Thousands of Buddhist Rally…

Tenzin Peljor keeps trying to portray the demonstrations by the Western Shugden Society as non-Buddhist and unusual activity for and by Buddhists.

Burmese monks protested …

now thousands of Buddhists in South Korea are protesting against religious discrimination.

“Police estimated that 60,000 people, including 7,000 monks, gathered in front of the capital Seoul’s City Hall.”

The article regarding the South Korean’s rally can be found here.

There is nothing un-Buddhist about demonstrating. Buddha taught that we should do whatever is practical to help correct a situation. Demonstration is a practical method to get your voice heard.

The Dalai Lama is harming Dorje Shugden practitioners and destroying Buddhadharma in the process. The Dalai Lama, himself, has brought these demonstrations to his doorstep. The Dalai Lama is engaging in religious discrimination.

We will remain calm in our hearts and protest with one compassionate voice for religious freedom, for religious tolerance, and for the remaining of pure Buddhadharma in this world.

Dalai Lama – please remove the ban against Dorje Shugden practice!

The above content is from the blog …why Dalai Lama why…

6 responses to “Thousands of Buddhist Rally…

  • Jackson

    Buddhist and or buddhist monks can demonstrate for the good of people by compassion, but not by hatred such as the one we saw in Lhasa, China on March 2008.
    Those monks took part in the riot in Lhasa was full of hatred in mind and action, they violated their vow as monks. I am sorry for those monks.
    Western Shugden Society demonstrate against discrimination with compassion is the right way; hope Western Shugden Society will continue the work, also aim at the Tibetan Buddhist temples excluding Shugden worshippers, to show the world what a buddhist is suppose to be like. Compassion and freedom of religion——

  • Thom

    This Dalia Lama contradicts the Vinaya,Democratic Principles and has betrayed all Freedom Loving People around the world.
    His incursions to repress others Rights to their own belifs is motivated by his own fears that he will be found out to have extinuished the life force of a Wisdom Buddha.
    His predecessor, the 5th Dalia Lama ruthlessly seized power by the assassination of Lord Dorje Shugden, and the slaughtering with the full force of the Mongolian Cavalry bearing down on other Monastic Seats, within Tibetan Mahayanna Buddhism.
    Today, as his own life force ebbs away. We find a man filled with desperation to establish his lineages claim, as forthright and to mirror the illusions, that he is a man of compassion and peace. A light unto the world,is his personal mirror.
    When in actuality, he has pursued a sinister trail of decits and lying to protect his precious vision of himself for over 400 years. As a hungry ghost, he cannot satisfy his lust for power.
    We can tell what he is, by the fruit he bears. This fruit has become spoiled and rotten with “The Three Poisons” as the basis of his thoughts, actions and deeds.
    He become corrupted with his lust to be a part of the most corrupt of Hollywood society and the admiration of corrupt global leaders. As with George Bush, a man who will soon be brought to trial for his crimes against humanity and violating the US Constitution.
    So will this Dalia Lama be brought to trial,in the Indian Courts. For violating the Indian Constitution provisions for freedom of religion. Which clearly protect all people’s right to believe as they choose.
    “Birds Of A Feather, Flock Together”

  • Thom

    Although we should criticize China’s censored media, the Tibet riots revealed some troubling blindness among our own media. While the causes of Tibetan unrest are complex, it is clear that the March riots were started by Tibetan protesters and that they were quite violent. Indeed, they were violent enough to lead the Dalai Lama to threaten resignation if his followers did not stop the violence.
    Since “violent Tibetan” does not fit our stereotype, our media fixed the news. While Chinese media showed extensive footage of violence and interviews with Chinese and Tibetan victims, Western media manipulated images and even showed footage from other countries (Nepal and India) in order to paint a picture of ruthless oppression by China’s government.
    Chinese media exposed the Western media manipulations, forcing the BBC, N-TV and RTL-TV to apologize. Not surprisingly, the American media has yet to acknowledge its bending of the truth. The point is that while the Chinese know their media is censored and do not trust it, we believe our news is objective and end up being righteous while misinformed.
    If we had seen the violence of the Tibet riots, our condemnations may be more nuanced. Quite simply, no government, democratic or not, allows such violence within its own borders. Providing peace and stability, even by force if necessary, is what governments do.
    Large and powerful countries tend to have regions that were not always part of the country. In America, we proudly call it Manifest Destiny and never trouble ourselves with how we got much of California and Texas from Mexico, never mind the rest of the country and our sordid history with Native Americans.
    On the Chinese flag there are five stars commonly interpreted as representing the five major ethnic groups in China. One of those stars represents Tibetans. China’s claim to Tibet spans centuries and it is a claim that the United States and the rest of the world recognizes.
    To Chinese people, removing one of those stars is akin to removing one of our states, such as Hawaii. Our history with the native people of Hawaii has been relatively brief and quite brutal and there exists a tenacious independence movement. Still, there is no talk in the mainstream media and among the Hollywood celebrity activist circuit of Hawaiian independence, not to mention Puerto Rican independence or the American Indian movement.
    Government repression of these movements also escapes media scrutiny. Before we lecture China, we may want to tend to our own backyard.
    Amid cries of “free Tibet” and calls for religious freedom, the question is what does freedom have to do with Tibet? Under the Dalai Lama, was there religious freedom? Was there any freedom? Actually, no.
    We would recognize the Dalai Lama’s Tibet as a medieval religious theocracy with a small elite class served by a large and oppressed serf population. The Dalai Lama ruled a region with no religious freedom, no political freedom, indeed, no human rights of any kind. The rulers were ruthless. Torture and mutilation were widespread. Poverty and starvation were rampant. It was Shangri-La only in the West’s imagination.
    Richard Gere, Sharon Stone and other Hollywood devotees may be surprised at their idol’s current positions. The Dalai Lama condemns abortion and homosexuality while accepting prostitution. For decades the Dalai Lama secured millions of dollars from the CIA and runs his government in exile like a monarch.
    Despite its shortcomings, Chinese rule has provided the Tibetan region with infrastructure and public schooling and provides Tibetans with widespread opportunities and a degree of personal freedom unheard of under the feudal theocracy of the dalai lamas.
    China is far from perfect and deserves honest scrutiny and criticism. To expect China not to act like a large and powerful country, however, and to throw stones from our glass house, proves nothing but our own ignorance.

  • Thom

    Letting Daylight into Magic

    The Life and Times of Dorje Shugden

    Stephen Batchelor

    The so-called Drakpa Gyaltsen pretends to be a sublime being
    But since this interfering spirit and creature of distorted prayers
    Is harming everything, both dharma and sentient beings,
    Do not support, protect or give him shelter, but grind him to dust.

    — The Fifth Dalai Lama
    Praise to you, violent god of the Yellow Hat teachings,
    Who reduces to particles of dust
    Great beings, high officials and ordinary people
    Who pollute and corrupt the Geluk doctrine.

    — From ?Praise to Dorje Shugden? quoted by Zemey Rinpoche
    ?A wrathful deity,? announced the London Independent with barely concealed irony on Monday 17 February, 1997 ?is the main suspect for three murders in Dharamsala, the Himalayan ?capital? of Tibet?s government-in-exile.? Two weeks earlier Gen Lobsang Gyatso, the principal of the Buddhist School of Dialectics, and two students had been stabbed to death. Eight months later, despite exhaustive investigations by the Indian police, the case is still unresolved. Although arrest warrants for two suspects have been issued, the police believe they have gone to ground either in Nepal or Tibet. Interpol has been called in to help find them.

    On Saturday 6 July, 1996, another British newspaper, the Guardian, had carried a front-page story under the heading: ?Smear campaign sparks safety fears over Dalai Lama?s UK visit.? The article described demonstrations on the streets of London where hundreds of British Buddhists ?chanted anti-Dalai Lama slogans and carried placards saying ?Your smiles charm, your actions harm.?? The Nobel Peace Laureate was accused by an organisation called the Shugden Supporters Community of being ?a ruthless dictator? and ?an oppressor of religious freedom.?

