Zone of Peace
The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize Winner: His Holiness the Dalai Lama
His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his struggle for the liberation of Tibet has consistently opposed the use of violence. He has instead advocated peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people.
This policy of non-violence is all the more remarkable when it is considered in relation to the sufferings inflicted on the Tibetan people during the occupation of their country.
His Holiness has developed his philosophy of peace from a great reverence for all things living and upon the concept of universal responsibility embracing all mankind as well as nature.
In the opinion of the Nobel Committee he has come forward with constructive and forward-looking proposals for the solution of international conflicts, human rights issues, and global environmental problems."
I feel honoured, humbled and deeply moved that you should give this important prize to a simple monk from Tibet. I am no one special. But, I believe the prize is a recognition of the true value of altruism, love, compassion and non-violence which I try to practise ...
I accept the prize with profound gratitude on behalf of the oppressed everywhere and for all those who struggle for freedom and work for world peace. I accept it as a tribute to the man who founded the modern tradition of non-violent action for change‹Mahatma Gandhi‹whose life taught and inspired me...
The problems we face today, violent conflicts, destruction of nature, poverty, hunger and so on, are human created problems which can be resolved through human effort, understanding and the development of a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share ...
I am optimistic that the ancient values that have sustained mankind are today reaffirming themselves to prepare us for a kinder, happier twenty-first century."
We Tibetans hope to contribute to the development of a more peaceful, more humane and more beautiful world. A future free Tibet will seek to help those in need throughout the world, to protect nature, and to promote peace. I believe that our Tibetan ability to combine spiritual qualities with a realistic and practical attitude enables us to make a special contribution in however modest a way. This is my hope and prayer.
[For more details read the following, or skip to the end].
Throughout its history Tibet has been a closed country, with little contact with the outside world. This is also true of modern times, and maybe explains why its leaders failed to attach due importance to formal de jure recognition of their country as an autonomous state. This, too, may be one of the reasons why the outside world did not feel under any obligation to support Tibet, when the country in 1950 and the years that followed was gradually occupied by the Chinese, who‹in direct opposition to the Tibetans¹ own interpretation‹claimed that Tibet has always been a part of China. In occupying the country the Chinese have, according to the conclusion reached by the International Commission of Jurists, been guilty of Œthe most pernicious crime that any individual or nation can be accused of, viz. a wilful attempt to annihilate an entire people.¹
Meanwhile Tenzin Gyatso had by now reached the age of sixteen, and in the critical situation that now arose, he was charged with the task of playing the role of political leader to his people. Up till then the country had been ruled on his behalf by regents. He would have to assume the authority that the title of Dalai Lama involved, a boy of sixteen, without political experience, and with no education beyond his study of Buddhist lore, which he had absorbed throughout his upbringing.
In his autobiography My Land and My People, he has given us a vivid account of his rigorous apprenticeship at the hands of Tibetan lamas, and he declares that what he learned was to prove no mean preparation for his allotted career, not least the political part of his work. It was on this basis he now developed the policy of non-violence with which he decided to confront the Chinese invaders. As a Buddhist monk it was his duty never to harm any living creature, but instead to show compassion to all life. It is maybe not to be wondered at that people so closely involved in what they call the world of reality should consider his philosophy somewhat remote from ordinary considerations of military strategy.
The policy of non-violence was also, of course, based on pragmatic considerations: a small nation of some six million, with no armed forces to speak of, faced one of the world¹s military super-powers. In a situation of this kind the non-violent approach was, in the opinion of the Dalai Lama, the only practicable one.
In accordance with this he made several attempts during the 1950s to negotiate with the Chinese. His aim was to arrive at a solution of the conflict that would be acceptable to both parties to the dispute, based on mutual respect and tolerance. To achieve this he staked all his authority as Dalai Lama to prevent any use of violence on the part of the Tibetans; and his authority proved decisive, for as the Dalai Lama he is, according to the Buddhist faith, more than a leader in the traditional sense: he symbolises the whole nation. His very person is imbued with some of the attributes of a deity, which doubtless explains why his people, despite gross indignities and acute provocation, have to such a marked degree obeyed his wishes and abstained from the use of violence.
