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Why the Dalai Lama’s Message Still Resonates Today

2 minute read
Edward Felsenthal is the Executive Chairman and former Editor-in-Chief of TIME.

In addition to co-founding TIME–96 years ago this week–Henry Luce is most famous for articulating his vision of the American Century. And while that vision takes its name from the U.S., its real focus–closely informed by his formative years abroad in China as the son of missionaries–was the shape of the world.

Today, TIME continues to take measure of the world by providing our readers unparalleled access to its most influential figures. Since November 2017, led by International Editor Dan Stewart, TIME has published 15 interviews with leaders and leaders-to-be guiding their nations through this extraordinary period of global transformation. These include conversations with the leaders of France, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Colombia, Argentina, Thailand, Italy, Brazil (“I am not a troglodyte!” Jair Bolsonaro volunteered during his time with us), Armenia, Pakistan, Iraq, Austria (the world’s youngest head of government), Malaysia (the world’s oldest) and of course the U.S.

For this week’s issue, Shanghai-based correspondent Charlie Campbell traveled to Dharamsala, in the Indian Himalayas, for a conversation with the spiritual leader of one of the world’s most secluded peoples, the Tibetans. Even as China continues to isolate him and attempts to co-opt Buddhism for its own purposes, Charlie says, “The Dalai Lama didn’t show an iota of bitterness, not to the Chinese government, nor the British or Americans who abandoned Tibet, nor anyone else.” Charlie’s story is accompanied by Ruven Afanador’s intimate photographs taken in and around the Dalai Lama’s private residence, and you can watch video of the interview here.

Dalai Lama Cover
The Apr. 20, 1959, cover of TIMECover Credit: BORIS CHALIAPIN

This is in fact the third time the Dalai Lama has been on the cover of TIME. The first was in 1959, the year the Dalai Lama, then 23, fled Tibet disguised as a soldier. In 2008, the great travel writer and TIME contributor Pico Iyer profiled him again as China cracked down on Tibetan freedom demonstrations ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

The March 31, 2008 cover of TIMECover credit: James Nachtwey

The Buddhist message of interdependence is a powerful one for today, when so many of our challenges are global and yet so much of our globe is deeply fragmented. “The Dalai Lama came across as a kind, genuine, fun-loving person,” says Charlie, who has interviewed the leaders of the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand, among others. “He’s one of a kind.”

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