During a May 10-11, 2011 visit to Dallas, Texas, His Holiness the Dalai Lama agreed to sit down with Ambassador James K. Glassman at the Meadows Art Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Ambassador Glassman was keen to interview the Dalai Lama for the PBS broadcast of his show, “Ideas in Action.” The interview would also be part of a collection of interviews with democracy activists and world leaders to be archived at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

The Dalai Lama spoke about the beginning of democratization within the Tibetan political system, citing its roots in his 1956 visit to India at the bequest of the Indian Parliament. Such a process would in the end take several decades, a development His Holiness highlighted: “In ’59 April, we reached India, we already had started some change…So then, in ’60, we started to work for democratization… Then in 2001, we already achieved elected political leadership.”

On his recent move to devolve the political authority of the Dalai Lama as head of a Tibetan government that dates back to the 17th century, the Dalai Lama stated: “The political institution and religious institution must be separate.” In response to the postulation that such a separation is making many Tibetans unhappy, the Dalai Lama said, “there will be a day without a Dalai Lama, actually. That, sooner or later, will come. So, the people must prepare. So, much the better while I am alive.”

Ambassador Glassman then directed the interview towards the recent revolts in North Africa and the Middle East. The Dalai Lama declared “the rule by kings or religious leaders” to be “outdated” and that: “The world belongs to nearly seven billion human beings, not kings or religious leaders…like the United States belongs to the American people…like China or Egypt belongs to the people, not a few ruling families or individuals.”

His Holiness also discussed his desire for “meaningful autonomy” within the People’s Republic of China, fueled by economic realities. As an example of a political solution for countries with deep historical divides and distinct national identities to come together to further self-interest, “I always look with admiration at the spirit of European Union…” he said, “now Tibet is materially backward. Every Tibetan wants to modernize…if we remain within the People’s Republic of China, we would get greater benefit.” Asked if they were “making progress towards autonomy?” the Dalai Lama responded: “Not yet.”

As to the current state of affairs within Tibet, His Holiness reported a large increase in Chinese military and security personnel contributing to a “rule of fear, rule of terror there.” He contrasted Tibet’s relationship with China to India’s relationship with Great Britain with a recollection from his 1956 India trip: “some Gandhian freedom fighter told me of their experience…then I told him that British Imperialism was quite bad, but… the new ruler in Tibet, no independent judiciary and no freedom of expression. Mahatma Gandhi from prison, he could write and appeal to the court. But in the Communist authoritarian system – impossible!” He went on to describe what happens to those who dare to demonstrate against Chinese policies in Tibet: “…then they’re given the name of troubling the government and so they are arrested. Once they’re arrested, serious torture.”

He also drew attention to the brutal extirpation of Tibetan culture; how the Chinese local police had recently raided and searched the homes of students and removed all Tibetan texts. Not only the language, but also Tibetan Buddhism faces suppression and extermination, a fact the Dalai Lama mourned for both his people and the Chinese. He cited the Tibetan “culture of compassion” as an “immense benefit to millions of young Chinese men and women in China.” He pointed towards the high level of corruption in China on “all levels” and that China was in need of “some kind of inner spiritual discipline to develop…for China’s own interest, it is very important to keep the Tibetan compassionate spiritual tradition.”

When asked if support from the United States and the international community is helpful, the Dalai Lama replied that in the “long run, very helpful…when the outside world is showing interest, showing concern about [the Tibetans] it is an immense source of encouragement. It is very, very important.”

His Holiness ended with a message to those still struggling for freedom: “Ultimately truth always remains stronger than the power of force or power of gun…the gun is temporarily very powerful, so when gun shows –out of fear it’s a little discipline. But that’s a temporary method…democracy is real, right, reasonable, and everybody has the right to be free.”

For the full video-interview between Ambassador Jim Glassman and His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, follow this link to the Ideas In Action webpage: www.ideasinactiontv.com/episodes/2011/06/interview-with-the-dalai-lama.html