The Dalai Lama has found himself in an awkward position, all because of Osama bin Laden. During a public lecture on ethics at the University of Southern California on Tuesday, he was asked whether ensuring justice ever trumps the need for compassion. The question explicitly referred to Osama bin Laden, who was killed Sunday night during a U.S. raid in Pakistan’s town of Abbottabad.
This placed the Dalai Lama–a man who famously frowns at the idea of killing mosquitoes–in the position of either having to compromise his unflinching commitment to non-violence or publicly declaring his compassion for the world’s most wanted terrorist. In a poorly-orchestrated PR move, he managed to do both. According to an official statement released by the Tibetan Government in Exile on Wednesday, speaking at USC the Dalai Lama “said [that] in the case of bin Laden, his action was of course destructive and the September 11 events killed thousands of people…so his action must be brought to justice.”
The Los Angeles Times, on Wednesday wrote that this meant the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism implied Osama bin Laden’s death was justified. But in its statement, the Tibetan Government in Exile disagreed. It said that while the Dalai Lama condemned bin Laden’s action, he too deserves compassion as a human being. “With the actor we must have compassion and a sense of concern,” the statement said, paraphrasing the words of the Nobel Peace Prize winner. The statement explained that “His Holiness said…the counter measure, no matter what form it takes, has to be compassionate action. His Holiness referred to the basis of the practice of forgiveness saying that it, however, did not mean that one should forget what has been done.”