Why the Dalai Lama cannot condemn Tibetans’ self-immolations

“This is a very, very delicate political issue. Now, the reality is that if I say something positive, then the Chinese immediately blame me. If I say something negative, then the family members of those people feel very sad. They sacrificed their own life. It is not easy. So I do not want to create some kind of impression that this is wrong. So the best thing is to remain neutral.”

There are discussions and opinions from Westerners that the Dalai Lama should condemn the Tibetan self-immolations. We had these discussions also here on the blog. Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of “The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation,” states on CNN Belief Blog:

I know it is impolitic to criticize the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is revered as a bodhisattva by many Buddhists. But he deserves criticism in this case. Why not “create some kind of impression” that killing is wrong? Why not use his vast storehouse of moral and spiritual capital to denounce this ritual of human sacrifice?

If the Dalai Lama were to speak out unequivocally against these deaths, they would surely stop. So in a very real sense, their blood is on his hands. But the bad karma the Dalai Lama is accruing here extends far beyond Tibet and these particular protesters.

In a reply to it, Tenzin Dorjee, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, states on CNN blog:

In a crass display of moral blindsight, Stephen Prothero’s blog post on Tibetan self-immolations blames the victim instead of the bully.

Tibetans are stuck in one of the world’s last remaining and most brutal colonial occupations. It is through this lens, more than anything else, that we must understand the self-immolations.

Since 2009, at least 44 Tibetans – monks, nuns and lay people – have set themselves on fire to protest China’s rule; 39 self-immolations have occurred this year alone. Every one of these acts is a direct result of China’s systematic assault on the Tibetan people’s way of life, their movements, their speech, their religion, and their identity.

Instead of responding to China’s oppression with revenge – a path far more tempting to the basic human instinct – Tibetans have chosen a means far more peaceful. Without harming a single Chinese, they set aflame their own bodies to shine a light upon the atrocity taking place in their homeland. They sacrifice their own lives not in the name of “God” or “Buddha,” as Mr. Prothero so dismissively suggests, but in an altruistic intention of alerting the world to their people’s suffering.

By demanding that the Dalai Lama condemn these individuals who have shown compassion beyond our imagination, Mr. Prothero has betrayed a colossal indifference to the courage and circumstances of those fighting for the same democratic freedoms and human rights that he himself enjoys.

How can the Dalai Lama condemn the self-immolators when their motivation was evidently selfless and their tactic nonviolent? Would we ask Gandhi to condemn activists in the Indian freedom struggle who were killed while lying on the road to block British police trucks? Or the hunger strikers who were starving themselves to death in order to protest the injustices of British rule in India?

By every measure, it’s the Chinese leaders and not the Dalai Lama who are responsible for the self-immolations in Tibet. They have the power to ease tensions, reverse restrictions, and stop the self-immolations overnight. But instead of seeking a lasting solution to the Tibet issue, they continue to aggravate the situation by intensifying the repression.

No one is more tormented by the self-immolations than the Dalai Lama, whose bond with the Tibetan people goes deeper than language can express. In fact, it is the singular calming influence of the Dalai Lama that has kept the movement nonviolent to date.

As a universal icon of peace, the Dalai Lama’s spiritual influence goes well beyond the Buddhist world. Nevertheless, his moral authority is not an infinite resource. There is an invisible moral rope with which the Dalai Lama has bound the Tibetans to nonviolence for four decades. But this rope is wearing thin as China’s escalating tyranny drives Tibetans into a corner.

Self-immolation, which emerged as a tactic from being cornered for too long, represents the final outpost in the spectrum of nonviolent resistance. If this last remaining space for expression, no matter how drastic, is taken away, the rope might just snap. Chaos will ensue, vastly increasing the chances of a full-blown ethnic conflict that even the Dalai Lama will have exhausted his moral capital to stop.

From all of Mr. Prothero’s accusations, the most offensive is his comparison of self-immolations to sati – a social system in ancient India where widows were pressured to throw themselves into the funeral pyre of their deceased husbands. Self-immolation – a political act of reason – is the polar opposite of sati – a blind act of superstition.

There is not a single case of Tibetan self-immolation that was prompted by social pressure or religious obligation. Every incident of it, unexpected as it is, shakes the nation, the community, not to mention the family, to its foundations. Every Tibetan prays in his or her heart that the latest might be the last.

The image of a person engulfed in flames is shocking, often disturbing, to people living in the free world. For all our obsession with violent movies, graphic video games, and live coverage of wars, it still rips our hearts to pieces when we see a human in flames.

Rather than indulging in philosophical investigations into the morality of self-immolations, we must see these actions for what they are: urgent pleas for help from a people pushed to the brink by decades of ruthless repression.

One hopes that most people are focused on the real question at hand: how shall we answer this call?

Personally, as a Western Buddhist, I try to be cautious not to condemn others but to start any judgement from first trying to understand the events, situations and background of it. Only if I can understand, if I am able to put myself into the shoes of others, there is the opportunity for a fair judgement of things.

One argument sticks to me as being misleading in this context, and that is that – as Prothero and the Chinese official say – “If the Dalai Lama were to speak out unequivocally against these deaths, they would surely stop.” I think such a belief is based on a wrong mental image that imposes omnipotent powers to the Dalai Lama. This imagination is not based on reality. Why?

First, Tibetans themselves remark self-critically, that they usually never did what their spiritual or political leaders advised them – ‘this tradition’, as Buddhist Tibetans humorous remark – of disobeying the advice of their leaders started already at the time of King Trison Detsen (742–97). The saying goes as follows: Padmasambhava recommended Trison Detsen not to partake in the Tibetan New Year’s annual ceremonies, but Trison Detsen didn’t heed Padmasambhava’s advice (as a king he had to partake, he argued), then Padmasambhava asked him at least not to partake in the horse race, but Trison Detsen didn’t listen. During the horse race he, so it is said, fell off the horse and died. Also the 13th Dalai Lama intensively pleaded to the Tibetans to heed his advice in his “political testament” (PDF):

Therefore take measures now. Maintain friendly relations with the two great powers, China and India, conscript able soldiers to guard the borders and make them sufficiently strong to ward off those countries with whom we have had border disputes. The armed forces should be drilled and disciplined so as to be effective and strong to overcome those who threaten us. These precautions should be taken at a time when the forces of degeneration are most prevalent and when Communism is on the spread. Remember the fate that befell the Mongolian nation when Communists overran the country and where the Head Lama’s reincarnation was forbidden, where property was totally confiscated and where monasteries and religion were completely wiped out. These things have happened, are happening and will happen in the land which is the Centre of Buddhism (i.e. Tibet). So, if you are not able to defend yourselves now, the institutions of the Dalai Lama, venerable incarnates and those who protect the Teachings shall be wiped out completely. Monasteries shall be looted, property confiscated and all living beings shall be destroyed. The memorable rule of the Three Gardian kings of Tibet, the very institutions of the state and religion shall be banned and forgotten. The property of the officials shall be confiscated; they shall be slaves of the conquerors and shall roam the land in bondage. All souls shall be immersed in suffering and the night shall be long and dark.

And what did the Lhasa elite do – especially the conservative wing of the (Gelug) monasteries (most often Shugden proponents btw) – after the death of the 13th Dalai Lama? They reverted almost all of his reforms. Such deep is the “obedience” many superimpose onto the Tibetans and their relation to the Dalai Lamas or their spiritual leaders. Also the case of the 14th Dalai Lama shows many such examples, that while the Tibetans revere him tremendously most often they don’t heed his advice. To take just one example: in 1998 the Dalai Lama personally asked the “Hunger Unto Death” strikers to stop their strike in India. He clearly said that he regards this as violence against oneself and cannot agree with it. Nevertheless, though initially heeding, some of the hunger strikers picked up the political protest again and it ended in the first self-immolation of a Tibetan, the death of Thubten Ngodup.

