Dalai Lama hits East’s consumer craze


The Dalai Lama indicated Monday in an interview that he had set a budding democratic process in motion in Tibet that was effectively doomed by China’s invasion in the early 1950s.

“Even when I was in Tibet around 1952, I started some changes that were the beginning of democratization,” he said.

Now he sees rampant development and consumerism taking place in China and India, and worries about future global shortages if the two nations’ combined populations continue their unrealistic and unbridled pursuit of material wealth.

“Imagine what will happen if the 2 billion people who live in India and China acquire a typical American lifestyle. Each family will probably have two or three cars,” the Dalai Lama said. “Just think what kind of pollution this will create and the strain it will put on natural resources.”

The Tibetan spiritual leader, on his 11th visit to Japan, touched on various issues, including his semiretirement, during the interview aboard a bullet train.

The government has avoided contact with the Dalai Lama during his 10-day stay and is not providing him with security, in keeping with its policy of not trying to upset China.

The Dalai Lama said he has been semi-retired since 2001, when the Tibetan government-in-exile’s political leadership, in India, was chosen for the first time as part of elections that are set to take place every five years.

When asked for remarks regarding the movement of some circles in Japan to amend the Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9, he declined comment, saying such matters are for the government. However, he reiterated his opposition to all wars and said he dreams of a completely demilitarized world.

Although this may not be realistic in our lifetime, he said, it is important to work toward a blueprint for the future.

Scheduled to give lectures to students at two private schools in Tokyo, the Dalai Lama will also give a talk Tuesday in Yokohama at the 50th anniversary gathering of the Japan Buddhist Federation, the party that invited him to Japan.

On Saturday and Sunday, he participated in the inaugural Ise Interfaith Forum at Kogakkan University in Ise, Mie Prefecture.

While there, he also paid his respects at Ise Shrine, which is revered as the most important of the almost 90,000 Shinto shrines nationwide.

The full interview with the Dalai Lama will appear in Close-up in the Sunday Timeout section on Dec. 2.