His Holiness the Dalai Lama Arrives in Oslo to Warm Public Welcome

May 8th 2014

Oslo, Norway, 7 May 2014 - Many friends came to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama off from Riga, before he drove to the airport under leaden skies. A Norwegian journalist who approached him there was the first to ask the question that would be repeated several times during the day - what did he feel about the Norwegian Government’s declining to meet him while he’s in Oslo? He replied that such responses have become normal, that he accepts things as they are.

“National interest is important, but I can assure you that the Dalai Lama is not a harmful person. My interest is to meet the public to promote human values, our need to see all 7 billion human beings as members of one family. In the face of major problems, we have to consider what benefits the whole world, not just this country or that. In the long run, we must bring principles and human values to bear in whatever we do, whether it involves politics, business, religion or education. If I had a political agenda, I might feel disappointed, but I don’t.”


A large crowd of supporters gathered outside of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's hotel listening to him speak from the balcony of the hotel in Oslo, Norway on May 8, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
On arrival at Oslo airport there were driving winds as wet snow fell. He was met by members of the committee who have organized his visit. He repeated to journalists there his interest to meet ordinary people and engage the public in discussion about human values such as love and compassion. The drive into the city was fast and he was met by large crowds of cheering, friendly people waiting to welcome him waving Tibetan flags and banners bearing greetings. His Holiness addressed them from the balcony of the hotel, telling them how pleased he was to be there and how happy he was to see them.

Inside the hotel he met with Norwegian former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and they discussed the present situation, old friends and what they have been doing since they last met.

Invited to the Nobel Institute to mark the 25th anniversary of his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, His Holiness was welcomed by Chairman of the Nobel Committee Thorbjørn Jagland, who escorted him into a meeting over lunch with present members of the Committee.

This was followed by a round-table meeting with the media. Thorbjørn Jagland introduced His Holiness, noting that it is 25 years since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and that the Nobel Committee still has one member from that time. He remarked that he was awarded the prize in recognition of his efforts to bring freedom to the Tibetan people through non-violence and his concern for the natural environment. He said:

“You are a man of peace, a religious leader worth listening to and someone worth speaking to.”

The first question from the assembled journalists was that the Nobel Peace Prize is described by some as a blessing by others as a curse; how did he feel about it? His Holiness replied:

“Of course, as a blessing. I remember Archbishop Desmond Tutu, my friend and spiritual brother telling me how difficult it was for him to meet some people before, which became much easier after he was awarded the prize. I was in California attending a conference of scientists when I heard the announcement and I was asked how I felt. I said, ‘Not much different, I am a simple Buddhist monk, no more, no less.’ But since the prize was in recognition of my commitment to non-violence and my work for peace, I felt it was a great honour.

“Later, when Aung San Suu Kyi and Liu Xiaobo were awarded the Peace Prize and they were in difficult circumstances, I felt it would have been a source of encouragement and inspiration for them.”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during a roundtable meeting with the media at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway on May 8, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
Asked whether he was disappointed that members of the Norwegian government and the Speaker of parliament would not be meeting him, he replied:

“No, why? My main interest is in the promotion of human values. From birth we have a sense of affection and some sense of concern for others. We need to nurture it. Scientists have found that to ensure even physical health peace of mind is essential. People often think that love and compassion are only matters of religious concern, but in fact such values are necessary in all human relations. As a Buddhist monk, I am also interested in fostering inter-religious harmony.

“Wherever I go my aim is to meet the public. If leaders like President Obama meet with me that’s fine, but I don’t ever want to put anyone to any inconvenience. When I arrived here today, I was happy to see the large number of ordinary people who came. The world belongs to all of us, not just to our leaders. 

