Al: How did you, the brother of the Dalai Lama, wind up in Bloomington, IN?
Dr. Norbu: I have been asking myself the same thing. Some years back, I was asked to teach here at IU. During this time, we opened the Tibetan Cultural Center. I was away from Tibet because of the Chinese invasion. So, I wanted to do something for my country and my people. I think the best thing is to try to introduce other people to Tibet. What is Tibet, who the Tibetans and their religion and history are? So that is why I started the Tibetan Cultural Center. This place is for keeping the Tibetan culture alive, and a place to introduce people to the Tibetan culture.

Al: This Cultural Center is a very lovely complex.
Dr. Norbu: On November 18th , we are having a ground breaking for our new temple. My purpose isn't to try and convert people to Buddhism. No, I'm not here to do that. I think all religions are the same. What kind of religion you believe, that is your business. It is perfectly all right with me what you believe. I'm not saying of your religion that any religion is better than others. It is going to be a place where all religions can pray for peace, understanding, and tranquility.

Al: Preparing for this interview, I've visited your Center's web sit and discovered that you left Tibet in the early 50s.

Dr. Norbu:I left in 1951; my brother, His Holiness, left in l959. I'm an early bird. I just didn't want to live under the Chinese administration of Tibet.

Al: Sounds like you were also a smart bird to leave when you did.
Dr. Norbu: I'm not sure how smart I am, but I came to the United States which was fortunate. Eisenhower gave me political asylum.

Al: What was the basis for the Chinese feeling that they owned Tibet?
Dr. Norbu: They think that Tibet is part of China.

Al: Tibetans aren't ethnically Chinese; are they?
Dr. Norbu: Completely different. We have nothing in common with their language, habits, or daily life. So we are completely different from the Chinese. We have nothing in common with them. After they took over, over a million Tibetans have been killed. When I came down to India, I got a visa and then came to the United States via Europe.

Al: Your brother, the Dalai Lama, has his headquarters in Northeast India.
Dr. Norbu: The Tibetan government is in exile at Dharamsala, India.

Al: Dr. Norbu, I teach at the University of St. Francis. One of the classes that I teach is world religions, and my students study Tibetan Buddhism. They often have a problem with understanding karma. Can you define karma for them?
Dr. Norbu: Sometimes, people say karma is fate, but it is not fate. You create your own; it isn't something that is given to you. The way you think and act creates your own karma. Your fate is in your hands-it is your responsibility. You do good, then good karma. You do bad then bad.

Al: The other tenant of Buddhism that is difficult for students to understand fully is the issue of non-violence-especially when it came to invasion of your country. My mother's side of the family are Quakers. They seem to be a kind of American Buddhist-at least on the non-violence issue.
Dr. Norbu: Quakers are good. I have some Quaker friends.

Al: I want you to explain to my readers why Buddhists are non-violent. What is the issue for Buddhist?

Dr. Norbu: Buddhists think that we are all related by reincarnation. We are all different, but we are all related. If we are violent, we might be violent to someone we are related to. We believe you had better not do anything like that to your own. Also, violence you do now, later will return again. So, we look for peace and non-violence. If you have violence, then you cannot have peace.

Al: From a Tibetan point of view, hasn't the non-violent philosophy created violence-especially for your people?
Dr. Norbu: No, not created violence, no. Anger created violence. Anger and jealousy create the violence. And the desire and the attachment cause violence.

Al: I understand that the Tibetans were so outnumbered. However, doesn't non-violence produce violence?
Dr. Norbu: Outnumbered or not, violence is bad.

Al: And besides, a year from now or ten years things will change in Tibet. Look at the former Soviet Union. It is quite possible that you might be able to go back to Tibet.
Dr. Norbu: My lifetime? No, I definitely will not be going back to Tibet. But, I think in about fifty or one hundred years, younger Tibetans will go back-if Tibetans work hard. It is not necessary to try violence to go back.

Al: Isn't it true that the Chinese are repopulating Tibet with Chinese?

Dr. Norbu: Yes, that's true. If Tibetans don't work hard at preserving their culture and religion, there won't be a Tibet. It will be all Chinese. That's possible, very possible. So, that is why Tibetans need to work hard. That is why there is a Tibetan Cultural Center. I want everybody to know there was a Tibet.

Al: If I was a Tibetan, what would you want me to do to work hard?

Dr. Norbu: We must work hard to keep our culture and our rights alive.

Al: Your brother has been able to deal with non-violence very similar to how Gandhi or Martin Luther King did. Do you see whether or not that is catching on in the world today? Do you think that we are better as a world because of this or do you think we are pretty much the same and merely going through the motions.

Dr. Norbu: My brother is doing non-violence and at the same time talking to the people. Everybody must do something to change-doing something for good is important. One person can't change the world; that is impossible.

Al: So, he teaches others to do what he has done?