    These tragic and bewildering events have brought to the attention of the world a long-standing, arcane feud within the Tibetan Buddhist community that centers around the protector god Dorje Shugden. While feeding the West?s seemingly insatiable fascination with all things Tibetan, the murders and demonstrations have exposed a dark and troubling underside of a tradition often seen as a beacon of wisdom and compassion in a spiritually confused world. Even if it turns out that the killings were part of a Chinese campaign to intensify discord in the Tibetan community in exile, the fact remains that Beijing has been able to exploit a bitter dispute that the Dalai Lama and his supporters such as Gen Lobsang Gyatso have so far been powerless to resolve.

    To understand the complex origins of this dispute, it is necessary not only to trace an outline of Tibetan history since the 17th century, but also to grasp some of the doctrinal and philosophical issues that have divided Tibetans since Buddhism was established in the 8th century.

    On the 28th day of the seventh lunar month of 1642, the Fifth Dalai Lama had a dream of two Nyingma lamas giving him an initiation in a chapel of his palace at Drepung Monastery. One of the lamas handed him a ritual dagger (phur ba) and at that very moment he had the feeling of being spied on through a window by monks of his own Geluk order. He reflected that if the Geluk monks criticized him for receiving teachings from the Nyingma lamas, he would stab them with the dagger. He rushed out to confront them, but they already seemed subdued. He then woke up.

    Earlier the same year, the twenty-six year old Dalai Lama had been conferred with supreme authority over all Tibet by the Mongol Gushri Khan, thus inaugurating the dynasty of the Dalai Lamas. This was achieved when the armies of the Mongol Khan defeated the King of Tsang, the backer of the Dalai Lama?s chief rival for power in Tibet: the Karmapa — a senior lama of the Kagyu order. While this military victory ended years of civil conflict in Tibet and unified the country under the Geluk order, it also exposed tensions among the Gelukpas themselves — already hinted at in the Dalai Lama?s dream three months later.

    The Geluk tradition had been founded more than two hundred years earlier by the remarkable monk, scholar and yogin Tsongkhapa, who drew from all Tibetan Buddhist traditions of his time to create a compelling new synthesis of doctrine, ethics, philosophy and practice. The first Dalai Lama was a leading disciple of Tsongkhapa, and as the influence of the Gelukpas grew steadily over the next two centuries, the Dalai Lamas emerged as important spiritual figures within the school. When the fifth in the line became head of the Tibetan state, the institution of the Dalai Lama suddenly assumed unprecedented political power.

    Although the Fifth was a Geluk monk, as head of state he carried the mantle not only of Tsongkhapa?s reformed Buddhist order but also that of a thousand years of Tibetan history. This would have been particularly poignant for him, since he was born into a family whose ancestral home overlooked the tombs of the early Tibetan kings in the Chonggye Valley and who were still associated with the Nyingma tradition. The Nyingmapas (?Ancients?) had been instrumental in introducing Buddhism to Tibet at the time of those early kings and in first defining the buddhocratic nature of the state. Throughout his life the Dalai Lama maintained a strong allegiance to the Nyingma school (particularly the practice of Dzogchen) and a mystical rapport with its founder Padmasambhava, who appeared to him in dreams and visions.

    The Dalai Lama?s assumption of this long and complex historical identity would not have sat easily with the ambitions of a Geluk hierarchy intent on creating a buddhocratic state founded explicitly on the teachings of Tsongkhapa. It seems that this conflict led to the death of the Fifth?s rival Drakpa Gyaltsen, shortly after the Dalai Lama?s return from a state visit to China (suggesting the possibility of a palace revolt during his prolonged absence). Thereafter, Dorje Shugden was recognized by those Gelukpas who opposed the Dalai Lama?s involvement with the Nyingma school as the reincarnation of Drakpa Gyaltsen, who had assumed the form of a wrathful protector of the purity of Tsongkhapa?s teachings. They also regarded him as an emanation of the bodhisattva Manjushri.

    After the death of the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1682, the controversy between these factions of the Geluk school slips into the shadows and we hear only occasional references to Dorje Shugden for the next two hundred years. The Sixth Dalai Lama was unsuited to public office and was arrested and killed by the Mongols. After the Seventh Dalai Lama was returned to Lhasa in 1720 by the Manchus, the government of Tibet passed into the hands of a regency composed initially of powerful aristocrats and then, for 113 years, senior Geluk lamas. Of the six Dalai Lamas who lived during this period of regency, the last four died before the age of twenty-one, thus failing to assume leadership of Tibet for more than a year or so.

    The Thirteenth Dalai Lama came to power at the age of nineteen in 1895. Having survived an assassination attempt (his former regent concealed deadly mantras in his boots), he found himself charged with the daunting task of leading Tibet into a rapidly changing world. He proved an able leader, who sought to introduce a modest program of reform only to be thwarted by aristocrats and senior lamas. He was also a keen practitioner of Nyingma teachings. He had several teachers from the Nyingma school, practiced with them in the Potala Palace, and wrote commentaries to the Nyingma texts of his predecessor the Fifth.

    The Thirteenth?s openness to the Nyingmapa was in marked contrast to that of Pabongka Rinpoche, the most influential Geluk lama of the time, whose authority rivalled that of the Dalai Lama. Pabongka inherited the practice of Dorje Shugden from his mother?s family, and as a young man also received transmissions from Nyingma lamas. After a serious illness he became convinced that the disease was a sign from Shugden to stop practicing Nyingma teachings, which he did. Although he promoted the practice of Shugden, he was ordered by the Thirteenth to stop invoking the deity on the grounds that it was destroying Buddhism. Pabongka then promised ?in the core of my heart? never to propitiate Shugden again. He evidently changed his mind, though, and subsequently passed the practice on to his disciples.

    The present Dalai Lama, born in 1935, was introduced to the practice of Dorje Shugden by his junior tutor Trijang Rinpoche, a leading disciple of Pabongka. This was a time of great political turmoil in Tibet. The reliability of the State Oracle Nechung had been thrown into doubt and some believed the government should switch its allegiance to the oracle representing Dorje Shugden. The Regent, Reting Rinpoche, was forced to resign, only to return to launch an unsuccessful coup in 1947. The Chinese Communists arrived in Lhasa in 1952. The Dalai Lama, his tutors and 100,000 Tibetans fled to India in 1959, possibly on the advice of the Shugden oracle.

    In 1973 a senior Geluk lama called Zemey Rinpoche published an account of Dorje Shugden he had received orally from his teacher Trijang Rinpoche. This text recounts in detail the various calamities that have befallen monks and laypeople of the Geluk tradition who have practiced Nyingma teachings. Those mentioned include the last three Panchen Lamas, senior officials of the Thirteenth?s government, Reting Rinpoche and even Pabongka himself. In each case, the illness, torture or death incurred is claimed to be the result of having displeased Dorje Shugden. The publication of this material was condemned by the Dalai Lama, who was then engaged in Nyingma practices himself under the guidance of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. His views about Dorje Shugden began to shift and led to his first statements discouraging the practice in 1976.

    Each time a Dalai Lama has come to hold effective political office, a controversy has erupted around Dorje Shugden. A similar pattern has repeated itself during the rules of the Fifth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Dalai Lamas. This conflict has inevitably been articulated in the vivid, yet (to outsiders) bewildering language and imagery of Tibetan culture. It reflects a struggle between two opposing visions of how best to lead sentient beings to enlightenment, preserve the Buddha?s teaching, and maintain the integrity of the Tibetan state. Representatives of both sides have included wise, moral and saintly men, who have led exemplary Buddhist lives. Some, such as Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche, admired and respected each other. As with everything to do with Tibet, the line between religion and politics is blurred. The dispute over Dorje Shugden is neither an exclusively religious nor a fundamentally political one. It is both.

    Who are these invisible beings that appear to Tibetan lamas in dreams and visions, speak through oracles, predict the future, inspire awe and terror, bless those who worship them and incur misfortune on those who don?t? The Tibetan term for such beings is lha. Lha means ?deity? or ?god.? Such gods are both Indian and Tibetan in origin and constitute a pantheon as complex and arcane as that of ancient Greece and Rome. Yet with the advent of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, there appears an altogether different kind of god. These are buddhas and bodhisattvas, awakened beings who have vowed to work ceaselessly and in myriad ways for the welfare of beings. While not mere gods — who for all their powers are just another class of unawakened sentient being — they assume the form of gods (lha?i rnam par shar ba) for the benefit of others.

    Tibetan Buddhists regard these gods, whether of the unawakened or awakened variety, as conscious, autonomous beings, every bit as real as you or I. The Dalai Lama, who so successfully presents Buddhism in the Western media as rational, pragmatic and compatible with modern psychology and science, appears to believe in the power of these gods. In a statement issued in English by the Tibetan government in exile in 1996, he is quoted from a speech to an audience of Tibetans as saying: ?It has become fairly clear that Dolgyal (i.e. Shugden) is a spirit of the dark forces.?

    The Dalai Lama is not speaking here as a modern religious leader trying to persuade some of his superstitious flock to relinquish an outdated world view. He is engaged in an emotive debate about whether a particular god is a powerful but deluded sentient being or a buddha who has assumed the form of a god. Such is the perceived power of Dorje Shugden that both Gelukpas who invoke him and Nyingmapas who fear him are told not even to let his name pass their lips. This atmosphere of secrecy and implicit danger serves to affirm for Tibetan Buddhists their view of an invisible polytheistic reality intersecting with the human world.

    Although this worldview may be unfamiliar, it is not intrinsically stranger than that of Christians and other religious believers who lack the exotic prestige Tibetan lamas have for Westerners. The main difference between it and other religious worldviews is that Buddhists know all these gods to be empty of any inherent reality. Everything, they would say, is merely an appearance as ephemeral and insubstantial as a dream. Such statements have led some in the West to assume that the gods of Tibetan Buddhism are no more than archetypal symbols: they perform a psychological function in the process of spiritual transformation, but only the naive would say they represent beings independent of the practitioner?s own mind. Yet however useful this kind of Jungian interpretation may be, it is not how most Tibetan lamas understand the world they inhabit.

    For gods to be empty of inherent existence does not mean that they cannot be autonomous beings capable of making choices and existing in their own heavenly realms. In this sense they are no different from humans, who are likewise empty but perfectly capable of making decisions and living their own unique and fallible lives. The doctrine of emptiness only teaches us to see ourselves and the world in a way that frees us from the reification and egoism that generate anguish. To say the world is empty neither affirms nor denies the claims of any cosmological theory, be it that of ancient India or modern astrophysics.

    To establish an authentic Buddhist state on the basis of this vision, however, requires ensuring that a correct view of emptiness be upheld by those in power. Such responsibility would be a necessary outcome of the bodhisattva?s compassionate resolve. For this reason, the Fifth Dalai Lama?s government proscribed the teachings of the Jonangpa school, who taught that emptiness implied a transcendent absolute reality which inherently exists (gzhan stong). Texts of the school were confiscated and its monasteries turned over to the Gelukpa. It seems other factions in the Geluk order would have liked to have taken similar measures against the Nyingma school.

    In order to honor the historical heritage of Tibet, to affirm unity among the diverse communities of the Tibetan nation, even to be true to their own spiritual intuitions, one can understand why the Dalai Lamas would tolerate and even embrace Nyingma views. But however justified this might be in personal or political terms, it should not obscure the real and potentially divisive philosophical and doctrinal differences that exist between the Nyingma and Geluk ideologies.

    The Nyingma teaching of Dzogchen regards awareness (rig pa) as the innate self-cognizant foundation of both samsara and nirvana. Rig pa is the intrinsic, uncontrived nature of mind, which a Dzogchen master is capable of directly pointing out to his students. For the Nyingmapa Dzogchen represents the very apogee of what the Buddha taught, whereas Tsongkhapa?s view of emptiness as just a negation (med ?gag) of inherent existence, implying no transcendent reality, verges on nihilism.

