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Self-immolation is a sensitive political issue, I am an old monk, already retired so I feel silence is the best“

MUMBAI: The Dalai Lama, Buddhism’s highest spiritual leader today spoke for the first time on the self-immolation a few weeks ago of a 16 year old Tibetan boy in an exclusive interview to NDTV. Controversially, the Dalai Lama, said he will not openly condemn self-immolations for the Tibetan cause though he is saddened by them. Speaking on the NDTV Dialogues, he said “I expressed my sadness but I also expressed how much effect such a drastic step has. If you criticise, that is also difficult. If the family members hear the Dalai Lama criticise self-immolation, a negative attitude, they would be tremendously sad. I don’t want that. I can’t also encourage such incidents so I just keep quiet. Let the Chinese say what they say. Asked if he feels, this would send out the wrong message, he replied “This is a sensitive political issue, I am an old monk, already retired so I feel silence is the best“

In a free-wheeling interview, the Dalai Lama said he is in good health extremely fit, after his recent medical check-ups at the Mayo Clinic in the US. On his succession issue, he said for the first time, that he did have a plan to choose a successor “At the age of the first Dalai Lama, 84, then I’m going to consult religious leaders of various traditions.” He added discussions had already begun on this. Asked about China’s laws on reincarnation wherein they claim they have the power to select the next Dalai Lama, he laughed, saying “Let them first accept the principle of Buddha dharma, of rebirth. Let them accept the rebirth of Mao and Deng Xiaoping, then they have the legitimacy to choose the next Dalai Lama “

The 81 year spiritual leader also spoke of his love for India, saying he is the “ Son of India, his physique is made up of Indian dal and roti“. Asked his views on various Indian prime ministers he had interacted with since Pt Nehru, he had interesting recollections including how PM Nehru overruled a cabinet colleague’s worries about China’s reaction to give him asylum in 1959; on when he had told PM Vajpayee, he preferred him to be in Opposition because then he could be more outspoken about his support for Tibet and on PM Modi who he said after becoming PM has made India at an international level, a significant one.

“When the Govt of India heard that Dalai Lama left Lhasa coming towards India, at that time a Cabinet Minister expressed caution, the relation with China might be disturbed. But then Pandit Nehru responded, “no, we must give asylum to Dalai Lama. One of my great friends, Vajpayee ji, one occasion I met him and I expressed, he should be in the Opposition Party so that you see you can express what your real feelings are more freely. Then Prime Minister Modi. Now after he become Prime Minister, I think at the international level, India has become quite a significant nation”

Asked on religious orthodoxy and his views on homosexuality, he said “It depends on individuals. If they believe in certain philosophy and certain teachings, they should follow it. But for non-believers, they can do what they want.”