A Bold Way to Close the Olympics

The Dalai Lama recently announced his acceptance of a socialist government in Tibet run by the Chinese Communist Party, and … Continued

The Dalai Lama recently announced his acceptance of a socialist government in Tibet run by the Chinese Communist Party, and his intention to play no political role once a settlement is reached; major concessions according to Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times (Aug. 6, 2008). I’m not an international relations specialist, so I can’t evaluate Kristof’s elaborate proposal for reaching agreement, but I am an expert about what it is like to meet face-to-face with the Dalai Lama, and why that is important now to break the decade-long deadlock in negotiations between representatives of the Dalai Lama and Chinese leadership.

I am not a Buddhist nor a meditator. I”m a research psychologist who has spent 45 years examining how our emotions work, in particular how they are signaled in facial expressions. When I first met the Dalai Lama eight years ago he was hosting a weeklong meeting with a small group of scientists about “Destructive Emotions”. His view of emotions was quite different from mine, arising from an intellectual tradition out of contact with Western thinking and research. I subsequently proposed that we meet one-on-one hoping that the contrast — Western/Buddhist, scientific/spiritual — might lead us to break through, with new ideas emerging about how we can improve our emotional life and enlarge the scope of our compassion. It did; but neither of us expected at the outset we would spend 40 hours in our intense exchange.

I have never before spent 40 hours talking about a single set of ideas with anyone. Quite apart from the content of what we discussed I came to know intimately what it is like to talk to this man, and as an expert observer of the minutiae of facial expressions, his emotional disposition.

Where to start? He has amazing concentration, which he maintains for hours seemingly without a moments distraction – it was contagious, so my mind never drifted, not even for a second, which is quite unusual for me. He has keen analytic capabilities, trained as an expert debater who sees all sides of every issue, who finds the exception to every rule, and without hesitation abandons long held views when shown new information or compelling argument. He rejoices in new approaches, new ideas. He is the epitome of flexibility. Another of his characteristics is hard to conceive of from either a Western or Eastern viewpoint: the Dalai Lama lacks any concern for status, for how you acknowledge him. He truly thinks of himself as a Buddhist monk, with just “a bit of knowledge”. And his sense of humor is legendary, never at anyone’s cost, and very contagious.

In addition to studying emotion I have also developed expertise about when and why lies occur, succeed or fail. The Dalai Lama is without guile; he is not only trustworthy, but also trusting almost to a fault, in the sense that a ruthless person could exploit him.

Usually leaders to do not meet until subordinates have worked out all the details; but the subordinates have failed to reach an agreement about the future of Tibet. It is time for the leaders. The Dalai Lama is the ideal person with whom to negotiate in good faith to find new solutions: amazing powers of concentration, flexible not dogmatic, modest, trustworthy and trusting. Last Spring Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for such a meeting.
What better way for China to lead, following its triumph — no matter who wins how many medals — from this great Olympic event it has hosted.

Dr. Paul Ekman is professor (emeritus) at the University of California, San Francisco. His new book, “Emotional Awareness: Overcoming Obstacles to Psychological Balance and Compassion, the Dalai Lama in conversation with Paul Ekman” will be published in September by Times Books.

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  • altest

    can we believe what he says ? he has said so many things and just look like that he just want to say what the listner wish to hear… starting from Mao, german nazi leaders… and so on so on

  • djmbae makita

    “The Dalai Lama is without guile; he is not only trustworthy, but also trusting almost to a fault, in the sense that a ruthless person could exploit him.””The Dalai Lama is the ideal person with whom to negotiate in good faith to find new solutions…Yeh – great for China; not so much for Tibet. The Dalai Lama may be trustworthy but the Chinese are not. The Olympics have proven it for all to see. here have been no demonstrations because they are not permitted. People who apply for permits to demonstrate are jailed. Even the public face of the Olympics is a scam – from the faked fireworks, the fake pretty little girl lipsynching to the real singing of a little girl deemed “unattractive” by the state, to Chinese gymnasts as young as 13 competing in events with an minimum age limit of 16.Yes, maybe the Dalia Lama is so trusting as to be easily exploited by dishonest people. Why then recommend he meet with the nefarious Chinese leadership?!?