I would like to ask those who wish to form an opinion, to do this carefully, to first take time to fully investigate the background otherwise one risks to elevate oneself over others based on a narrow minded ethical point of view, and this mode of thinking would easily go into the direction of an unfair discrimination of the Tibetans. (Westerners have this tendency – and I think Stephen Prothero might have stepped into this trap too – to place themselves higher than others based on their assumed superior ethical views without understanding the complex background of events and other cultures.) There is also another risk: shouldn’t we be ashamed about the Western countries’ silence to these self-immolations and our moral corruption with respect to the legal rights of the Tibetans as a people? Isn’t there a risk, that we project our own moral failings onto the Dalai Lama and Tibetans, attacking them, instead of asking us: Why are we silent and leave the Tibetans alone, doing nothing about the brutal colonisation of their country? As anthropologist Katia Buffetrille commented:

What is happening in Tibet is very rarely covered by the media, firstly because of the many events that shock the world, secondly, because the Western countries greatly restrain themselves when it comes to anything to say against China. They are afraid that they might miss a business …

And the Tibetan author and writer Jamyang Norbu states in a more desperate mood:

Seventy Tibetans have, one after the other, in relentless and purposeful succession, set themselves on fire for the cause of their people’s freedom. If anything so heroic, selfless, spontaneous, non-instigated, and entirely non-violent* had happened anywhere else in the world, especially in the West or in places important to Western interests, like the Middle East or North Africa, these self-immolations would not only have become headline news but would have been discussed to death (if you will forgive the expression) in TV news-shows, chat-rooms, newspaper op-eds, editorials, blog-rooms, think-tank forums and so on. The issue could even have come up in the American presidential elections, and Tibetan TV viewers watching the foreign policy debate might have been amused by the vision of Mitt Romney scolding president Obama for ignoring the immolations in Tibet and “apologizing” to China – or its equivalent in this alternate reality.

But, of course, nothing of the kind has happened in our space-time continuum. Far from being the subject of international discussion the world media has given the Tibetan immolations the absolutely minimum attention it is possible to give to a major news story, without actually opening itself to the charge of deliberately and cynically ignoring the issue altogether.

I must make it clear that I am not saying that the New York Times, the BBC or CNN have not reported the immolations. Clearly they have all done so, though only to the minimally acceptable extent – CNN being the worst offender. Even the tone of the published reports have been uniformly clinical and impersonal as weather reports. But the big evasion in these reports is the lack of discussion on the fundamental cause for which these Tibetans burnt themselves.

So before we judge another people in despair maybe it’s good to first question our own silence instead of questioning Tibetans, and the Dalai Lama’s supposed silence, isn’t it?

After having done this self-introspection, one might be able to ask in a fairer way why the Dalai Lama cannot condemn Tibetan self-immolations as many Westerners expect him to do.

The Dalai Lama says in The Hindu:

This is a very, very delicate political issue. Now, the reality is that if I say something positive, then the Chinese immediately blame me. If I say something negative, then the family members of those people feel very sad. They sacrificed their own life. It is not easy. So I do not want to create some kind of impression that this is wrong. So the best thing is to remain neutral.

Westerners who are so used to feel compelled to say something, to judge, to give an opinion on everything at hand seem to be unable to tolerate this neutral approach, and subsequently they project – as Prothero does it – that now there would be the self-immolators’ “blood is on his [the Dalai Lama’s] hands”. Hello! The Dalai Lama didn’t kill any body, the Chinese mistreat, kill and torture Tibetans!

Moreover, according to Kelsang Gyaltsen, the Dalai Lama supported the appeals of the elected Tibetan government in Exile (CTA) who appealed to the Tibetans to not grasp to such drastic measures as self-immolations. Dr. Lobsang Sangay, elected prime minister of the CTA, said that while he highly discourages the drastic action, it is the “sacred duty” of the exiled community to support it.

“We have made so many appeals (to stop self-immolations), but they are still doing it,” said Sangay, the political successor of the Dalai Lama, as the number of self-immolations by monks, nuns and others swelled to 68 since March 2011.

I think it is save to say, what the Dalai Lama said already: “This is a very, very delicate political issue.”

Kelsang Gyaltsen, the Dalai Lama’s special representative for Europe, explained in an interview with the German radio station Deutschlandfunk (mp3 file, 01. December 2012, translation by Tenpel – sorry for the mistakes):

HEUER: At the moment, people are dying in Tibet. China now says one word of the Dalai Lama were sufficient to stop self-immolations. Why doesn’t he say anything?

GYALTSEN: The Dalai Lama is very, very worried about the situation in Tibet. And the whole world knows his attitude to non-violence and also violence towards oneself. The Dalai Lama has clearly emphasized, when the first case of self-immolation 1998 in Delhi took place that also violence against oneself is an act of violence and should be avoided.

HEUER: But that’s 14 years ago. Why doesn’t he say anything now?

GYALTSEN: Why now he says nothing about it? If the Dalai Lama in this situation cannot offer Tibetans any alternatives in how they can achieve their rights then he simply cannot prohibit the Tibetans to protest against the Chinese’s policy of oppression. Since years he offered to engage in talks [with China].

He makes clear that he doesn’t strive for independence and separation but for a genuine autonomy within the People’s Republic of
China. But the Chinese government is not responding to this offer. If the Chinese government would give any sign that the Chinese leadership is willing to address the concern of the Tibetans, the dissatisfaction of the Tibetans seriously, then I’m convinced that the Dalai Lama would offer every help and cooperation.

HEUER: Mr. Gyaltsen, but then I understand you correctly: As long as that is not the case, the Dalai Lama approves the suicides because they are a protest against Chinese rule and because they create publicity?

GYALTSEN: That’s not the case at all. There can be no talk of his [supposed] endorsement! He must offer an alternative to the Tibetans,
how they can gain their [basic human] rights without immolating themselves. Tell me this alternative!

HEUER: I can not tell you any, but it is clear that people continue to kill themselves. And that you do not do anything against it, that the Dalai Lama does not intervene.

GYALTSEN: But! That’s not right. The elected Tibetan leaders have repeatedly appealed to the Tibetans in Tibet, not to resort to such drastic forms of protest. And the Dalai Lama has supported all of these appeals from the elected Tibetan leaders [in exile].

HEUER: Mr. Gyaltsen, the international community is predominantly silent given to what we’re seeing now in Tibet.
I want to focus this on Germany. We have last experienced that Angela Merkel has publicly criticized Russian President Putin and has tangled with him. Do you wish something like this in dealing with the Chinese Government?

GYALTSEN: Of course! The question, Ms. Heuer, in the frame we are discussing had to be: What does the Chinese government do to stop the self-immolation of Tibetans? What does the international community do to convince the Tibetans thereof not to resort to these forms of protest? You can not, as the Chinese do, blame the Dalai Lama for all the problems that exist in Tibet. The Dalai Lama lives since 50 years outside of Tibet. About 95 percent of the Tibetans who live in Tibet have never seen the Dalai Lama. And still the Chinese explain that for every protest in Tibet, for each of these self-immolations the Dalai Lama as the culprit. I think in this context, of course, Germany is in a very good position, to take effect on China. Germany is China’s largest trading partner in Europe and has a major impact. And an active involvement of the German government, to relax the situation in Tibet and to create a real Dialogue between the Tibetans and the Chinese leadership, would be seen by us Tibetans as being very, very welcomed.

Conclusion

So, why the Dalai Lama cannot condemn Tibetan self-immolations? Ask this yourself but please based on an informed perspective. In my opinion it is strange to expect from a person to condemn actions that are the last means of an oppressed people against their oppressors, a means that does not inflict harm on the oppressors but “only” on themselves. How can I condemn this or expect others to do this?

However, based in the immense suffering self-immolation is creating for oneself and the families, I would highly welcome any action that can stop the self-immolations, right now. This is even more so, since more than 100 self-immolations of Tibetans haven’t turned any thing to the better but only increased China’s oppression. The more than 100 Tibetan self-immolations have not achieved any similar result to the self-immolation of Quảng Đửc, or the self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi that became the catalyst for what has become known as the Arab Spring.

