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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Foundations for a Modern Tibet (III)

August 4, 2009

By Tsewang Namgyal
August 3, 2009

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

His Holiness and our beloved teachers regularly
remind us of the reality of death: (i) certainty and (ii) uncertainty.

One day Tibetans will experience one of the
saddest days in our lives with the passing away
of His Holiness. There are currently much candid
discussions about the selection of the XV Dalai
Lama. At the risk of being misinterpreted, I
believe what appears to be overlooked in our
discussion is the action plan immediately (first
two-three weeks) after His Holiness passing. How
we respond will have a profound impact on how His
Holiness legacy will be preserved and the creation of a modern Tibet.

His Holiness is our greatest treasure. Legacies
are defined much during the initial periods of
the passing away of an important individual. In a
civilized world people will not take advantage of
a mourning period but we know better by the past
behaviors of the Chinese government. Unless we
think from their mindset and proactively prepare
our reactive response could be too late.

To put things into perspective I would like to
humble share a possible scenario I envision soon
after the passing away of His Holiness if we do not prepare.

First Week
Huge outpouring of international sympathy and
media coverage on His Holiness and Tibet.
Tibetans will respond with despair and anger
towards the Chinese government (and later
possibly blame each other). Sporadic riots may
break out in Tibet despite the heavy military
presence. Chinese government lay low and then
give qualified praise to His Holiness and blame
the people surrounding His Holiness.

Second/Third Week
International sympathy slowly replaced by the
next world event due to news fatigue on Tibet
(similar to the events in Iran drowned by the
death of Michael Jackson). To sustain public
attention, news media (whose main focus is
profits) may try to invite critics/paid Chinese
consultants to discuss items that maybe more
controversial on His Holiness to retain viewership.

Tibetans feel confused and weakened with the
direction or indifference of the media and
public. China then goes on the diplomatic
offensive, declares martial law in Tibet and with
much pomp/publicity starts the process of the selection of the XV Dalai Lama.

I believe we can mitigate such a situation
through preparation. As a public, during such a
sad and vulnerable period, it is critical we stay
calm, united with our leadership and follows
their advice on the next steps. It is likely that
TGIE has procedures in place during this period and we should heed them.

Ideally, it will be critical soon after such a
sad news event a detailed clear Will of His
Holiness is immediately released to the Tibetan,
Chinese and International community in their
respective languages. International sympathy and
focus will be focused on the Will. This will be
one of the greatest moments to impact the world with His Holiness kind wisdom.

TGIE should stay on the offensive in
focusing/managing media discussion, advising our
community and not be distracted/defensive by
controversies/noise related to selection of the
XV Dalai Lama and talking heads blabbing nonsense.

Around the end of the first week while
international sympathy is still high, TGIE in the
presence of international media and support of
influential supporters/governments should
formally delegate the task of finding the next
Dalai Lama to senior Tibetan Buddhist leaders.
TGIE should pledge to depoliticize the process
and support whatever decision the respected
search committee finds. This would be an implicit
challenge to the Chinese government and anyone
with common sense will support TGIE. Thus this
will allow us to direct the flow of discussion.

To quote His Holiness we should "hope for the
best but prepare for the worst." We need to go
beyond prayers if we want to fulfill His
Holiness’s wishes. We have to know how, when and
where to present His wishes and most importantly
act on it. This situation that I highlighted is
as worst as it can get. Through such preparation
for the worst (if we are not already doing so) we
will help lay the foundation for a modern Tibet.

Community Development

Our competitive edge I believe is our Tibetan
Buddhist culture. I do not mean this from a
tourist revenue standpoint (although this helps)
but through absorbing the wisdom of our teachings
– so profound, deep, calming, exciting and
peaceful. To only get stuck with the tourist
dollar level is not much different from getting
excited by the recipe and not actually tasting
the food. Combining our organic knowledge with
the wisdom of outside societies who have made
tremendous progress on social justice issues will
allow us to build a solid foundation for a modern Tibet.

