The Dalai Lama was interviewed in an episode of Last Week with John Oliver, aired on March 5. In the interview, the comedian didn’t hesitate to question the spiritual leader regarding the tough issues he and his people are facing today. When Oliver opened the interview by asking about the Chinese government’s persecution of the Dalai Lama personally, he responded with laughter and a forgiving heart.
“Whatever they want to say – that’s their freedom. I have no negative feeling. I just feel, a laugh, like that. I practice taking others’ anger, suspicion, distrust and giv[ing] them patience, tolerance and compassion. I practice that,” the Dalai Lama told John Oliver in response to being told that the Chinese government has called him “a wolf in monk’s robes” and “a demon.”
The interview proceeded to the topic of the Tibetan people’s response to Chinese oppression – self-immolation. One hundred forty Tibetans have committed suicide by setting themselves on fire, in protest of Chinese rule. Oliver asked the Dalai Lama why he hasn’t asked his people to stop. The Dalai Lama said that he could not due to the power of his words.
“This is – I find [a] very difficult sort of situation. Right from the beginning, when I first hear[d] that, firstly, I express my sadness. But then, meantime, if I say that their action is wrong, then their family, they will feel very sad [that] one of their family member[s] did something against the Dalai Lama[‘s] wish. I don’t want to create that. And certainly I cannot support [self-immolation]. Because, from Buddhist viewpoint, self-killing is not good. So then the best thing is to remain silen[t], to quiet.”
To further illustrate the power of his words, the Dalai Lama shared a story of his trip to Mongolia. The Mongolian people loved to drink Russian vodka, so he advised them to return to a more traditional Mongolian drink – horse milk! And they did it! This was much to the chagrin of John Oliver, who wondered just how to get it out of a horse.
The interview moved on to the topic of the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation. The reincarnation of the Dalai Lama must be confirmed by the another Buddhist spiritual leader, the Panchen Lama, but after the current Dalai Lama confirmed a young boy as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, the Chinese government promptly seized the boy and his family, who have not been heard from since. In the interview, Oliver asked the Dalai Lama about how he planned to address the matter of his reincarnation. The Dalai Lama waved of the question, saying his focus is centered on larger things.
“My main concern is the well-being of seven billion being[s] and then preservation of rich Buddhist tradition – which we kept!” he said.
Oliver pressed on about the possibility of the current Dalai Lama being the last. The spiritual leader’s response was surprisingly peaceful.
“If I become [the] last Dalai Lama, I become very happy.”
A stronger response was received when the Dalai Lama was asked about the possibility of China appointing its own Dalai Lama.
“If I may say, that’s also, you see, one of the foolish act[s]. Short sighted! Without using the human brain properly! It is harmful!”
Oliver capped off the interview by presenting the Dalai Lama with a calculator-watch, echoing the gift of President Roosevelt to the Dalai Lama in the past.
Check out the Dalai Lama on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.