You Must Watch John Oliver Talk To The Dalai Lama

by Lani Seelinger
Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If you've forgotten that there's a whole big world out there full of interesting places and crazy news stories, I'll be the first one to forgive you. The U.S. politics news cycle has been increasingly exhausting lately, leaving little brainpower for anything else. Need an escape? Turn to John Oliver's Dalai Lama segment on Last Week Tonight. It's informative, funny (duh), and even quite heartwarming in its own way.

Oliver started out by making the very astute point that while the religious leader is generally very respected in the U.S., most people don't actually know what the Dalai Lama does or what he stands for. What's a better time to learn about him than now, when the rest of the world seems to be falling apart at the seams? Luckily, John Oliver actually went to India to interview him, and used this interview and the lead-up to it to provide a lot of information for his viewers.

In case Tibet-China relations haven't been your main focus, the Dalai Lama is actually at the center of a huge political controversy. As the spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, he is also looked to as the political leader of the autonomous region of Tibet within China. However, Tibet would like a little more freedom and far fewer human rights violations from China — and the Dalai Lama is leading that crusade. China, however, doesn't want to lose control over the region because of its wealth of resources.

Before you turn back to the latest Trump-Russia allegations, it gets more intense. 146 Tibetans have burned themselves alive to protest China's treatment of their country, which the Dalai Lama does not support. But things are about to get even more real for the Dalai Lama, and for Tibet. See, the belief is that when the Dalai Lama dies, he is reincarnated, and the new Dalai Lama is found by another figure in Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama. When the Dalai Lama found the reincarnation of the current Panchen Lama, the Chinese immediately detained him — and now he's been missing for 20 years. The Chinese then named their own, second Panchen Lama — but Tibetans claim that he merely represents the Chinese communist government.

Do you see where this is going? If the real Panchen Lama is under Chinese control, then he won't be able to find and anoint the new Dalai Lama. Or, if the Chinese were to release the Dalai Lama's chosen Panchen Lama and there were two competing Panchen Lamas, then there could end up being two competing Dalai Lamas. Tibetan Buddhists wouldn't accept a Chinese-chosen Dalai Lama — and so the current Dalai Lama recognizes that he could be the last one. And, surprisingly, he doesn't think that that would be the worst thing that could happen.

So, there's your dose of non-American politics for the day, but don't take it just from me — watch the John Oliver segment yourself. The interview footage is only a few minutes long, but highlights include John Oliver making the Dalai Lama laugh, the Dalai Lama explaining his cure for alcoholism, and Oliver giving the spiritual leader a very special gift. If you're in need of a smile to start your day, look no further.