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Buddhism in the News


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Can You Imagine the Dalai Lama Holding a Machine Gun?

Neither can I, but that's exactly what some are suggesting now that Tibet has been under Chinese occupation for over 50 years. A recent online article called for the Dalai Lama to end the campaign of non-violence in relation to the oppressive Chinese government:

It has been 51 years since the last most significant Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. That’s a long time. In the ensuing years under the leadership of the 14th Dalai Lama the Tibetan people have chosen a non-violent protest against Chinese occupation. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that this has not worked. In fact I am here to say it will NEVER work. This is because the non-violence advocated by the Dalai Lama has pacified the current Tibetan to the extent that the Chinese are now in firm control. Mix in some global politics and economics and you can say the Tibetan cause in its current format is utterly hopeless!

That is why it is now time for the Dalai Lama to renounce this non-violence and call for an armed struggle against the illegal Chinese occupation of Tibet.
People who know me understand that I am a man of peace. However, as I’ve watched the failure of the Tibet cause in my lifetime, I am now convinced the Chinese will win, if something urgent is not done. While in the past I may have subscribed to the Ghandian view of non-violent struggle, when it comes to the Tibetan cause I am more along the line of the “Just War” position as advocated by St. Thomas Aquinas .
James: Never is a word of impatience because there could be a democratic revolution in China tomorrow and over-night the relationship between the Chinese and Tibet would change. Impatience is a desire to force delusions we have of how things should be if we had our way but being a trick of the mind, things never turn out the way we think they will and thus bring much suffering. Impatience is a lust for control, which is often disguised as a sincere concern but can can often backfire and just cause more suffering. For example, fanning the flames of an armed insurrection in Tibet could just harden the Chinese government and turn a public that quietly supports the cause of the Tibetan people into supporters of the state. Nothing unites a people more than a war.

Plus, how could the Tibetan people even have a chance in a fight against the jaws of the giant Chinese military machine? It would merely end in even more Tibetan deaths and the aftermath would be horrific to the cause. The Chinese would turn Tibet into a further military state and perhaps create a "final solution" for Tibet, which could easily include mass executions and an increased re-population of Tibet by ethnic Chinese.

Besides, if you think that the Dalai Lama is going to give up on non-violence then you really don't know much about him, nor about his religion. Besides being a leading voice in the world for peace today, he is first and foremost a simple monk. It would go against his vows as a Buddhist monk to renounce non-violence. And how could he send Tibetans into war yet not himself espouse violence? In fact, the very act of sending Tibetans into war would be one of violence. It is greedy to demand that one of the holiest men in Buddhism (and the world) call for blood-shed because you are frustrated and impatient that Tibetan freedom isn't coming fast enough. I can see the Dalai Lama smiling in response and calmly stating that none of us are truly free anyway.

Even if freedom was granted over-night there would still be a lot of misery and suffering within the newly independent state. There could be power struggles, corruption and your average crime. What I'm trying to say is that having democratic freedoms doesn't guarantee lasting happiness. There are many people in the world living with all kinds of freedom that are very unhappy. Freedom brings with it other problems such as rampant greed. The author of the opinion piece then gives their reasons for why they are calling for armed insurrection:
1. We’re running out of time Tenzin Gyatso the current Dalai Lama is over 70 years old. He he is not going to live forever. Even if he lived another 20 years that is a limited time. Once he passes away the Communists in Beijing are going to put forth their own Dalai Lama who is more sympathetic to their cause. The Tibetan people will have their own. This split will be the final nail in the coffin for Tibetan independence. Right now there is unity. Never under-estimate the power of this unity.
James: To assume that the Tibetan people wouldn't relate more to their Dalai Lama seems a bit hyperbolic to me. The Dalai Lama is a central pillar in what makes up Tibetan culture, and to think that they would bow to the Chinese fraud of a Dalai Lama doesn't give the Tibetan Buddhists much credit for their tenacity at maintaining their religion in the face of oppression. Besides, it's not about Tenzin Gyatso himself, so much as it is about the essence of a Dalai Lama. Tenzin Gyatso is just the current version of that essence. Tibetans aren't going to disregard their century long traditions of finding the new incarnation of the Dalai Lama and trust the Chinese "methods." Tibetans of all people know that everything is impermanent and that was the case with their long hidden civilization when the Chinese took over but the other side of impermanence is that eventually China's power will wane too.