It was the Dalai Lama himself who – besides his known stance on non-violence – also questioned the effectiveness of the Tibetan self-immolations. He said, that these actions would lead to increased repression (see Katia Buffetrille).

Self-Immolations in Perspective

Appeals to Stop Self-Immolations

The Power of the Dalai Lama in Perspective

Further Readings

On this blog

Last edited by tenpel on August 17, 2014 at 2:35 pm

UPDATE Feb, 05, 2016

Comments

  1. ecumenical buddhist says:

    I feel so moved by the wonderful words of both the Tibet student body and HH 13th Dalai Lama.

  2. Lineageholder says:

    I can understand why the Dalai Lama refuses to condemn the self-immolations for fear of upsetting the families of those who have already done it, but is that really a good enough reason for not saying anything? How can anyone remain neutral about suffering, especially someone who is considered to be the Buddha of Compassion? There is little doubt in my mind that the Dalai Lama’s word carries great weight despite your argument that people don’t listen to their religious leaders (look at the number of people who have enthusiastically adopted the Dorje Shugden ban just on the strength of his pronouncements) and so if he were to ask for the practice to stop, there is little doubt that it would. He doesn’t need to condemn what has gone before, but it is also clear that these self-immolations have been ineffective in getting the Chinese to reconsider the status of Tibet. His silence is, in effect, encouraging the continuation of self-immolation and the waste of life that this entails. Not doing anything also has an effect.

    • Lineage holder, as I suggested in the post: first we should check ourselves before we judge others otherwise we risk to project our own limitations onto others. You are asking “How can anyone remain neutral about suffering…”, now, what have you done to stop the sufferings of Tibetans, what has the New Kadampa Traditon done to stop the oppression of Tibetans? Have you or the NKT even moved a little finger to do something for Tibetans? If your answer is “No!” – which would be likely according to the facts – what moral authority do you have without putting yourself into the shoes of the Dalai Lama to judge him?

      The Dalai Lama is NOT “neutral about suffering”, how can he be? He knows and feels the despair of his people – he has an incredible compassion. So please explain what leads you to the thought that the Dalai Lama would be “neutral about suffering”? Where does your own projections come here into your judgement? The Dalai Lama decided to remain neutral to this strong form of political protest despaired young Tibetans, who grew up in Tibet under Chinese rule and never met the Dalai Lama, have chosen to wake their own people and the world up about their situation. Though the Dalai Lama disagrees with this form of protest, he doesn’t want to belittle their sacrifice nor condemn their last means to oppose Chinese oppression without fighting directly against them. How does it come that you equate this very difficult and tricky situation with your personal belief that he would “remain neutral about suffering…” – which means he is lacking compassion?

      You are wrong with respect to the discouragement of the Dorje Shudgen practice by the Dalai Lama on a community level (people can still practice it privately or in the Shugden monasteries). Already the 5th and 13th Dalai Lama spoke against Shugden and the 14th Dalai Lama started – when I remember correctly – in 1977. So it took the Tibetan exile community almost 40 years of the current Dalai Lama to understand his advise of the harm Shugden worship is doing. Yet, still many oppose him. Recently the former Ganden Tripa moved sides and sided with the Shugden adherents. It’s just not that black and white how you continuously interpret Tibetan society based on you profound lack of knowledge. If you openly investigate the Shugden issue, its just another example how Tibetans do just their own things, besides what their leaders say.

      He doesn’t need to condemn what has gone before, but it is also clear that these self-immolations have been ineffective in getting the Chinese to reconsider the status of Tibet.

      Yes, and this is what he exactly saw coming: he said from the very beginning that these self-immolation protests (besides the violence against one-self) won’t have any effect except to increase the repression of China against Tibetans.

      If you say:

      His silence is, in effect, encouraging the continuation of self-immolation and the waste of life that this entails. Not doing anything also has an effect.

      it follows that your and NKT’s silence is also “encouraging the continuation of the oppression of China and the waste of life that this entails. Not doing anything also has an effect.”

      And there is some truth in this. However, the Dalai Lama decided only at a certain point to remain neutral with respect to this, after he had made his opinion, thoughts and concerns already clear. (Which also shows that a claim you base your thoughts onto: “is that really a good enough reason for not saying anything?” has no basis in reality, because he said quite a lot already in the past.) So what the Dalai Lama actual did and does is quite contrary to you and NKT who have never done or said any thing against China’s oppression and have always remained in silence with respect to the fate and the suffering of Tibetans. What moral integrity and compassion do you have compared to the Dalai Lama?

      • See how the troll laughs as it wastes your precious time

        • See how LH knows better than the DL-so humble!

        • it depends, this time LH started with something I never witnessed before: understanding …

          I can understand why the Dalai Lama refuses to condemn the self-immolations for fear of upsetting the families of those who have already done it, but …

          a tiny glimpse of a change of mind … also I don’t believe in sarcasm nor polemics as a response …

      • Lineageholder says:

        Thanks for your reply, you’re right that I too need to do something about this situation, in the form of prayer for everyone who is suffering. It is not a good idea to get involved with politics though -Tibet is lost and everyone has to accept that. Clinging to nationality doesn’t release anyone from suffering and all the energy that is being put into Tibetan nationalism would be better put into practising Dharma. I feel that Dalai Lama also has a duty to help people to let go of their attachment in this regard. He really could help them with this if he tried.

        I’m not saying that the Dalai Lama is neutral about suffering, but if I understood that my words would stop people pointlessly destroying their lives, thereby causing suffering to their families, I would certainly say something rather than claiming that I should remain neutral. His inaction makes it appear as if he is neutral. He only needs to say the word for it to stop, or at least appear to want it to – but he doesn’t. I can’t agree with his inaction – don’t forget that people are doing this IN HIS NAME.

        As for the Dorje Shugden issue, the only reason why the ban is in place (and it is a ban) is because the Dalai Lama says that Dorje Shugden is an evil spirit and the majority of his followers believe him. There’s no other reason. I agree that it takes a long time to destroy a spiritual tradition – forty years – when there is no logical evidence to support its destruction and people have great devotion to their Teachers, but this is another issue – the schism exists now. The Dalai Lama ‘s actions have resulted in his own Gurus being regarded as faulty and impure, and even non-Buddhist, which is quite wrong and shameful. This is what happens when politics gets mixed with Dharma.

        • “It is not a good idea to get involved with politics though”

          Why then you run your blogs / websites on Shugden while your guru, Kelsang Gyatso admitted that this is a political activity? (in case you don’t know, he said: “At the beginning I completely ignored this and I thought I would never involve myself in this Tibetan political problem…. On the other hand, I thought that if I became involved in these politics …” Now you and NKT are involved in politics again but at the same time you turn a blind eye on others’ fate and suffering. To fight for the own beliefs and to ignore others’ suffering is nothing more than one-sided egotism – this is even more so, since Shugden adherents also completely ignore that practitioner of other Buddhist traditions, like Nyingma and Kagyue, fear and reject this practice. Your words when checked against reality reveal only duplicity or total ignorance/rejection of the facts.

          -Tibet is lost and everyone has to accept that.

          it follows “Shugden is lost and NKT is lost – everybody has to accept that.” So why are you fighting for Shugden and NKT then? It’s easy to throw others out of one’s eyesight when only the only things matter most. You should at least have the sincerity to apply your advice on yourself first, otherwise these are just empty if not cynical words.

          Clinging to nationality doesn’t release anyone from It is not a good idea to get involved with politics though

          it follows. “Clinging to Shugden, a “Tibetan political problem” (Geshe Kelsang), doesn’t release anyone from It is not a good idea to get involved with politics though”

          What you say and do is shallow, empty, reveals all types of double standards and a total negligence of others. The only thing you care for are your own things, which matter to you. Your rights are important, others rights don’t matter, they have to let go, they are only involved in inferior politics while your motives and purposes are holy, pure and beyond question. Wake up, LH.

          I feel that Dalai Lama also has a duty to help people to let go of their attachment in this regard. He really could help them with this if he tried.

