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© KRONEN ZEITUNG

His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama was in the Austrian province of Styria for the KALACHAKRA FOR WORLD PEACE, Graz, Austria 2002

Before giving his "Address to the People of Styria" on Saturday, the Dalai Lama made a detour to Hall 12. The reason: his Holiness wanted to personally open Bruno Baumann's exhibit!! Baumann, a native Styrian, is a recognized authority on Tibet and a fascinating conversationalist. A well-known author, photographer and filmmaker, Baumann has impressed even the Dalai Lama himself with his work, and his principled attitude: "I publish what I see - without compromise."

You seem to be on very good terms with the Dalai Lama. How did that come about?

"It's a contact that developed over the course of many years, because I always made a point of publishing exactly what I saw in Tibet, without compromise. My commitment to the unadulterated truth led to regular encounters."

What do you mean by "without compromise"?

"Well, I make my living from my books and projects, so it's crucial that I continue to be allowed to travel in China. But still, I won't turn a blind eye to the things I see. I show it all, even if it could hurt me. I refuse to let myself be hitched up to the propaganda bandwagon... by either side."

What have you've seen?

"One example: it's well known that, for Tibetan Buddhists, all life is sacred. Killing creates bad karma. and still the Chinese authorities force Tibetan women to have abortions - in the most brutal manner. I've seen it with my own eyes."

What other things can you can describe?

"The Chinese are basically force-feeding their culture to the Tibetans, demoting them to second-class citizens in their own country. They offer public education, but with Chinese teachers. They rob the Tibetans of the basis for their traditional medicinal herb culture by chopping down the forests, build hospitals that only treat Chinese patients. The mere possession of a photo of the Dalai Lama is a punishable offence. Tibetans are imprisoned without a trial, human rights are trampled on."

The Chinese have been in power for decades. Have you noticed any changes?

"China is changing. One positive aspect is the fact that the masses are looking for spiritual orientation, and many are turning to Buddhism. That means hope for Tibet!"

What do you think of the official rapprochement?

"We'll have to wait and see how serious that is. Up until now, the Chinese have always avoided any real dialog, despite all their promises."

The movies have created an image of Tibet as land of peaceful "traditional" mountain folk - is that an "idealized" view?

"It's not like it that any more. The younger generation of Tibetans has adopted the Chinese lifestyle. There's Coca Cola, Internet. Tourists are always shocked to find settlements of concrete row houses. The Chinese tore down all the traditional old homes - there's a real building mafia there. Of course, the question is whether things would look any different if the Tibetans were in charge. Would it look like what we see here in Hall 12 - a giant marketplace? At any rate, they would have handled their cultural heritage with a little more care...."

Where did it come from actually, this interest in Tibet?

"It was love at first sight. I've seen so much of the world, but the people there touched me. Despite everything, they've never lost their spirit and their love for life: They don't hide behind masks the way we do. They're totally open and direct."

And the Dalai Lama?

"He has something one doesn't find in politicians - he's authentic. He doesn't lie, doesn't pander to lobbies. He says what he believes. and he is the most important moral authority on this Planet."

Where can we see your work?

"In Hall 12. I'm exhibiting a cross-section of living Buddhism in Tibet - what you might call a day in the life of a monk. I'm also working on a feature film about a Tibetan woman and her granddaughter who go on a pilgrimage across Tibet - it's actually going to be shot on location in Tibet! and on Tuesday at 8 p.m. I'll be debuting my newest Tibet lecture here in Graz."

by Christa Blümel

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