Jerusalem, 17 February 2006 (Haaretz Editorial) - Buddhism is more popular in the Western world today than in the 2,500 years since its foundation. The aspiration for happiness and meditation are shared by many, even in Israel, partly thanks to backpackers traveling in India.
The man behind the Buddhist political culture's flourishing is Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. In his travels throughout the world the exiled Tibetan leader calls for an end to violence and the beginning of a dialogue among the nations.
The first and last time Tenzin Gyatso ever carried a weapon was on March 17th, 1959, the day he left Tibet and moved to India. His exile was conducive to the Tibetan struggle and placed it on the Western agenda. The Dalai Lama soon became its most prominent symbol, and his international status grew stronger after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
On his fourth visit to Israel this week the Tibetan leader will be lecturing on Buddhism. The Dalai Lama's central message is universal: It encourages dialogue and negates violence. On his world travels the Buddhist monk preaches 'humane values.' 'If we manage to understand other traditions and other cultures, we would be able to develop a deeper understanding among people,' he says.
Due to his personality and charm, the present Dalai Lama has become a sought after interlocutor by politicians, writers and movie actors in the West. His popularity has brought the Tibetan movement media headlines, and the West regards the Dalai Lama?s desire for cultural autonomy for the Tibetan nation with sympathy.
However, globalization has proved a double-edged sword in the case of the Dalai Lama: It has turned him into an international players, and yet the growing economic power of China has meant Western governments have been reluctant to push Beijing on the Tibetan issue.
Senior Israeli ministers and Foreign Ministry officials have also avoided meeting the Dalai Lama on his visit to Israel, due to Chinese pressure. Thus, while the West turns a blind eye, China continues its efforts o dilute the Tibetan population. Completing the railway line connecting Tibet to central China and Beijing's attempts to prevent the Tibetans from speaking their language and gaining cultural freedom have evoked stammering responses from Washington to Brussels.
The Tibetan leader's desire to obtain broad autonomy within China, rather than complete independence, by nonviolent means and his wish to bring East and East closer, make the 14th Dalai Lama a different and esteemed leader. It is refreshing to meet a religious leader, with a following of millions, who does not issue halakhic rulings or fatwas and does not call to annihilate, burn and murder? neither proabortionists nor caricaturists.
A nonviolent religion is such a rarity that the Dalai Lama's willingness to influence the world through it, rather than just lobbying for Tibet, makes him a figure to be respected and followed.