          So how does your Guru help you to let go your attachment to NKT, Shugden and your guru yourself? “I feel that Kelsang Gyatso also has a duty to help people to let go of their attachment in this regard. He really could help them with this if he tried.”

          Actual what you are saying is quite cynical in its root, neither based on compassion nor wisdom. A Bodhisattva has to go with the mentality of people. If you could let go your own identity as a pure NKT practitioner, if you could let go NKT, the books of your guru, your own guru, if you were able to do this, at least you would have the integrity to demand from others to let go what is precious to them. Why it’s important for Tibetans to live in freedom and peace, and free from torture, oppression and fear, is also nothing that has primary to do with if they possess their own country or not – it’s not a matter of owning a place – but how they are treated by China’s violent occupation since decades now. I would like to ask you to put yourself into the shoes of Tibetans: you have to condemn your guru, Kelsang Gyatso as a liar, you have to beat him, maybe even kill him, you have to piss and to shit on his books, you get a forceful re-education and you are tortured, your friends and relatives are arbitrary put into prison, when they come out after many many years, they die from the torture … now, a preacher, like you is coming and is telling you: “oh, you just have to let go. It’s a lost case. you cling too much my dear” I assume you would be overwhelmed by the compassion of such a preacher and say: “Yes, you are so right!”

          I’m not saying that the Dalai Lama is neutral about suffering,

          LH, you spin the facts. you said: “I can understand why the Dalai Lama refuses to condemn the self-immolations for fear of upsetting the families of those who have already done it, but is that really a good enough reason for not saying anything? How can anyone remain neutral about suffering, especially someone who is considered to be the Buddha of Compassion?” what else did you want to say than that the Dalai Lama remains neutral about suffering?

          but if I understood that my words would stop people pointlessly destroying their lives, thereby causing suffering to their families, I would certainly say something rather than claiming that I should remain neutral. His inaction makes it appear as if he is neutral. He only needs to say the word for it to stop, or at least appear to want it to – but he doesn’t. I can’t agree with his inaction – don’t forget that people are doing this IN HIS NAME.

          What a twist of the facts: “don’t forget that people are doing this IN HIS NAME.” they are doing it based on their own wishes and believes; and that they wish that the Dalai Lama should come back to Tibet or lives long does in no way mean that they are doing it “IN HIS NAME”. (How blinded are you?)

          You seem to live in your own world. It is not true that “He only needs to say the word for it to stop, or at least appear to want it to – but he doesn’t.” First of all as history and many examples (I and also the Tibetologist quoted below gave) its untrue that he only needs to say a word to stop peoples actions. More over he said his point of view different times, that he regards these actions as wrong, but he made at a certain point clear why he decided at that time (now) to be neutral. The Dalai Lama doesn’t impose his own ethics and standards onto others, which you are so used in the NKT world.

          As for the Dorje Shugden issue, the only reason why the ban is in place (and it is a ban) is because the Dalai Lama says that Dorje Shugden is an evil spirit and the majority of his followers believe him. There’s no other reason. I agree that it takes a long time to destroy a spiritual tradition – forty years – when there is no logical evidence to support its destruction and people have great devotion to their Teachers, but this is another issue – the schism exists now. The Dalai Lama ‘s actions have resulted in his own Gurus being regarded as faulty and impure, and even non-Buddhist, which is quite wrong and shameful. This is what happens when politics gets mixed with Dharma.

          LH, this was your last comment on this blog. As Anon says, I allow you to waste my time. First of all: Most Nyingma and Kaguye believe that Dorje Shugden is an evil spirit and they are not followers of the Dalai Lama but say this already since many decades. Secondly, many followers of the Dalai Lama decided against him because they regard the Shugden practice as something which is more precious to them. There are so many opposing him, including your own guru. Although a majority accepts HHDL’s advice against Shugden practice – including me, a former Shugden proponent – they did not do so because they “believe the Dalai Lama” but because they checked and evaluated this issue and realised that indeed its better to give this practice up. Not only this, the Dalai Lama himself asks those who listen to him not to follow him because he said so but only after they have investigated the case and came to a firm conviction – he advised against a blind adoption of his advice regarding Shugden many times. You still want to tell the world that the followers of the Dalai Lama are blind sheep doing numbly what he says, while this is only your own situation and that of the followers of Kelsang Gyatso – mere projections from your own NKT world.

          Shugden has no real spiritual tradition either, neither the Buddha nor Tsongkhapa have taught it nor any of the great Indian pandits, it’s a mere folk cult with not much of a basis. It’s not even a central or important spiritual practice but it is used by those blinded with it as the solution for everything and this is just not Buddhism. It is also untrue that the Dalai Lama didn’t give reasons for his decision to discourage that practice, he gave plenty of reasons, what you say is blatant untrue.

          Moreover, if you cling so much on “spiritual traditions” shouldn’t you practice what you preach. Weren’t it time now to contemplate for you too:
          “Shugden is lost and everyone has to accept that. Clinging to controversial practices with no root in Buddha’s teachings doesn’t release anyone from suffering and all the energy that is being put into Shugden would be better put into practising Dharma.” ?

          The Dalai Lama ‘s actions have resulted in his own Gurus being regarded as faulty and impure, and even non-Buddhist, which is quite wrong and shameful. This is what happens when politics gets mixed with Dharma.

          Actual, the Shugden fanatics, who killed Gen Losang Gyatso, and who planned to kill the assistant of Trijang Chogtrul Rinpoche, Tashi, to blame the TGI and thereby the Dalai Lama, as well as the NKT and you yourself have by far more polluted the reputation of these teachers than the Dalai Lama, who as ever made clear that: “I am of the opinion that Phabongkha and Trijang Rinpoche’s promotion of the worship of Dholgyal was a mistake. But their worship represents merely a fraction of what they did in their lives. Their contributions in the areas of Stages of the Path, Mind Training and Tantra teachings were considerable. Their contribution in these areas was unquestionable and in no way invalidated by involvement with Dholgyal … My approach to this issue (i.e. differing on one point, whilst retaining respect for the person in question) is completely in line with how such great beings from the past have acted.” Such differentiations are not the realm of fanatics nor can they be understood by them. And first touch your own nose: Shugden practice promises money and success what has this to do with the Dharma? Nothing.

          No further comment by you will be approved on this blog. It consumes too much of my time to repeat what has been already said.
          Wishing you all the best.

          • In acting in this way, you cut the oxygen supply of those who spread the lies of the CCP and Kelsang Gyatso You also reduce the significant negative karma that LH Will experience in the future as a result of these negative acts repeated committal An act of kindness can take many forms-stamping out fanaticism is one of them

  3. Carol McQuire says:

    Tenzin, Thank you so much for a compassionate and wise post. And your reply to Lineage Holder is so excellent. I really do not understand how the NKT members can complain so much about the Dalai Lama, supposing him to be a ‘ruler’ in the way that Gyatso runs the NKT – he speaks and all the NKT members do exactly what he wishes. I feel that NKT members cannot conceive that Tibetans would have more psychological independence from the Dalai Lama than they have from Gyatso. They are very tied to the NKT ‘view’.

    Again, thank you so much for this clarifying post. I will publicise this as much as I can. And see what I can do to help.

    • Thank you for your feedback. Good to know that you find it helpful.

      It consumed a lot of time to go through the different material and I relied also much on the works of others (including your excellent hint to Bigg’s paper). These people have done a great amount of work in going through an huge amount of unstructured information, and their work enabled me to try to get the topic more clear.

      The post has been slightly revised in case you wish to make it known to others, please use the current post and not the one that was automatically sent to those who subscribed to the blog. (BTW, the post was sent twice to those who subscribed because I accidental posted it before it was finished.)

      Also the link to the TIMES has been included (Anon sent the link earlier this day), and besides other slight changes there is an addition of a concluding remark. I also changed the photo.

