Ethical Dimensions of the Tibet Question
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Issue Book Excerpt: Rising India | Date : 16 Mar , 2011

The Tibet issue is a moral issue. First, the Tibetan nation or community has been influenced by Buddhism which came from India. It changed the whole Tibetan way of life, making it a more compassionate society. Of course, there are individual Tibetans who are not so good, some are very bad, but the overall community I think is a more peaceful community, a more compassionate community. There is a peaceful attitude toward oneself, towards other fellow human beings, towards animals and towards insects.

Of course I must confess that my attitude towards mosquitoes is not that very nice, not so compassionate – I think most of you also may be having the same experience (laughs). When we are enjoying sound sleep – we are disturbed by a buzzing sound – sometimes we have to take drastic measures.

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So, the Tibetan community generally speaking, is a very peaceful community. When we were in Tibet we did not notice this, but now when we make comparisons between ourselves and the Chinese community or other communities – it appears that the Tibetan community is more compassionate. Although the majority of Tibetans are non-vegetarian, their attitudes towards animals is most compassionate.

Tibetans love their own culture ““ wherever Tibetans show respect and interest or faith in their own culture, Chinese officials consider that an act of splittism.

In today’s world everybody talks about peace and non-violence, but the real factor which creates genuine peace is compassion and not just education or technology. A community may have every sort of facility for acquiring technology, good education, but still that community can be a very violent community, including suicides. Why? Lack of compassion.

Where there is compassion, where there is sense of community, a sense of respect of others’ rights is automatically generated. On that basis you can solve conflict through dialogue, through mutual understanding. Compassion is the key. In order to promote compassion, it is not sufficient just to talk, just use words, but it should also be spread through example. I believe the peaceful compassionate Tibetan community is a good example to promote more compassionate peaceful societies.

That characteristic certainly owes a lot to the influence from Buddha’s message. Of course the geographical situation is also germane. In a large, vast area where life is not easy – rather it very difficult, and the population is very small – under those circumstances the sense of community gets heightened. Thus Tibetan society is more compassionate and I think that characteristic is worth preserving.

How to preserve it? I hinted earlier that it is contained in the Buddhist message: compassion is based on the unique concept of inter-connectedness, inter-dependency. That is a really powerful base for developing compassion. It is not a blessing of God but based on rationality, on reality.

“¦geographically, Tibet is a buffer zone between India and China. And India and China are the two largest and most densely populated nations, so genuine friendship on the basis of mutual trust is essential for peace in Asia, which is very important for world peace.

So, in order to preserve at least the Tibetan peaceful compassion society we must preserve the Buddhist message. I make a distinction between Buddhism and Buddhist culture, and here I stress more on the culture. For in Tibet even the Muslim way of life is very much in spirit with Buddhist culture. They are Muslims by belief but part of the Buddhist culture which characterises the community. The preservation and further development of these deeper values is very important. But today inside Tibet things are very difficult. A few years ago one party secretary mentioned in a party meeting that Tibetan Buddhist culture is the real threat – the real source of separatism from China.

These leaders always view things politically and their biggest concern is the danger of separation. So unfortunately they use force to keep the two sides together. Because they consider every unique aspect of Tibet as a source of separation they deliberately try to Sinicise Tibet. Now these days, their last resort is to make Tibet a land of Han Chinese. For example, today the population of Lhasa is around 300,000, out of which the Tibetans number 100,000 i.e., only one-third – they have already become a minority. As a result those minority Tibetans in their daily life are compelled to use the Chinese language – and the younger Tibetans in order to get jobs, have to study more Chinese than Tibetan.

So, as you mentioned, there is some kind of cultural genocide. Usually I say, intentionally or unintentionally, some kind of cultural genocide is taking place.

Since I believe that maintaining peaceful community owes something to Buddhist culture, the destruction of Buddhist culture is actually destroying peaceful community. This is one aspect.

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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.

About the Author

Dalai Lama

His Holyness, The Dalai Lama. Nobel Leureate and Supreme leader of the Tibetans.

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