NOEL KING, HOST:
Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is 85, and he wants to warn us about something. I talked to him recently. He was at his home in Dharamsala, India, wearing his red and orange robes, sitting in front of a big TV screen so, across continents, we could see each other.
Hello, Your Holiness. How are you?
DALAI LAMA TENZIN GYATSO: Thank you. Fine.
KING: Thank you for being here.
TENZIN GYATSO: Yes.
KING: He's just co-written a book about climate change called "Our Only Home."
TENZIN GYATSO: Of course, this planet is only our home. Now, recent information I heard - on Moon, also some water. But we try to settle there - impossible.
TENZIN GYATSO: So therefore now we have to take care of our own planet. It's logical.
KING: Trees are sacred in Buddhism. They sheltered Buddha during his birth, his enlightenment and his death. And the mountains, the Himalayas against whose backdrop the Dalai Lama lives - their glaciers are melting, and billions of people in China and India depend on them for water. I asked him, what's one step any ordinary person could take? And he said, we eat a lot of meat.
TENZIN GYATSO: Not only is it a question of a sense of love these animal - but itself, you see, very bad for ecology. So in the West - too much eat meat. Of course, we Tibetan also are nonvegetarian (laughter). So the beef farm - I really feel very uncomfortable - large number of animal only for food. We should promote vegetarianism as much as we can.
KING: He doesn't see the world in terms of countries, and he wishes we wouldn't, either. Our Mother Earth, he says, is teaching us a lesson in universal responsibility. And so he'd probably be pleased that President-elect Joe Biden has promised to reenter the Paris climate accord. Three years ago, when the Trump administration withdrew from that agreement, the Dalai Lama was stunned.
TENZIN GYATSO: When I heard that, I feel really sad, you see? I think that's a mistake. Right from the beginning, when the president of America, he mentioned "America First," I feel disagreement. America, the leading nation of free world, so America should think not just "America First." America have greater potential making contribution for happier world.
KING: Some of this might seem so urgent because he's not young anymore. He's aware of this. It's been on his mind. In Buddhist tradition, he would pick the next Dalai Lama and then reincarnate into that body. But China also wants to pick the leader. China, of course, occupies Tibet. And so he wonders whether a Dalai Lama is necessary.
TENZIN GYATSO: At the time of my death, the Tibetan Buddhist leaders should have the serious discussion whether dalai lama institution should continue or not. If continue, then in Tibetan tradition, the seniority, you see - some leader, not by reincarnation but the elder one, good scholar, good practitioner, you see, become the head. So that's not my business.
TENZIN GYATSO: My business, I have to take care of myself.
KING: Yes, indeed. Your Holiness, thank you for taking the time to do this. I really appreciate it.
TENZIN GYATSO: Thank you.
KING: Take good care.
TENZIN GYATSO: Bye-bye.
KING: Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, speaking to us from Dharamsala, India.
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