Dalai Lama donates £1.1m Templeton Prize money to charity

Dalai Lama gives away prize money but remains silent on self-immolations

Given that he has spent much of the past six decades preaching against the follies of material wealth it was perhaps only natural that the Dalai Lama today gave away the single largest annual monetary award given to an individual.

The Tibetan spiritual leader flew into London to receive the £1.1m Templeton Prize but even before the ink was dry on the cheque he announced he would donate it all to charity.

The bulk of the prize money – more than £934,000 – will go to Save the Children in India where the 14th Dalai Lama has led a Tibetan government in exile for the past five decades.

The remainder, he said, would be given to the Mind and Life institute – a body which promotes collaboration between science and spirituality – and to a fund providing Tibetan monks with funding for science degrees.

Speaking at a press conference in the crypt of St Paul’s, the diminutive 76-year-old monk was characteristically modest as he announced that he would give the money away. “I always say I am nothing special,” he said. “Simply one of the seven billion human beings.”

The Templeton Prize was set up forty years ago by the American born British stock investor Sir John Templeton who felt that the Nobel awards honoured the contribution of science to humanity but failed to recognise religion.

He created the annual award to be given to someone who made and “exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension”, stipulating that the cash should always be more than the Nobel prizes. It has been criticised by some scientists with the campaigning atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins once dismissing it as an award “usually [given] to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion.”

Tibet’s spiritual leader had much to say yesterday about economic greed and the need for religions to embrace scientific study.

He called on nations to tackle the ongoing global econimuic crisis with “optimism and hard work” stating that “any problem which is created [by man], we must have the ability to solve.”

He revealed that he wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron after learning of last summer’s riots and said the root cause of such violence was young people "being brought up to believe that life was just easy.”

“Life is not easy,” he added. “If you take for granted that life will be easy, then anger develops, frustration, and riots."

But when it came to the fortunes of his own people he was remarkably reticent.

Yesterday’s visit was the first time the Dalai Lama has travelled to Britain since stepping down last year as the political leader of Tibetan in place of a democratically elected new generation of leaders. Organisers for the prize called on the press to refrain from asking questions about Tibet’s ongoing struggle for independence from China but given the current turmoil inside the Dalai Lama’s homeland the subject inevitably surfaced.

In recent months Tibetans have taken to setting themselves alight in increasing numbers to protest against Beijing’s ongoing occupation of their homeland and policies which are seen to favour ethnic Han Chinese at the expense of Tibetans. Since February 2009 more than 35 Tibetans are known to have self-immolated with four people setting themselves alight in the past three weeks alone.

Asked whether such self-immolations should continue the Dalai Lama replied: “This is a sensitive political issue and I think my answer should be zero.”

Self-immolations are often portrayed by Chinese officials as part of a plot by the Dalai Lama to destabilise his homeland, which has been under an increasingly repressive crackdown since riots broke out in predominantly Tibetan areas in 2008. However many analysts say the immolations – which are forbidden in Tibetan Buddhism and were virtually unheard of until the late 1990s – are in fact an expression of frustration against the Dalai Lama’s policy of “middle way” which calls on Tibetans to be patient while its exiled leadership negotiates with Beijing for a settlement.

Many younger Tibetan leaders have begun speaking out against the Dalai Lama’s insistence of non-violence and there are fears that unless Beijing takes a more sensitive stance towards Tibet they will see more and more examples of civil unrest.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Davidson performs his comedy show at Edinburgh Festival 2014
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
(David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Windows Server Engineer - Compute Engineer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Compute Engineer role also ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Planner

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen withi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£13676.46 - £15864.28 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Re...

Recruitment Genius: Existing Customer Telephone Consultants

£13000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Every day they get another 1000...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor