Mudita Journal

The Dalai Lama Sizes Up President Bush

April 3, 2006 · Filed under: Buddhism, Current Events, Politics

The Daily Telegraph had a conversation recently with the Dalai Lama, which yielded some interesting gems about his perspective on President Bush.

Of course, the press seized on the one (potentially) anti-war remark, “killing bin Laden will inspire ten more” and made that the headline.

So let’s skip the media spin and look at some of the Dalai Lama’s actual comments:

The Dalai Lama said modern terrorism was born out of jealousy of Western lifestyles.

“Fundamentalism is terrifying because it is based purely on emotion, rather than intelligence,” the 70-year-old monk said at the seat of his government-in-exile in the northern Indian hilltop town of Dharamsala.

“It prevents followers from thinking as individuals and about the good of the world.

“This new terrorism has been brewing for many years. Much of it is caused by jealousy and frustration at the West because it looks so highly developed and successful on television. Leaders in the East use religion to counter that, to bind these countries together.”

Hard to argue with that.

Terrorists, he warned, must be treated humanely.

“Otherwise, the problem will escalate. If there is one Bin Laden killed today, soon there will be 10 Bin Ladens. Awesome. Ten Bin Ladens killed, the hatred is spread; 100 bombed, and 1,000 lose members of their families.”

Er, this is an empirical question, and I don’t see how the Dalai Lama has any more information to go on than the rest of us. If I had to choose between having bin Laden as a martyr and bin Laden as acting head of al Qaeda, I’d have to go with martyr.

That said, if the Dalai Lama is suggesting that locking up bin Laden for a thousand years — or putting him on trial — is better than turning him into a martyr, I’m game for that.

In any case, unless the U.S. is operating on “shoot on sight” orders — which I don’t imagine is the case — then the Dalai Lama’s comment here is irrelevant to U.S. policy.

Moving on to the real news from this interview:

Although he appeared not to approve of the war in Iraq, he was admiring of Bush.

“He is very straightforward,” said the monk.

“On our first visit, I was faced with a large plate of biscuits. President Bush immediately offered me his favourites, and after that, we got on fine. On my next visit, he didn’t mind when I was blunt about the war.

“By my third visit, I was ushering him into the Oval Office. I was astonished by his grasp of Buddhism.”

Hm, the Buddhism influence must be coming in via Karl Rove. 😉

Rove has reportedly attended seminars put on by Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute, which is great; there is much wisdom to be found in Wilber’s writings.

And anything that gets Republican policy-makers to think outside the Christian tent is a good thing, in my view.

More to the point, I take my hat off to the Dalai Lama for being willing to publicly acknowledge Bush’s positive qualities.

The vast majority of the Dalai Lama’s admirers are virulently antagonistic toward George W. Bush, and I can only commend H2 for walking his talk and being willing to look at the man himself — and attest to what he really sees — rather than being blinded by the socialist agendas that so many of his followers embrace.

UPDATE: Marsh sends me the following, an excerpt from an interview with Ken Wilber in the spring 2004 issue of Elephant magazine:

ELE: Nothing from [President] Bush and [Vice President] Cheney yet?!

WILBER: Well now, hold onto your hat… Karl Rove has read my stuff extensively.

ELE: I believe that..! Amazing.

WILBER: He received a two-hour presentation on the Integral Approach. Of course George Bush doesn’t read, but his main advisor [Rove] does. He (for better or for worse) has used my work to attempt to make even their stuff a little more integral. Now they don’t succeed, I don’t have to tell you, but smart people get onto this fairly quickly. Jeb Bush, who does read, uses Brief History of Everything in the Florida Values [program]. What we’re trying to get them to do evolve even higher. It’s sort of a crude way to put it, but many conservatives tend to be stuck at a… how can we put this charitably… a somewhat lower level…

ELE: Dualistic? Good/Bad?

WILBER: But even the fact that conservatives are interested shows just how relevant an integral approach can be in today’s world.

“George Bush doesn’t read”? That sounds a little snarky. But the rest of it is interesting news.

Perhaps Wilber simply meant “…doesn’t read my books.”

  • joe


    You might want to look more deeply into the background of Mr. Wilber and some of his past associates (Adi Da, for example). The 60’s counter culture produced an awful lot of verbose narcissists who manage to generate enough of a following to live comfortably while telling everyone else how to live. Sounds a lot like a slave-master relationship to me. I followed the creation and evolution of Wilber’s Integral Institute for a few years until I noticed warning signs of cult-like activity. I even had a friend who began going into these space-out like trances while speaking Wilber-ese and then she would snap out of it as if nothing happened. It was the scariest thing I have ever seen a once solidly rational person do.

    Also, the people you feel are blinded by socialists agendas, based on my experience, preach integration and ways of living that promote the formation of the very hierarchies they dislike and are led by charismatic dingbats who are very often not as open-minded as they tell others to be. The fact is that integrative philosophies have been promoted before and they simply don’t work, but they do serve the function of removing from the gene pool those who are not strong enough to stake a claim in the world and then defend it.

    Call me paranoid, but as a self-proclaimed secular Jew, I have difficulty swallowing any spiritual movement that has a central authority figure or mystical overtones, including those associated with Judaism, especially when the leadership lives high on the hog while the flock suffers. When someone tells me that I have a rational objective part and an irrational subjective part and by integrating the two I will be whole, it reminds me of those who believe I need to be perfected, or else… Thinking outside the evangelical box is indeed a good thing, but not if it is replaced by another elitist philosophy dressed up in sounds/looks/feels good garb that has camera-ready appeal.