    For the Gelukpas, though, Dzogchen succumbs to the opposite extreme: that of delusively clinging to something permanent and self-existent as the basis of reality. They see Dzogchen as a return to the Hindu ideas that Buddhists resisted in India, and a residue of the Chan (Zen) doctrine of Hvashang Mahayana, proscribed at the time of the early kings. Moreover, some Kagyu and Nyingma teachers of the Rime (?Impartial?) revival movement in Eastern Tibet in the 19th century even began to promote a synthesis between the forbidden Jonangpa philosophy and the practice of Dzogchen.

    For the followers of Shugden this is not an obscure metaphysical disagreement, but a life and death struggle for truth in which the destiny of all sentient beings is at stake. The bodhisattva vow, taken by every Tibetan Buddhist, is a commitment to lead all beings to the end of anguish and the realization of buddhahood. Following Tsongkhapa, the Gelukpas maintain that the only way to achieve this is to understand non-conceptually that nothing whatsoever inherently exists. Any residue, however subtle, of an attachment to inherent existence works against the bodhisattva?s aim and perpetuates the very anguish he or she seeks to dispel.

    Moreover, protectors such as Dorje Shugden exert an enormous power over the minds of Tibetan Buddhists–be they erudite lamas, simple Bhutanese peasants or educated Westerners. While lamas teach that the taking of refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is the only protection a Buddhist requires, they invariably supplement this with initiations into and practices of a range of protector gods. After all, the ?Land of Snows? could be a harsh and frightening place. Tibetans lived in an awesome, sparsely inhabited landscape with a fierce climate, psychically populated by numerous spirits, demons and gods. The very survival of communities required a powerful sense of family, tribal and religious loyalty. In a modern, psychological sense, Dorje Shugden could be seen as the personification of a specific set of fears and loyalties in the form of a god. But for Tibetan Buddhists he is not just a metaphor; he is a real, living god/buddha whose displeasure can wreak havoc on human beings.

    At a certain point in their practice, those who rely on Dorje Shugden will ritually ?entrust their lives? (srog gtad) to him. This is not a step taken lightly. When the present Dalai Lama (who chose not to take this step himself) requests people to renounce Shugden, he both challenges a deeply felt loyalty and raises the possibility of frightful retribution. ?Nothing will happen,? he has had to reassure Tibetans. ?I will face the challenge…. No harm will befall you.?

    Although some Gelukpas have heeded his advice, others have not. For those loyal to Dorje Shugden could well believe that the misfortunes to have befallen the institution of the Dalai Lama, even the tragedy of Tibet in the 20th century, are all due to a failure to heed the advice of their protector who ?reduces to particles of dust great beings, high officials and ordinary people who pollute and corrupt the Geluk doctrine.? For the Dalai Lama to denounce Dorje Shugden may confirm for them that he is simply part of the problem.

    Speaking of the British monarchy more than a hundred years ago, Walter Bagehot warned of ?letting daylight into magic.? This happens today as the media peer into events that formerly only a handful of lamas and their advisors would have been privy to. The arcane wrangling and intrigue surrounding the reincarnations of the Karmapa and the Panchen Lama are disseminated through newspapers, web sites, television and radio within hours of having taken place, while grisly murders in Dharamsala lead to Dorje Shugden being dissected on the pages of Newsweek. The Dalai Lama in particular has used the media to great effect, but the fascination he has both drawn upon and stimulated now threatens to turn the magic of Tibet into mere spectacle.

    If we strip away the exotic veneer of this Tibetan Buddhist dispute, we are confronted with questions which concern the very nature of the dharma and its practice. In the West we are fond of portraying Buddhism as a tolerant, rational, non-dogmatic and open-minded tradition. But how much is this the result of liberal Western(ized) intellectuals seeking to construct an image of Buddhism that simply confirms their own prejudices and desires?

