Return to Lhasa (6): Drinking with the sky burial masters
North of Lhasa, in the Nyangri mountains, is a famed temple named “Pabongka.” Located on a turtle shaped stone, the temple surprisingly receives few outside tourists these days. According to legend, Songtsen Gampo and Princess Wen Cheng once lived there. The temple is also the birthplace of the Tibetan language. Stored in the temple are the earliest stone tablets of carved Tibetan alphabets known. Although the temple is small, it occupies a special place in Tibetan hearts for its historical importance both in the context of Tibetan language as well as Tibetan Buddhism. Continue reading »
The author of this journal, Zhen Fu, then a college student, traveled alone to Tibet for the first time in 2003. It would be a life-changing experience. Not only did she fulfill her life-time dream of traveling to the mysterious land that is Tibet: to see its majestic beauty, to meet its remarkable people and to witness their remarkable culture, but Zhen also met her future husband, Mingji Mao, during her journey. Together they would write a book “Diaries from Tibet” based on their true love story. They made a promise to return to Tibet together. Five years later, Zhen and Mingji fulfilled this promise. This article is about what they saw on their return to Lhasa at the end of 2008.
For many ethnic Tibetans, this day represents a celebration of freedom (from cast and class based oppression), economic empowerment, and social and political liberation that has been a long time coming. The day has been held hostage for so long partly because the government, in hopes of trying to convince the Dalai Lama to return back to China, had not wanted to mark the occasion while the Dalai Lama was still in exile. But one cannot hold back a celebration of freedom forever, and fifty years has been a long time… Continue reading »
For one thing: there is the people; the indigenous culture; the land – and of course the important environmental role the Tibetan Plateau plays in regional as well as global environment.
I got to thinking about some of the details that would need to be settled in order for this to be possible. I came up with eight specific points, although the eighth is a bit of an epilogue and would not be implemented until the government decides things are going well. Continue reading »
However, if it turns out that he really does retire from politics, I wonder if that might not end up being better for the Tibetan movement in the long run. I think that the fundamental problem with the negotiations between Beijing and the Dalai Lama so far is that they are not interested in negotiating on the same subject. The Dalai Lama wants to negotiate on behalf of the Tibetan people for political reforms in Tibet. The government in Beijing has never said they wanted to talk about that; instead, they have said they will negotiate about the Dalai Lama’s personal status. If the Dalai Lama gives up his political role and leaves it to the exile prime minister to have political negotiations, then maybe it will become possible for him to start negotiations with Beijing regarding his personal status. That is, he might actually be able to return to Tibet as an individual. By doing so, he might be able to create a degree of trust and goodwill which would eventually make political reforms possible.
The tricky part that remains, though, is that the Dalai Lama can give up his political role, but I don’t think he can retire from his religious role. In order to return, he would probably need some kind of reliable assurances that there would be reduced political interference in Tibetan religion. Most importantly, how could he return to Tibet if he thought the CCP would still control the selection and education of the next Dalai Lama?
For thirty years, Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in Exile has approached the Chinese leadership to resolve the Tibet issue. Since the resumption of dialogue in 2002, there has been seven rounds of meeting and confidence building exercises between Dalai Lama’s envoys and the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Continue reading »
Since the next reincarnation of Dalai Lama supposed to be “discovered” by the current Penchan Lama, how can a democratically reincarnated Dalai Lama have any religious legitimacy?
Party members and public servants working in the Tibet autonomous region were given an ultimatum on July 14 to call back their children within two months from overseas schools and monasteries run by the “Dalai clique”, the International Herald Leader (IHL), owned by the Xinhua News Agency, said Wednesday.
Under a regulation drawn up by the regional Party and government disciplinary inspection commissions, which was released last week, those who fail to do so will be expelled from the Party and removed from their posts, the IHL report said.
One commenter (Flatfish, a frequent Tibetan visitor) reacted to part of the original discussion when the term “the Dalai” was used:
In reference to the proper name for the Dalai Lama, let me talk about a few related things that have touched me deeply.
After the end of the Second World War, a court sentenced Mr. Hideki Tojo to death by hanging. Mr. Tojo immediately stood, and with perfect manners bowed deeply to the judges; he didn’t say another word. When the Tibetan uprising (in 1959) expanded, quite a few Tibetans were executed. Before they were shot, they politely said “T’oo-Je-Che” (Tibetan term of thanks). Later, when the families of the executed were charged expenses of 200-500 RMB, they again said “T’oo-Je-Che”, and nothing else.
For the Dalai Lama, the respectful way of referring to him in English is: His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In Tibetan, the respectful way of referring to him is Jiawa Renbuqie (嘉瓦仁布切，Gyalwa Rinpoche), Kundun (昆顿), or Yixi Loubu (益西罗布, Yeshe Norbu). Tibetans would never use the name Dalai Lama, because that’s actually equivalent to a title, and not a name.
My point is, if any group or government investigates and finds the Dalai Lama guilty of a crime, then all of these details could be revealed to the public, and they could proceed to trial and conviction. And if anyone, including Han, have doubts or criticisms of him, that’s also not a problem. And for those who are not Buddhists and not Tibetan Buddhists don’t necessarily have to refer to him by his courtesy title. But all should respect basic human rights, and do not casually shorten the title Dalai Lama to just “the Dalai”.
But he is at least making an active effort to change this. He has met with individual Chinese in the United States and Germany in recent months. And in his just completed trip through Australia, he met with the Chinese-language press, and also hosted an open Q&A session targeted at overseas Chinese. (Unfortunately the session was organized with a dissident group with links to the FLG… but that’s not the point here.)
Here’s what he had to say in Australia, courtesy of the International Campaign for Tibet (原文):
Dalai Lama: … Problems related to Tibet must absolutely be resolved between the Han and Tibetan races, no one else can deal with this type of problem. And precisely because of that, the Chinese, the Han in inland China, you must understand the real situation, this is very important.
So, what is the real situation in his opinion? Read on for more.
Here are a few choice snippets from that article:
The Dalai Lama says he wants Tibetan autonomy and political independence. Yet he allows himself to be used as a tool by western powers keen to humiliate China. Between the late 1950s and 1974, he is alleged to have received around $15,000 a month, or $180,000 a year, from the CIA. He has also been, according to the same reporter, “remarkably nepotistic”, promoting his brothers and their wives to positions of extraordinary power in his fiefdom-in-exile in Dharamsala, northern India.
He poses as the quirky, giggly, modern monk who once auctioned his Land Rover on eBay for $80,000 and has even done an advert for Apple (quite what skinny white computers have got to do with Buddhism is anybody’s guess). Yet in truth he is a product of the crushing feudalism of archaic, pre-modern Tibet, where an elite of Buddhist monks treated the masses as serfs and ruthlessly punished them if they stepped out of line.
Continue reading »