God Is Not A Christian: Desmond Tutu And The Dalai Lama’s Extraordinary Talk On God And Religion
The Dalai Lama, wearing an orange visor, was on stage sitting next to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who had just flown in from South Africa. The Dalai Lama sat in his usual lotus position on a leather armchair that was a size too small for his folded legs. His knees stuck out a smidgen beyond the armrests.
“My main concern,” he said to Tutu, “what’s the best way to talk about deeper human values like love, compassion, forgiveness, these things. Not relying on God, but relying on ourselves.”
Tutu was hunched forward in his chair; he was carefully examining his hands, which were resting on his lap. He was dressed in a dark suit and a striking purple shirt with a decidedly magenta hue. A large metal cross hung below the clerical collar.
The Dalai Lama said, “I myself, I’m believer, I’m Buddhist monk. So for my own improvement, I utilize as much as I can Buddhist approach. But I never touch this when I talk with others. Buddhism is my business. Not business of other people. Frankly speaking”—he stole a glance at the archbishop and declared firmly—“when you and our brothers and sisters talk about God, creator, I’m nonbeliever.” He laughed, perhaps a little self-consciously.
It seemed to me that the Dalai Lama’s feelings about God have changed over the years. In an early interview, when I asked him if he thought there was a God, he answered simply, “I don’t know.” He took the view of an agnostic: he understood that it’s not possible to know one way or another whether God exists.
“In Buddhism no creator,” the Dalai Lama said at the Chan Centre. “But we also accept Buddha, bodhisattvas, these higher beings. However, if we only rely on these higher beings, we would just sit there, lazy.” He leaned into his chair, threw his head back, and rolled his eyes heavenward.
Adapted from THE WISDOM OF COMPASSION: Stories of Remarkable Encounters and Timeless Insights by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Victor Chan by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright © 2012 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Victor Chan