Thurman: The loss of your own nation to China has been used as an example of the futility of nonviolence and tolerance. When is something worth fighting for?
Dalai Lama: This is hard to explain. In our own case, we don't consider the loss of a monastery or a monument the end of our entire way of life. If one monastery is destroyed, sometimes it happens. Therefore, we don't need to respond with desperate violence. Although under particular circumstances, the violence method -- any method -- can be justified, nevertheless once you commit violence, then counterviolence will be returned. Also, if you resort to violent methods because the other side has destroyed your monastery, for example, you then have lost not only your monastery, but also your special Buddhist practices of detachment, love, and compassion.
However, if the situation was such that there was only one learned lama or genuine practitioner alive, a person whose death would cause the whole of Tibet to lose all hope of keeping its Buddhist way of life, then it is conceivable that in order to protect that one person it might be justified for one or 10 enemies to be eliminated -- if there was no other way. I could justify violence only in this extreme case, to save the last living knowledge of Buddhism itself.
For Tibetans, the real strength of our struggle is truth -- not size, money, or expertise. China is much bigger, richer, more powerful militarily, and has much better skill in diplomacy. They outdo us in every field. But they have no justice. We have placed our whole faith in truth and in justice. We have nothing else, in principle and in practice.
We have always been a nation different from the Chinese. Long ago we fought wars with them. Since we became Buddhist, we have lived in peace with them. We did not invade them. We did not want them to invade us. We have never declared war on China. We have only asked them to leave us in peace, to let us have our natural freedom. We have always maintained that our policy is nonviolence, no matter what they do. I only escaped from Tibet because I feared my people would resort to desperate violence if the Chinese took me as their prisoner.
Thurman: How does one counteract violence without hatred or anger?
Dalai Lama: The antidote to hatred in the heart, the source of violence, is tolerance. Tolerance is an important virtue of bodhisattvas [enlightened heroes and heroines] -- it enables you to refrain from reacting angrily to the harm inflicted on you by others. You could call this practice "inner disarmament," in that a well-developed tolerance makes you free from the compulsion to counterattack. For the same reason, we also call tolerance the "best armor," since it protects you from being conquered by hatred itself.
We as Americans have been conquered by hatred itself. Not the hatred of Al Quaeda towards us but by our own hatred of others. It is truly tragic.