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?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
Sport
Jonny Evans and Papiss Cisse come together
football
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The beat is on: Alfred Doda, Gjevat Kelmendi and Orli Shuka in ‘Hyena’
filmReview: Hyena takes corruption and sleaziness to a truly epic level
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis