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The myth of the
September 23, 2003 2:00 AM   Subscribe

The myth of the "friendly and harmless" Dalai Lama exposed. While the Lama's PR machine runs in high gear here in the states only a few voices have come out about the truth behind the oppressive theocracy that was Tibet and how specially sanitized and marketed the Lama is when he crosses the Atlantic. It turns out the Lama isn't very different than any other man in a position of power and has much more in common with the Pope than, say, Deepak Chopra.
posted by skallas (79 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
self determination
posted by johnny novak at 2:03 AM on September 23, 2003


free tibet
posted by matteo at 2:09 AM on September 23, 2003


Free the Pope.
posted by hipnerd at 2:12 AM on September 23, 2003


Free the Heinz 57
posted by twine42 at 2:30 AM on September 23, 2003


In the Dalai Lama's Tibet, torture and mutilation -- including eye gouging, the pulling out of tongues, hamstringing, and amputation of arms and legs -- were favored punishments inflicted upon thieves, runaway serfs, and other "criminals."

Big hitter, the Lama.
posted by Ljubljana at 3:24 AM on September 23, 2003


I heard he kicked a puppy once, too.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:29 AM on September 23, 2003


I was preparing a similar piece about a possible western misunderstanding of Tibet, China and the mythologizing of an exotic religious leader, ever since some quite anti-regime chinese I knew pointed out to me in no uncertain terms that the whole Tibet campaign and PR stunt has absolutely no relation to the facts on the ground. I'm still skeptical and undecided. Some articles I have found on the web, might help strengthen Skallas' points:
  • Western concepts of Tibet embrace more myth than reality

  • Reassessing Tibet Policy

  • Hitchens' attack on the Dalai Lama and a response.

  • End the Fairy-Tale Reporting of Tibet

  • From India: Tibet - A reality check
  • .

    You might also find this summary of the Tibet autonomous region's economic performance relevant: Deciphering Economic Growth in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
    posted by talos at 3:51 AM on September 23, 2003


    Was licking llama legs a crime?
    posted by nofundy at 4:34 AM on September 23, 2003


    Free the USA
    posted by a3matrix at 4:46 AM on September 23, 2003


    Oops. Did I just violate the patriot act?
    posted by a3matrix at 4:47 AM on September 23, 2003


    Um, what's so great about Deepak Chopra?
    posted by CunningLinguist at 5:02 AM on September 23, 2003


    It turns out that when the Lama golfs, he beats his caddies to death with the club after missing a close putt.

    :D
    posted by RobbieFal at 5:05 AM on September 23, 2003


    Free a3matrix from guantanamo : >

    I wonder just how popular the Dalai Lama really is...he gets airtime (usually with a celebrity at his side), but I never see him meeting with people who could actually help Tibet (government officials, or the president, or the UN, for example)...I think people here don't see him as a political leader at all, which certainly doesn't help the Tibetans. We maybe tend to see him as a spiritual leader of an oppressed people (which feeds into our image of China as the new USSR, setting the stage for the next cold war). Seeing him/listening to him has encouraged people to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism, which I always assumed was his whole goal. It's a narrow slice of the public tho, that actually cares about him at all.
    posted by amberglow at 5:21 AM on September 23, 2003


    Annex the Vatican.
    posted by signal at 5:30 AM on September 23, 2003


    ....but I never see him meeting with people who could actually help Tibet (government officials, or the president, or the UN, for example)...

    From the article:

    Who could fail to admire a spiritual leader who, fresh from meeting President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell,...
    posted by jalexei at 5:33 AM on September 23, 2003


    First, the comparison to the Pope was his stand on homosexuality, not power. The Dalai Lama has said that homosexual sex is a non-enlighted act because it involves sex not for procreation, but that's non-enlightened for everyone so he's an equal-opportunity buzzkill. Anyway, American Buddhists ignore that deviation from the liberal views because many of them aren't Tibetan Buddhists and are guided by other traditions, and because he's made a strong stand on tolerance -- certainly more than the Pope has done.
    Second, the article doesn't talking about reacting to a myth of harmlessness. The article talks about how the Free Tibet movement might be making the Tibetan peoples' lives more difficult, but that is the fault of the Chinese not the Dalai Lama. It's a serious moral question, how much pain is justice worth, especially when it's others suffering. But he doesn't implicate the Dalai Lama in it.
    Third, the Dalai Lama has stated numerous times that the Tibet of old needed to be reformed. But the Chinese method of reformation, most Westerners agree, is just a bit on the brutal side. The Western concepts of Tibet article is a giggle. It is pure Chinese propaganda. The most it said of ~1 million Tibetans killed is
    The most disruptive event of recent years was the "cultural revolution," which lasted from 1966 to 1976. It turned most of Tibet's farm and herding areas into giant communes and closed or destroyed many monasteries and temples, just as it did elsewhere in China. At its end, the communes were disbanded and the temples and monasteries were repaired and reopened at government expense. Go here for more good reads.

