Here we get a glimpse of the difficult territory this spiritual leader navigates in.
The article is written on the backdrop of the 14th Dalai Lama's visit to Britain in May. China's political importance is reflected in several ways: Prime minister Gordon Brown would not receive the Dalai Lama in 10 Downing Street, in the same way his predecessor Tony Blair would not. A frail diplomatic balance must clearly be kept at all costs.
For probably the ninehundredth time the Dalai Lama had to answer questions about whether he wants autonomy for Tibet. To this he answered "I have said one thousand times we do not seek independence. China should manage defense and foreign policy. Inside Tibet, Tibetans should be responsible for education, religion and the environment. We want the preservation of Tibetan culture inside the People's Republic of China." (page 4 in NYRB.) This statement is as clear as anything, and I find it strange that the Chinese cannot trust this. If anything, this shows how little they understand about this man's culture, morality and sincerity.
Tibet is a state, or an area or whatever we should call the place now, of great cultural and religious depth. Or at least it was, until the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1959 and demolished huge amounts of buildings and priceless, old artefacts expressing Tibetan religion/spirituality and their long cultural tradition.
The article ends with a priceless citation The Dalai Lama made to the writer of the article:
"In Oxford the Dalai Lama whispered into my ear that 'my doctors tell me I am in very good health. Everything fine. They think I will live to 102'."
What better than 29 more years of this peaceworking, loving, wise man?