From his exile in India he now waged his unarmed struggle for his people with untiring patience. He has every justification for calling his autobiography My Land and My People, because the life of the Tibetans is in truth his life. In the years after 1959, political support from the outside world remained conspicuous by its absence, apart from a few rather toothless UN resolutions that were adopted in 1961 and 1965. Throughout the sixties and seventies the Dalai Lama was regarded as a pathetic figure from a distant past: his beautiful and well-meaning philosophy of peace was unfortunately out of place in this world. That view has now changed.
There are several reasons for this. What has happened‹and is still happening‹in Tibet has become more generally known, and the community of nations has started to feel a sense of joint responsibility for the future of the Tibetan people. That their trials and tribulations have failed to break the spirit of the Tibetans is another reason; on the contrary their feeling of national pride and identity and their determination to survive have been enhanced, and these are expressed in massive demonstrations.
Here, as in other parts of the world it is becoming increasingly obvious that problems cannot be solved by the use of brutal military power to crush peaceful demonstrations. In Tibet, as elsewhere, conflicts must be resolved politically through the medium of genuine negotiation.
For perfectly understandable reasons the policy of non-violence is often regarded as something negative, as a failure to formulate a well-considered strategy, as a lack of initiative and a tendency to evade the issue and adopt a passive attitude. But this is not so: the policy of non-violence is to a very high degree a well thought-out combat strategy. It demands single-minded and purposeful action, but one that eschews the use of force. Those who adopt this strategy are by no means shirking the issue: they manifest a moral courage which, when all is said and done, exceeds that of men who resort to arms.
It is courage of this kind, together with an incredible measure of self-discipline, that has characterised the attitude of the Dalai Lama. His policy of non-violence too, has been carefully considered and determined. As he himself put it in April last year (1988), after a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa had been fired on by troops: ŒAs I have explained on many occasions, non-violence is for us the only way. Quite patently in our case violence would be tantamount to suicide. For this reason, whether we like it or not, non-violence is the only approach, and the right one. We only need more patience and determination.'
In 1987 the Dalai Lama submitted a peace plan for Tibet, the gist of which was that Tibet should be given the status of a 'peace zone' on a par with what had been proposed for Nepal, a proposal which the Chinese in fact have supported. The plan also envisaged a halt to Chinese immigration to Tibet. This has proceeded on such a scale that there is a risk of the Tibetans becoming a minority in their own country. Not least interesting is the fact that the plan also contains measures for the conservation of Tibet's unique natural environment. Wholesale logging operations in the forests on the slopes of the Himalayas have resulted in catastrophic soil erosion, and are one of the causes of flood disasters suffered by India and Bangladesh. The peace plan failed to initiate any negotiations with the Chinese, even though the discrepancies between the two sides were not particularly profound.
The Dalai Lama's willingness to compromise was expressed still more clearly in his address to the European Parliament on June 15th last year, where he stated his readiness to abandon claims for full Tibetan independence. He acknowledged that China, as an Asian super-power, had strategic interests in Tibet, and was prepared to accept a Chinese military presence, at any rate until such time as a regional peace plan could be adopted. He also expressed his willingness to leave foreign policy and defence in the hands of the Chines. In return the Tibetans should be granted the right to full internal autonomy.
In his efforts to promote peace the Dalai Lama has shown that what he aims to achieve is not a power base at the expense of others. He claims no more for his people than what everybody‹no doubt the Chinese themselves recognise as elementary human rights. In a world in which suspicion and aggression have all too long characterised relations between people and nations, and where the only realistic policy has been reliance on the use of power, a new confession of faith is emerging, namely that the least realistic of all solutions to conflict is the consistent use of force. Modern weapons have in fact excluded such solutions.
The world has shrunk. Increasingly peoples and nations have grown dependent on one another. No one can any longer act entirely in his own interests. It is therefore imperative that we should accept mutual responsibility for all political, economic, and ecological problems.
In view of this, few and fewer people would venture to dismiss the Dalai Lama's philosophy as utopian: on the contrary, one would be increasingly justified in asserting that his gospel of non-violence is the truly realistic one, with most promise for the future. And this applies not only to Tibet but to each and every conflict. The future hopes of oppressed millions are today linked to the unarmed battalions, for they will win the peace: the justice of their demands, moreover, is now so clear and the moral strength of their struggle so indomitable that they can only temporarily be halted by force of arms.
In awarding the Peace Prize to His Holiness the Dalai Lama we affirm our unstinting support for his work for peace, and for the unarmed masses on the march in many lands for liberty, peace and human dignity."
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