeches to audiences which included members of the Chinese intelligentsia. The delegates were mostly silent. There was no interchange or debate, and very little feeling of enthusiasm. By contrast, when His Holiness visited the Indian Parliament in 1956, he was amazed and fascinated by the freedom and fearlessness with which the Indian MPs expressed their ideas and engaged in debate.
His Holiness said that he has been in semi-retirement since 2001 when the Tibetans in exile directly elected their first political leader and added that, exactly ten years later, he has completely retired as the Tibetan political leader, following his announcement on the 10 March of this year. The change, he said, had happened smoothly and without pressure and that he had voluntarily and proudly brought to a close the political system of Tibet inaugurated by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama 400 years ago.
His Holiness also remarked that he had always believed in the principle of the separation of the political and religious powers, but as long as these were both vested in himself, he always felt a little hypocritical when expressing his belief. Now that he has withdrawn from the political leadership, he said, he feels more at ease. When asked about his moral authority, His Holiness said that this is largely a matter of trust that others put in him and there is no question of his retirement in this sense.
On the question of his reincarnation, His Holiness replied that he had made it clear publicly and officially as early as 1969, that the continuation of the institution of the Dalai Lama depended on the wishes of the people. His Holiness said that he had raised this question himself at earlier meetings with Tibetan religious leaders and will again raise the matter in a similar meeting planned for September.