  4. Carol McQuire says:
    • ah, btw, there is already a reply by a known Tibetologist (who is also quoted and often asked by the BBC) with respect to the power of the Dalai Lama here:
      http://info-buddhism.com/TibetanBuddhismQA/QA-Controversies-PartI.html

      Q: How strong is the power of the Dalai Lama in the exile community, is he an autocrat who can do as he likes; does he order and Tibetans obey?

      Thierry Dodin: The allegation that the Dalai Lama controls every aspect of Tibetan society has no reflection in tangible reality. There is no doubt that his moral influence on the very large majority of Tibetans in exile and in certainly equally high number of Tibetans within Tibet is indeed enormous and historically, it is likely that no Dalai Lama before has ever had so much direct influence on his people. However, the nature of this influence and the nature of his power have to be qualified. The Dalai Lama is not a potentate with fanaticised followers as it is sometimes depicted in particular in Chinese propaganda as well as by some of his opponents, for instance among the Shugdhen cult followers. This type of leader is in fact widely absent in Tibetan history and hardly matches with Tibetan mentality as we know it. Although the Dalai Lama on occasions correctively intervened in current matters, he has kept himself away from day-to-day government business. In fact, most observers of the Tibetan exile society agree that the Dalai Lama is a more convinced democrat than the average Tibetan. The Dalai Lama is regarded by most Tibetans as a guarantor for the existence of Tibet as a distinct cultural entity. Historically, the Dalai Lama was widely segregated from the population. Even when he was carried through Lhasa for some ceremonies, for instance during the new year festivities, his face would remain veiled from the populace. Only few very high dignitaries had ever seen the face of the Dalai Lama at audiences held in his palace. This traditionally distant, almost other-worldly presence stand in stark contrast to his almost permanent omni-presence of today on portraits in each and every Tibetan home and his strong media presence. That any Tibetan can attend his teachings and speeches is completely new in Tibetan history and will widely explain the one-time influence which he has upon Tibetans in comparison with his predecessors. However, even for Tibetans, there is a large field of interpretation between the words of the Dalai Lama and the way they will be implemented in society or by individuals. When a decision or a statement of the Dalai Lama appears inacceptable, the typical pattern will be that those who consider it so will insist on this decision or this statement as having been made under the influence of ›wrong advisors‹. This pattern by the way is not new in the exile society, it also existed in old Tibet.

      Q: How pervasive was the power of the Dalai Lamas in Tibet? Often the Dalai Lamas and Tibet are seen as synonymous giving the impression that since the 5th Dalai Lama a single figure, the Dalai Lama, had omnipotent power over Tibet and people had to obey. Can you give in a nutshell an overview regarding the power situation in Tibet since the 5th Dalai Lama? Was the power divided between monasteries, regional rulers or the four schools of Tibet, or did some person or group have total control?

      Thierry Dodin: The political structures of traditional Tibet were very complex. The system that was installed by the 5th Dalai Lama indeed placed the Dalai Lama at the pinnacle of the system. However, although absolute rulers in theory, his power was in effect distributed among different agencies. And the Mongolian king who brought him to power took the position of the temporal ruler of Tibet, at least in theory. Further, the big Gelugpa monasteries, mainly those around Lhasa but also Tashi Lhunpo in Shigatse, were powers in themselves which even the Dalai Lama had to contend with. It is important to notice that his first successor never had real power and died young under mysterious conditions, the 7th Dalai Lama exerted some political power, but the 8th Dalai Lama widely concentrated on religious issues. After that, all Dalai Lamas died young until the 13th Dalai Lama at the end of the 19th century. The 13th Dalai Lama escaped a number of attempts to murder him and only managed to grasp power by pushing aside those who actually exerted it in his name. With that, he made himself enemies who did their best to later destroy his reform endeavour. They mostly succeeded, ending up making Tibet an easy prey for Chinese troops in 1951. Opposition to the Dalai Lama was exerted by established structures who in effect resisted any change without expressively opposing to such, but in some cases opposition found in what, for Tibetan standard, must be regarded as straightforward ways. There has been for instance at least one episode described in which monks from one of the major monasteries effectively occupied the Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, in order to pressure him not to take steps, which they disagreed with.

  5. john swainson says:

    http://www.britannia.com/history/hastings.html

    An historical view, not concerned with the Tibetan situation directly, but worth a look.

  6. just found this:

    The Dalai Lama chose his words more carefully. In his statement to UPI on Nov 21 he said he didn’t encourage self-immolation by monks and nuns protesting China’s control over Tibet and questioned the usefulness of the acts as a protest tool. He did acknowledge that the monks and nuns had courage, but he gave the impression that it wasn’t a Buddhist thing to do.

    http://www.jamyangnorbu.com/blog/2012/01/03/self-immolation-and-buddhism/

    • Look at the impact one enlightened being has on the Tibet situation.What Tibet needs is not more self immolators-it needs more enlightened beings. Every single person who kills themselves in this horrific way deprives themself and others of the full benefits of their human potential.
      Enlightenment doesnt happen overnight but nor does liberation from oppression-Thinking in the long term, the best way to pursue the goal of freedom for all is ………………..

      • I agree based on the current situation and the distinctions made in Mahayana Buddhism of when and by whom the “offering the body” is a suitable means and when not.

        All in all it would be more effective to cultivate the two Bodhichittas. I disagree also with Jamyang Norbu and Robbie Barnett who claim that self-immolations were utter Buddhist. In a rare case of a real Bodhisattva or if all the conditions are ripe, a self-immolation (even when done based on aversion or hate) could maybe change something. But there is nothing ripe at the moment to change for the Tibetans. A Bodhisattva would see this, and not ‘waste life’.

        Jamyang Norbu:

        The deed of the thirteen self-immolators is not only Buddhist in an unquestionably absolute sense, …

        Robbie Barnett:

        So an act that is done for the good of the community is considered noble, and especially so if it is done by a member of the clergy.

        What both utter miss, is a deeper look into the context of the rare stories of body sacrifice in Mahayana Buddhist scripture or the Jataka tales (which are present also in Theravada).

        I tried two times to post a comment to Norbu’s blog but so far he hasn’t approved my comment. Here my arguments:

        Self-immolations are not by nature Buddhist. I think its better to discriminate this more carefully.

        When the Bodhisattva who became the Buddha Shakyamuni offered his body to the tigress he had a high level of realisation and he did this with the pure thought of Bodhichitta, to attain enlightenment in order to free all beings from their suffering and its causes.

        All of the commentary literature of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism I’ve read so far – including the oral commentaries I received – make very much clear that to offer the body for the benefit of others should only be done if the Bodhisattva has a high level of realization, and this means usually he has attained the first Bodhisattva Bhumi (realized emptiness directly). At that time he is said to have attained a mental body and it is said, even if you cut his ordinary body in slices he would not experience any pain (you find this in the commentaries to the first chapter on generosity to the Madhyamakavatara).

        A commentary to the Bodhisattva ethics by Khensur Rinpoche Losang Tarchin makes clear that for a Bodhisattva who has permission to engage in the first seven of the ten non-virtuous actions (for the benefit of others, including killing) his level of realization should be that he is able to bring the mind of a just diseased person back to the body and revive the person or to make a dead tree alive again.

        This makes clear that scarifying the body – which as a real practice is rather rarely mentioned in Buddhist scriptures – must be seen in the context the religious literature is explaining – it’s not meant to be a role model to emulate in general but only under certain conditions and based on the motivation and realization of a certain individual. Hence, such examples, in my opinion, should not too easily be projected onto the current situation.

        The tradition of self-immolations in China is described by Biggs:

        “Chinese Buddhist texts from the fourth century onwards describe monks choosing death—often but not always by fire—to manifest their transcendence of physical existence, to demonstrate the power of Buddhist practice, or to elicit benefits for their monastic community.”

        This again has not to do much with Buddhism but seems to be rather a cultural context.

        Biggs – who made a research on self-immolations and placed them in context – also shows that (until the time of his research, 2012) 25% were Buddhists who self-immolated or chose another form of “suicide protest”. The highest number of suicide protests until that time “occurred in India, when the government proposed to set aside more state jobs and university places for lower castes in 1990. In the campaign against this policy, over a hundred students set themselves on fire, took poison, or hanged themselves.”

        You find a table with the (cold) numbers at the end of the paper: http://info-buddhism.com/Self-Immolation-in-Context_Biggs.html

        I quite disagree with the idea that self-immolations have to do much with Buddhism based on my own Tibetan Buddhist studies – in rare cases they can be a part of one’s religious practice but only if the person has an exceptional pure motivation and at best a high level of realisation.

        One of my teachers, Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, explained the self-immolations of Tibetans as follows (the faults in the English are mine):

        “There is a discussion about whether the self-immolations are Buddhist or not Buddhist, if they are according to Buddhist principles or not. But this, I think, is not the issue here. These are protests. These are protests and they are not based on hatred. No Tibetan who self-immolated himself or herself has ever said something negative about China, like “down with China” – as one might expect – instead of doing this all of them asked for freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama. If the protests were based on hatred they would say something negative about China, but they didn’t do this. Buddhism doesn’t promise something good if someone self-immolates. Unlike other religions one doesn’t become a martyr nor are there virgins waiting in the heaven for someone who does this. No higher birth is promised. Rather Buddhism teaches that one has to experience this [rather traumatic] experience again and again. But Tibetans do these protests besides this. It is their despair. They think it is better to die than being captured during the protests and being tortured slowly to death after having been arrested. Westerners don’t understand it. Tibetans have too much faith in Western democracy. They have too much faith or expectations that Westerners will take their protests seriously and will help them, e.g. by urging China to change their policies against Tibetans.”

        Then a person asked: But Westerners don’t stand up for Tibetans, they say it is aggression against themselves and they have even less compassion for Tibetans.

        “I heard this but I cannot understand the logic behind this. Why should I have less compassion if someone self-immolates? I cannot understand this logic.”

        • In refusing to acknowledge your thorough and doctrinally correct qt contribution, jNorbu adds to the suffering and misery of Tibet His silence demonstrates arrogance and is an insult to all

          • now, he approved it. Maybe he was busy with other things …

            • I wonder if he saw the above posts before he made his decision?

              • I don’t think so.

                —-

                My impression is that because all in all the most Tibetans seem rather to like and to appreciate these self-immolations as a valid form of protest, there is a lack in unity to forcefully ask their own young generation, their future, to stop these self-immolations. If there was an unequivocal voice of Tibetans: “We urge you, our beloved children, to stop the self-immolations!”, I think they would stop. But for most Tibetans it seems to be a heroic deed some try even to relate the self-immolations back to Buddhist ideas and the underlying respect and appreciation of the majority of Tibetans must be quite tempting for the youth, the young new potential self-immolators.

                It is a sign of the youth to be most often rather under the influence of naivety and pride (you find this even in The Golden Light Sutra: “Whatever unwholesome deeds I have done: Haughty with the vanity of wealth, Haughty with age and youthfulness, Haughty with pride of affluence and class …” – in that sutra there is also the Tigress story …) and there are reason why mainly young people are doing these self-immolation, I would hesitate to call this bravery (relatively it is), what is for me rather a type of ‘youngster enthusiasm’ with a lot lack of perspective (which means it is also a type of nativity and blindness).

                The Karmapa said:

                “Most of those who have died have been very young. They had a long future ahead of them, an opportunity to contribute in ways that they have now foregone. In Buddhist teaching life is precious. To achieve anything worthwhile we need to preserve our lives. We Tibetans are few in number, so every Tibetan life is of value to the cause of Tibet.”

                But the Guardian also states:

                The Karmapa praised the bravery and “pure motivation” of those involved, saying each case had filled his heart with pain.
                “These desperate acts … are a cry against the injustice and repression under which they live,” he said.
                But he added: “I request the people of Tibet to preserve their lives and find other, constructive ways to work for the cause of Tibet.”

                It is a difficult issue. Personally, I think, it would be good that Tibetans form one voice and ask their own people to stop the self-immolations, however, they might be too different in opinion and view and this will never happen.

  7. john swainson says:

    Naresh K Thakur , Hindustan Times

    Dharamsala, March 10, 2013

    A Tibetan youth’s bid to self immolation was foiled by local police on Sunday at Dharamsala town where hundreds of Tibetan had gathered for a protest rally to mark the 54th anniversary of Tibetan National Uprising Day. The Tibetan national has been identified as Dawa Dhondup (30), a roadside vendor who was participating in protest march called by various Tibetan organisations, including the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC).
    According to Police constable, Sanjeev Kumar, who was eyewitness to the incident, Dhondup, 30, was marching with hundreds of Tibetan exiles through the streets of Dharamsala, , when he consumed and poured gasoline over himself. He was subsequently overpowered by TYC activists and the police and was immediately rushed to the local hospital.

    If confronted by the above do I consider the motives of the self immolator and tailor my response accordingly? Do I say to myself…this is a Bodhisattva with a high level of realization…having attained, etc. etc. and let them burn, or do I attempt to do as above and intervene?
    The luxury of philosophical debate is fine, however…

    • Thank you John, one person saved, excellent. This is really something wonderful!

      If confronted by the above do I consider the motives of the self immolator and tailor my response accordingly? Do I say to myself…this is a Bodhisattva with a high level of realization…having attained, etc. etc. and let them burn, or do I attempt to do as above and intervene?
      The luxury of philosophical debate is fine, however…

      Problem is, as long as one has no clairvoyance or another reliable basis of information one just cannot say what the motivation or realization of another person is. It will just be mere speculation. We will act just blindly, therefore, I think, our own motivation and wisdom, to give the best at any time is the only thing we have in such situations.

      And what if you intervene, and the person gets rescued and lives a horrible life for 20 years?
      And what if you intervene, and the person dies in an angry state and takes a lower rebirth?
      The best would be your action of intervening, not intervening helps in the long run.

      When I saw today the photos here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/03/30/funeral-for-tibetan-protester-jamphel-yeshi-who-died-after-setting-himself-on-fire-in-india_n_1390630.html#s813405 I couldn’t answer my question: what had I done if I were a witness of Jamphel Yeshi’s self-immolation? The photographer made his shots, the others didn’t intervene either … Jamphel Yeshi wanted to die – has he no “right” to do that because my ethical system tells me something else than his ethical system? Do I place my own ethical system over another? Or was Jamphel Yeshi misled, crazy not able to think in a sane manner? Had he a schizophrenic attack or had he a pure motivation? Would I fear to touch the fire, to be to close to his suffering …

      What I know for sure is, that how I respond to things depends on how I am used to think, and how I am used to think is based on my views, and my views are based on my philosophy. Therefore clarity in philosophical debate is not a “luxury” for me but a must because it helps the view, and the view helps the cultivation of wisdom and compassion, and my actions will just be based on that – or my actions will just be based on my own delusions, if I continue to stay unclear about tricky issues, and if my mind gets not natural clear in extreme situations (which can happen sometimes too).

      So for me, view and action are not two separate issues. This is also true in my actions with respect to NKT: first I worked through to get clarity about NKT, then I acted with respect to NKT. Just moaning or feeling overwhelmed or paralysed is not constructive either.

      And what are the actions that come out of an unclear state of mind?

      So I think, “luxury of philosophical debate” is something precious that can help in the future …

      • john swainson says:

        The ‘luxury of philosophical debate’ is, as you say, that which can be instrumental in directing our views and actions.I used the phrase to illustrate the dilemma when confronted by a situation at that moment. Debate or act? If an ethical system developed prior to the event influences action one way or the other that can be helpful but may not determine the final action.
        The ‘actions that come out of an unclear mind’ may, or may not, result in beneficial outcomes. However, I do see that having a ‘strategy’ can be useful in certain situations when a clear mind is required.

        With regard to the self immolators and their ‘ethical system’.

        I am reminded of the biblical description of the events when Jesus was arrested and Paul denied knowing him three times. Paul was the first disciple recruited by Jesus. Some believe Paul’s denial was a case of self interest. Others believe Paul was attempting to stay free in order to effect the release of Jesus by whatever means. Paul was then mindful of Jesus’s statement that his kingdom was not an earthly one and knew Jesus’s earthly death was necessary and to intervene would be against God’s plan.

        ‘… my actions will just be based on my own delusions, if I continue to stay unclear about tricky issues, and if my mind gets not natural clear in extreme situations (which can happen sometimes too)’

        Same for me.

        • Thank you. I agree. Yes we are here also in quite of a dilemma. However, it becomes more and more clear to me, that I think the Tibetans should urge their youth to stop self-immolations. At this time, I think, there are more reasons for stopping it than reasons to condone self-immolations – except maybe for the Dalai Lama.

        • It was Peter ??-Paul never met Jesus (except in a vision after Jesus’ demise)

    • We should do everything we can to preserve life-even one moment reciting one mantra purifies millions of years of bad karma
      And I had to turn my mothers life support off so dont think this isnt a question I am intellectualizing

      • john swainson says:

        I agree with doing everything to preserve life. Trouble is there is a but.
        I too have had to make the decision.

    • I think I misunderstood you, John.

      In the case you are referring to this very situation where the Tibetans protected the person to self-immolate this is only excellent and there shouldn’t be any fault involved, even if the person was a Bodhisattva, if they had in mind to save his life, then there is no major fault involved.

      So in this case I think it would be inappropriate to think: “this is a Bodhisattva with a high level of realization…having attained, etc. etc.” and you let himself set on fire. So it is good to intervene in that situation. If he were a Bodhisattva he should have had the wisdom to foresee the situation and to act wise.

    • john swainson says:
      • This official China article tells a lot about how Tibetans are pressurised and how the state interferes with their institutions. One can only infer from it and based on how dictatorships function what has happened to the monks who “confessed” to have acted on behalf of the “Dalai Lama clique”.

        What do you get out of this article?

        • john swainson says:

          I have no other way of responding ‘officially’ to the situation in front of me if I want to remain free.

          There is always pressure to conform if one wants to remain within an organisation. We join clubs etc. and have to abide by the rules, but an effort to change those rules does not result in anything more than banishment from the club.

          When there is dissent, as in the Chinese case, then the stakes are higher and there is pressure to conform. If there is no effort to conform then the stakes are high.

          So it is understandable that we see these statements.

          The dilemma is there. Which strategy to adopt?

          • Do you speak from yourself – wanting to avoid to conform – or Tibetans who have to conform a) within China with the Chinese and among each other or b) outside of China among themselves?

            Coming myself from a dictatorship – East Germany – I have a lot of sympathy and understanding for Tibetans and I read also news and messages from official press organs (in this case the official China news) from a very different angle. I don’t trust them at all, and there is no reason to trust them either. Dictatorships are based on propaganda and manipulations, and news are only a means in manipulating others and a means to justify injustice and to keep control and power.

            • john swainson says:

              There is always pressure to conform to the rules within society. Some gentle and some not. The consequences of non conformity also can range from a mild rebuke or death. The degree to which we conform will depend on how much we can tolerate. If the benefits of conformity outweigh the negatives then conformity may be an acceptable trade off. If the opposite is the case, then there will be dissent either covert or overt. How brave does one feel ? What cost to you and yours? So it is understandable that if you are placed in a position of responsibility, for example by the Chinese to ensure the conformity of your community you toe the party line. Do you follow the diktats to the letter believing them to have a beneficial effect or be seen to go along with them whilst working on the ‘inside’ in order to convince the Chinese all is well?

              Below is an extract from a comic monologue of how the common man in England became free after the signing of the Magna Carta.

              And it’s through that there Magna Charter,
              As were signed by the Barons of old,
              That in England to-day we can do what we like,
              So long as we do what we’re told.

              • Thank you. I was asking because I was wondering if you feel pressurized to follow here on the blog a party line.

                This issue of conformity is extremely tricky … I can tell from own experience in East Germany. I was rather a convinced communist and materialist but I didn’t like injustice, so when I felt there was injustice I said something. This has brought me sometimes into trouble and I had luck that some protected me … maybe I had more luck than others because I was not really against the system but only certain expressions of its injustice.

                The Tibetans in occupied Tibet who collaborate with the Chinese – difficult subject. Only the individual knows for sure. The Panchen Lama has chosen a way of collaboration but at the end he spoke up and dies soon after it, here is his report:

                http://www.claudearpi.net/maintenance/uploaded_pics/PoisonousArrow.pdf

                About his death:
                http://claudearpi.blogspot.it/2011/03/death-of-panchen-lama.html

                • john swainson says:

                  ‘…. I was wondering if you feel pressurized to follow here on the blog a party line’

                  No, I don’t feel obliged to follow a party line here. I do, however, avoid commenting on statements made by some which displays a certainty about their chosen path and beliefs. To paraphrase Mrs Patrick Cambell…’I don’t care what they do…as long as it doesn’t frighten the horses’.
                  So I have my own rules.
                  The New Kadampa Survivors group has rules and if they are contravened the poster is moderated off the site. New kadampa Truth, when it was operating, had moderation and eventually refused to publish my comments.
                  This site has rules, even if they are just in the moderator’s head. Is anyone allowed to say anything?
                  The New Kadampa Tradition has it’s Internal Rules and contravention of these results in expulsion, for some.
                  With regard to the NKT, I am critical as I feel what they have done is ‘frighten the horses’.

                  • good to know, thank you.
                    A weakness of this blog indeed is that the rules “are just in the moderator’s head”.
                    The policy is rather I approve almost everything except it makes a mess of the discussion or the post.

    • I asked one of my academic sources to Christophe’s essay linked in my comment above, because I had doubts of it’s one-sided character (he tries to proof that the self-immolators are in a type of communication with the Tibetan Government in Exile, and at the same time he fades out all other possible explanations for the waves, e.g. social and local dynamics etc.) My trusted source commented to this essay: “fooling, fooling, fooling, fooling … total fooling, not touching reality, conspiracy theory …”

  8. Thank you for clarifying a difficult subject. I will admit to being critical of the Dalai Lamas position but reading his statement about neutrality it does seem he is stuck. Nagajuna said we should pray never to be reborn as a politician and now I see the wisdom in this. Politicians have little power to change the world so again Buddha’s wisdom shines through we as individuals can only change our hearts and minds. I can on some level understand the heart break of the Tibetans but it’s been over 60 years since China invaded maybe it’s time to let go after all isn’t that Buddha’s point for us to let go of our daily desires. In their shoes I know my heart would break to lose my home but I could not see the point in giving them my life too it is so sacred. Saying this their bravery touched my heart. I try to avoid filling myself with too much politics not because I do not care but because sometimes I care so much I see good and evil yet our world is much more complex than this. Charlotte Joko says we will always have chaos in our world and our job is to not fight it. I tried to hold up the sword to my delusions and all I did was damage a fragile mind and put myself in / a weak place. Time to drop the sword and just sit this is where my true home lies within the peace of my heart and from their one day I’ll have room to fit everyone of that I know have no doubts.

    • Dear Fleadle,
      I think your thoughts are still shaped by NKT point of views. Buddha was in former lives as a Bodhisattva also a king and served sentient beings as a fair ruler and by giving an example. I wonder where this prayer by Nagarjuna is stated, I’ve not come across it so far. I’ve tried to challenge the NKT axiom of “not mixing dharma with politics” here in the past: https://thedorjeshugdengroup.wordpress.com/2008/08/13/mixing-dharma-with-politics/ maybe you find it useful.

      There is another problem, you can observe in Burma: when genuine people with a good motivation not have the bravery to get into power, who else will do it? And what will be the result for the majority if bad minded people take over all the power? To allow bad minded people to execute power over others is this compassionate? And isn’t it an accepted thing that a “universal monarch” with a lot of merit can exert a good rule and combines his rulership with the Dharma? Morover, if Nagarjuna really said this, why then wrote he A letter to a friend, which gives advice to a king how to establish fair politics, e.g. advising to punish criminals strong enough but not too strong either etc.?

      Imagine the Dalai Lama were not the head of the Tibetans. The Tibetans were an extremely successful and brutal warrior nation, “by nature Tibetans are very aggressive” says the Dalai Lama in his autobiography. Some short thinking Westerners have the idea that Tibetans “have to let go” and even advice this to Tibetans, people who cannot even let go a cigarette or a coffee/tea or any minor comfort, how ridiculous and arrogant is this?

      So what do you mean when you say: “I can on some level understand the heart break of the Tibetans but it’s been over 60 years since China invaded maybe it’s time to let go after all isn’t that Buddha’s point for us to let go of our daily desires.”

      Tibetans should let go the desire to live in freedom, peace, free from torture, re-education, oppression, interference with their religion, the prohibition to be with the Dalai Lama, to have images and books of him, freedom of expression, etc. are you asking them after 60 years of oppression to let go these freedoms they need for a half-way happy samsaric life, do you want them all to practice the Dharma and follow your spiritual ideals while you sit comfortably in your British home not having even slightly to experience similar hardships?

      —-

      “In their shoes I know my heart would break to lose my home”
      its not so much about the home, although this also plays a role but it is by far an issue of basic freedoms they cannot enjoy and that totally undermines their culture, way of living and freedoms.

      “but I could not see the point in giving them my life too it is so sacred.”
      that’s why, because we from our Western comfort zone cannot even imagine to burn ourselves, the more we should listen to what they have to say and take these sacrifices seriously.

      “Saying this their bravery touched my heart. I try to avoid filling myself with too much politics not because I do not care but because sometimes I care so much I see good and evil yet our world is much more complex than this.”

      Yes, I can understand this.

      “Charlotte Joko says we will always have chaos in our world and our job is to not fight it. I tried to hold up the sword to my delusions and all I did was damage a fragile mind and put myself in / a weak place. Time to drop the sword and just sit this is where my true home lies within the peace of my heart and from their one day I’ll have room to fit everyone of that I know have no doubts.”

      Good. If we emulate the way of a Bodhisattva or approach it, in all way its important to fill the inner vessel, and based on this to see what and how one can help others.

      —-

      BTW, its interesting to consider, when there was a war in a country, some people asked the Buddha: ‘Why they have war in that country?’ We as somewhat superficial filled up Western Buddhists might expect an answer like: “It was due to their karma” or so. But the Buddha replied: “In that country, the rich didn’t share their property with the poor, the poor became poorer, from this inner turmoil arose, and from this the war arose.”

      • If I disagree with you it shouldn’t automatically be about NKT that’s lazy judging on your part. A big part of the problem in NKT was people never questioning GKG,now so many have left and the DL is treated the same like he is always right, I respect the DL but he is only a man. You are right it is easy to say let go when you are in a comfy western position,I have asked myself many times what I would do in such a position,would I fight, I have heard of people losing everything in order to fight oppression and I should admire it but sometimes it seems crazy. I only know I’d protect my family and I’d do what kept them safe.

        • Thank you Fleadle,
          I agree. I made it too easy for myself.
          Its also true, its important to question the Dalai Lama and not to follow any group opinion or pressure.

          (I based my lazy projection/assumption on my experience, how long I carried NKT ideas (I call them “agit prop”) with me, and how easy it was for me to just still believe it because I didn’t really check it against the facts.) I do apologize.

          People who are within NKT or are coming from NKT often “quote” Nagarjuna as having said “I pray never to be born as a politician”, however, I never have seen a source for this but found out that the Dharma is by far more open to what NKT calls “politics” than NKT suggested and infused so deeply in my brain. As a part of my mental “de-programming” – which means I questioned all NKT claims – I came to quite another conclusion than the narrow NKT horizon made me believe. So, as soon as I see something that comes from the old NKT world – like an claimed “quote” Nagarjuna had said “I pray never to be born as a politician” – I jump right onto it. I was a boxer in the past, so maybe I am always ready for a fight ;-) sorry.

          You are right it is easy to say let go when you are in a comfy western position,

          Thank you for understanding this.

          I have asked myself many times what I would do in such a position,would I fight, I have heard of people losing everything in order to fight oppression and I should admire it but sometimes it seems crazy. I only know I’d protect my family and I’d do what kept them safe.

          Thank you. For me this question “what I would do in such a position?” plays really a key role in my thinking. I started already when I was young to ask myself: what I had done at the time of the Nazis? (Would I had kept inner humanity or turned into ‘(fascist) pig’?). You can not imagine how much and often I thought about this. Even when Kelsang Gyatso came to our centre to exert his ‘spiritual execution’ I was asking this question again …

          Some years ago I came to the conclusion: “I don’t know, there is no certainty, and it depends on so many factors”, as a result of these analysis, I just cannot condemn a person who cannot do better and rather try to see and to understand how difficult it is for the other person – or I try to be restrained to have too many expectations or too many judgements, how others should or shouldn’t be, what they should or shouldn’t do (only looking from my own high puffed up and ignorant perspective.)

          So as you say: “I only know I’d protect my family and I’d do what kept them safe.” if you apply this to Tibetans, you come closer to their situation. And wouldn’t it be strange when someone says to you: you have to let go your family and children, you cling too much to them? How would you feel to that person? Would you accept such advice?

          Although it might be theoretically true (that ‘you cling too much’), hello, we are human beings and we cannot just go beyond where we are now. So if the Dalai Lama demands too much from Tibetans, more than they can do, how can this be helpful, and what would be the result of this? The Tibetans would loose also faith in him because he would come across totally aloof. Moreover, the Dalai Lama would impose his ethics and Buddhist practice onto others, forcing them to subscribe to his standards which would be a type of violence, because others cannot practice as he can do, and this demand to act beyond one’s capacity and needs doesn’t help but harms others – actual, it would be nothing more than Buddhist religious fundamentalism.


          I updated this comment. Update finished.

          • I don’t blame you jumping on me for the Nagajuna quote I guess it’s hard to let go of old conditioning,it worries me how insidious the NKT brainwashing can be,you think your moving on and then your quoting bloody GKG again arrrr. I don’t want to get lazy though and think the DL is right about everything,but I do understand how stuck he must be. It shows how ineffective politics is but I still believe as Buddhists we need to be aware of what is happening in the world without getting too involved and wasting too much time trying to change the outside world.

  9. Some additional thoughts to the self-immolations. There are honest pleas from Tibetans to Tibetans to stop self-immolations (I included a brief list in the post above).

    A friend remarked however in an email that although it is clear that those who self-immolated were not crazy and must have gone through hardships in order to develop their strong determination, the question is, if these self-immolations should be approved. He said, we must respect their deed, their courage, their willingness to sacrifice but who makes them into heroes is in fact rather supporting that people burn themselves. Tibetans must stay alive and fight – in that sense I totally agree with the Karmapa or Ngatsang Nelo – but this opinion is not much popular among Tibetans. And this is an issue of their motivation, which rather considers them as food for canons in a great patriotic war. For me it’s all about the humans and their rights. As well as the rights of the nation. But the latter not in an absolute sense but only as insofar as the nation is serving the well being of people, and not vice versa.

    —–

    So, it seems that there is a tendency by some to be ready to accept the sacrifices for the idea of the nation, and here lies the danger of inhumanity and fundamentalism. At least in one case it seems to be obvious that also a Tibetan lama is using the sacrifices for his own power trips.

    • Who?

      • You mean who this lama is who is accused to abuse the issue for own power issues?

        I don’t want to mention this online. I trust however the source and also the arguments – as well as what can be observed / verified – are convincing.
        Also usually at least another source should approve it. In this case it might not be needed but … I don’t want to undermine the Tibetans struggle either by naming the person.

        I mentioned it because it adds to see this whole issue from its complexity.

  10. This article is pretty good to read. Great!!
    Thank you very much for sharing, could I post it on my Twitter to share to my friends?

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