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Books: A Canary in the Relationship Coal Mine?

NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

An uneasy quiet appears to have settled over Tibet nearly three weeks after the worst outbreak of violence there in almost two decades. Accounts differ on the numbers of people killed in the protest, from as many as 140 according to Tibet's government in exile, to as few as 19 by China's count. Hundreds others are under arrest. Except for a brief visit last week, foreign journalists have not been allowed to enter Tibet. Chinese officials in Beijing blame Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, for inciting the unrest - a charge he denies.

The Dalai Lama is not just the spiritual leader of Tibet. He's also involved in politics as the head of the Tibetan government in exile based in Dharamsala in Northern India. As a Buddhist, the Dalai Lama advocates nonviolence. His policy, which he calls the Middle Way, argues for Tibetan autonomy, not independence, and he has not called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games. Some younger Tibetans reject the Middle Way as too slow and ineffectual.

Later in the program, the carbon footprint of the Earth Hour. But first, the Dalai Lama. If you have questions about his life, his ideas, his leadership, and his political dilemma, give us a call. 800-989-8255 is the phone number. The e-mail address is talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog. That's at npr.org/blogofthenation.

Our guest today is journalist Pico Iyer. He's the - known the current Dalai Lama for 34 years. His new book is called, "The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama." And he joins us today from the studios of Sports Byline in San Francisco.

And it's nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION today.

Mr. PICO IYER (Author, "The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama"): Very nice to be here.

CONAN: And tell us a little bit more about the Middle Way? What is it?

Mr. IYER: The phrase itself comes from the Buddha. And just as it sounds, it's about avoiding extremes in every form, so that when you're confronted with a challenge, you don't punch back but nor do you just turn your back to your aggressor. You try constantly to find the common place and to speak to him rather than shout out at him. But of course, the drawback of the Middle Way is that if you're in the middle of any contest, you're getting attacked and challenged from every side.

CONAN: And indeed, critics of the Middle Way might argue that despite the wonderful, spiritual creature that the Dalai Lama is, his policies, the Middle Way, have produced not a lot of results in the vast 50 years.

Mr. IYER: Yes, and I think, characteristically, the Dalai Lama himself would be the first person to say that. In fact, I remember I was talking to him about 12 years ago in his house in Dharamsala. And he said, well, yes if you look at it at a certain way, from a certain angle, I've been extending the hand of friendship and forbearance to Beijing for 40 years. And the only result is that Beijing is coming down on Tibet harder and harder. And I said, well, what would you counsel your people there? And he said more patience. And that was 12 years ago.

And as we've all seen in recent weeks, I think the level of impatience among other Tibetans is growing and growing. At the same time, as having spoken to Dalai Lama about this for 34 years, I'm convinced that he's probably the most realistic political leader I've met in my life as a journalist.

CONAN: And why do you say that?

Mr. IYER: Because he approaches everything very scientifically. He tries almost to look at the world through a magnifying glass and to look at reality first and then to see what he can do with it. I think he often might refer to himself as a doctor of the mind or of the Tibetan situation. And a doctor's mandate, of course, is not to bring his own ideas, not even to bring his own spiritual ideas to something, but just to assess something accurately, a situation accurately, to come up with a diagnosis and then to suggest a useful cure. And of course, he's been doing that with the Chinese for 50 years now.

CONAN: Does realism, though, land toward, well, pessimism? Hey, there's no way this is going to happen?

Mr. IYER: No, but I think it does lead to a very long-term picture. And I think that's what we're seeing right now, which is that many young Tibetans especially feel just as we might feel in such a situation: How can we sit by and do nothing as he's counseling us to do while a whole country is wiped off the map. We've got to act now.

And he says, well, you've got to look until next century. And one of the forms that realism takes is being aware that the majority of people in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa now are, in fact, Chinese. So regardless of what's done with Tibetan individuals, they are living currently and probably in a foreseeable future, in an area which is predominantly Han Chinese. And so there's no magic solutions that's going to come from the skies.

And I think, again, one of the things we sometimes forget is that he has been dealing with the Chinese for 58 years now. He was up against Mao Zedong, and Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping even in the '50s, and he traveled across the whole of China for a year in 1954.