  • Will D.

    It amazes me how much restraint and wisdom the Dali Lama has shown though out the years. He is clearly a good person and it is saddening to read the negative comments posted here. (Given the sentence fragments, it’s obviously a non-english speaking person … most likely Chinese.)It’s also saddening that the rest of the world has not been more forthright when dealing with the Tibetan issue. Clearly, China has been in the wrong. After all, Tibet is a sovereign nation with it’s own language and distinct customs and has been this way since at least the 7th century. Hopefully, this agreement will bring some peace and normality back to the Tibetans.

  • PLW

    Thanks Paul,I am both a 20 year student of His Holiness and a psychologist and strongly concur with your viewpoint of him. He is without doubt the finest individual I have met and never wavers in being genuinely humble, compassionate (even more so with his enemies) and extraordinarily wise. While I do not always agree with him, I always deeply respect his thoughtful approach and sincerely wish for a genuine resolution to this seemingly intractable situation for the people of Tibet, many of which live in daily misery and only more so since the Olympics, and Tibetans throughout the world. His Holiness is no fool. He sees people and sees into their hearts. He is not in any way a pushover and I am convinced that he can easily hold his own with the Chinese leadership.

  • Suzanna
  • Peter Truong

    Now what? The old monk is OK for Communist to run in Tibet. Is it a deal? Well, the game is over. Sorry, wolf. No one is back up for him and even they try to stay away from him because it’s too much trouble, instead of bargain.


    // PatrickInBeijing wrote: What a clever idea!!! Perhaps President Bush could meet with the Ayatollah of Iran, or the religious leaders of Hamas and Hesbollah. Sigh. //I agree with Ekman that China and Dalai Lama should enter into a dialog.I know Chinese are civilized because they understand better that anyone, the value of negotiation, mediation, dialog, friendliness, team work, courtesy and so on.

  • Grashnak

    I could take the Chinese apologists a lot more seriously if they were to confine their anti-Lama propaganda to the vaguely plausible.I have a wonderful image of the CIA recruiting the pre-pubescent Lama, perhaps initially tempting with a box of Cocoa-Puffs cereal.Come on guys, you really need to work on your disinformation tactics. No one outside your circle is going to believe the CIA recruited the Dalai Lama as a child. You give the CIA way too much credit for foresight.

  • Peace On Earth

    The following news was reported by NEW YORK TIMES ON OCT 2, 1998.October 2, 1998The money allocated for the resistance movement was spent on training volunteers and paying for guerrilla operations against the Chinese, the Tibetan government-in-exile said in a statement. It added that the subsidy earmarked for the Dalai Lama was spent on setting up offices in Geneva and New York and on international lobbying. The Dalai Lama, 63, a revered spiritual leader both in his Himalayan homeland and in Western nations, fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against a Chinese military occupation, which began in 1950. The decade-long covert program to support the Tibetan independence movement was part of the C.I.A.’s worldwide effort to undermine Communist governments, particularly in the Soviet Union and China.

  • Not Stupid

    There is no way those Chinese gymnasts are 16 years old. That says it all right there.

  • Harmony

    Physically, Chinese are smaller and takes longer to develop their bodies. Particularly for girls. There is no advantage to go to Olympics at a younger than 16 age since it means less time to train.I admire all the Olympians without regard to their race or origin.

  • Dr_Zinj

    The Chinese don’t want to sit down to a meaningful dialog with the Dalai Lama. AS you say, he is the ultimate boy scout with a concentration and focus second to none. The Chinese have noone capable of standing against him in a peaceful negotiation. Which is why they prefer the use of force.

  • Richard Gere Wong

    Dalai Lama is sponsored by CIA, Hollywood racists, Media racists and is not a peace maker or a boy scout. Rather, he talks peace but is spreading hatred against Chinese with lies. He and his followers attack the Olympics torch tours.Dalai Lama and followers have been infected by the western racists’ hatred virus which was absented in the Chinese culture.Tibet was part of China for hundred of years. Dalai Lama is not entitled to any talk until he repents from his hostility against China and stop working for CIA. Dalai Lama and followers must be quarantined and detoxicated and to show sincere atonement before they can step their feet into ChinaThese days every body can open his mouth to attack China and feels good about himself. I hope the Chinese will not return the hatred to the racists one day.

  • Sharon Stone Sucks

    Dr Zinj said the Chinese cannot match Dalai Lama in negotiation therefore must use force.The Chinese are the most peace loving people in the history and contrary to the USA which is one of most war mongering nation in the world I am amazed by the racists who conducted world wide cultural and human genocide now and in the recent past dare to attack a peace loving country like China.Please wipe clean the blood in your hands first.To call these people hypocrites is a gross understatement.As our Lord Jesus said: “ Thou hypocrites, first cast the beam out of thou own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of your brother’s eye.”

  • Scholar

    Center, you are ignorant about the facts.The Chinese have been living in China for thousands and thousands of years. They allow many minorities to live with them in peace. So the Chinese are not the invaders such as your ancestors who came to the America continent conducting cultural and human genocide against Native Americans.So you are the greedy one not the Chinese. Or you are the descendents of the greedy ones but seem to be greedy also.

  • SJW

    I think the Dalai Lama has Dr. Ekman somewhat fooled. How can the Dalai Lama be “the epitome of flexibility” when he’s enforcing a ban of a centuries-old spiritual practice for what seem like completely irrational reasons? Right this moment in India and in New York where I live, hundreds of Tibetans, monks and lay, are being ostracized in gross (deprived of basic needs, expelled from their monasteries) and subtle (friends, families, communities split) ways. The Dalai Lama is encouraging, if not advising what looks like the beginning of a civil war among his own people. The Dr. Ekman’s of the West need to investigate more fully their icons of spiritual greatness. Flexible? Buddhist? No way.

  • T C

    Paul,Thank you for writing the article. I wish that you would look at all the Dalai Lama’s actions, not just the personality that he shows in the west. He is a very clever, calculating man, saying one thing to Westerns and doing completely different actions with his own people. Yes, he has some amazing qualities, but don’t be fooled that he is only using them for goodness and benefit.Why is it so difficult to see his dictatorial behavior? Is it because we romanticize what he represents? We like his giggle, his appearing to not understand or speak English as well as we do? He’s like a little puppy dog we want to care for. Look closely – he’s piddled on the floor. The Dalai Lama talks about love and compassion and tolerance, but he does not exercise these minds with his community in exile. He is an un-elected dictator and he governs a refugee camp. He has them under an iron fist. No one questions him. He is destroying the Tibetan culture and the Buddhadharma by his actions. He has created a system in India that is worse than the pass system that existed in South Africa (there is now an identity card system where you have to give up your spiritual practice and swear allegiance to the Dalai Lama’s view in order to get food, get spiritual or material support, be able to live in the monasteries, get medicine or education). Is this the actions of a compassionate man? A holy man?The west is mesmerized by the Dalai Lama. They stop checking his actions and credentials when he opens his mouth. Why won’t we look closer at his actions with the exiled community? There is plenty of evidence of the harm he has instigated. Please look more objectively and thoroughly. Don’t be fooled.

  • Steve Rose

    Beijing, please move on. The next guy in line is London. I hope London can respect the minority rights and grant full autonomy to Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Gibraltar, Wales and Scotland. And this is from USA, the country who committed mass murder of native indians and completely wiped out many tribes in their entirety.Free Hawaii !

  • Andrew B

    I’m glad to hear that Dr. Ekman has had such positive experiences with the Dalai Lama. It’s unfortunate that those experiences have not been shared by millions of people living in India, Tibet, and elsewhere, who are suffering because of his implementing a ban on their religious practice of Dorje Shugden. There are many videos of him talking to large audiences and making veiled or not so veiled threats against anyone who continues to follow this religious tradition. Some such videos are here, Repeatedly he has stated that all (4 million) Shugden practitioners are being supported by China, despite the fact that there is not even a single shred of evidence to establish this … these are simply people who wish to practice their religion and they are now being treated like outcasts, and denied basic human rights. Perhaps Dr. Ekman would like to examine the Dalai Lama’s facial expressions in these videos and let us know whether he thinks the Dalai Lama is lying or not. If it doesn’t look like the Dalai Lama is lying, perhaps it is simply the case that (as Dr. Ekman says) “The Dalai Lama is … trusting almost to a fault, in the sense that a ruthless person could exploit him.” and he has not been able to discern the lies of the people who are advising him.Anyway, this whole situation is tremendously sad for the world. To call the Dalai Lama “trustworthy” is a huge affront to millions of people who are suffering from his deception. Also, how can we reconcile Dr. Ekman’s statement that the Dalai Lama is “flexible not dogmatic” with the Dalai Lama’s statement, “There will be no change in my stand. I will never revoke the ban. You are right. It will be like the Cultural Revolution. If they (those who do not accept the ban) do not listen to my words, the situation will grow worse for them. You sit and watch. It will grow only worse for them.” ?(

  • dspak

    Your article highlights an interesting, but often over looked fact: Because the Dalai Lala is the very embodiment of the union of religion and politics he is actually the biggest obstacle to the granting of religious freedom for Tibetans. All the Chinese care about is political control of Tibet. Because in Tibetan society religion and politics are completely interwoven (it is, after all, a theocracy), the Chinese cannot grant religious freedom (which they would be willing to do, within limits) without granting political power (which they will never do). If the Dalai Lama were truly concerned about the interests of Tibetans and he is as flexible and guileless as this article states, then he should have realized long ago that HE is the stumbling block to religious freedom in Tibet. If he stepped down, completely separated religion and politics, then he would be in a position to actually gain some freedom for Tibetans. Yet, for 60 years he has hung on to political power (how many world leaders have a 60 year stint in power???). If Tibet is to be free, the Dalai Lama must renounce any political power and become exclusively a religious leader. The extent to which he does not do this is the extent to which he values his own position and power over the interests of his people.

  • hg

    A full text of the Dalai’s 1951 telegram to Mao:”Chairman Mao of the Central People’s Government:This year the local government of Tibet sent five delegates with full authority headed by Kaloon Ngapoi to Beijing in late April 1951 to conduct peace talks with delegates with full authority appointed by the Central People’s Government.On the basis of friendship, delegates on both sides concluded the Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet on May 23,1951.The local government of Tibet as well as the Tibetan monks and laymen unanimously support this agreement, and under the leadership of Chairman Mao and the Central People’s Government, will actively assist the People’s Liberation Army in Tibet to consolidate national defence, drive imperialist influences out of Tibet and safeguard the unification of the territory and the sovereignty of the motherland. I hereby send this cable to inform you of this. “

  • palden

    Well, first of all, I am a Tibetan. Here are people who take upon themselves to represent Tibetans and defaming HHDL, I think you are just another self-deluded person. Dalai Lama is a Boddhisattva to us Tibetan. Therefore, have some good times with your own mind instead of being poisoned and destroying your self-happiness.The other charges about CIA, I am tired of arguing with Chinese online and in person. Chinese are like machinary robotics they will throw out anything about Tibet from salvery to theocracy to the ultimate point: Tibet has been part of China since time immemorial. When asked more questions, they blush and just rhetorics, nothing substance.Their sources are either leftist writer Michael Parenti or misguided Melvin Goldstein with ulterior motives and of course, their own communist regime. Melvin Goldstein is even cherished by Chinese communist regime and his so called revisionist and anti-Tibet books are highly valued by Chinese government and quoted by many western scholar who are completely ignorant on sino-Tibet interactions. We named Melvin Goldstein as the Mother of all running-dog-propagandist!If you want to debate in a spirit of friendship and humane exchange of view, email me at palden_kyab@yahoo.comHave a good day folks!Palden

  • Kevin C

    Dear Will D,I am not a Chinese person but a Westerner who has investigated the Dalai Lama’s actions – as others have said on here, he’s not what he seems. He has a genial face for Westerners but the iron fist of a religious dictator for his own people.I sincerely hope that people will begin to see that the Dalai Lama is a very clever politician who is using his status as a ‘monk’ to mix religion and politics to disastrous effect.

  • Lord Percy

    Tibet: The Shangri-La that exists only in the West’s imagination