TIME 100 Talks
July 9, 2020 2:30 PM EDT

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama says that each “individual” must ultimately take responsibility for fighting systemic racism in modern society.

Speaking at Thursday’s TIME100 Talks about the mass protests that have erupted across the U.S. and world sparked by the police killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, said that, “ultimately people, the public, have the power to decide.”

“Firstly, people should think more wisely, with more open mind,” he said. “So the government should take the public’s view, that’s very important.”

“The feudal system is in the past, [when] a few people decided … Today is the democratic period.”

Speaking from his home in the northern Indian town of Dharamshala, the Dalai Lama also discussed recent tensions at India’s border with China, where at least 20 soldiers died in skirmishes last month.

“India and China have some sense of competition in recent times,” he said. “Both over a billion population. Both [are] powerful nations yet neither one can destroy the other one, so you have to live side-by-side.”

The Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, spoke at length about climate change. The plateau where Tibet is located is the largest source of fresh water on Earth, other than the two poles, and feeds rivers across the Asian continent.

“Buddha himself was born not in a palace, but under a tree,” he said. “When he passed, it was under a tree. One of the rules during [our] monsoon retreat is that we should not cut [anything] green. So this shows that Buddha himself paid attention to green [issues.]”

The Dalai Lama also expressed his “deep appreciation to those doctors and nurses who despite of their own health … take care of [coronavirus] patients.” He said that he hopes that the shared burden of the virus might foster greater understanding between nations and cultures in the future.

“After one year, two year, maybe people … will develop oneness of human being,” he said. “Not the concept of ‘we and they’ … That kind of thinking is backward. We should see a problem and rush to help. That’s what I feel.”

This article is part of #TIME100Talks: Finding Hope, a special series featuring leaders across different fields encouraging action toward a better world. Want more? Sign up for access to more virtual events, including live conversations with influential newsmakers.

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