[Tuesday 4 October 2011] Today was the undoubted highlight of the schedule – a 30 minute private audience with the Dalai Lama.
At noon, and with great anticipation, we arrived at the security point outside the Dalai Lama’s residence, only to be told that the meeting was delayed as the teachings the Dalai Lama was giving were over-running. So while we waited the Dalai Lama’s Private Secretary gave us an impromptu tour around the hall and grounds where the teachings were being held – indeed, as the teachings were in progress! The area was crammed with several thousand people listening intently to every word the Dalai Lama said, with the majority being content to watch a live broadcast outside the hall on TV screens or just listen over the tannoy.
As the teachings came to an end we were whisked away and through security and into a lounge area in his residence. Ten minutes later the Dalai Lama entered, embraced his long-term friend Riki Hyde-Chambers (Chairman of Tibet Society), greeted everyone else and encouraged us all to sit down. The members of the delegation were introduced, Fabian Hamilton thanked the Dalai Lama for granting an audience, and a discussion began on a variety of matters began, including the Dalai Lama’s recent retirement from politics, the lack of progress in talks with the Chinese government, environmental issues, education and the special relationship between Tibet and the UK.
It was inspiring to hear the Dalai Lama retains his optimism for a positive outcome for Tibet. In particular, he believes the Chinese people themselves are key to change, and is heartened by their increasing interest in Buddhism and Tibetan matters. It was obvious he still lives by his motto “Never Give Up”.
The Dalai Lama said that educating the Tibetan youth was vital, and amongst a number of practical suggestions, he asked that Western countries, including the UK, provide scholarships for Tibetans. He voiced particular concern for the environment, saying this was the most important issue facing the world today. Many problems, he said, can be mended, but the environment once broken cannot be un-mended.
The Dalai Lama also drew attention to the lack of moral principles in many of those in authority, which has led to many of the world’s ills. He said leaders needed to stand by their moral principles and not be swayed by greed and power. He referred to China as being economically ahead of most countries but was behind in key principles such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion and other basic human rights.
The meeting went on for an hour, double our alloted time, at the end of which khatags were presented, and a group photo was taken outside the residence.
Afterwards, many of us remarked that we were in awe at the Dalai Lama’s ability to mentally switch so quickly from Buddhist teachings to thousands to a discussion on politics, ethics and much more with overseas MPs. His insights and suggestions left all of us with much to consider and deliberate in the coming days and weeks. More than one member of delegation said that meeting the Dalai Lama had been a life-changing experience!