So in some ways, I think he's keenly attuned as anyone would be in such a situation to matters of faiths, of Chinese pride, of how best to work with the Chinese without just bringing down an even more relentless crackdown on their part. And of course, he's leading people who are up against a force that's 200 times more populous than his own. There are 6 million Tibetans and there are 1.2 billion Chinese, and so resistance really is only going to bring more suffering to people who've suffered so much already - that's to say the Tibetans in occupied Tibet.

CONAN: Yet, you mention the demographic changes in Tibet, that two-thirds of the population of Lhasa, the capital, now Han Chinese - high-speed train in from the country brings, I think, it's something like 6,000 new Han Chinese into that city every day. Again, a Tibetan might say, it very well to counsel patience, but my country is being taken away from me. If I wait too long, there will be nothing left.

Mr. IYER: Exactly, sir. And in fact, the Dalai Lama himself uses the term demographic aggression to refer to the flooding of Han Chinese into Tibet. But, I think, he is always - his first impulse is never to think of the Han Chinese as one disembodied group of abstraction. He sees them as individuals. And for example, one of the things from which he derives hope is that more and more Chinese individuals are turning to Tibet, turning even to Tibet and Buddhism.

And I think, one - to me, the most startling event in recent weeks came about 10 days ago, when 29 Chinese leading writers and intellectuals risked their lives just as the Tibetans have been doing by petitioning the government in Beijing in saying, please, talk to the Dalai Lama. Please stop suppression in Tibet. Please bring in an investigating inquiry. And of course, we'd expect the Tibetans to do that, but here it is Chinese individuals putting themselves on the line on behalf of the Tibetans.

And I've been to Lhasa many times since 1985. And what I noticed each time I go there, it's more and more a Chinese city. But on the other hand, each time I go there, more and more Chinese individuals - perhaps because of this long-term vacancy in the whole 50 years of - in their hearts, 50 years of mandated atheism, are in fact seeking out Tibetan Buddhist teachers, making offerings at the Central Temple, even practicing Tibetan Buddhism.

CONAN: Let's get some callers in on the conversation. Our guest is Pico Iyer, the author of the "The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama." 800-989-8255. E-mail us: talk@npr.org.

We'll begin with Martin(ph). Martin, with us from Santa Clara in California.

MARTIN (Caller): Hey, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

MARTIN: It was a really an interesting topic. My question was with the advent of the Internet, and I don't know what kind access there is in Tibet, but has that changed the views and the values of younger generation coming up? Are they becoming more capitalist? Have they started to question the religion that they're in? Has they really created a situation where it's becoming more and more difficult to - not financially control him but to have them all aligned in, you know, along in a single focus?

Mr. IYER: That's a wonderful question, and I think many Tibetans in Tibet who've only known Chinese leadership probably are becoming much more materialistic. They're almost discouraged from learning or speaking Tibetan. They've never seen their leader, the Dalai Lama. They're told not to practice their religion or to enjoy their culture. And inevitably, after 50 years of this, they are farther and farther from their own tradition.

And yet, at the same time, every time I've been back, I found - and again, it's a natural human impulse - that the more pressure is brought on them at some level, the more they hold out for their Tibetaness, and certainly, I think, remain very unswervingly devoted to the Dalai Lama because he is the one great symbol of an independent Tibet. And they realize, I think, that he's the one asset that the Tibetans have that many other freedom movements around the world don't have. But you're absolutely right that living in a Chinese city, many Tibetans probably would think of themselves almost as not so different from their Chinese neighbors.

It's interesting, the Dalai Lama himself wrote an introduction to a book on the Internet a few years ago, because for him, the Internet and all our global communications actually speak for connectedness, and the fact that you can't solve a problem in any one place without taking into account all the other places. And I think that's again part of what he's suggesting in his sense of a much larger picture and that you can't correct Tibet without taking into account the needs of China and everywhere else.

CONAN: And it's also interesting, Martin, read this morning in the newspaper, Tibetan police are sending text messages to resident cell phones to tell them to either stay inside or come and turn themselves into police. Again, I guess, new technology has a lot of unanticipated effects.

MARTIN: Okay, great. Thanks.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call.

And Pico Iyer, obviously, the Internet is not only - the only boon that the Chinese have brought to Tibet. There have been better transportation, better telephone communications, a lot of physical improvements. Electricity has become much more widespread. Prosperity is beginning to spread into the Tibetan plateau.

