A New View Film Series: 10 Questions for The Dalai Lama

At 6:35 p.m. on July 14th 2016 Waseema Ali, Managing Director of the Desmond Tutu Center, welcomed approximately 40 people to the Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall at Butler University for a screening of the film 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama, written and directed by Rick Roy, with a discussion following.

The film follows Roy’s journey across India as he prepares for his ten question, 45-minute interview with the Dalai Lama. As Roy considers what questions he should ask as he recounts a summary of the Dalai Lama’s life and a recent history of Tibet.

Roy highlights how this “Rockstar of Peace,” chosen as a baby and raised in a monastery to be the spiritual and political leader of Tibet, still understands himself to be just a “simple monk.” Roy explains how this “simple monk” was thrust into the role of “Rockstar of Peace” when his native home of Tibet was taken over by China. Tibetans were violently suppressed by the Chinese, but the Dalai Lama advocated for non-violence. During this violent suppression of the Tibetan people 87,000 people were massacred, and the Dalai Lama and many others were forced to start new lives as refugees in India.

The film then shifts to Roy’s interview with the Dalai Lama. Reflecting on the differences between what he has seen in India and the United States, Roy began by asking why happiness, low crime, and safety aren’t necessarily contingent on how much wealth someone has. The Dalai Lama responded by saying if one has too much they will always want more, never being happy. He suggested learning to be content is very important. The Dalai Lama also expressed the importance of self-discipline in achieving a happy life. Next Roy asked about cultural heritage in an ever-changing modernizing world. The Dalai Lama responded by suggesting that there are some parts of cultural heritage that must fall by the wayside and others that must be preserved. The caste system is something from his own culture that must change, but strong family ties is something they must keep. Roy inquired about the Middle East and Jerusalem, places with many conflicts, and asked what they might do to find peace. The Dalai Lama responded that he has met many people, both Jews and Muslims who are striving for peace there and he suggested that they try to lower the heightened emotions on both sides before they come to the table to talk peace. As a first step, the Dalai Lama recommended holding a festival to take the time to simply get to know each other. Roy then asked a series of questions regarding China and Tibet and the Dalai Lama’s insistence on nonviolence. The Dalai Lama explained that he feels it is wrong to isolate China through embargoes and sanctions and that it is important to engage China. The Dalai Lama emphasized that he never wants violence done in his name and that violence leads to short-term change; the power of truth creates long-term change with mutual benefit.

Following the film Charlie Wiles, the Executive Director of the Center for Interfaith Cooperation, addressed the group of attendees and highlighted the next film in the New View Film: Beyond Borders: The Debate Over Human Migration on September 22. Wiles then invited attendees to share their reactions to  10 Questions for the Dalai Lama.

During this response time there were several questions raised about the future of the role of Dalai Lama after the passing of the 14th Dalai Lama. Several attendees noticed and highlighted a comparison between the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis as role models of faith. Many attendees voiced frustrations with China’s treatment of Tibet and their censorship of the Dalai Lama as well as some American businesses’ cooperation in that censorship.  Attendees also reflected on the Dalai Lama’s visit to Indianapolis in the context of the information presented in the film. One attendee shared how the Dalai Lama’s comments about interfaith relations and looking past fear of one another to understanding is important for the world today. Another attendee added that he liked the idea of having festivals for mutual understanding between people and highlighted the Center for Interfaith Festival of Faiths on September 18th as one such opportunity.

This film helped all those in attendance to consider how we might look to the example of the Dalai Lama, a “simple monk” and “Rockstar of peace,” to find ways to come together and work for peace, understanding, and compassion.

By: David Barickman

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