Often we apply our present knowledge to situations or events without seeing these in their respective contexts. Due to this there are a lot of judgemental opinions, or “ethical condemnations” – which means one judges another person’s ethic as wrong or distorted etc. and feels oneself a bit better or higher than the other.
Such things can also be observed with respect to Tibet and the Dalai Lama. The internet is full of it and also newspapers and magazines tend towards simplified views of events.
Some of the main arguments to put down Tibetans or the Dalai Lama is an alleged “Nazi-Tibet connection” and that some Nazis or Shoko Asahara were able to meet with the Dalai Lama. The Western Shugden Society (see details for their background) has picked up many if these allegations to depict the Dalai Lama as a “hypocrite”, “liar” etc. Sometimes also journalists with firm ideological views pick up de-contextualised “facts” and semi-truths to project based on them their own imaginations.
I started already to briefly pick up some points and to address them. Today I will add some more points and two new sources of information.
CIA, Tibet and the Dalai Lama
When the Tibetans in their despair for help against China’s brutal invasion asked finally the USA for help (after all trials to receive help from the UK and India failed), at that time, the US had a rather good reputation and the CIA was not necessarily seen as “the devil in person”. So when the USA via the CIA “helped” (with poor weapons and equipment) the Tibetans at that time of China’s invasion this was rather something normal, not very surprising. And who can condemn a people under attack to look for help and to accept what they were able to get?
The money the TGIE and the Dalai Lama received by the CIA was used for setting up exile structures and the Dalai Lama wasn’t on “payroll”. He was no spy, no secret agent etc. Of course if today someone brings the nowadays negative image of the CIA together with the Dalai Lama, this is a tempting but also a cheap method to denounce the latter, and it is also not utterly true with respect to the CIA, who also helped Poland / Solidarnosc and other movements to find their independence in the past. Tibetans and the Dalai Lama never denied the connection with the CIA. The Dalai Lama called it in a New York Times interview in 1993 “not healthy” because the US / CIA had no serious motivation to help Tibetans but rather used them to harm the influence of Communism.
Moreover the Dalai Lama rejected to be in any way the Tibetan guerrilla’s spiritual head but said also he cannot morally condemn them for seeing no other way than to defend their beloved people and country by using violence.
The contact with the CIA was made by the brothers of the Dalai Lama without the Dalai Lama’s knowledge. Later he must have got knowledge and met also with the CIA chief operator who said that this was the coldest meeting he ever had. So obviously the Dalai Lama was not enthusiastic about this.
I lack time to go further or to add the exact sources for this. Its just a bit food for thought. Here a “new” article about the CIA in Tibet:
- A Secret War in Shangri-La by Patrick French
Another problem involved in evaluating and judging if the Dalai Lama is not only a proponent of non-violence but really lives it is the term “non-violence” itself. “Non-violence”, as the Dalai Lama understands, it is not synonym with Western ideas of “pacifism”. In »Buddhist Warefare«, an academic approach to violence in Buddhism, it is correctly stated on page 6:
… the Sanskrit term for violence [is] hiṃsa. Hiṃsa is the root of ahiṃsa, the word for nonviolence made popular by Mohandas Gandhi. The literal definition of hiṃsa means “to desire to harm.”
Non-violance (skt.: ahimsa; tib.: rnam par mi ‘tshe ba) is defined in Abidharmasamuccaya (Asanga) as:
“What is non-violence? It is an attitude of loving kindness belonging to non-hatred. Its function is not to be malicious.”
So, the Buddhist meaning of it is mainly not to have a malicious mind or to not the have the desire to harm. That’s why some translators translate it as “non-harmfulness” (it’s the last of the eleven virtuous mental factors). However, this doesn’t mean that violence might not be used under certain circumstances “with a good motivation”+seeing that a violent action will bring more benefit than harm to a majority. Subsequently the Dalai Lama’s point of view is not that simplistic like most people think. He said different times that violence might be justified for instance in the case of terrorists (“Terrorism is the worst kind of violence, so we have to check it, we have to take countermeasures.”). He never was a proponent of “strict pacifism”, in the sense that he rejects violence under all circumstances and in all situations.
Avalon states the position of the Dalai Lama in one of his books:
“In theory violence and religious views can be combined but only if a person’s motivation, as well as the results of his actions, are solely for the majority of people. Under these circumstances and if there is no other alternative, then it is permissible. Now regarding Tibet, I believe that a militant attitude is helpful for maintaining morale among our youth, but a military movement itself is not feasible. It would be suicidal.”
The Dalai Lama said this at a point when the Tibetan Youth Congress became more and more militant and Tibetans witnessed that Arafat was warmly welcomed (with a big applause!) by the UN after his terrorist fights. The Tibetan youth were frustrated that the peaceful way doesn’t bear fruits, while the violent way of Arafat was successful.
The alleged “Nazi-Tibet connection”
Finally, the paper by Isrun Engelhardt (PhD) about the Nazi-Tibet myths is online, and I think, it speaks for itself. Especially the section about Conspiracy Theory might be interesting for some.
- Nazis of Tibet: A Twentieth Century Myth by Dr. Isrun Engelhardt
Who meets with whom and what does it tell?
A last thought. The same problem in applying present understanding to past events is the criticism that Shoko Asahara met the Dalai Lama. At that time Shoko Asahara was not known to be a gift gas murderer, and Asahara met also with other dignitaries and politicians. If one follows the argument “the Dalai Lama is ‘bad’ because he met with Shoko Asahara” it follows also Rosalynn Carter, the wife of the US President, is ‘bad’ because she met with the serial killer John Wayne Gacy in 1978.
Moreover, the Dalai Lama met with so many, is he therefore necessarily near to others’ ideologies and beliefs? He met amongst others with Mao, Hippies, with left wing, right wing, liberal, and green politicians, with scientists, religious figures, atheists, Nobel prize winners, Chinese, Germans, Schugden followers ;-), presidents, and some criminals, yes even with some few former Nazis … and what would be the problem for a saint to meet with a person shunned by society, what crime was it that Jesus met with a prostitute?
However, this doesn’t mean, that it might not have been a fault that the Dalai Lama met with Asahara or Beger etc. It’s up to the observer how he/she puts those things together …
Last edited by tenpel on October 26, 2012 at 12:12 am