Mr. IYER: Absolutely. And I think, you know, one of the things that often surprises me as a hardened longtime journalist is that when I speak to the Dalai Lama, he's probably one of the first people to say exactly what you said, which is that Tibet traditionally has been a poor and materially backward place and that Tibet - the Chinese have indeed brought great improvements.

I mean, it's striking to many people that he's one of those people who isn't necessarily against the high-speed train that was introduced two summers ago and who always stresses that if it's used compassionately or genuinely with Tibetan needs in mind, it can be a great, great boon in bringing even more prosperity to a country that has always been very cutoff from the world.

And again, I think 15 years ago, he said to me very forcibly, the worst mistake we made ever in Tibet, our greatest mistake was being too isolated from the world. It goes back to the Internet. The more connection we have with the outside world and even with China, the better things are going to be in the long run. And I think what's he's proposing to his people, which again is humanly for difficult to accept, is to be 100 percent in favor of Tibet and Tibetan rights without ever being against to China, or without ever forgetting all the Chinese individuals who have, you know, the same rights and who are also suffering under a very difficult government.

CONAN: And we'll get to that very interesting question of the Chinese and who's whose enemy? But nevertheless, quickly, is there any resentment that at the time the Tibetan people are suffering inside and outside Tibet, the Dalai Lama occasionally is seen, well, getting congressional medals here in Washington, D.C., or hobnobbing with Hollywood movie stars?

Mr. IYER: No. I think that the Tibetans realize that he's going to Washington and he's trying to awaken the conscience of the world, that the Tibetan predicament is, in fact, their one good, great hope. So, I think, there's no resentment there. I think the only point of pressure is that some Tibetans will say - and we can understand this - well, he is a very elevated monk. So, of course, it's easy for him to talk about patience and forbearance and to practice it. But we are struggling human beings, and it's very, very difficult for us to hold to this high moral cause that he's is suggesting…

CONAN: We're talking…

Mr. IYER: …but I think they're aware that those movie stars and many people in the U.S. have been among the great champions and supporters of Tibet.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: We're talking with Pico Iyer about the Dalai Lama. Amid protests, what are the prospects that Tibet could achieve autonomy?

I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

We're talking about recent protests in Tibet and about the Dalai Lama.

A little background on the 14th Dalai Lama: He is both the spiritual and the political leader of Tibet. He is 72 years old, born in northeastern Tibet. When he was two years old, he was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. Since 1959, he's lived in exile in Dharamsala, India. As you might recall, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He now faces criticism from some Tibetans as too modern, from others as too traditional, while China calls him a terrorist.

Pico Iyer is with us. He has known the Dalai Lama for more than 30 years. His new book is called "The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama". If you have questions about his life, his ideas, his leadership and his political problems, give us a call: 800-989-8255. E-mail us: talk@npr.org. And you can check out what other readers - listeners are having to say on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.

Let's see if we can get another caller in. This is Chris(ph). Chris, calling us from San Francisco.

CHRIS (Caller): Hi. How's it going?

CONAN: Very well. Thank you.

CHRIS: Hey, I was just wondering if your guest could outline, like, the specific grievances that China has against the Dalai Lama, because I always hear such, like, awesome things about him. And I've learned lots of great stuff on his speeches, but various commentaries and stuff - I don't really understand it.

CONAN: Okay. Pico Iyer, what's China's problem with the Dalai Lama?

Mr. IYER: That's a great question. And really, I think they have no legitimate grievance. So, all they do is try to insult him and use him as a figurehead for everything that they dislike or think is outdated in Tibet. And it's often funny. Last week - I think two weeks ago, they called him a splitist, which is funny because, mostly what he talks about is interdependence and connectedness. They called him an enemy of the Tibetan people, and I think most of us are aware that's he's working day and night to help the Tibetan people. They even called him a jackal in a monk's robes and an evil spirit two weeks ago. And he's calling them a friend. So, it is quite a contrast.

And I think one reason for their nervousness is that they know that there's no case that can be brought against him, that he is somebody who's widely admired and respected around the world. And so, they don't know what to say and they flail around and just throw anything they can at him. And it's curious, too, that they say that he was guilty of inciting the riots because what we've seen even from here in San Francisco where I'm sitting is - that he's been trying very hard to suppress the riots and tell his people, please, don't make violent attacks against the Chinese.