    Actually, like the author of the Dalai Lama Lite article, I find the cult of personality surrounding him to be a bit annoying. It's like Beanie Babies, the popularity almost ruins the product. However, with the nature of Western attention being such that if there was anything really awful to report about him we would have heard it by now, he is a cult leader after all, I'm inclined to think that he really might be that good. And, to further explain my outpouring, I just stayed up all night finishing up this book. Ignore Gere's intro -- the rest of it is really heart-wrenching.
    posted by dness2 at 5:44 AM on September 23, 2003


    I read that too, but I never see it. Whenever I see him on TV, he's not talking about how he spoke to Bush or Powell or what they spoke about, but pushing a book or his beliefs or travels or a central park thing.
    posted by amberglow at 5:47 AM on September 23, 2003


    It doesn't matter whether the Lama's a bastard or not-- the PRC's not going anywhere no matter how many bumper stickers people use. I don't have the statistics in front of me, but I'm pretty sure that China is militarily and economically more powerful than Richard Gere and The Beastie Boys combined.
    posted by Mayor Curley at 6:01 AM on September 23, 2003


    Peter Bishop in a long out of print book 'The Myth of Shangri-La' (University of California Press) wrote that Tibet became in the Western imagination something that it projected its own desires upon. Basically, Tibet can be anything we think it is. So, yes, Tibet was (and is) a theocracy, and has had a long and sometimes bloody history of internal fighting between religious factions (of which the DL's gelugpa sect is one). Yes, China has brutal occupation there. Tibetan Buddhism is popular in the west, but no, it often has little to do with lay Tibetan Buddhism, focusing instead either on gaining access to 'secret' and 'esoteric' texts, or recycling western middle class romantic notions of spirituality. No, Tibetans aren't necessarily worried about this, as any spread of the dharma is good. Yes, some Tibetans are not averse to making money of this and marketing themselves (but why not?). And yes, some of the outcome of this is that Tibet's political support in the international arena is maintained. Etc; go figure.

    Anyway interesting article skallas and a pov that is probably pretty heretical amongst the 'Free Tibet' crowd.
    posted by carter at 6:10 AM on September 23, 2003


    Blame Tibet
    posted by angry modem at 6:14 AM on September 23, 2003


    dness2:The most it said of ~1 million Tibetans killed
    Again I don't pretend to have any sort of deep knowledge of the area, but as the article published in Frontline magazine (Indian) I linked to suggests, 1 million seems a highly improbable number, given the demographic development of Tibet (search for "Theme No. 4" on the page, it's below the middle):
    Let us now turn to the issue of how the alleged killing of more than one million people (between 1951 and 1979, according to 'the government of Tibet in exile') relates in scale to the population of Tibet during the relevant period. We have already seen that the population of Tibet as estimated by the Dalai Lama's government was close to a million in 1951 and 1.274 million in 1953. In 1983 and 1990, the National Population Census found the number of Tibetans in TAR to be 1.79 million and 2.10 million respectively. It is inconceivable that a loss of 1.2 million people against such a population base will not express itself in huge distortions and gaps in the demographic indexes and population profile of TAR (or for that matter all the Tibetan autonomous areas in China). There is not the slightest evidence in these indexes and in the profile of anything but steady improvement, over the decades, in the quality of life of Tibetans. This means, among other things, an impressive rise in life expectancy at birth (from 36 in 1951 to over 65 today), a reduction in the death rate, and strikingly lower infant mortality.

    ''If one million were killed,'' remarks Jing Wei, a Chinese journalist, ''then there would be almost no Tibetans left. The truth, however, is just the opposite.'' (100 Questions About Tibet, Beijing Review Press, Beijing, 1989).


    Again, this might be a Chinese attempt at PR management indeed; however demographics are demographics: wouldn't a slaughter of that order of magnitude be more than evident in the data?
    Also I can't help but quote (something I tend not to do lately) Hitchens', rather accurate, take on the peacefulness of Buddhism in general:
    "Buddhism can be as hysterical and sanguinary as any other system that relies on faith and tribe. Lon Nol's Cambodian army was Buddhist at least in name. Solomon Bandaranaike, first elected leader of independent Sri Lanka, was assassinated by a Buddhist militant. It was Buddhist-led pogroms against the Tamils that opened the long and disastrous communal war that ruins Sri Lanka to this day. The gorgeously named SLORC, the military fascism that runs Burma, does so nominally as a Buddhist junta. I have even heard it whispered that in old Tibet, that pristine and contemplative land, the lamas were the allies of feudalism and unsmilingly inflicted medieval punishments such as blinding and flogging unto death."
    posted by talos at 6:16 AM on September 23, 2003


    And yes, some of the outcome of this is that Tibet's political support in the international arena is maintained.
    But is it? Has anyone called for sanctions against China or anything of the sort because of Tibet? Are international trade agreements in jeopardy because of Tibet? etc...

