Wednesday, March 08, 2006


The Dalai Lama Interview | The Progressive --
The Progressive interviews the Dalai Lama, who speaks on topics such as women in Buddhism, his preferred future of Tibet, the next Dalai Lama, and other issues.

He also answers questions about terrorism and the Iraq war.


Question: What are your thoughts on the Iraq War?

The Dalai Lama: When September 11 happened, the next day I wrote a letter to President Bush as a friend—because I know him personally. I wrote this letter and expressed, besides my condolences and sadness, a countermeasure to this tragedy: a nonviolent response because that would have been more effective. So this is my stance. And then just before the Iraq crisis started, millions of people from countries like Australia and America expressed their opposition to violence. I really admired and appreciated this.

When the war started, some people immediately asked me if it was justified or not, whether it was right or wrong. In principle, any resort to violence is wrong.

With regard to the Afghanistan and Iraq cases, only history will tell. At this moment, Afghanistan may be showing some positive results, but it is still not very stable. With Iraq, it is too early to say. There are so many casualties; there is so much hatred.

Q: What are the sources of terrorism, and what is its solution?

The Dalai Lama: Initially, terrorism was a certain mixture of politics, economics, and religion. Now, it seems that terrorism is more individual and done to avenge personal grudges. So there are two kinds of terrorism.

Just after September 11, some reporter asked me why terrorism happens. I told him that my view is that such acts are not possible unless you have very strong hatred and very strong willpower and determination. That tremendous hatred comes from many reasons. The causes of this hatred may be going back centuries. Some people say that the West has a cruel history. These people also may see the achievements of Western countries—in terms of the economy, education, health, and social achievements—as a result of exploitation of poorer countries, including Arab countries. Western nations get rich by using resources such as Arab oil. Meanwhile, the countries supplying them raw materials remain poor. Due to such injustices, jealousies are created. Then, there’s perhaps a religious factor. In some places, there’s the concept of one religion, one truth. In the Muslim world, there’s the notion of Allah. The Western, multireligious modern society is some kind of a challenge to this. These, I feel, are the main causes, and, when combined with lots of anger and frustration, cause a huge amount of hate.

The countermeasures for such things are not easy. We need two levels. One level—the immediate—various governments are taking, including some violent methods, right or wrong. But we have to have a long-term strategy, too. In the Muslim world, certain mischievous individuals will always be there, just like among Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists. We can’t blame the entire Muslim society because of the mischievous acts of a few individuals. Therefore, at the general public level we must cultivate the notion of not just one religion, one truth, but pluralism and many truths. We can change the atmosphere, and we can modify certain ways of thinking.

Then, second, there should be a spirit of dialogue. Whenever we see any disagreements, we must think how to solve them on the basis of recognition of oneness of the entire humanity. This is the modern reality. When a certain community is destroyed, in reality it destroys a part of all of us. So there should be a clear recognition that the entire humanity is just one family. Any conflict within humanity should be considered as a family conflict. We must find a solution within this atmosphere.

It’s not easy. If we tackle these problems the wrong way, then while today there is one bin Laden, after a few years there will be ten bin Ladens. And it is possible that after a few more years, there will be 100 bin Ladens.


His response on the Iraq war seems pragmatic. It appears he is allowing people to believe in a war that is wrong but justified.

The notion of two kinds of terrorism seems fairly interesting. I wonder which acts of terrorism the Dalai Lama envisions as being motivated primarily by personal grudges.
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