CONAN: As a splitist, that odd use of that word, but nevertheless, the charge then would be that he wants to split Tibet off from China?

CHRIS: Yeah.

Mr. IYER: Yes, which…

CHRIS: That seems like this idea of an autonomous China without - or an autonomous Tibet without splitting off at China is a pretty good middle road, like your saying. I think the middle road is a great idea.

Mr. IYER: I think you're absolutely right. And it's interesting, he's probably the least of a splitist of all the Tibetans, because many other Tibetans, of course, do call for full independence and want to have nothing to do with China. And he, for 21 years, has been making these concessions, and say, no, we need China, and China's brought as many things and our destinies were intertwined. So, China should control Tibet's defense matters and its foreign affairs. But, please, can we, Tibetans, just have control over our life and have basic freedoms that most people have.

CONAN: And Chris, thanks very much for the call.

CHRIS: Thank you very much.

CONAN: But doesn't that position seem like a real compromise on principle? It's seems to be accepting the fact, well, they outnumber us by a whole lot. We're not going to win on that, so let's take what we can get.

Mr. IYER: Well, I would say that's - it goes back to realism that I was mentioning before. But certainly, you know, he's in an interesting position as church and state in one. And so, when he made - took that position in 1987, indeed, some people said, well, you're much too trusting and unworthy, you're much too much of a monk. And others said just what you said, which is this is much too strategic and you're much too political a figure. And so I think anyone - any individual, and he as a human being, would find it hard to juggle these two roles seem to belong to different spheres.

But, I'm often struck when I talk to him that he's operating in a way that politically is very hard for us to follow, but in fact, speaks to this great radicalism. I remember five years ago - I think I was talking to him in Dharamsala. And he said, well, maybe in 30 years, Tibet will be six million Tibetans and 10 million Chinese Buddhists. And if that's the case, well, maybe, something will be okay.

And at that time, I thought, well, that's sounds very quixotic or unrealistic. The last time I traveled with him, which is in November, I spent a week with him going across Japan and I was by his side from dawn to dusk every day. And I remember, we walked into one room and there were people sobbing and desperate to listen to him and raising up and just touching at him, and all of them were Chinese individuals.

And I suddenly thought, well, maybe this thinking of how you actually can achieve your goals step by step, person by person, trying to encourage a transformation in each individual, though it takes hundreds of years, probably, is a much wiser one than precipitating violence which will only, as Gandhi said, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

CONAN: Hmm. How much political power does he actually have? He is the head state, but as I understand it, there's a government in exile, a prime minister.

Mr. IYER: There is. And at the minute or the year that he came into exile in 1960, he started drawing up a charter for a new democratic Tibet. Previously, Tibet had been very hierarchical, and then he even drew up a charter whereby the Dalai Lama could be impeached. So, he's always been pushing his people towards democracy. And they are the rare people who is saying no, please, will you take care of us and make all our decisions for us.

You're absolutely right, there is an independent democratically elected government, but the fact of the matter is that for Tibetans, he's not just spiritual leader and not just a political leader, but in fact, they see him as the incarnation of a god of compassion.

So, even though they do have a prime minister and a government there, in reality, they will only listen to him. And so, even when he speaks about going into semi-retirement and stepping down from his political position, alas, I think he'll never be able to that because the one Tibetan that every other Tibetan will listen to is the Dalai Lama and probably will be the Dalai Lama through the end of his lifetime.

CONAN: Let's get Jim(ph) on the line. Jim, with us from Tallahassee in Florida.

JIM (Caller): Hi. I wanted to ask - Mr. Iyer could explain the spiritual succession of the Dalai Lama, whether the Dalai Lama has to pass away before he can be reincarnated. And I've heard stories of children being kidnapped because they were either saints or some had some importance to Tibetan people.

Mr. IYER: That's a wonderful question. And traditionally, when the Dalai Lama leaves, leaves the world - when he dies, he leaves various signs. And one or two - and a search party of monks scatters around Tibet and conduct an intensive series of tests, narrows the group down to two or three young boys who may have been born at the right time and who fits the clues that the departed Dalai Lamai left, puts them through more test and then comes upon a new Dalai Lama. But, of course, that won't be possible now.

