Join our Mailing List

"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."

The three commitments of the Marxist Monk

July 8, 2010

Claude Arpi
Sify (India)
July 5, 2010

He was born seventy-five years ago in a remote
pasture, into one of twenty-odd families that
made a "precarious living” in Amdo province.

As he says in his autobiography, Freedom in Exile:

One thing that I remember enjoying particularly
as a very young boy was going into the chicken
coop to collect the eggs with my mother and then
staying behind. I liked to sit in the hens' nest and make clucking noises.

Another favourite occupation of mine as an infant
was to pack things in a bag as if I was about to
go on a long journey. I'm going to Lhasa, I'm going to Lhasa, I would say.

This, coupled with my insistence that I be
allowed always to sit at the head of the table,
was later said to be an indication that I must
have known that I was destined for greater things.

Apart from possessing an extraordinary charisma,
why does the Dalai Lama matter so much in today’s world?

The first thing which strikes someone meeting the
Tibetan leader is his lack of pretence. "I am
just a simple Buddhist monk," he likes to repeat.

A couple of years ago in Ahmedabad, I remember
attending a function at the Indian Institute of Management.

The chairman of the prestigious institution
introduced the chief guest as "a living Buddha".

The Dalai Lama (nearly) got upset. He hammered
home several times, "I am not a living Buddha, I am just a monk."

And for the audience of future CEOs, he added, "A
Marxist monk, but a true Marxist, not like in China!"

On another occasion, he explained to me: "I
always tell my Chinese friends (from mainland
China) that the Communist theory is very good. I
myself believe in Marxism; it is good. When Lenin
established a new State and carried out the
Bolshevik Revolution with the masses, the idea
was pure, very humanistic; thinking about the
working class people’s rights and equal distribution of wealth was good.

"But it changed when Lenin brought politics into
the Revolution particularly at a time when there
was a serious civil war within Russia and with
outside forces powers intervening in the civil
war. Under Lenin, Marxism became mixed with
‘power’. Under such circumstances, it created distrust, suspicion.”

Another aspect which makes the ‘Marxist monk’
different, are his commitments in life.

You may think that his first responsibility is
towards his enslaved country and his uprooted
people. But no! As he explains, his first
commitment is "the promotion of human values such
as compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline.”

He elaborates: "All human beings are the same. We
all want happiness and do not want suffering.
Even people who do not believe in religion
recognize the importance of these human values in making their life happier."

He likes to speak of ‘human values as secular
ethics’. After more than 50 years in exile from
his native land, he continues to share these human values wherever he travels.

It is rare to find a leader of such stature
today, a person who has the courage and the
foresight to place ‘humanity’ before his own
self, before his own community and even his own nation.

His second commitment is not for Tibet either. As
he puts it, he works for "the promotion of
religious harmony and understanding among the
world’s major religious traditions."

He strongly believes that "despite philosophical
differences, all major world religions have the
same potential to create good human beings. It is
therefore important for all religious traditions
to respect one another and recognize the value of
each other’s respective traditions. As far as one
truth, one religion is concerned; this is relevant on an individual level.”

Not many religious leaders in today’s world are
ready to admit: "for the community at large,
several truths, several religions are necessary!"

He even goes a step further: he says that if
modern science proves some old Buddhist precepts
wrong, he is ready to drop them. Would all
religious leaders show the same tolerance, ninety
per cent of the world’s problems would be solved!

He likes to differentiate between Buddhist
science, Buddhist philosophy and Buddhist religion.

"It is important to understand that when I say
‘Buddhist science’, I mean science of the mind;
it is something universal; it is not a religion.
Buddhist religion is not universal, it is only
for Buddhists. This is clear," he points out.

For the past 27 years, he has been meeting
‘Western’ scientists to exchange views on the ‘Buddhist’ science of the mind.

He explains, "These scientists do not want to
become Buddhist; they are scientists, some of
them are Christians, many are atheists, some have
no religious beliefs, but they are interested in
Buddhist experiences and explanations, or
techniques for studying the mind and emotions.”

It is an unfortunate fact that religion has been
dividing people everywhere and the worst crimes
have been committed in the name of ‘religion’.
That is why the Dalai Lama’s thoughts are so refreshing.

And where is his Land of Snows in all this?

It is his third commitment in life (he insists
that it should be read in this order). He states:
"as a Tibetan [who] carries the name of the
‘Dalai Lama’, Tibetans place their trust in me.
Therefore, [my] third commitment is to the Tibetan issue."

He acknowledges that he has "a responsibility to
act as the free spokesperson of the Tibetans in
their struggle for justice," but as far as this
third commitment is concerned, he is very clear
that "it will cease to exist once a mutually
beneficial solution is reached between the Tibetans and Chinese”.

However, he says that he will continue to pursue
the first two commitments till his last breath.

Another interesting aspect of the Tibetan leader
who recently completed 50 years in India (which
he refers to as ‘Aryabhumi’), is his love for this country and its people.

He explains: "I consider Indians as my gurus,
because we follow the Nalanda tradition. All our
concepts and way of thinking comes from the
Nalanda Masters. Therefore, we are the chelas and
Indians are our gurus. I also often say that we
are reliable chelas, because after the 8th
century, the Nalanda tradition was established in
Tibet, after that in our gurujis’ own home, lots
of ups and downs happened. Over thousand years,
we have kept intact the Nalanda tradition. That
means that we are reliable chelas.”

For reasons that I can’t fully grasp, this point
deeply infuriates the Chinese. They constantly
question his connection with India.

Recently in an op-ed in The People’s Daily, one
commentator wrote: "The Dalai Lama pleases his
Indian masters not only by showing his
willingness to be a ‘son of India’, but also by
effacing the originality of the Tibetan culture.
The Dalai Lama uses such words to dwarf the rich
Tibetan culture with distinctive local
characteristics. He could not be more subservient.”

The Dalai Lama’s Indian connection seems to
disturb Beijing so much that their arguments
often lose their Cartesianism. They don’t
understand how he can at the same time be a ‘son
of India’ and represent Tibet to the outside world.

"The more absurd thing is that the Dalai Lama
often considers himself a ‘son of India’ and
India's cultural guru, but he also keeps on
claiming that he represents the interests of all
Tibetans," wrote a commentator.

Yes, he is a son of India, because Gautam Buddha
was Indian and like all Tibetans, the Dalai Lama
is a follower of the Great Monk. Where is the problem in that?

The Dalai Lama is aware of that the Chinese are
unhappy with him, but he laughs and says: "I
describe myself as a Son of India, firstly
because my thoughts come from the Nalanda
Buddhist tradition and this body has lived on
Indian dal, rice and chapattis during the last 51
years. So, physically also, I am a Son of India.
Sometimes, it irritates the Chinese officials. What to do?”

In the end, the Chinese always betray their
motives: "Furthermore, will a man who betrayed
southern Tibet to India really care about the
well-being of the Tibetan people?"

They refer to the Dalai Lama’s support of the
Indian stand on Arunachal Pradesh (which the Chinese call ‘southern Tibet’).

While the Dalai Lama and his people have always
been at the forefront of India's struggle for its
integrity, certain facts are, sadly, not very
well known, if not completely ignored by the media and Indian public.

For instance, how many people in India know that
the Tibetans have participated in several operations to defend India’s borders?

What about the unsung Tibetan heroes of the
Special Frontier Forces working directly under
the Cabinet Secretary and protecting India’s integrity?

Even without taking this into account, is it not
time for India to recognize the Dalai Lama’s
genuine contribution to world peace and universal
responsibility, his defence of the highest Indian
spiritual values and confer on him the Bharat Ratna?

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank