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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."


March 15, 2010

Bangkok Post

Guy Baker enters the debate on the Thai government's refusal of a visa for
Jetsun Pema (PostBag, March 9) by saying that Tibet under the Dalai Lama is
a ''theocracy'' and that Tibetan Buddhism ''belittles Buddhism''.

Collins Dictionary defines theocracy as ''a government by a deity or a
priesthood''. Is Tibet a theocracy? Based on this definition, of course. So

It's not the status of theocracy per se, whether Buddhist, Muslim (Iran) or
Christian (the Vatican) that is objectionable. Most people would not have
problems with Iran were it not for its repressive, discriminatory and
dangerous policies.

I personally believe that, in this day and age, separation of church and
state is preferable to theocracy. But if the Tibetans choose to live in a
theocracy, who am I, or Mr Baker, to say otherwise?

Why don't we ask the Tibetan people themselves whether they want to live in
communist China or in theocratic Tibet? (A similar choice was given to East
Timor so there's nothing unique here.) Isn't that the democratic way? But
that won't happen. Why? Because the People's Republic of China stands in the

Be that as it may, the Dalai Lama himself has instituted democratic reforms
for his government-in-exile with the promise that eventually he would leave
the political stage altogether. So much for theocracy.

What about the claim that Tibetan Buddhism belittles Buddhism?

Far from belittling Buddhism, the institution of the Dalai Lama gives the
fullest expression to the bodhisattva ideal, a cornerstone of Mahayana
Buddhism, which includes Tibetan Buddhism. A bodhisattva vows to serve all
sentient beings in every sphere of life. That includes politics.

It's noteworthy that in the Jataka stories of the previous lives of the
Buddha, common to all Buddhist traditions, including the Theravada, he was
born as King Vessantara.

Furthermore, there's no evidence that the Dalai Lama exploits Buddhism in
international politics to seek autonomy, and Mr Baker offers none.

The Buddha taught the dhamma in its various forms, as a complete,
comprehensive, consistent and efficacious path towards enlightenment.
Therefore, nothing that anyone does can ''belittle'' Buddhism.

Mr Baker finally says that ''the Tibetan mixture of Buddhism and politics is
a bad example for Thailand''. Suffice it is to say that Thai politics would
not be in such a mess today if more Thai politicians and their followers
sincerely practised humility, non-violence, honesty, compassion and
selflessness, qualities that Thai and Tibetan Buddhism alike regard as of
utmost importance and which the Dalai Lama has come to symbolise to people
the world over, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.

Beng Low
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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