NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
17 Apr 1991
District of Columbia
Stereo=1; Split track
Interview with Heinrich Harrer
April 17, 1991
HH = Heinrich Harrer
AC = Alex Chadwick
HH: Nearly 80, the title professor was given by old Presidents of Austrian, I was a professor of Geography and Sports.
AC: Your book like adventures stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs I used to read when I was a kid.
AC: How did you manage to survive? HH: There were two of us -peter -we were a good team. We survived because we were both mountaineers. We read books about Tibet, it was a forbidden country. When I was a prisoner, planned next escape. .
AC: Why to Tibet? HH: To escape to Tibet....being a geographer and a lover of mountains, we planned to escape to Tibet.. ****It was a dream. It was a place of magic and mystery to the whole world. ****To survive for years, we had to bring along interests, be occupied by something. Thought of giving up. No, everything was in Tibet. Kept on. Aim to go to Lhasa.
AC: What did you know of Tibet? -Magical? HH: British books. We read of the Swedish explorer, Swen Hadine (?) ....he wrote Trans Himalayas ... . most fascinating place for a geographer....source of water for all the rivers....Mt. Kalas, Holy Mountain. But he had never been to Lhasa. And he asked us to keep notes, diaries, and we did that.
AC: Did you have to trick people? HH: If you agree to go back to India, they said we would get things, but we tricked them. Ordered to go to Nepal ....we agreed but didn't say which direction we would go in...Nearing Lhasa, we said we were the cooks for the British who were coming. Finally we reached the gates, felt like Tibetan Buddhists who see the holy place. Feared the gate, but we walked thru the gate. ****Everything that is mysterious and magical that is written about Tibet because no one has been there.....
( .....NO after that cuz he rambles on) When we were inside the gate, were given good then put under house arrest.
AC: When the Dalai Lama was 14 years old, and you saw him at his first public appearance at the ceremony....explain
the moment HH: .....monasteries.....His Holiness had to undergo examinations like other monks. No exceptions for him. all sciences included in religious books. Had to know 15-25-30 years til knew everything. Thousands of monks watched.
AC: describe the scene HH: (he describes the scene and goes on and on, but it's not good tape...then you asked how the DL did. HH noticed he knew more....talks about way of selecting DL -not too unlike going to a kindergarten class and see which boy is the best. For Tibetans it is a spiritual thing only. I think it's democratic.
AC: Interesting that you say democratic, because when you write about Tibet, write about it being medieval, feudal. HH: Tibetans are accused of being medieval. But when I was there, there was no hunger, no disease. it's changed since the Chinese came. Country of 2-1/2 million km. There were of course professional beggars.... (he tells story of when he built dams, workers were missing....why should they make more money?
AC: Chinese say people are better of. People were slaves. HH: .......Chinese introduced lots of things...built roads and bridges. Tibetans never needed them.
AC: Tibetans gave up the wheel HH: Wheel is part of their religious life. Didn't need the wheel .....to have foreigners come and change things, that was wrong.
AC: Dalai Lama, how was he when went to teach him? HH: ********** I was very excited when I got the order got horses --When I met him he was like every other young boy. he loved gadgets. would open a watch or a camera. He has a room in Dharamsala where he goes to find out how things work. We both learned English. Heard the radio. could learn from the news. Had films. I made a room for cinema. He wanted to run the projector. Produced electricity from a generator. They used to roar with laughter when saw Charlie Chaplin movies. Re. Henry the 4th.... "Uneasy is the head that wears the crown" ....no other Kind has experienced more than the Dalai Lama.
AC: Tibetan culture based on magic, mystery. HH: No. Religion, Lamaism.........
AC: Oracle -explain HH: ******Why did we need an explanation. We are different from Asians. Why try to understand them. Let them be as they are. Why try to explain. Why not have a country full
of mystery and superstitions. Wonderful to have a place that is so strange. Go to Shangri-La -LOST HORIZON ¬Tibet is out of this world. Hopefully the D>L> can go back.
AC: OK if it's in Tibet? HH: Tibetans knew they had to change. Should have been done from within. Didn't have time because the Chinese came. Killed 1.2 million people. Now women are being sterilized.
AC: Panchen Lama HH: one of the most respected Lamas ...... (he explains) important to have next rebirth in a free country. Tibetans will search for it.
Tears came to my eyes when I heard that Bush met with
AC: In the time that you were in Tibet, did you come to believe the spirit of the Dalai Lama would pass.... HH: Why should we analyze and doubt. I have nothing better. Tibetans never had missionaries. Never tried to impose their way on others.
AC: You said they were the happiest people HH: *******the gayest. Even his Holiness can roar with laughter. Had jokes and songs and dances. It was a wonderful life there.
AC: Charisma of the D.L. HH: ****Charisma. D. L. has it. At Cornell, 12,000 people, in India, 200,000. I have the vision. E.T. wants to go home.
AC: When you were the first tutor of the D.L. HH: We were friends, not like a teacher. He had two teachers. Role has changed. I admire him. Now he teaches me. and leads. He had a knife in his pocket like everyone else.**** lightening -drawing by D.L.
Off mic. HH goes onto tell the story about the man who came from Tibet to see them in the Tyrol. Ready to leave and said he would go to the train station. Didn't know when the train was to leave. would meditate. The train will come.
Told Tibetans in 1948 about an airplane crossing the Atlantic in 6-1/2 hours . Why?
Story about New Guinea, tried to give the man the steel ax..Didn't want it...... .