    Historically, Buddhists everywhere have tended not to exhibit the pluralist, postmodern values we might imagine them to possess. All Buddhist traditions make claims to truth, and when those claims have contradicted one another, then passionate, prolonged, even violent disputes have ensued. All the more so is this the case in the polytheistic buddhocracy of Tibet, where a very human dispute between different doctrinal camps has also inevitably been a struggle among the gods. Each side has invoked its own invisible beings for blessing and protection, summoned its own oracles for guidance from them, and been convinced that it was acting out of compassion for the welfare of all beings. Tibetan lamas take their disputes seriously not merely because of short-term political gain. Many of them act out of deep and sincere passion for what they hold to be true.

    Yet history also teaches us that Buddhism possesses a remarkable capacity to reimagine itself in response to the challenges posed by new historical and cultural situations. Its protean forms are testimony to the survival of a way of life that has travelled throughout Asia and is now taking its tentative first steps in America and Europe. If it is to survive, it will have to find a way of preserving the heartfelt, single-minded commitment at its core within multicultural societies that reject the totalizing and potentially repressive demands of any single claim to truth.

    First Published in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Vol. 7, no. 3. New York: Spring 1998.


  • Thom

    Confederation of Shambala Warriors!
    Unite and Fight All Forms of Tyranny!
    Convene The Gathering Force Of Dorje Shugden Warriors to Defend The Dharmapala’s Lineage!
    All Voices in Concord as One!
    The Enemy Does Not Delay for One Minute to Place Us In Our Graves!
    Come Together Now, Before It Is Too Late!

  • Thom

    September 08, 2008 Issue
    The American Conservative

    Radical Chic

    Why liberals love Tibet

    By Brendan O’Neill

    Whenever a protester wins the fulsome praise of politicians, the media, and especially the radical’s own mother and father, I get suspicious.

    In 1993, as an angry 19-year-old, I marched against police racism in East London, coming nose-to-nose with truncheon-wielding, hot-blooded coppers. In 1994, I joined an irate throng outside the American Embassy in London to register my opposition to Clinton’s invasion of Haiti. I also marched against NATO’s bombing of the Bosnian Serbs in 1995, its air assault on Yugoslavia in 1999, and its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Not once did I receive a pat on the back from a politician or sycophantic coverage in a sympathetic broadsheet. As for my parents, they thought I was certifiably off my rocker.

    How different it has been for Lucy Fairbrother, the British 23-year-old Free Tibet protester who was deported from Beijing after hanging a banner reading “Tibet will be free” outside the Bird’s Nest stadium. On Aug. 6, two days before the Olympic Games kicked off, Fairbrother and three other Free Tibet activists scaled 120-foot-tall lighting poles close to the stadium and unfurled their banner for the clicking cameras of the world media. Overnight, Lucy—the daughter of a former director of Barings Bank—was transformed into a plucky hero. Upon her arrival at London City Airport, she was snapped by swarms of paparazzi and asked for her views on the future of China and Tibet. Her grinning mug shot graced the pages of every newspaper the following day, where she was described as “brave,” “committed,” and the “best of British.” Her mother beamed with pride. “I’m so proud of her. She is doing what she feels is right, and what I feel is right,” she declared. Normally, parental approval would sound the death knell to the career of any self-respecting protester, yet in the Tale of Lucy Fairbrother, her mother’s voice merely joined the deafening chorus of approval.

    This should confirm that there is nothing remotely radical, much less progressive, about jumping on the Free Tibet bandwagon. Instead, yelling “Free Tibet!” from the top of a pole in Beijing or outside the Chinese Embassy in London, where Free Tibet activists gather every day, will win you a round of applause from bankers, editors, and even Prince Charles, a supporter of the Tibet cause who is reportedly impressed by the Fairbrother girl.

    “Free Tibet” has become the cry of the backward and the reactionary. Across the West, it has been turned into the pet cause of poor little rich girls (and boys) who feel disillusioned with modernity and cynical about China and for whom Tibet has become a mystical playground that must be protected from the evil forces of progress.

