The Dalai Lama.Giulio Napolitano/AFP/Getty Images
In 1997, Martin Scorsese released Kundun, a biopic about the fourteenth Dalai Lama, Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso. (I was one of a handful of people who saw it, I think; the movie wasn't a commercial success.) The plot is mostly chronological. We follow the Dalai Lama from his birth and discovery to India, where has lived in exile since 1959, after the Tibetan National Uprising. In that quarter century he became a political figure when the Dalai Lama was called upon to lead Tibet. In 1954 he traveled to Beijing to meet with Mao Tse-tung. Since then, he has traveled the world, lobbying for a solution to the disagreement between the Tibetan people and China over their homeland. One of his three commitments is to "the Tibetan issue," as he calls it.
His Holiness has a responsibility to act as the free spokesperson of the Tibetans in their struggle for justice. As far as this third commitment is concerned, it will cease to exist once a mutually beneficial solution is reached between the Tibetans and Chinese.
In the last few week, tensions and violence in China have showed us (as much as we've been able to see) how strong the disagreement over the territory is. (Very few Western journalists have been able to enter Tibet.) An estimated 150 people died in protests, which resulted in some 400 arrests.
In our second hour, we'll get an update on the political and social situation in Tibet as we get nearer and nearer to the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. And we'll try to find out more about who the Dalai Lama is as a religious and political leader. We'll talk with Pico Iyer, who wrote The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. An excerpt from his book, with some beautiful photographs by James Nachtwey, is available here. Iyer has known the Dalai Lama for more than 30 years. If you have a question for him, please leave it here.