He made the statement during a seminar on Buddhism in Minneapolis on Saturday during which he met with nearly a hundred Chinese students who asked him questions on topics ranging from Buddhism to China-Tibet relations.
The Dalai Lama said that while democracy might not be possible in the near term, Chinese authorities should allow more freedom in China and the current climate of fear will not earn the people’s trust.
“Fear and trust cannot go together,” he reiterated.
He also said the Chinese authorities should be guided by the principles of “openness, honesty and transparency” if China were to earn a more respectable place in the comity of nations.
He, however, was quick to remind that he supports “gradual change, not change overnight,” in China because a sudden political change might lead to chaos.
Chinese students from nearby colleges in Minneapolis and St. Paul attended the seminar jointly organized by the Tibetan American Foundation of America and the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
The discussion on Buddhism evolved into a wide-ranging discussion about Chinese politics, the future of Tibet, his experience in dealing with the Chinese leadership over the past six decades, and the recent decision to devolve political power to the elected leadership.
“1.3 billion Chinese people has the right to know what is right and what is wrong,” the Dalai Lama said during the seminar titled “The State of Buddhism Today: A Conversation with the His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”
In response to questions from Chinese students, he also clarified misconceptions that the recent decision to devolve political power does not mean that the age-old institution of the Dalai Lama will cease to exist.
Instead the Dalai Lama’s role will return to that of the original role of a spiritual figure, as it was with the first four Dalai Lamas, he explained.
He had always felt the need to implement democracy in the Tibetan community as early as in the 1950s but he finally made the decision to fully resign from his political role earlier this year in recognition of the fact that the Tibetan community is now ready to elect its own political leader.
On March 20, the Tibetans in exile went to polls, which led to the election of Harvard legal scholar Lobsang Sangay as the Kalon Tripa (or the prime minister) of the Tibetans in exile.
Chinese students said that they came to listen to the Dalai Lama because they wanted to hear views from both sides of aisle. The Tibetan leader urged the Chinese students to “use both ears and eyes” to know the true reality.
Earlier in the day, the Dalai Lama also addressed nearly 2,000 Tibetan residents of Minnesota. During the talk, he emphasized the importance of being aware of the larger Tibetan cause, and urged them to make conscious effort towards the preservation of Tibet’s rich religious, linguistic and cultural heritage.
Minnesota has the second largest Tibetan community in North America, after New York-New Jersey area. This is His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s second visit to Minneapolis in ten years. On Sunday, he will give a medicine Buddha empowerment in the morning and deliver a lecture on ‘inner peace’ in the afternoon at the University of Minnesota, during which he will also receive an honorary doctorate from the university.