On the Tibetan Buddhism front, I would like to
humbly bring to the attention of young Tibetans
to study the seven point mind training to
generate Bodhicitta (enlightened mind). This is
something I heard from our teachers and found
very interesting (although I admit I have not
been able to practice). There are so many great
teachings in our midst but I believe
implementation of the seven point mind training
would energize us all to develop a strong sense
of gratitude, responsibility and desire to give back to our community.

Seven point mind training tactically provide a
step by step process that allow us to help
develop (i) equanimity (with the rationality that
our relationships keep changing), (ii) view all
sentient beings as our loving mothers (since we
have been reborn infinitely), (iii) reflecting
the kindness of our mothers (starting by
remembering the love we were raised while in our
mother’s belly and as infants), (iv) create a
desire to repair her kindness, (v) generate love
(through a wish that states “may all mother
sentient beings have happiness and the causes for
happiness,” (vi) generate compassion (through a
wish that “may all mother sentient beings be free
from suffering and the causes for suffering,”)
and then (vii) develop Bodhicitta.

On social justice related issues there is much
room for improvement in our society in reducing
discriminations related to rig, gender/sexuality
and mental illness. In addition, certain segments
and regions are affected more than others by
alcoholism, prostitution and gambling. Developed
societies have shown that these issues can be
reduced through proven tactics and by viewing
social vices as an illness. Through such an
attitude they have shown one will then look for
the cause and provide helpful remedies rather
than viewing the affected individuals as hopelessly good or bad.

There are two vices that I feel we should
highlight in our community. One was actually
something that a successful Tibetan friend of
mine from Tibet told me. He said in Tibet many a
time if a business relation goes awry it becomes
very personal. He said people become enemies for
life and actually would kill each other. There is
a medieval style of anger and revenge that is
glorified. He felt we need to learn to calm down and resolve conflicts better.

I felt in exile (probably due to a better justice
system available) the issue appears to be less
physical. However, I felt our weakness tends to
be that people tend to disguise personal
vendettas more by attacking your opponent’s
character (less physical) from behind the scene.
Here two I believe we could get help from experts
on how to resolve conflicts. For a community to
be strong we need to learn to work together not destroy each other.

We Tibetans are very fortunate to have so many
great teachers of the past and present (like
Milarepa and His Holiness) to train and change
our minds. Milarepa’s life story exposes both the
weaknesses in our mind and our society. He also
showed how He overcame them through regret,
compassion, forgiveness, effort and wisdom.
Similarly there are many other great teachers in
the social level (both Tibetan and non Tibetan)
that we need to tap and learn in order to strengthen our community.

To quote Gandhi, "we must be the change we wish
to see." Gandhi did not say we need to complain
more. Through freeing our mind and society of our
vices we will automatically strengthen our
community and lay the foundation of a modern Tibet.

One of my favorite stories in Tibetan Buddhism is
the last interaction between Milarepa and his
student Gampopa. During their last meeting,
Milarepa first questioned Gampopa’s ability to
comprehend Milarepa’s final teaching. After
initial hesitation Milarepa pulled up his robe
and pointed to his butt. Milarepa’s butt was
callused due to his long meditations. Milarepa
then explained to Gampopa that one has to work
and nothing changes without effort. Similarly, I
believe all our ideas and theories are near
useless if we make no effort. I believe if we all
act NOW on the areas where we can bring most
value, respect the value addition of others,
unite our efforts, have fun/inspire each other in
the process and put the good of society above all
of us we will create a modern Tibet even if we do NOT hope for it.

The author is an MBA graduate (Beta Gamma Sigma
Honor Society member) from the Thunderbird School
of Global Management and works in the Investment
Banking field in New York City. Tsewang is one of
the Founding Board of Directors of Students for a
Free Tibet, first Tibetan to officially enlist in
the United States Military and served as the
Executive Director of the Tibetan Community
Center Project (NY) from 2007-2008 . He can be reached at

The views expressed in this piece are that of the
author and the publication of the piece on this
website does not necessarily reflect their endorsement by the website.
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