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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

MAHATMA GANDHI

By His Holiness the Dalai Lama


Curriculum Vitae

IF WE ARE TO THINK OF the 20th century as one of Asian liberation, Mahatma Gandhi naturally stands out as a beacon of inspiration. Drawing on the thoughts of India's great teachers of the past, he employed the ancient but powerful idea of ahimsa or non-violence in a fresh, dynamic and effective way. A great man with a deep understanding of human nature, Mahatma Gandhi made every effort to encourage the full development of the positive aspects of our human potential and to reduce or restrain the negative. Consequently, he showed by example that personal liberation is integral to the successful achievement of national liberation.

I consider myself to be a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, so I am grateful for this opportunity to pay tribute to him. As a young man, I was deeply inspired first and foremost by his adoption of non-violence during India's struggle for freedom. I have myself adopted a similar path of non-violence.

In addition, I also admire the simplicity and discipline of Gandhi-ji's way of life. Although he received a modern education and was well versed in Western ways, he returned to his heritage and cultivated a simple wholesome life in accordance with Indian philosophy. Consequently he was acutely aware of the problems of the common people, who everywhere constitute the majority.

Even today, I feel that Gandhi-ji's principles of non-violence and reconciliation are relevant. It may be possible to gain something through violence, but I feel such gains are only temporary. You may solve the immediate problem, but in the long run, almost invariably you will create another one. So the best solution is non-violence. It may take time, but it will generate no negative side-effects.

Of course, Gandhi's notion of non-violence does not mean the mere absence of violence. It is something more positive, more meaningful than that. The true expression of non-violence is compassion. Some people seem to think that compassion is just a passive emotional response instead of a rational stimulus to action. But I believe that to experience genuine compassion is to develop a feeling of closeness to others combined with a sense of responsibility for their welfare. This develops when we accept that other people are just like us in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering.

Today, there is growing global awareness that the application of non-violence is not restricted merely to other human beings. It has also to do with ecology, the environment and our relations with all the other living beings with whom we share the planet. Non-violence can be applied, as the Mahatma demonstrated, in our day-to-day lives, whatever our position or vocation. It is even relevant to medical procedures, education systems, legal processes and so forth.

Mahatma Gandhi won Independence for India simply by telling the truth. His practice of non-violence depended wholly on the power of truth and justice. The fall of communist regimes has demonstrated once more that even decades of repression cannot crush people's determination to live in freedom and dignity. One of the great lessons of recent times has been the success of peaceful change. In the past, enslaved peoples often resorted to violence in their struggle to be free.

Although violence is still rife, the trend of world opinion is that the future lies in non-violence. Following in the footsteps of such leaders as Mahatma Gandhi, the peaceful revolutions we have seen as far afield as Eastern Europe and the Philippines have offered future generations a compelling example of successful, non-violent change. Today, more and more people are realizing that the proper way to resolve differences is through dialogue, compromise, and negotiation, through human understanding and humility. This means that there will no longer be outright winners, but nor will there be total losers. There has to be room for mutual respect. This is a very great and helpful sign. Moreover, recent events have shown that the desire for both peace and freedom lies at the most fundamental level of human nature and that violence is its complete antithesis.

Of course, if non-violent resistance and approach to liberation are to succeed, they require the support and encouragement of those who already enjoy freedom. This is why the award of the Nobel Prize to me, a simple monk from Tibet, filled Tibetans with hope. It meant that, though we have not drawn attention to our plight by means of violence, we have not been forgotten. It also meant that the values we cherish, in particular our respect for all forms of life and the belief in the power of truth, are today recognized and acclaimed. I considered it also a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, whose example remains an inspiration to so many.

The Dalai Lama won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent campaign for freedom and rights in Tibet.


MAHATMA GANDHI

•Born on October 2, 1869

•Went to South Africa in 1893, where he led 21 years of protest to force authorities to give rights to ethnic Indians

•Formally entered Indian politics in 1919, heading the Indian National Congress

•In 1948, months after leading India to freedom, he was slain by a Hindu fanatic

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