Dalai Lama Interview 1960 – Dalai Lama & the CIA – Tibetan Guerilla

In Germany and Austria the ongoing veneration for the Dalai Lama is suspicious for some – which is understandable from a human perspective. So recently Panorama and the Süddeutsche Zeitung (both from Germany) tried to oppose this veneration by going into the other extreme casting shadow sides on the Dalai Lama by construing in a tabloid and rather manipulative manner (crossing different levels of information, incomplete image captures, leaving out information etc.) that the Dalai Lama would have supported violence by “being in charge for the armed fight financed by the CIA” (Panorama), and therefore cannot be a man of peace. As a crown witness both, Panorama and Süddeutsche Zeitung, have used for their agenda the ongoing production of “CIA in Tibet” by Lisa Cathey and Kefiworks. With a strange twist of the facts the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s claims have found its way also in La Republica. (for details see discussion on http://kefiblog.com; see Regarding Irresponsible Reporting Part 1, Part II) For a statement in German by Lisa Cathey see: “Reaktion der US-Filmemacherin Lisa Cathey” (PDF)

Doing now some research about the facts, I stumbled upon this interview with the Dalai Lama from 1960 which I wish to share with you:

Update 26 June 2012

Update 30 June 2012

The article by Süddeutsche Zeitung was picked up by China’s news agency Xinhua, Dalai Lama connected with CIA’s support of Tibetan secession: report, stating:

Despite his frequent claims of peace, the Dalai Lama knew much more about the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s support of Tibetan secessionists in the 1950s and 1960s than he admitted, Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported recently.

I contacted the Tibetologist Thierry Dodin¹ yesterday and requested his comment to those claims. His comment given here with his permission is:

The public enthusiasm which the Dalai Lama never fails to arouse in Germany is a thorn in the side of a number of journalists there. They mostly belong to those who once, in the late 1960s and the 1970s, hailed ultra-leftist ideals and nowadays own high positions in mainstream media. While their pragmatic attitude of today stands in stark contrast to their ideals of the past, some seem to have preserved, at times downright visceral, enemy stereotypes shaped in those days, particularly when it comes to religion. They are of course entitled to their opinions, but it is sad that their highly emotional views blur their sense of professionalism. That the US through the CIA or other agencies supported Tibetan resistance against China is not a secret and never really was. It has been the object of many books, articles and media reports. In so far, the ‘revelations’ made here are nothing but attempts to flog a dead horse.The attitude of the Dalai Lama has been from the start, while respecting dissent, to discourage any form of violent resistance. This is based on the insight that, while violence might gain some advantages on the short term, on the long term it does not really solve problems, but even make their resolution far more arduous. I think, this is a very respectable point of view.

¹  Thierry Dodin organized together with the Tibetologist Heinz Raether in collaboration with the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn the “legendary”² International Symposium Mythos Tibet held in Bonn, Germany, in May 1996. As a result if this conference the book Imagining Tibet – Perceptions, Projections, and Fantasies, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001 was published which includes many of the papers presented there. Dodin and Raether are the editors of it and wrote the final chapter. ² A Tibetologist’s comment about this conference.

Update May 16, 2015


  1. The CIA was helping him to secede Tibet with weapons, interfering in China’s sovereignty. It has been obsessed with perpetuating US hegemony through whatever means.

    • Get the facts right inna. The CIA used the tibetan guerilla to harm communism. They gave poor weapons and poor help to the Tibetans who were violently attacked by china. The Dalai lama refused to take spiritual or mundane leadership for the guerilla. However he felt also he does not have the moral right to oppose their freedom struggle.

      • Tenpel, I do not agree with your assessment. I think it was more like the CIA were okay with sacrificing some old world Tibetans, who would not be missed by the west, in a cause they (the CIA) knew the Tibetans had no hope of influencing…. let alone winning. There was never going to be harm to communism (communism- a THEORY I support but a non-achievable reality as long as people are involved).

        And I am not sure Inna’s facts are so wrong in this case. Inna does not seem to be saying that China has a ‘right’ to the sovereignty, just that the CIA was interfering with it.

        • Thank you beth for your comment. As far as I have understood it for the CIA it was of top priority to counter communism and its influence. That’s why also the Dalai Lama called this help “not very healthy” in an interview in 1993 by the NYT:

          Now, the C.I.A.’s motivation for helping was entirely political. They did not help out of genuine sympathy, not out of support for a just cause. That was not very healthy.


          I think Inn’s statement reveals the Chinese government propaganda. Her statement includes untanable claims. The wrong assumptions underlying her comment are, that Tibet would be a part of China, and that the Dalai Lama would have tried with the CIA to to secede Tibet from China. Both claims are incorrect. The only thing one can state for sure is, that the status if Tibet is seen as controversial, however, legal experts for the Bundastag (Germany) and the US congress came both to conclusion that Tibet was an independent country, and so far there are no proofs that the Dalai Lama knew that his brother contacted the CIA. He says himself in his autobiography Freedom in Exile from 1991 he was not informed by his brother about this. Actual, I think, it was the right of the Tibetans to seek the help of other countries from being attacked and that their country is taken over by China.

          And that they are not happy with the colonisation of their country is evident from the wave of self-immolation. Even those very young people who grew up under Chinese oppression suffer from China’s rule:


  2. China initiated the use of weapons against Tibet. Any reaction to that is simply reaction. If China didn’t want an armed conflict, they shouldn’t have started one.

  3. Interesting interview. Thank you for finding/posting it.

  4. Also, I think it is good to look at the evidence from the viewpoint of what one knows to be true. For example, we can say with confidence that the CIA will use whatever methods/ploys/subterfuge/torture/force in their power to manipulate situations overseas. We also generally have good support for the fact that HH Dalai Lama does not lie and is not a supporter of armed resistance. At the same time he is a pragmatist and as Tenpel says, would not have interfered with his people’s desires to take arms.

    I personally was deeply moved by the 1960 interview because he has changed nothing of his essential mission in all these 50 years. Here was a 25 year old man who had just lost his country under extremly harsh conditions and was facing the enormity of paving a way forward for the exiled Tibetan community and yet could speak in clear and visionary terms of the needs of the world. You heard in his visionary statement a prediction of where he was to go with his life causes. I don’t think there are many of us who at 25 would speak so forcibly about causes we still would hold dear at 78. Quite extraordinary, I think.

    So all of this is to say that his own story of the CIA in Tibet, as told in his autobiography, is very consistent with everything I have seen of His Holiness, after following him closely for 12 years.

  5. Update: I updated the post above adding a comment by a known Tibetologist.

  6. an old friend says:

    If your country was invaded by ruthless communist brigands, intent on the destruction of your faith and murdering thousands upon thousands of innocent men women and children, and then the richest most powerful nation in the world offered to pay you thousands of dollars to train freedom fighters and fight for the return of independence of your nation and freedom of the people and their religion, would it not be compassionate to accept such an offer? Whats the word for someone who would not? IDIOT

    Once again, the Western interpretation of Tibetan Buddhism as some sort of wishy washy hippy liberalism, an interpretation that does not understand the appropriate and pragmatic application of wrath in relevant circumstances rears its ugly head

    If the DL lies or even sanctions killing to save his people and preserve the Dharma, i for one would not lose one atom of faith in him-If the situation needs it, bodhisattvas are obliged by their morality to engage in such seemingly negative acts-for the greater, long term good

    Sometimes life (and Buddhism) are ugly. Live with it. Thank ****** for Cherezig AND Mahakala: two faces, one mind

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