Sunday, September 5, 2010


Tenzin Lekshay

"Future Tibet will be a peace-loving nation, adhering to the principle of Ahimsa. It will have a democratic system of government committed to preserving a clean, healthy and beautiful environment. Tibet will be a completely demilitarized nation."-His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Guidelines for Future Tibet polity, 26 February 1992

Tibet has a recorded history of more than 2,000 years, ruled by great kings of Tibet. It was one amongst the old nations where the realms of Tibetan kings spread across nations ranging from Central Asia to China in the east. Tibet at one point of history was considered a great warrior nation but just like any other great nation, it later went through a stage of disintegration. The golden age of Tibet brought many reforms inside Tibet, with an introduction of Buddhism as a state religion, creation of Tibetan language, astrology, medicine, arts and music. During the reign of King Songsten Gampo in 7th century, Tibet was literally guarded by four regiments 'Ru bshi' from four directions. Even today, it is believed that a cluster of people belonging to one of those groups still exist in Central China. The clan of warriors, who was posted in the Far East were instructed by the king not to return to their native without king's command. Waiting for the king's command, centuries passed and those obedient troops stayed back and established their own clan, which is known as 'bkha ma lok'. Even in Nepal, people of Tamang ethnic group, once considered a horse warriors of Tibet, faced a similar fate and never returned to their native.

Spiritualism: Centrality of State policy

Jokhang in Lhasa

King Songsten's two foreign wives, Brikuti Devi and Wencheng are both devoted Buddhist. Both built chapels to keep the Buddha's statues and relics, which were carried along with the princesses when they came to Tibet. These chapels are still located in Lhasa and are considered the prominent and the most sacred place of worship in Tibet. In spite of strong military, Buddhism was promoted grandly by inviting many Indian gurus and pundits to Tibet. Visitations of Tibetans to India became frequent in seeking knowledge and wisdom rather than of armed conflicts. Since then, Tibetan firmly believed India as "The land of sages" and express high admiration for its cultural affinity with India for thousands of years.

After the disintegration of Tibet in the middle of 9th Century, Tibet was transformed into benign state, given much attention to the revival of Buddhism in Tibet. In spirituality, Tibet became a champion and spearheaded in promoting Buddhism far and wide across the nations, which was categorically regarded as the later phase of Buddhism in Tibet. But, the Political leaderships thereafter were engrossed with the intrusions of foreign powers who on many occasions got confidence from the fractions of Tibetan rulers of different principalities, which help weaken Tibet politically. But, as a nation, Tibet was able to unify under the rule of Sakya Pundits. Sakya was given a temporal leadership of thirteen Myriarchies and later the three provinces of Tibet (Utsang, Dotoe and Domey) by the Mongol khan, who became a disciple of Sakya lamas. The priest-patron relationship between Mongols and Manchus later became a source of conflicts, which China claims to have a sovereign right over Tibet. In 1642, The Great Fifth Dalai Lama started the Gaden Podrang Administration and became a spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet. Even later, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama proclaimed Tibet as an independent nation in 1913, which many scholars acknowledge Tibet’s de-facto independent status.

Even after 51 years of Chinese occupation of Tibet, China vehemently claims that Tibet was an inalienable part of China’s middle kingdom. But China’s admission of Tibet as an inseparable part of China is a historical error, which China is still mending to fabricate the historical facts. The Great Wall of China was a classic example of China’s old historical domination that was constructed far beyond the northeastern part of Tibet. Communist China’s covert strategy of exterminating other ethnic groups to promote Han Majority is simply bizarre, as Mongols and Manchus, whom they proclaimed to have ruled China for centuries were aliens rather than their own.

Through history, spirituality shaped Tibet’s geopolitical structure and even integrated Tibet into single entity. The concept of modern nation-state was conceptualized with the promotion of Buddhism in the Tibetan political administrative structures, specifically after the rule of Sakya lineage. The efforts and the contributions of various religious leaders had solidified Tibet as a unified nation. Conflicts within the principalities of various Buddhist sects sporadically occurred but the homogeneity of Tibetan races along with the common principles of Buddha teaching acted as the impregnable strength of a nation building process.

Promotion of Spirituality: constructive approach

In 1959, soon after His Holiness the Dalai Lama fled Tibet and reached India, had requested the Indian Government to assist in rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees. Hundreds and thousands of monasteries in Tibet were destroyed when the Chinese People Liberation Armies stormed Tibet, leaving them ruins to the dust. Thousands of monks made supreme sacrifice to protect the dharma from being destroyed by Communist China and fought a religious war against China. But, ill equipped monks with no experiences in warfare tactics were mercilessly killed. Unable to challenge the Chinese, thousands of monks along with masses followed His Holiness the Dalai Lama to India and were soon rehabilitated in Buxar, an old British army camp in West Bengal for more than a decade. With multiple hardships and the sacrifices made by monks, the Tibetan Buddhism survived from the narrow death and flourished far and wide across the globe after five decades of reconstruction in India. With the help of Indian Government and public, the darkest age of Tibet with the near extinction of Tibetan Buddhism was able to save in India. The revival of Tibetan Buddhism in India can justifiably be called as ‘Second Phase of the revival of Tibetan Buddhism’.

The homogeneity of practice in Buddhism within Tibetans, helped consolidate the struggle of Tibet’s lost freedom into unified strength. His Holiness undoubtedly, contributed the integrity of Tibetan Buddhism and his leadership helped promote Tibetan Buddhism furthest to the common people. Even in the schools, the Tibetan students are trained with the basic Buddhist philosophy, which His Holiness narrates in very simple words, that is ‘My religion is very simple, my religion is kindness’. Such promotion of spirituality helps in upbringing younger generation into more compassionate person. This ultimately helps Tibetan freedom struggle into a nonviolent approach, which gained recognition not only in the international arena but also within Chinese counterparts.

Religion also plays a vital role in exile politics of decision-making, where representatives from four Tibetan Buddhist Sects and Bon religion are elected for the Parliament to address their opinions and concerns. Since 1991, it has been into practice, monks and nuns are eligible to vote for two different elections based on provincial and monastic backgrounds, whereas common people can only vote for provincial candidates.

Spirituality: Future solution

Even before China occupied Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama personally visited China in 1954 to meet China’s great helmsman, Chairman Mao to discuss about Tibet issues. Thousands of Chinese troops marched into Tibet and were stationed in Tibet after the unhistorical 'Seventeenth Point Agreement' between Tibetan Government delegation and the Chinese Communist Government in Peking on 23 May 1951. The negotiation on the status of Tibet was the ultimate mission of His Holiness the Dalai Lama but the Chinese sides objected the sentiments of the Tibetans, resulted in the death of 1.2 million Tibetans. During Mao’s chairmanship, Tibet was completely devastated and destroyed under the dust of rubbles, famines and the systematic threat of annihilation of Tibetan identity. But in 1980s, the hope lightened with the initiatives of Spiritual leader like Tenth Panchen Lama and Chinese liberal leaders like Hu Yaobang, that Tibet saw some improvements in carrying forward preserving Tibetan Buddhism. Many eminent Buddhist monks returned to Tibet from India to promote spiritualism.

In China, due to the changes in the political dogma of the leaders, along with the economic liberalization helps generate new zeal among millions of Chinese people to adopt Buddhism. Many Chinese from the mainland visit Tibet to find solace and takes interest in Buddhism. Though Buddhism in China was established much earlier than Tibet, Buddhism vanished from the root of China over the course of time.

However, the attitude of Chinese Government swings back and forth on a regular basis. In 1998, Chinese government estimated 70 millions Fulon Gong practitioners in China, which somehow matches with the strength of Chinese Communist Party members. In July 1999, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) severely crushed Fulon Gong practitioners to avoid possible future threats to the survival of CCP.

Likewise, in 2001, with the fear of growing followers of Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese authorities destroyed Serthar Monastery in Eastern Tibet and arrested Ven. Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, founder of Larung Gar Buddhist Institute, who died after two years due to health complication. Trulku Tenzin Delek, a prominent reincarnated lama from eastern Tibet was also arrested by the Chinese authorities, who is currently languishing in prison, serving life imprisonment.

At present, when China is rising economically, people tend to find the ultimate solution for the happiness of their life. Therefore, Buddhism is predominatly and rapidly growing in China. If such a magnitude of people sought interest in Buddhism, they will surely be interested in Tibet, which is currently suffering tremendously under the oppresive Chinese regime. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been promulgating the message of compassion, love, universal responsibility and religious harmony and is gaining popularity all over the world. Tibet's supreme spiritual leader will definitely make huge impact on millions of Chinese. Many Chinese already take keen interest in His Holiness the Dalai Lama and follow him regularly on various Buddhist teachings. More than that, the noble initiative of engaging with Chinese people over the conceivable solution for Tibet is also widely accepted and acknowledged by many Chinese. His Holiness the Dalai Lama for many years had requested the Chinese government in granting him a visa to make pilgrimage in China, but the Chinese government is consistently denied him visa.

In a foreseeable future, if the trend of following Buddhism in China grows in a similar fashion, the vision of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in making Tibet a zone of ahimsa will soon realize within his lifetime. Such proclamation of spiritual base in Tibet will not only help preserve aged old Tibetan culture, but also brings forth an amicable neighborly relations between two Asian giants and other states surrounding Tibet. This will create a good precedent to the whole world in making this world a better place to live.

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