When His Holiness was asked whether China’s increasing influence was able to limit his and the Tibetan government-in-exile’s work, he clarified that he does not refer to the Central Tibetan Administration, which looks after the Tibetan community, in that way. But he laughed and remarked that it seems the more the Chinese government criticize him, the more his popularity grows. To a question about whether it seems easier or more difficult to resolve differences with the Chinese authorities since he was awarded the Peace Prize, he said that it is nearly 70 years since the formation of the People’s Republic of China. Over that period he perceives different eras. Mao Zedong’s era was concerned with ideology; Deng Xiaoping’s era saw the opening up to capitalism; Jiang Zemin saw the expansion of party membership to include more than just the working classes and Hu Jintao sought to ensure a harmonious society.

“So, you see, the same party, with the same ideology has shown that it can adapt to a changing reality. As China opens up, as its students study abroad and are exposed to freedom and a lack of censorship, things are bound to change. Wen Jiabao said China needs political reform, even US style democracy.”

On the question of support for human rights in China and Tibet, His Holiness expressed the view that smaller countries, like Norway, may wield more influence because they are not perceived as a threat.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama and members of the media during their roundtable meeting at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway on May 8, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
To a question about the more than 130 self-immolations that have taken place in Tibet, His Holiness said it is very sad. He repeated what he has said before that these drastic actions are a symptom of deep unease among Tibetans. This is what the Chinese authorities should investigate. Instead they choose to blame His Holiness and his supporters. He has suggested they allow reporters to go and investigate the circumstances that prompt these people to take such a drastic step. They are not drunk or beset by family problems; there are other causes for what they are doing.

His Holiness pointed out that although Hu Jintao’s aim of creating a harmonious society was admirable, the method, the use of force and suppression, was wrong. He said that of the 200 nations in the world, China is the only one where more is spent on internal security than on the external defence budget. Increasing the number of security personnel only serves to increase fear. Friends have told him that the effect of the profusion of security cameras in Lhasa has been to increase suspicion and fear.

The question of the pro-Shugden demonstrators on the street outside came up. His Holiness’s response began with his statement that he always stresses that it is better and safer to stick to the religion you are born to. However, if someone thinks that Buddhism is useful to them they are free to follow it. He mentioned the Buddha’s encouraging his followers to examine what he had said, to investigate and experiment with it, rather than just accept it at face value. About these demonstrations he said:

“It’s a long story. This spirit, Shugden, has been controversial since the time of the 5th Dalai Lama nearly 400 years ago. The 5th Dalai Lama said it had arisen as a result of distorted prayers and was doing harm to the Buddhadharma and beings. Many prominent Lamas after that took a similar view. The 13th Dalai Lama placed restrictions on this practice, even though it didn’t have so many followers.

“Then the disgraceful thing that happened was that that out of ignorance I propitiated this spirit from 1951 until the early 1970s. I began to realize there was something wrong with it and when I looked into it found that both the 5th and 13th Dalai Lamas had opposed it before me, so I stopped the practice. Eventually the public came to know about this and I consider it my duty to inform them.

“Worshippers of this spirit set up their own group. They accuse me of imposing a ban on it, but that’s not so. Anyone who wants to can go to South India and see the large monasteries of those who wish to continue this practice.

“A spiritual bond is formed between a teacher and disciple and I have asked that if people want to worship this spirit they don’t take teachings from me. This is what they are calling a ban. They chant “Stop lying,’ but I think you should ask who is lying here. I try to be non-sectarian. This practice has long been associated with sectarianism. I feel sorry for these demonstrators because of their ignorance about this issue.”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the Nobel Committee during his visit to the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway on May 8, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
A journalist mentioned that as a Nobel Laureate, His Holiness is entitled to nominate others to be awarded the Peace Prize and asked if he had done so. His Holiness laughed and said he thought it was the Committee’s job to do that. Asked if he thought he would still be able to visit Tibet and the PRC in this life, he replied that if he lives another 15 or 20 years he hopes so, but if he only lives another one or two years there may not be a chance.

“Anyway, if I am able to go, I hope that journalists like all of you will be able to come too.”

Tomorrow, His Holiness will be at Oslo University, teaching ‘The Eight Verses of Mind Training’ in the morning and discussing ‘Taking Responsibility for Tomorrow’s World’ in the afternoon.
 

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