    Taiwan is another example of a country in the region in trouble because of China, but we treat that situation with much more importance, and actually defend it with military and political help.
    posted by amberglow at 6:23 AM on September 23, 2003


    Free DC!
    posted by MrMoonPie at 6:30 AM on September 23, 2003


    On a lighter note, the NYT covered the concert last night: "Tom Waits, who closed the show in his usual guise as a lowlife sage, wisecracked: "So his holiness goes to bed at 7:30? That's not the holiness I used to know.""

    posted by lilboo at 6:37 AM on September 23, 2003


    But is it? Has anyone called for sanctions against China or anything of the sort because of Tibet? Are international trade agreements in jeopardy because of Tibet? etc...

    Yeah you're right amberglow I guess I should have implied 'international awareness of Tibet' rather than 'international support for Tibet.' Not that, as you say, awareness will be turned into support any time soon. But I suppose it's better than little or no awareness at all.
    posted by carter at 6:46 AM on September 23, 2003


    So, he opposes homosexuality, and agreed to let that stance be removed from a book destined for the U.S. market. Respect points: -100.
    posted by stonerose at 6:50 AM on September 23, 2003


    talos: If you replace Hitchens' reference to Buddhism with "some Buddhists" I might give you that.

    Hitchens' is so anti-Buddhism that I can not take anything that he says on the subject seriously. He says "the utter nonsense of reincarnation and ... the sinister if not indeed crazy belief that death is but a stage in a grand cycle of what appears to be futility and subjection" - making such statements about the fundamentals of a religion he is claiming to be objective about is laughable.

    stonerose: I don't think that you can say that HH Dalai Lama opposes homosexuality in any sensible way. He also opposes any other sexual act other than for procreation. The phrase you are most likely to see used is that something "is considered ... misconduct", e.g. non-utilitarian sexual intercourse is considered sexual misconduct. In Buddhism, at a spiritual level this is true - the whole point of Buddhism is to remove such strong desires from your psyche. I have never seen anything where the Dalai Lama made any statements on homosexuality other than from this spiritual perspective.
    posted by daveg at 7:06 AM on September 23, 2003


    daveg, thanks for that. I was basing my comment on this quote from the first link:

    The Dalai Lama explicitly condemns homosexuality, as well as all oral and anal sex. His stand is close to that of Pope John Paul II, something his Western followers find embarrassing and prefer to ignore. His American publisher even asked him to remove the injunctions against homosexuality from his book, "Ethics for the New Millennium," for fear they would offend American readers, and the Dalai Lama acquiesced.

    Now, I'm interested to know whether there is a difference in the relative value (or degree of demerit) he attaches to various sorts of non-procreative romantic relationships, whether or not they involve a sexual component. Anybody?
    posted by stonerose at 7:12 AM on September 23, 2003


    Hitchens' is so anti-Buddhism that I can not take anything that he says on the subject seriously.

    Hitchens is so anti-religion that I can not take anything he says on that subject seriously.
    posted by Ufez Jones at 7:13 AM on September 23, 2003


    however demographics are demographics

    Yes - and are as subject to potential skew and misrepresentation as any other statistic. The numbers cited only count people living in Tibet -- but I seem to recall hearing that the Chinese government had required a large number of its people to move to Tibet. I'm not saying that talos's data is totally bogus - just that it's not conclusive, either.
    posted by nickmark at 7:18 AM on September 23, 2003


    stonerose : Now, I'm interested to know whether there is a difference in the relative value (or degree of demerit) he attaches to various sorts of non-procreative romantic relationships, whether or not they involve a sexual component. Anybody?

    How much the following relates to the Dalai Lama's position, I don't know, but for a more general Buddhist position, this from BuddhaNet: Buddhist sexual ethics is instructive :-

    'Buddhism does have a strong sexual ethic, but not a repressive one. The main point of this ethic is non-harming in an area of life where we can do a lot of damage by acting violently, manipulatively or deceitfully. These and breaches of the other precepts - ill will, taking the non-given, lying and stupefaction - are the Buddhist no-no's in sexual practice. Because of its universalistic character, Buddhism as such certainly does not buy into prejudices and inhibitions associated with social engineering, the reproduction of the tribe.'

    'Of course, one can meet Buddhists from traditional backgrounds that do have a problem with non-procreative sex like homosexuality, just as we run into ones that are still challenged by gender equality. But this sort of inhibition or prejudice comes from a particular ethnic culture or national tradition only. You can confidently tell anyone who expresses these sorts of attitudes that they have nothing to do with Dhamma as such.'

    I think the position is that any kind of obsessive behaviour, sexual or not, is seen as an impediment; this doesn't include homosexuality.
    posted by plep at 7:21 AM on September 23, 2003


    [On preview, what plep posted]

    The Buddhist take (or at least my understanding of it) would have to take as the starting point the degree of attachment involved. Any action, etc. that involves, or creates greater attachment is bad. Acts that lessen attachment are good. (This is sometimes portrayed as detachment, but detachment is rather the opposite of attachment rather than the absence of it!)

    The example that I usually find most useful is that of love - bad love is very selfish and involves jealousy, mistrust, fear, etc. good love is very selfless and is focused on the well being of the loved one. In this way, bad love involves a high degree of attachment to the loved one, while good love does not (of course you may still become highly attached to the things that might happen to the loved one, but that's a whole other story ...)


    Ufez Jones: Maybe Hitchens is just anti everything ?
    posted by daveg at 7:27 AM on September 23, 2003


    "bad love involves a high degree of attachment to the loved one" -- so bondage is out, then?

    Sorry, couldn't resist.
    posted by nickmark at 7:30 AM on September 23, 2003


    >He also opposes any other sexual act other than for procreation.

    Talk about your doublespeak. He opposes masturbation, casual sex, homosexual sex, etc. In other words my Pope analogy works great. Buddhism in many ways can be seen as the catholism of the East.

    The fact that this information is kept from westerners in various ways further shows that the Free Tibet movement is built on bunk and the man himself is a hypocrite. Either he expresses his value system or he lies about it. Obviously he chose to withhold information that might make the types who flock to him think twice. All for book sales and PR? How fucking desperate.

    In the end we have a deposed 20-something kid who was told he was more or less god, fought against the People's revolution, lost to a superior military and for what? To keep his power and gold and little boys? Now he's all grown up and can be whatever you want him to be. The next Ghandi? Sure. Just don't crack open any history books.

    Yes, there's an argument for autonomy but its no secret the Lama has taken up the rhetoric of democracy for his own ends when if he was left alone in Tibet there would have been no mention of democracy, in fact it probably would have gotten you whipped for being an uppity serf.

    The lama represents everything that's wrong with religion - the abuse of power, the PR bullshit, the ignornant masses flocking to something they can't be bothered to google about, etc.

    What the lama does have is tons of well read Western intellectuals willing to rationalize every little Buddhist horror and excuse an oppressive theocracy. He also has a whole slew of gen-x types who know nothing about what the real Tibet is like or what the real Lama is like. Hell, if saying nice things about the Lama means getting cheap Beastie Boys tickets and hitting on cute girls at concerts then sign me up. Ironically, this reminds of the little obligatory Chairman Mao "cookbook" hippies took to big music festivals. My, how the tide has turned.

    Lastly, its all for nothing. China will never give Tibet any autonomy, China is busy moving people and pushing money into Tibet to culturally change it from whatever theocratic nonsense it was to something more in-line with mainstream Chinese culture. Whatever that may be in the end.

    Democracy, personal autonomy, individual rights, due process, a rational universe, etc are not the fruits of Eastern sophists, they're the fruits of Western Enlightenment - the kind that gets political results as opposed to the Buddhist "enlightenment" which is just more religious masturbation. The Lama's co-opting of Western values to rebuild his power structure and start new attempts at theocracy are outdated and frankly, sickening. His PR campaign based on selective information shows you his lack of ethics and how morally bankrupt the entire Free Tibet movement truly is.

    The above isn't some Maoist apoligism, as the highly ideological Maoists saw the feudal system as an offront to their revolution and needed a corridor to the West friendly India. Obviously, politics has changed since, but defending an ulta-conservative religious figure on a well-financed PR campaign who speaks in what can really be described as religious nothings and is easy to digest like a Maoist quote is not someone worth defending. Theocratic abuse are not values, they're crimes. Funny how the West isn't enamored over Saudi Arabia's religious laws, yet early 20th century Tibet was much worse from a human rights persepctive.

    I don't know how it happened, but millions of westerners were sold on the idea that this guy and buddhism are different than their own home-grown religion. I call bullshit on that and the theocratic apologists really need to consider who and what they're defending.
    posted by skallas at 7:38 AM on September 23, 2003


    Of course Tibet was an oppressive theocracy. Big deal - so was every other nation on earth, including every country in Europe, until they either encountered 18th century "enlightenment" ideals and transformed themselves, or were invaded by a colonial power. I think the Tibetans may be forgiven their slightly late arrival to the game, given the extremely remote location and dearth of contact with the outside world. It is clear that the present Dalai Lama was interested from his youth in Western ideas and in reforming Tibet's political system; who knows how things might have changed had the Chinese not invaded?

    Lastly, its all for nothing. China will never give Tibet any autonomy, China is busy moving people and pushing money into Tibet to culturally change it from whatever theocratic nonsense it was to something more in-line with mainstream Chinese culture.

    ...destroying a non-Chinese culture and marginalizing the Tibetan people in the process, of course. It is a modern colonialist project, just as vile as anything the European powers did; what's wrong with being outraged about it?
    posted by Mars Saxman at 7:50 AM on September 23, 2003


    >I think the Tibetans may be forgiven their slightly late arrival to the game, given the extremely remote location and dearth of contact with the outside world.

    Oh please, there was no reformist movement, no educational movement, just a feudal system with the monks taking care of economics and everyone else at the level of serf/slaves.

    But you're missing the point. This guy is the god-king who enjoyed and approved, through religious backing, of a systematic oppression in regards to human rights. We're not talking about some long-dead culture, the Lama is alive and well and bargaining for autonomy which even if we ignore the theocratic elements may prove for more instability in China. If China did anything it was give this guy a taste of his own medicine. Sour isn't it?

