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Will the Dalai Lama return to Tibet?

September 1, 2008

Meindert Gorter
The New Statesman (UK)

Published 29 August 2008

Meindert Gorter gives his views on religious freedom in China today
and the prospects of the Dalai Lama return from exile

The Dorje Shugden Society is trying to put a stop to the ban on the
worship of Dorje Shugden on the basis of India's constitution, a
country where you are free to worship almost anything. The Indian
High Court is due to consider the case in September.

Advanced Buddhist hermeneutics are unnecessary to understand a
protector, which is actually simply a powerful thought used for
developing wisdom instead of attaining mundane goals. Increasing
wisdom is never forbidden and while the Buddhist teacher Tsongkhapa's
middle way philosophy has room for interpretation you have to rely on
your own teacher, because he's your protector. Teacher and protector
are indivisible and the so called 'guru-devotion' relationship is the
heart of this Buddhist practise.

You can, however, criticise your teacher. Buddhism does not mean
blind adherence to dogma but rather the opposite: individual
analysis. One could say the Dalai Lama found his own truth, so than
let him ban the deity, but the guru-disciple relation does not apply
here. It's a decreed dogma, justified by the Dalai's dreams: he calls
upon your faith in him.

This brings back memories of the theocratic Tibet. Alas, factual
history has nothing in common with the romantic Shangri-la portrayed
by Hollywood, but recalling this gets you branded as anti-Dalai Lama
by most who are said to be pro-Tibet. But should not pro-Tibet
campaigners be working on constructive dialogue, instead of repeating
the same litany over and over, creating an atmosphere of mistrust? If
any constructive dialogue with the Chinese is going on, it's taking
place behind the scenes and without the Dalai Lama, thanks to his
policy-making friends in the West. Maybe he could fire some
compassionate arrows towards Beijing.

Criticising the Dalai Lama is as taboo as Dorje Shugden is and would
instantly get you branded as pro-Chinese by the majority of Tibetans.
As an outcast from society, even guesthouses don't allow you in. The
Dalai Lama is encouraging this as is widely documented. His portrait
next to Mahatma Gandhi's on the Dharamsala walls shows his
appreciation for Gandhi's style of peaceful revolution, but while
Gandhi's achievements were transparent and relevant, the Dalai Lama's
ways are inscrutable. When the Dalai Lama accuses China of 'cultural
genocide', he seems to forget times have changed. The cultural
revolution has ended and Buddhism is practised by millions all over
China and Tibet, with the government funding the restoration of the
Tibetan monasteries that the Red Guards destroyed. Its clear that
China is absolutely not democratic, but as long as Tibetans don't mix
religition with politics, they are free to practise. The Dalai Lama
is welcome back as long as he's not politically involved. And, as you
can read on his website: "his commitment to the Tibetan issue will
cease to exist once a mutually beneficial solution is reached".

So, back in Tibet, the only role left for him would be a religious
one. He could be the humble monk he has always claimed to be, but
does he really have it in him? Or is he harbouring ambitions to
become the religious leader he never was, in spite of all the naive
parroting of him being a 'temporal and spiritual leader'? Why else
can he be so zealously devoted to uniting the lineages? I can't think
of another reason why he's profiling himself as a religious chief
than to create the possibility of his return to Tibet as Dalai Lama.

His dual role allows him to stop being a politician and the suffering
of the Tibetans in exile ends' but the Dalai Lama seems set on
leading them back as the dogmatic Buddhist pope that he never was.
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