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The Buddhist perception of the world


In the presence of the Dalaï Lama
Jean-Claude Carrière Film-maker
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When we went to India... with my second wife who is a scholar, a doctor in Chinese studies, a specialist in the history of the religions of Medieval Central Asia, we went from Delhi to Dharamsala, to spend three weeks with the Dalaï Lama, the first time. It was very hard work... in February so it was very cold, in the North of India... very difficult, sometimes working until 2 or 3am with his assistants. There were tapes to transcribe, we had to understand them, copy them… When we made it back to Delhi, people were asking, 'But where have you been on holiday?' because we looked so peaceful, as if cleansed from everything. I don't know... I think that through his presence... the Dalaï Lama is someone who does not own anything, and because of that he is not possessed by anything either. I mean... he owns a pair of shoes, one or two robes, and that's it. He doesn't speak about himself, he speaks about his people, and about humanity, but asking him about how he feels would make no sense. He keeps repeating 'substantially'... and that is very restful. He is the only head of state to not possess anything or defend anything personal, even if he is in exile, but I think that's the direction one ought to look towards in order to understand the secret of that peaceful feeling he spreads, not only to us but to many people who have met him and his circle. We simply feel so well when we are with him. We'd spend about three hours every afternoon, on the same couch. He'd sit at the head with my wife and two of his assistants, one for political issues and the other one for religious issues. Someone would bringing in tea and then a bit later, very quietly, he'd put his moccasins back on meaning the interview was almost over and that it was time for us to leave and come back the next day, but it was all done in a very charming way.

Quand nous sommes allés en Inde… avec ma seconde femme qui est une femme érudite, qui est docteur en chinois, qui est une spécialiste de l’histoire des religions au moyen-âge dans l’Asie centrale, nous sommes allés de Delhi à Dharamsala pour y passer trois semaines… pour y passer 3 semaines avec le Dalaï Lama, la première fois. C’était un travail très dur au mois de février, donc il faisait froid, c’est dans le nord de l’Inde, très, très dur, quelque fois jusqu’à 2-3 heure du matin avec ses assistants, etc. C’était des cassettes, les déchiffrer, les recopier, etc. Quand on est revenu à Delhi les gens nous demandaient, en effet: mais vous étiez où en vacances? Tellement nous avions l’air reposé, lavé de quelque chose. Je ne sais pas… Je crois que ce la présence même de Dalaï Lama, qui est un homme qui ne possède rien et ne possédant rien il n’est possédé par rien. C'est-à-dire… il a une paire de chaussure, une ou deux robes et c’est tout. Il ne parle jamais de lui, il parle de son peuple et éventuellement de l’humanité, mais à la limite lui demander même de ses nouvelles, comment il va avec sa santé n’a aucun sens.  Il dit toujours substantially, en substance… et ça c’est extrêmement reposant. Il est le seul chef d’état au monde, même s’il est en exil, à ne rien posséder, à ne rien défendre de personnel, vous comprenez ? Et je pense que ce dans cette direction qu’il faudrait chercher le secret de sentiment qu’il donne, pas seulement à nous, à beaucoup des gens qui l’ont connu, lui et son entourage, de bien-être. On est tout simplement très bien avec lui, on passait avec lui 3 heures tous les après-midi assis sur le même canapé, lui assis en tête ma femme, et deux de ses assistants de lui: un pour les questions politiques, un pour les questions religieuses. On nous apportait le thé à un moment donné, et puis à un moment donné très tranquillement, il mettait ses mocassins, il remettait ses mocassins, cela voulait dire que l’entretien était presque terminé, et que nous allions devoir partir jusqu’au lendemain mais tout ça, très charmant.

French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière (1931-2021) began his association with films aged 24 when he was selected by Jacques Tati to write for him. This early experience led to further contact with other film-makers, including Luis Buñuel with whom Carrière collaborated for many years. He wrote screenplays for films including Belle de Jour, The Discreet Charms of the Bourgeoisie, Tin Drum and Danton.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks. He specializes in portraits and in historical films. Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members. Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: Dharamsala, Dalaï Lama

Duration: 2 minutes, 9 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2010

Date story went live: 18 October 2010