    Sure, If I was the Lama and my gold thrones built by serfs serving me were suddenly taken by other ideologues I would be pissed too. Pissed enough to go on PR campaigns, carefully edit my teachings per culture, and remake myself as a victim and just a guy who wants democracy. Of course, thats all bullshit. The real Lama has been exposed, its in the history books, buddhism is no Western Enlightenment.

    >who knows how things might have changed had the Chinese not invaded?

    Exactly, you don't know, thus you have no concrete point to make. Why not "imagine if we never had an American Revolution" things could have turned out well right? Long live the king!
    posted by skallas at 8:01 AM on September 23, 2003


    daveg, i believe that mr. hitchens always likes a good drink. forget hitchens vs. dalhai lama, hitchens vs. mother theresa is the real cage match to watch.

    and right on, mayor curley.
    posted by armacy at 8:08 AM on September 23, 2003


    skallas wrote: "Funny how the West isn't enamored over Saudi Arabia's religious laws, yet early 20th century Tibet was much worse from a human rights persepctive".

    it's also funny how some people, in their anti-religion furor, can really get over simple facts such as a brutal, oppressive invasion and a cold-blooded, successful effort to ethnic cleanse and culturally annihilate an entire region.
    the many appalling aspects of a long-gone Tibetan theocracy don't make Beijing's 50 years of inhuman policy less brutal.
    and it's true, skallas, the West isn't enamored of Saudi Arabia (except for Western oilmen and their cronies, who are ready to greedily kiss Saudi ass even after 9-11). but the House of Saud's particularly ugly and repressive and ultimately violent brand of Islam does not really authorize, say, a secular Superpower to invade Saudi Arabia, burn down Mecca and hunt down every mullah in the country. even if the secular "liberators" did all that in the name of Rousseau, Montesquieu and John Locke, it would still look pretty wrong to me

    I'm pro-Tibet, but I had to pay full price for my Beastie Boys tickets, by the way

    posted by matteo at 8:09 AM on September 23, 2003


    Y'know, I was riding the subway home to queens friday night and was stunned at the larger-than-average number of visibly Buddhist folk (robes and whatnot) riding, until I rembered the Dalai Lama was in town. It must be like the like the Shriners convention for these people, only probably with a lot less strippers and carousing.
    posted by jonmc at 8:10 AM on September 23, 2003


    skallas: Western enlightenment is indeed a wonderful thing, but nearly two millenia prior, Asoka was bringing about most of the things you quote in India. This included tolerance for other religions, individual responsibilities and rights, the provision of state sponsored amenities, a respected judicial system, ... Asoka's driving force behind all of this was Buddhism.

    By the way you obviously know bugger all about Buddhism and have no first hand knowledge of the Dalai Lama.
    posted by daveg at 8:12 AM on September 23, 2003


    Ufez Jones: Maybe Hitchens is just anti everything ?

    Well, he is a self-professed contrarian, something that will likely ring a few bells and whistles of warning. He can write very well on an objective subject, but his editorials are little other than vitriol and spewing.
    posted by Ufez Jones at 8:16 AM on September 23, 2003


    Tibet Through Chinese Eyes. A very good piece that ran in the Atlantic Monthly a few years ago. The author, Peter Hessler, is one of the better China writers working today. The article is a bit long but very worthwhile.
    posted by chinstrap at 8:28 AM on September 23, 2003


    If I were to choose between Buddhist "oppression" and Chinese "democracy", I'd choose the former. Let Tibet be free and then let its people decide as a sovereign country how to democratically organize themselves. The real Tibetan problem is not the Dalai Lama; it's Chinese communism.
    posted by 111 at 8:31 AM on September 23, 2003


    "So his holiness goes to bed at 7:30? That's not the holiness I used to know."

    Tom Waits is a true American hero. He alone will weather all attempts at icon-smashing. I'd looooooove to see Pisstopher Hitchens try and take him on.
    posted by soyjoy at 8:33 AM on September 23, 2003


    >but the House of Saud's particularly ugly and repressive and ultimately violent brand of Islam does not really authorize, say, a secular Superpower to invade Saudi Arabia

    And what if? Would we buy a Saudi cleric coming to the US after we knew about what Saudi Arabia was all about? Would we embrace the concept of fatwa, would our women cover their faces while this new meme and holy man swept over America? Something tells me no. The world already knows what Saudi Arabia was like, but the ignorance surrounding early 20th century Tibet plays in the hands of the Free Tibet crowd.

    I think its fairly obvious the writing on the wall clearly states that most people don't know squat about the Lama or his past and he's made himself into something more akin to a marketing brand. Smart move, but just morally bankrupt, especially from a "respected holy man."

    I guess some people can excuse oppressive theocracies, lying, selective editing to sell books, and shameless promotion, but I don't. I think once you know that facts you have to side with theocracy and traditionalism or western enlightenment and calling the Lama on his dubious PR attempts because in the end, China is not giving an inch.
    posted by skallas at 8:38 AM on September 23, 2003


    I really dont want to moderate this thread but one more point: the Lama has failed to produce an heir apparant and once he's dead, which should be fairly soon considering his age the whole Free Tibet movement will probably collapse and the cult of personality surrounding him will go back to wherever they came from. Its very much a lost cause, even if you don't think he's not a fraud.
    posted by skallas at 8:43 AM on September 23, 2003


    Sure, If I was the Lama and my gold thrones built by serfs serving me were suddenly taken by other ideologues I would be pissed too.

