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We can't ignore Tibetan Turmoil
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Claude Arpi | Date:28 Jul , 2018 0 Comments
Claude Arpi
Writes regularly on Tibet, China, India and Indo-French relations. He is the author of 1962 and the McMahon Line Saga, Tibet: The Lost Frontier and Dharamshala and Beijing: the negotiations that never were.

Tibetan Buddhism is in turmoil.

Take the case of Sogyal Rinpoche, the Tibetan lama who wrote The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (and sold three million copies); he guided an organisation called Rigpa, which has more than 100 centres in 40 countries around the world. Lerab Ling, in the Hérault department of France, was the jewel on his crown; it was visited by VIPs and stars including Carla Bruni Sarkozy and French ministers.

For years, rumours had been circulating about Sogyal’s (mis)behaviour, but last year, his ‘Crazy Wisdom’ caught up with the Buddhist teacher, particularly the way he used women for his pleasure, as well as his eccentric food habits; he had ultimately to retire from Rigpa’s leadership and go into ‘retreat’.

The Telegraph, in a long piece on the murky situation in Lerab Ling, explained the background: “Largely thanks to the benign, smiling example of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism has grown enormously in popularity in the West over the past thirty years, largely escaping the scandal that has dogged other religious institutions.”

Earlier this month, a similar story came from the US about Mipham Rinpoche, the leader of the Shambhala Buddhist Sangha – an organisation with more than 200 meditation centres.

It was alleged that the leader sexually assaulted women when drunk and used his personal staff ‘to procure women students for his own sexual gratification’. He would also have been using hard drugs.

The Dalai Lama remains a rock of serenity, virtues and stability in the chaotic world of Tibetan Buddhism.

Another case is the Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorjee, who escaped from Tibet and reached Dharamsala in 2000.

In a recent speech he explained to his disciples: “One reason I came to India was to study and to receive the Dharma lineages, that is why I came.” But due to suspicions surrounding his escape, he could not meet his teachers: “I had no one to guide me. So when we first began discussions with the Indian government. …They said that I was sent by the Chinese or that I was a Chinese spy,” he asserted.

The Lama, who at one time was said to be the Dalai Lama’s successor (mostly by journalists), left for America in May 2017; it is now rumoured that he may never come back. The Tribute quoting intelligence sources in Dharamsala said: “he may extend his stay indefinitely or even seek asylum in the US.” Apparently, he had gone to the US for ‘medical reasons’ and was scheduled to return India before June 30.

This leaves not much leadership for the Tibetan movement in the future (incidentally, there are two Karmapas, the other one who lives in Delhi was recognized by a Regent of the previous Karmapa).

The situation is also messy in the Dalai Lama’s own Yellow School.

In Tibet, the Panchen Lamas were the second most prominent religious figures. Following the passing away of the 10th Panchen Lama in January 1989, the Dalai Lama formally proclaimed a six-year-old boy, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as his reincarnation on May 14, 1995. Three days later, the Chinese government arrested him; he was never seen again.

Another boy, Gyalsten Norbu, sponsored by the Communist regime presently seats on the throne in Tibet (in fact mostly in Beijing). Recently, the Dalai Lama said that “according to reliable source, [Gedhun] is alive and carrying normal education.” He has also said that the existence of two 11th Panchen Lamas may not be all that unusual in Tibetan Buddhism; he was citing historical instances for this. Not easy to understand for common men; two Karmapas, two Panchen Lamas!

But nobody wants two Dalai Lamas in the future.

The Dalai Lama’s strong presence in India is crucial, especially for the border areas like Ladakh, where he is presently preaching during his summer tour.

But the Tibetan leader is getting older; false rumours about his poor health were recently circulated in an Indian media always keen on scoops; it was denied by his personal physician as well as by facts: someone ‘dying’ does not have the busy schedule the Dalai Lama has …with scribes and cameras following him all-over.

It remains important for Delhi to think of the post-Dalai Lama period.

Would it not be the best thing, if he announces that he will ‘return’ as the 15th Dalai Lama from Ladakh or alternatively another Himalayan region?

Tibet can be discarded as a place of birth; the Communist authorities have already planned his ‘return’ through Communist Party’s Regulations promulgated in 2007; the 15th Dalai Lama would have to be a Communist first and then a religious leader.

This leaves little alternative to the Tibetan leader, as it is doubtful that he would take birth in the West where he would be far away from the majority of his Tibetan and Himalayan devotees.

Ladakh would be an interesting alternative as it would also be a political statement. The fact that Beijing keeps the border between Tibet and Ladakh closed since 1962, despite Beijing’s great love for old trade routes, is telling. Why has Beijing never permitted the reopening of the traditional route to Kailash Manasarovar via Demchok in Ladakh? Simply because China never officially accepted the J&K State’s accession to India in 1947. Parcels of the J&K territory was even ‘offered’ by Pakistan to China in 1963, a proof of a collusion between the two; acknowledging Demchok as a border would be a proof that Ladakh ‘belongs’ to India.

In the present turmoil, while wishing the Tibetan leader a long life, one can hope for a ‘return’ of the Tibetan leader in the Indian Himalaya. It is vital for Tibetan Buddhism but for India’s borders too.


This article We can’t ignore Tibetan turmoil appeared in Mail Today/Daily O.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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