    Though the campaign has the word “free” in its title, the Free Tibet lobby has little to say about political freedom in Tibet. It rarely demands that Tibetans be granted the right to vote or organize their own protests. Instead, it focuses on protecting the “cultural integrity” of Tibet and the religious freedom of its Buddhist monks. Students for a Free Tibet, an international group of which Lucy Fairbrother is a member, frets that Chinese development in Tibet—including its “extraction of natural resources” and its “large-scale infrastructure projects”—will “erase existing socio-cultural and political divisions between China [and Tibet].” Tellingly, activists refer to China’s presence in Tibet as a form of “cultural genocide,” where the alleged hampering of ancient practices, rather than the denial of democratic rights, is the real crime. This is a campaign not for political self-determination for the people of Tibet but for the protection of a cultural entity imagined and reified by Western activists. It is about maintaining Tibet in a time warp for the benefit of protesters cum eco-tourists.

    The essentially narcissistic focus of Free Tibet campaigners is revealed in their two main obsessions: passionate opposition to China’s modernization of the Himalayan kingdom and outrage that Beijing will not allow the Dalai Lama to return and assume his “rightful” position as Tibet’s leader.

    Free Tibet activists expend much of their energy campaigning against anything that smells modern—especially Chinese jobs, industry, and infrastructure. They are currently agitated by China’s construction of the Gormo-Lhasa rail line, a spectacularly ambitious project that will allow trains to run from the heart of China into Tibet. Apparently such things are a threat to Tibetans’ way of life, which—in the eyes of comfortable Westerners and the daughters of rich bankers—is honorably simple and rustic, and must be kept so.

    At the same time, Western campaigners’ unquestioning support for the Dalai Lama suggests they see Tibetans as an immature people who need a godlike figure to lead them. The Dalai Lama was never elected by anybody. Indeed, some perceptive writers argue that the idolization of the Dalai Lama, by both powerful Westerners and many Tibetans themselves, has impeded the development of democracy. In her book The Tibetan Independence Movement, Jane Ardley writes, “[It] is apparent that it is the Dalai Lama’s role as ultimate spiritual authority that is holding back the political process of democratization. The assumption that he occupies the correct moral ground from a spiritual perspective means that any challenge to his political authority may be interpreted as anti-religious.”

    Far from assisting the emergence of freedom, Free Tibet activists want to preserve Tibet as a museum, to keep it as a land cut off from modernity. And far from bringing democracy to Tibet, the activists’ slavish worship of the Dalai Lama has helped to stifle, as Ardley further writes, “the opportunity for opposition and expression of different views,” the very lifeblood of the democratic way.

    Tibet has long been the plaything of people disillusioned with the modern world. Since James Hilton wrote Lost Horizon in 1933, in which Tibet was depicted as “Shangri-la,” it has been used and abused, turned into an idealized land of goodness and purity by aristocratic and artistic elements in the West who despise the pace of change over here and like the idea of a natural, politics-free land “over there.” In his 1991 book Sacred Tibet, Philip Rawson wrote, “Tibetan culture offers powerful, untarnished and coherent alternatives to Western egotistical lifestyles, our short attention span, our gradually more pointless pursuit of material satisfactions.”

    The driving force behind Tibetophilia today is not political solidarity with the Tibetans and certainly not any positive argument for full democratic equality, but rather a sense of disgust with Western life. In Rawson’s words, “the West perceives some lack within itself” and seeks to find fulfilment in the ostensibly preserved “pure East.” Ironically, then, Free Tibet activism has a colonial bent to it: wealthy Westerners pursuing emotional occupation.

    In this simple world, Tibet is always good and China is always bad. As Donald S. Lopez Jr. argues in Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West, many Westerners talk of the Chinese in Tibet as “an undifferentiated mass of godless Communists overrunning a peaceful land devoted only to ethereal pursuits” and come to see Tibetans as “superhuman” and the Chinese as “subhuman.” That demonization fits well with the agenda of many Western governments and media outlets. Hence the adoration heaped on Ms. Fairbrother and her friends, who can congratulate themselves. They are not just idiots. They are useful idiots.


    Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked (

    The American Conservative welcomes letters to the editor.
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