And it is important to note that there is a strong and growing Tibetan diaspora in India and beyond, which has brought a lot of attention to Tibetan culture, Buddhism and it's political cause. That attention has brought many countries onto the side of the Tibetan people. Isn't it better for the Tibetans to live within places like India or American or Europe, etc. where the allowance of other cultures and religions maintains and grows their culture instead of wiping out the Tibetans that are left in an armed insurrection? We all want freedom for Tibet but forcing it through violence runs contrary to everything the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism teaches. So you're not only asking them to go to war against one of the biggest militaries in the world, you're asking them to betray their beliefs in the process:

2. Non-violence only works with liberal democracies – Every non-violent movement cites Gandhi’s success in securing independence from Britain. We now have over 50 years of analysis to figure out why it worked. The answer is simple. It worked because of Britain. I’m not excusing British imperialism or exploits of the sub-continent. All I’m saying is because Britain was a well established liberal democracy you could appeal to its citizenry on moral grounds. You can’t do that when you’re dealing with a violent communist regime like China. (Same goes for the Burmese struggle too.) China is not a liberal democracy. You can not appeal to its citizenry on the basis of compassion and morality. China is gearing up for world domination. It has cash, it has energy, it has enthusiasm. The communist regime will not do anything to give the impression it is weak. And granting anything to Tibet would be perceived as weakness. It will not relent to some pesky monk in a robe preaching.

James: How does this author know that the Chinese people aren't sympathetic to the Tibetan cause, and that they aren't compassionate, moral people? Throughout history it has often been the case that the people under a dictatorship are good, just people who are just as much victims of their government as the Tibetan people are!! And once again, they are assuming that the Chinese people won't rise up themselves against their government. As I said before, a Tibetan uprising could unite the people behind their government at a time when western philosophy and Buddhism are on the rise within the silent majority in China. Why push them into the hands of the oppressor by igniting a war?

And in the end, a country isn't anything but an attachment to an institution that we think is going to make us happy, prevent us from suffering and helping us succeed. Yet here in America, (which is supposed to be the beacon of democracy) we are in a current state of absolute corruption. Our government is owned by the corporations, and is increasingly disenfranchising the people who are increasingly poor and unhealthy.

And being an American I have an up close view of what war does and does not do. Unfortunately America has a lot of experience with war and "liberating" people. After fighting in Iraq for 6 years now, the best we can say about it was that we created a barely stable yet highly corrupt government. And in Afghanistan we are stuck in a perpetual war, with no end in sight. I'm not saying that war should never be used but I believe it should be used very sparingly because while war can bring some good, it can and always does bring unexpected problems. And I'm not trying to say that Tibetans shouldn't be able to decide for themselves if they want a war because that's their right. However, to say that the Dalai Lama, (who is considered by many to be an incarnation of a Buddhist saint of compassion) should push a war is unrealistic. And finally, it's easy to talk tough and call for war when you're not the one who has to fight that war. Of course that's assuming this individual isn't Tibetan or unwilling to fight but I didn't read anywhere in the article that the author would lead the charge or fight in the ranks.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Dalai Lama arrives at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. AP Photo/Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press.

~Peace to all beings~

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ultrarunnerbrianphilpot said...

FREE TIBET!! It's sad day that everyone sit on their hands when it comes too China. Let a peacefull people be peacefull! Give them freedom.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Great post as usual James. This is such a complex issue and you do well to point out the problems of Tibetans declaring some sort of war on China. I don't see any democratic revolution there any time soon - perhaps protests, perhaps another Tiananmen square incident, or something similar - but no wholesale change of tide in the beast which is China. In my little bit of time traveling in China and living with Chinese I get the impression that most are either willfully ignorant of most governmental issues or genuinely brainwashed (esp. on Mao's legacy).

Foreign news on China is censored in the country and peer-to-peer networks are monitored and occasionally shut down, leading to a climate of silence by the populous. Nationalism and the triumph of Communism are successfully promulgated by the government and the country is truly an economic success, leading to the above mentioned willful ignorance even by those who do know what's going on (and this surely includes some Tibetans).

I agree that an all-out war would be fruitless, but I wouldn't mind the US or another sympathetic country reinstating covert military activity to stop illegal and destructive Chinese activities in Tibet (and in Uyghur populated areas as well).

A frightening possibility is that China may soon have enough power to force India to close its doors to future refugees and perhaps evict current ones.

I love the idea of peace in the face of oppression, but I also see the necessity of stopping the harmful deeds of others. (anywho - an overly long comment, sorry! But a great topic and one we should be talking about much, much more)

They call him James Ure said...

Ultra Runner:


Buddhist Phil:

Thanks brother. You're probably right about there not being a revolution anytime soon but that's what we thought about the Soviets. It was a surprise to many when it fell over night. Still, China does seem to have a strong grip. Let's hope something changes. We need a Gorbachev in China.

Hmm, that's too bad about the willful ignorance. I thought there was a stronger free thinking movement alive in China. You right about the economic factors. Often people don't complain if the economy is doing well. I heard though that there are many "closet Buddhists."

I certainly agree that we could be training operatives on how to gain information inside the country, etc. I do think that when powers get as out of control as Hitler, that military action is unfortunately necessary.

kate micaela said...

Lol. That would be impossible. They have their schedules on many things and it doesn't include holding machine gun..

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