Dr. Norbu: Yes.

Al: But, is the world a better place today than it was yesterday?

Dr. Norbu: Better. I think we need to be good people. I want to be a good person. That is the important thing. I want to help my society, my community. I think we should all do that. If everyone has that feeling, I think we should have a much better world. That is what my brother, the Dalai Lama, is trying to teach.

Al: Regarding your brother: can you tell me how he became the Dalai Lama?
Dr. Norbu: Yes, when a Dalai Lama dies, he is reincarnated. Then the Lamas met. They are the Tibetan government's national assembly. They go throughout the country and also to India and China and Mongolia looking for the new Dalai Lama. They show a small child items that belonged to the previous Dalai Lama. If that boy recognizes the items, and that is what happened to my brother, then he is recognized as the reincarnation and becomes the new Dalai Lama.

Al: You are also a Lama, aren't you?

Dr. Norbu: Some Tibetans believe that I am the reincarnation of the teacher from a monastery-that is their belief. But who knows? I don't know anything-nothing. I don't talk about my last previous life. Sometimes, what I did yesterday, I don't remember.

Al: I get that way too sometimes. When we get gray and older, we sometimes forget. After the selection process took place with your brother, when did he go to Lhasa?

Dr. Norbu: He went to Lhasa when he was about 4 1/2 -years-old. There he was trained both religiously and politically.

Al: A number of years ago, I saw the movie, Seven Years in Tibet. Then last night, I watched it again to get a feel for Tibet and what went on with your brother. Did you know Heinrich Harrer, the Austrian, who became a friend of your brother?

Dr. Norbu: Yes, I knew him.

Al: Was the movie an accurate portrayal of him and his relationship with your brother?

Dr. Norbu: His relationship with my brother is that they are both very good friends. The movie was just a kind of Hollywood movie. But Harrer still lives in Europe. He visits my brother often.

Al: How would you want to be remembered; what would you like on your epitaph?

Dr. Norbu: I would have nothing written, nothing.

Al: Nothing? Why?

Dr. Norbu: What does that matter? I'm just like one crazy man here.

Al: What would your brother have written on his? He wouldn't say that he was just a crazy man.

Dr. Norbu: I don't know what my brother would have written. I don't know.

Al: I was kind of waiting for some profound thing-or even just "I love Tibet."

Dr. Norbu: I love Tibet. But, probably in a few years, there won't be a Tibet. For us Tibetans, what do we do now that the Chinese occupy Tibet? They came in and put into prison many, many people. People were pulled out of homes and put into prisons. In jail they were tortured. What do you do?

Al: I also feel sorry or hurt for all the suffering of your people. If I were a Tibetan, I think that I would be really angry. However, I don't get a lot of hostility from you about losing your country. Is that because of the karma issue? That if you start fussing about it, are you creating bad karma for yourself?
Dr. Norbu: What does that do? Nothing. The situation is already negative, why add to it?

You know that this is a different world-so sad, so bad. I'm Tibetan, and I cannot go to Tibet. You meet the people and have a drink of coffee. They say, "Tomorrow, I'm going back to my home." But I have no place to go back. What did I do wrong, what's wrong with me? Why I cannot go back to my home.

Al: And what's the answer to that?

Dr. Norbu: No answer. That is why the world is very sad. Sad world.

Al: If I had the power to say, "Come with me, we'll go back to Tibet. You and I will go to Tibet together. What would you want to show me? Give me five places that you would want to see and experience again?

Dr. Norbu: Tibet doesn't exist. Because of the Chinese invasion, Tibet is completely different.

Al: That is really tragic, a whole culture, a whole society changed forever. I can wax poetic what the Chinese have done against the Tibetan, but we have done the same thing to Native Americans. I admire the way that have you handled this. If I were in your shoes, I would be crying, sad, and angry.

Dr. Norbu: If I try to cry, there is no more water inside now. No more tears.

For those interested in visiting the web site of Dr. Norbu's Tibetan Cultural Center, just click on this hyperlink: This link of events for will provide a the Spirit of Tibet Weekend, November 17-18, 2000. During the weekend, the official groundbreaking will take place for the temple about which Dr. Norbu spoke at the beginning of the interview.

The following link is the Dalai Lama's site:


Dr. Norbu making a point Mary and Dr. Norbu
A Mandala done to honor the Dalai Lama's visit Tenzin and his mother
  Three generations
Magic trick Flipping Tenzin
Saying, "Good-bye" Ann and Dr. Norbu


The Chamtse Ling Temple Chamtse Ling Temple's Groundbreaking

Mrs. Norbu is introduced Dr. Norbu sporting a Mongolian gift
Geshe, Mrs. Norbu, Tenzin, and Rev. Carlson Offering presented
Blessing from Dr. Norbu Greetings exchanged
Groundbreaking Tenzin, his mother, and a friend