And you're absolutely right, the second highest incarnation in the Tibetan system is the Panchen Lama, who traditionally has been the person responsible, in part, for choosing the next Dalai Lama. And when the previous Panchen Lama died about 18 years ago, the Dalai Lama found a little boy in Tibet. And he said, this is a new Panchen Lama. But the Chinese authorities put that boy into a house arrest and came up with their own candidate and said, well, this is - they chose, more or less, a puppet whose parents are members of the Communist Party, and said this is the new Panchen Lama. And of course, there's nothing anyone can do about that.

So, the Dalai Lama, this current one, has been very careful in laying the foundations for how a new Dalai Lama will arise probably outside Tibet and probably in some unorthodox way upon his death. And for almost 40 years now, he said that the definition of a 15th Dalai Lama, the next Dalai Lama, is somebody who continues the work of this Dalai Lama. And what he's doing is preempting what he feels will happen, which is the Chinese will find some amenable boy and say this is the - this is the 15th Dalai Lama. No Tibetan would listen to him, but they would, in some ways, hijack the whole process.

So I think he spent a lot of time, for four decades now, working out how, perhaps, to make an entirely new succession system, whereby he could all but appoint a successor in exile whom the Tibetans would listen to and who would still serve as a unifying presence for them.

CONAN: Yet, doesn't that risk the problem of if there's an unusual unorthodox method of choosing the next Dalai Lama that that person would lack the legitimacy?

Mr. IYER: It does. I mean, it's a great challenge for him. I think his people trust him so much that if he were to offer a firm message to them saying, please, put your trust in this person, they would do so. And they would realize that unorthodox conditions make for unorthodox answers. He's sometimes said there may be no new Dalai Lama or the next Dalai Lama may be a woman. He's open, I think, to any possibility. But, certainly, all of this is only going to put great strain on the Tibetan diaspora. And I think, what leads to a certain wistfulness among many watchers of the situation now is that the current Dalai Lama is really the person who's most forgiving towards China and most in a position to come to a peaceable agreement with them. So, it's in the interest of the Chinese to talk to this Dalai Lama because whoever comes after him won't have that experience and may not take a position of such forbearance.

CONAN: Jim, thanks very much for the call.

That's one way to think of it, Pico Iyer. There's another way to think of it as our - we've got this guy and, well, we're just going to have to - there's nothing we can do. We're going to have to wait him out. But after him, the situation is going to get better, either we may be able to hijack this process and have our own Dalai Lama - a puppet, as you say - or even if there is one that arises outside the country that would lack legitimacy, we will - all we have to do, we Chinese here in Beijing, is wait.

Mr. IYER: Yes, and they have indeed been playing for time and it - for many years now. And just assuming that once his gone, all the lieges' myth legitimacy and power of the Tibetan cause will disappear and of course he, as in a complicated chess game, has been trying to come up with his own answers -among them, opening his doors to Chinese individuals and trying to make them the spokesman for the Tibetan situation.

CONAN: And it also raises a question about this upcoming Beijing Olympic Games. As you and others have suggested, yes, the protest arose at least in part from the opportunity they have, at this moment, to grab the attention of the world. But what happens next September, when the games are over?

Mr. IYER: It's so interesting you say that, because what the Dalai Lama has stressed from the outset is the only important thing is what happens after the game - games, when the attention of the world goes else where and we start thinking perhaps about the presidential election here, and then China can do whatever it wants with the Tibetans in Tibet and very few people will notice. So, I think he's constantly trying to find some safeguard for his people when the world is looking elsewhere as it has been most of the time.

But it's interesting that he is again the rare Tibetan not to call for boycott, because I think he believes that dialogue and communication is really the only way you could come to a peaceful solution. And I was thinking about it as I was coming to the studio today, and thinking how we, in the U.S. for example, have been on the receiving end of a terrible terrorist act earlier in the century. And the result of that is that I think we're much more hostile to radical Islam than if they had suggested a conversation.

And I used that as just a small way of thinking that any time you bring violence against another party, it only hardens the differences and then escalates into more and more violence; that communication is the only way of breaking that cycle, because young Tibetans do speak about small terrorist acts that wouldn't be talking the lives of Chinese, but they would blow up Chinese power stations or perhaps that train or perhaps a road link in China.

But I think the more they do that, the more China, which is not notable for its mildness in response, will demonize them and make things much worse. And Dalai Lama often stresses that - as I think I mentioned before - the one thing that Tibetan cause has is that its practicing non-violence. That's what separates it from every other group speaking or calling out for its freedom around the globe.

CONAN: Boycotting the Olympic Games, that's nonviolent.

Mr. IYER: It is nonviolent, but that would isolate China, or I think. And I think anyone of us in our lives knows that if, let's say, we have organize a party tonight and nobody comes, that's only going to make us feel more angry towards everyone who doesn't come and towards whoever precipitated the boycott of our party. And I don't think that's going to lead to warm feelings on our part or any motive on our part to try to come to an agreement with the people that we disagree with. I think the only way is to keep the doors open with communication.

CONAN: Our guest, Pico Iyer, author of "The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama."

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Let's get Catherine(ph) on the line. Catherine, with us from Vancouver in Washington.

CATHERINE (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi.

CATHERINE: Thanks for having me. I had a question for Mr. Iyer about - is there someone within the Chinese government who that - who would be open to hearing these appeals from his holiness, from the Dalai Lama? Or, whether - I mean, is there anyone who would be on his side or at least be open to hearing from him?

Mr. IYER: Such a good question. And, I think he's counting on the fact that there are, even though we may not know who that does people are, and even though they're all kind of cocooned and barricaded behind walls, and so it's very difficult for outsiders to know what's going within the Chinese leadership. But in the 1980s, the last time this kind of demonstrations came up, there are at least two Chinese leaders very close to the top of the hierarchy, Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, who seem kind quite responsive to Tibet. Hu Yaobang, I think, actually went to Tibet and acknowledged that mistakes have been made. And think the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan community really hoped that he might do something.

But then, he got purged in unrelated matter and so suddenly the air went out of their balloon. But I think they're always convinced that no leadership is 100 percent have won accord, and that the more Chinese leaders are aware of what's happening in Tibet, the greater the possibility is that one of them would speak out on behalf of Tibetans.

And just the fact that prominent Chinese individuals are doing so, reflect I think something that's going in the entire nations. The last time I was in Tibet, what struck me more than anything was that Chinese individuals I met would just as engaging and warm hearted as the Tibetans I met. They had no grievance against the Tibetans. And - you know, I think across the whole of China, most of the individuals are somewhat distrustful of their government, and although they can't necessarily say it, feel a sympathy because they know that deprivation of freedoms in Tibet reflects deprivation of freedoms in their own lives.

CONAN: Catherine, thanks very much.

Let's see if we can get one last call in. This is Amar(ph). Amar, with us from Yuma, Arizona.

AMAR (Caller): Mr. Pico Iyer, I have been following your writings for more than 30 years, and of course followed the life of Dalai Lama. My question has always been Dalai Lama - I am admiring tremendously - is a great spiritual man. But as politician, he says that he follows Gandhi. Gandhi was an activist. I don't find any activism in Dalai Lama. For example, Beijing Olympics is the time to be more proactive. And if you're not going to call or boycott of this Olympics, I don't know what other such opportunity is going to arise if he is not going to take this opportunity like Gandhi did the Dandi march and the Quit India Movement. We haven't seen any proactive action by the Dalai Lama.

CONAN: And I'm afraid I can give you just few seconds to answer that, Pico Iyer.

Mr. IYER: The main difference is that I think during Gandhi's time, his population far outnumbered the British population. And the one advantage he had was numbers. And I think that's one reason why the Dalai Lama has taken his clause globally, because within Tibet he has 6 million up against 1.2 billion. But within the world at large, he has 5 billion against 1.2 billion. And I think that's why he feels that those of us elsewhere around the world will be the people who are helping in the nonviolent resistance of Chinese oppression the way Indian individuals helped Gandhi and rallied around him.

CONAN: Amar, thanks very much.

AMAR: Thank you.

CONAN: And thanks to Pico Iyer. His book, "The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama." And he wrote the cover story for Time magazine about the Dalai Lama and protest in Tibet over the Chinese rule. He joined us today from the studios of Sports Byline in San Francisco. Appreciate it.

Mr. IYER: Thanks so much, Neal.

CONAN: Up next. Earth Hour '08 came and went on Saturday night. If everybody turned off the lights for an hour, would it really help stop global warming? Stay with us, it's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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