    Has anyone noticed how Bill O'Reilly et al are quickly using the term idealogue to describe anyone who doesn't agree with them? Not that skallas is doing that exactly, but I've noticed it in a few threads. Soon Idealogue will be as much of a dirty word as liberal. At this rate, we'll have removef 80% of the words from the political vocab by 2010! Double plus good!
    posted by thedude256 at 8:45 AM on September 23, 2003


    skallas, just one detail: the Dalai is not Tibet. Tibet will be freed by its people and by unstoppable force of democracy. There are no lost causes.
    posted by 111 at 8:52 AM on September 23, 2003


    one more point: the Lama has failed to produce an heir apparant and once he's dead, which should be fairly soon considering his age the whole Free Tibet movement will probably collapse

    Um, not to be too much of a DL fanboy, but Lamas don't approve heirs as such. After they die the monks are supposed to find his successor by finding a child who was born at the same moment the Lama died, or something llike that.

    Also, there's also the Panchen Lama problem, whereby the chinese communist government deliberately announced that they would determine who was the new incarnation by drawing a piece of paper from a bowl, and surprise it was not the one divined by the DL. The DL's preferred choice has since mysteriously disappeared. Human right abuses go both ways, but the Chinese ones are MUCH more recent.

    We're talking about a kid who was six years old at the time, for christ's sake.
    posted by thedude256 at 8:53 AM on September 23, 2003


    even if you don't think he's not a fraud

    Um, double negative? What am I supposed to infer from that? Even if I don't think he's not a fraud, i.e. I think he's a fraud? If I think he's a fraud then tibet is a lost cause?

    I'll tell you about a lost cause: US democracy.
    posted by thedude256 at 8:56 AM on September 23, 2003


    So Skallas and 111 are fighting over which boogeyman is worse, religion or communism. This ought to be a good fight.

    Of course they're both still wrong, but the point is to spill blood after all.
    posted by Space Coyote at 9:03 AM on September 23, 2003


    are supposed to find his successor by finding a child who was born at the same moment the Lama died,

    So this whole thing is based on the teachings of Laura Nyro and Blood, Sweat & Tears, then. Spiffy.
    posted by jonmc at 9:05 AM on September 23, 2003


    "because in the end, China is not giving an inch".

    especially if most Western politicians keep drooling over Chinese money and keep giving Beijing everything they ask for, ie WTO membership, Olympic games, you name it

    of course they're a "valuable partner", providing cheap slave labor to scores of huge Western and Asian conglomerates. so, why care about their appalling human rights record, Tibet, death penalty, etc?

    not to mention that, surprisingly, Tibetans have de facto been punished by many Western liberals for their choice of nonviolence. the decision not to go the Hamas way and blow themselves up around Beijing and Shangai to make a point ended up costing support and made Tibet for many a second-tier political and human rights cause. they're not blowing themselves up, nor hijacking planes, so it can't be all that bad down there, huh?

    and really, we can crap on the Dalai Lama and Tibetan theocracy all we want, but I'd rather spend time with him than with Yasser Arafat


    posted by matteo at 9:11 AM on September 23, 2003


    Funny, religions in general don't approve of the sexual act other than for procreation, unless it's some new cult. Right? So whats so shocking about that? Name one, old established religion that approves if you know of one. I'd love to know.
    posted by dabitch at 9:13 AM on September 23, 2003


    Skallas is like the monk who thwacks you with a paddle while you're meditating. Thwack!!!



    I don't know if I feel more enlightened though...
    posted by dness2 at 9:18 AM on September 23, 2003


    skallas: Are you aware that the Dalai Lama was a naive 16 year old when Tibet was invaded by China? Given your (apparent) lack of belief in reincarnation, it seems a bit much to load guilt upon him, for the undoubted atrocities committed over the preceding centuries.

    On the question of an heir - as stated above the question of the Panchen Lama illustrates the situation. Given that we are all embroiled in Samsara (Buddhist assumption ;< )), all beings are reincarnated after their death, unless they achieve enlightenment. many will not 'come back' in human form, but assuming the dalai lama's level of learning, some time after his death (the length of time spent in a href="http://home.btclick.com/scimah/Bardo.htm">bardo (thodol in tibetan?) is not fixed) the dalai lama will be reincarnated in human form. a search would be undertaken for his new incarnation. however, it is possible that the current 14th incarnation may be the a href="http://www.phayul.com/news/article.asp?id=3419">final one.
    posted by daveg at 9:19 AM on September 23, 2003


    Sorry about those two screwed up links - dunno what happened there (looks a mess though).


    For the hard of thinking they were bardo & final Dalai Lama
    posted by daveg at 9:21 AM on September 23, 2003


    OM-MANI-PADME-HUM.

    (Repeat)
    posted by clavdivs at 9:33 AM on September 23, 2003



    Buddhists don't believe in reincarnation per se; a better word is rebirth. Buddhists don't believe in an immortal soul - the whole concept of the soul is as illusory as other constantly-changing phenomena ('You cannot step in the same river twice' - not a Buddhist aphorism but a relevant one). However, there is a causal relationship between different lives (one analogy sometimes given is the relationship between the flame of one candle which lights another - there is a relationship there, but obviously they are not the same flame, and both are constantly changing, moment to moment). In some schools of Buddhism, this can lead to interesting theoretical situations such as one individual being a rebirth of two who were alive at the same time, for example.

    Explanation of rebirth vs. reincarnation here.

    More generally :- the Zen saying 'If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him!' (warning against attachment) obviously applies to religious masters, including the Dalai Lama. This is not a religion which denies responsibility to its followers, or a religion of easy answers.


    posted by plep at 9:39 AM on September 23, 2003


    [nitpick] ... [/nitpick]
    posted by plep at 9:46 AM on September 23, 2003


    Tibet Torn Between Tradition and China's Bounty

    China Finds Its Shangri-La In Tourism

    China's Hippies Find Their Berkeley
    posted by homunculus at 11:43 AM on September 23, 2003


    I think the problem is not so much with the Dalai Lama himself here as with the Westerners who put him on a pedestal of supreme enlightenment in all things. He is a product of his culture, like everyone else. On some things, he is extraordinarily enlightened, and on other things, he is bound by the narrowness and prejudice he was taught as a child.

    The Tibetan Buddhist tradition includes a number of proscriptions as narrow and restrictive as anything in Leviticus or Deuteronomy. My hope is that future Dalai Lamas will be challenged to set aside these medieval prejudices and create a religious tradition that preserves the strengths of the past while creating an environment that is respectful of all people. It would be great if future Popes could do the same, and let's not forget future Metropolitans, Ayatollahs, and Patriarchs.

    Unfortunately, the ways in which Western society fetishizes the Tibetan Buddhist tradition makes it impossible for that tradition's leaders to learn from a challenging dialogue. There is a tremendous amount of sexism and homophobia within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (just as there is within Western religious traditions). There is a heritage of elitism and oppression, just as there is within Western religious traditions.

    But people seem afraid to engage with that, which seems colonialist and paternalistic to me--almost as if they think of this as some kind of "primitive" tradition that must be protected, instead of a complex religious heritage that needs to be continuously engaged and challenged on the places where it reflects the mindless prejudices of the past.

    A great book on this topic is Prisoners of Shangri-La, by Donald Lopez.

    And, plep, Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism have about as much to do with each other as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has to do with the Russian Orthodox Church.
    posted by Sidhedevil at 12:27 PM on September 23, 2003


    American-Tibetan Buddhism is for people who don't buy Christianity anymore but are scared to be atheists. They therefore take Buddhism and make it into whatever they want. Just another kind of cafeteria-style religion.
    posted by callmejay at 12:36 PM on September 23, 2003


    And, plep, Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism have about as much to do with each other as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has to do with the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Indeed, but I thought it was worth mentioning because a number of posters to this thread have criticised Buddhism rather than the particular brand - which, as you say, makes about as much sense as blaming Nestorians for the Spanish Inquisition.
    posted by plep at 12:55 PM on September 23, 2003


    For what it's worth:

    Boston Globe: The Buddha of suburbia
    The Dalai Lama has proved remarkably adept at separating what in Tibetan Buddhism is universally valid from what was merely dispensable "Himalayan dogma." He has been known to stop in midsentence, and reverse a millennium of Tibetan precedent almost without blinking an eye. When some gay reporters quizzed the Dalai Lama about his stance on homosexuality, he voiced the typical Buddhist condemnation of it. Then he paused, reconsidered, and sent centuries of prejudice out the window: "If the two people have taken no vows [of chastity], and neither is harmed," he said, "why should it not be acceptable?"
    posted by sudama at 12:57 PM on September 23, 2003


    OM-MANI-PADME-HUM.

    I'd say "Oh, man" if Padme gave me a hummer, too.

    Other than that, this thread has been both fascinating and frustrating-I hate religion as much as the next recovering Catholic, but don't have nearly the axe to grind as some around here.
    posted by notsnot at 1:41 PM on September 23, 2003


    OM-MANI-PADME-HUM

    what do you find fascinating?
    what is so frustrating?
    do all "recovering catholics" hate religion?
    why would the axe need grinding by others?

