Disestablishing Tibet

From the Introduction to Garry Wills’ book, Head and Heart (The Penguin Press, 2007):

When the Dalai Lama was scheduled to speak at the Field Museum in Chicago, he told those arranging the session that he did not like to give formal addresses; he preferred a more lively format. So he asked to be questioned by several people onstage with him, to whom he could give impromptu answers. I was chosen as one of his three interrogators. Meeting with us ahead of time, he said: “Please ask hard questions.” If people were too deferential to him, he explained, the event would be boring, for him as well as for the audience. He did not want to know the questions beforehand, which would dampen the spontaneity.

I tried to think of something difficult to ask, but the only thing I could come up with was this: “If you were restored to your country, what would you do in a different way?” He answered: “I would disestablish the religion. The American system is the proper one.” As we left, I said to him, “For that, don’t you first need to have an Enlightenment?” He smiled: “Ah! That’s the problem.” He was soon writing a book that called on Buddhists to confront the issues of modern science and reason, as they had not in the past.*

*His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality (Morgan Road Books, 2005).


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