Have you ever felt betrayed personally?
In 1954 and 1955, for at least six months, I lived in Peking. During that period, I met on a number of occasions with Chairman Mao. At first, I was very much nervous. Then — after the second time, third time, fourth time, I can't remember how many times — I develop real admiration for him. I really found him as a great revolutionary. No question. Very straightforward. And his personal behavior — very gentle, like an old farmer's father. Like that. Very simple.
He promised many things. On one occasion, Chairman Mao pointed to two generals who were stationed in Lhasa. Mao said, "I send these generals in order to help you. So if these generals not listen to your wish, then let me know. I will withdraw them."
Then, at my last meeting, at the last moment, he mentioned, "Religion is poison."
At that time, he advised me how to listen, how to collect different views, different suggestions, and then how to lead. Really wonderful sort of advice. He asked me to send telegrams on a personal level, direct to him.
So I return to Tibet full of conviction. On the road, I meet a Chinese general coming from Lhasa. I told him, "Last year, when I traveled this road, I was full of anxiety, suspicion. Now I'm returning, full of confidence and hope." That was the summer of 1955.
Then, in 1956, there were problems in the eastern part of Tibet under Chinese jurisdiction. So I come to India. Month by month, things become more serious. More trouble. So after I return from India, I wrote at least two letters to Chairman Mao about the situation. No reply. No response. Then I felt, "Oh, his promise is just words."
There are murals in the Potala that depict important moments and people in the lives of past Dalai Lamas. Your life has been so different from the previous Dalai Lamas. Who and what do you imagine might be depicted in a mural of your life?
Ahh, I don't know. Of course, my mother at a young age. Then, my tutor. I never thought about this. That's up to other people.
The important thing is that my daily life should be something useful to others. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I shape my mind. The rest of the day, my body, speech, mind are dedicated to others. That is compulsory as a practitioner, and also that way I gain some kind of inner strength. If I am concerned about my own sort of legacy, a genuine Buddhist practitioner should not think that. If you're concerned much about your legacy, then your work will not become sincere. You are mainly thinking of your own good name. Selfish. Not good. Spoiled.
Do you believe the day will come when you will be allowed to return to Tibet?
The Tibet issue is not an issue about the Dalai Lama. It is about six million Tibetans and their culture. So unless the Chinese government addresses the real issues, talks about my return to Tibet are irrelevant. This is an issue of six million Tibetan people. I am one of them. So naturally, like every Tibetan, I also have the responsibility to serve.
When your time comes, will you be buried at the Potala?
Most probably, if change comes and it is time to return to Tibet, my body will be preserved there. But it doesn't matter. If the airplane I'm on crashes, then finished! Follow bin Laden! [Laughs]
You have said that Chenrezig — the Buddha of Compassion, of whom all Dalai Lamas are reincarnations — had a master plan for the first and fifth Dalai Lamas. Do you think that the past 50 years of Tibetan history is also part of his master plan?
That I don't know. In the early Sixties, before the Cultural Revolution, I met Chenrezig in one of my dreams at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. There is a very famous statue of Chenrezig there. In the dream, I enter that room and the statue of Chenrezig is winking and asking me to come closer. And I am very moved. I go and embrace him. Then he starts one sentence, one verse. The meaning is: Keep persevering. The continuation of effort in spite of any obstacle. You should carry all your work in spite of difficulties and obstacles.
At that time, I feel happy. But now, when I think of that, I think that was advice from Chenrezig: "Your life will not be easy. Some difficulties. Quite long period. But no reason to feel discouraged."
This is from the August 4, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.
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