    Is your soul in pain?
    Did something happen in your past?
    Do you need spiritual guidance?
    posted by clavdivs at 1:57 PM on September 23, 2003


    something did happen
    in your past.
    posted by clavdivs at 1:58 PM on September 23, 2003


    I was always curious about the band Rage Against the Machine's participation in Free Tibet activities. If they were truly followers of the Free Tibet movement, yet were also seemingly followers of Che, Stalin, Zapata and Marx (Karl not Richard) wouldn't that mean that they would have believed that Tibet was already free since the People's Revolution of the People's Republic of the China managed to come down and liberate them from a feudalist theocracy? This article just reaffirms my curiosity about this.
    posted by Pollomacho at 2:21 PM on September 23, 2003


    Having thought about it a little in the last few hours, I've realised that with respect to sex, a meaningless casual encounter should be less damaging than a relationship in which one builds layers of meaning around the act. To this extent, it is possible that stereotypical homosexual sex is lesser misconduct than normal heterosexual sex, hmmmm ...
    posted by daveg at 2:40 PM on September 23, 2003


    RAtM were definitely not followers of Joe Stalin. They belong to the libertarian left. They probably have a much dimmer view of the Chinese regime than the current US administration.
    Che!=Stalin=!Zapata!=Marx!

    And please, I know that it's the chinese communist party is running china. But to describe China's economic system as communism, is to render the word meaningless. Its the most aggressive capitalism in the world...
    posted by talos at 2:40 PM on September 23, 2003


    I'm pretty sure it's pronounced "ti-BAY."
    posted by UncleFes at 2:44 PM on September 23, 2003


    daveg: To this extent, it is possible that stereotypical homosexual sex is lesser misconduct than normal heterosexual sex, hmmmm ...

    Not to nitpick (oh, all right then...), but wouldnt that make more sense, and be less discriminatory thus -

    To this extent, [in the traditional Tibetan buddhist view] it is possible that stereotypical ...[promiscuous] sex is lesser misconduct than normal ... [marital] sex, hmmmm ...

    or were you making some other, subtle point?
    posted by dash_slot- at 3:57 PM on September 23, 2003


    I'm pretty sure that China is militarily and economically more powerful than Richard Gere and The Beastie Boys combined.

    how many divisions has richard gere?
    posted by quonsar at 5:39 PM on September 23, 2003


    excluding his pants?...Mr. Gere can bring 3 divisions to bear.
    posted by clavdivs at 5:53 PM on September 23, 2003


    But when a British tourist visited the Tibetan city of Gyangste in 1987 and walked the streets wearing a T-shirt with a photo of Sgt. Bilko, Chinese guards immediately assumed it was a photo of the Dalai Lama and tried to arrest her.

    "Phil Silvers, yes," Gyalpo nodded in recognition. It has become part of the lore, this reappearance of the exiled Dalai Lama through Sgt. Bilko.


    Reincarnation? Or re-runs? I await the return of Sgt Bilko through the Dalai Lama.
    posted by SPrintF at 9:36 PM on September 23, 2003


    dash slot: No subtle point - I was harking back to the homosexuality comments previously, rather than being deliberately discriminatory. You're right in your rewording though.
    posted by daveg at 2:58 AM on September 24, 2003


    RAtM were definitely not followers of Joe Stalin. They belong to the libertarian left. They probably have a much dimmer view of the Chinese regime than the current US administration.
    Che!=Stalin=!Zapata!=Marx!

    And please, I know that it's the chinese communist party is running china. But to describe China's economic system as communism, is to render the word meaningless. Its the most aggressive capitalism in the world...


    Thanks for the lesson in Political Science there Talos, but I got my list of the band's influences(Che, Stalin, Marx, Zapata) directly from the RAtM site. Che, who seems to be the bands main symbolic inspiration (at least graphically), was incidentally more of a Stalinist with Maoist leanings.

    You will note that I never once even mentioned the word communism nor the Communist Party in my prior post, only that the band lists the works of Che, Marx, Stalin, Lenin and Zapata as inspirations. I would tend to agree that China, while ruled by a group which calls itself the Communist Party, is hardly an incarnation of Marxist socialist ideals nor actually a "People's Republic" but that has really no bearing on a band listing the works of Stalinists and Maoists as its literary and spiritual guide viewing a former feudalist theocracy as in need of liberating from a group of former Maoists. Perhaps it is that modern China has shifted away from hardline Maoism that causes the band to wish for liberation of Tibet. Maybe they want a tougher stance?

    Oh and let's not forget the whole "Free Mumia" bit. Mumia, an avowed Maoist, stated that the Maoist Revolution ended all injustice in China. That's the basis of the whole movement (lead most vocally by RAtM), that his death sentence and imprisonment was mainly based on his Maoist politics rather than solid evidence! So, sometimes Maoists are lifting all injustice, while other times they are oppressors? How does that work exactly?
    posted by Pollomacho at 9:51 AM on September 24, 2003


    Where did you get the Stalin bit? Because I don't see any of "the works of Stalin" listed on the Reading List page of the RatM site, or anywhere else on the site.

    And I can see how people who are Maoists can believe that sometimes "Maoists are lifting all injustice, while other times they are oppressors." People who are Christians, for example, believe that sometimes Christians are lifting all injustice, and other times they are oppressors.

    Myself, I am not an "-ist" or an "-ian" so much, but it's actually not that unusual for people who are to believe that sometimes a good idea is used wisely, and sometimes it is used destructively.
    posted by Sidhedevil at 10:22 AM on September 24, 2003


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