Goodbye Shangri-la – excerpts from the new book by Michael Parenti

Michael ParentiAlthough I don’t agree with everything Michael Parenti writes in his new book God and his Demons, he does make a lot of good points about the Dalai Lama. He points out the dark side of many religions from the many evils committed in the name of “holy causes”. The majority of his criticism of Buddhism is aimed at the Dalai Lama and the feudal theocracy of old Tibet. Below are some excerpts from the book.


Tibet was no Shangri-la

“Many Buddhist maintain that, before the Chinese crackdown in 1959, old Tibet was a spiritually oriented kingdom free from the corrupting lifestyles and egoistic materialism that beset modern industrialized society. News media and Hollywood films have portrayed the Tibetan theocracy as a veritable Shangri-la. The Dalai Lama himself stated that “the pervasive influence of Buddhism” in Tibet “amid the wide open spaces of an unspoiled environment resulted in a society dedicated to peace and harmony. We enjoyed freedom and contentment.”
Serf working the fields in old Tibet
“Until 1959, when the Dalai Lama last presided over Tibet, most of the arable land was still organized into manorial estates worked by serfs and owned by monasteries and secular landlords… The commander in chief of the Tibetan army, a member of the Dalai Lama’s lay Cabinet, owned 4,000 square kilometers of land and 3,500 serfs. Old Tibet has been misrepresented by some of its admirers as “a nation that required no police force because its people voluntarily observed the laws of karma.” In fact, it had a professional army, albeit a small one, that served mainly as a gendarme for the landlords to keep order and hunt down runaway serfs.”

“One twenty-two-year-old woman, herself a runaway serf, reports: “Pretty serf girls were usually taken by the owner as house servants and used as he wished.” Fugitive serfs who fled were hunted down by the landlord’s men and beaten mercilessly. Serfs were taxed upon getting married and taxed for every birth and death in the family. They were taxed for planting a tree in their yard and for keeping animals, taxed for religious festivals and for public dancing, and taxed for being sent to prison and upon being released. Those who could not find work were taxed for being unemployed, and if they traveled to another village in search of work, they paid a passage tax.”

“Whatever wrongs and new oppressions introduced by the Chinese after 1959, they did abolish slavery and the Tibetan serfdom system of unpaid labor. They eliminated the landlords’ crushing taxes, started work projects, and greatly reduced unemployment and beggary. They established health clinics and secular schools and constructed running water and electrical systems in Lhasa. Since 1950 the Tibetan population has doubled and its life span has risen from thirty-six years to the present average of sixty-five years.”

“Both the Dalai Lama and his advisor and youngest brother, Tendzin Choegyal, claimed that “more that 1.2 million Tibetans are dead as a result of the Chinese occupation.” The official 1953 census – six years before the Chinese crackdown – recorded the entire population residing in Tibet proper at 1,274,000. Other census counts put the population within Tibet at about 2 million. If the Chinese killed 1.2 million in the early 1960s, then almost all of Tibet would have been depopulated, transformed into a killing field dotted with death camps and mass graves, of which there seems to be no evidence. What is difficult to procure is hard data on the number of Tibetans who might have perished because of the Chinese occupation.”

The Dalai Lama’s connections to the CIA and big banking financiers

“The Dalai Lama’s organization itself eventually admitted that it had received millions of dollars from the CIA during the 1960s.”

“Into the twenty-first century, the US Congress continued to allocate funds to the Tibetan exile community via the National Endowment for Democracy and other conduits that are more respectable sounding that the CIA. In addition, the Dalai Lama received money from financier George Soros.”

Background information from Wikipedia

George Soros was a former member of the Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) regularly provides funding to opposition candidates in elections in countries other than the USA. According to Allen Weinstein, one of the founders of NED, “A lot of what we [NED] do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

On its official website, in the history section, its difference from the covert nature of CIA activities is explained:

In the aftermath of World War II, faced with threats to our democratic allies and without any mechanism to channel political assistance, U.S. policy makers resorted to covert means, secretly sending advisers, equipment, and funds to support newspapers and parties under siege in Europe. When it was revealed in the late 1960’s that some American PVO’s were receiving covert funding from the CIA to wage the battle of ideas at international forums, the Johnson Administration concluded that such funding should cease, recommending establishment of “a public-private mechanism” to fund overseas activities openly.


Supporting the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the bombing of Yugoslavia

“What of the years of carnage and destruction wrought by US forces in Iraq, a war condemned by most of the world – even by a conservative pope? The Dalai Lama was undecided: “The Iraq war – it’s too early to say, right or wrong.” Earlier he had voiced support for the US/NATO military intervention and seventy-eight days’ bombing of Yugoslavia, and the destruction of that viable social democracy. He also supported the US/NATO military intervention into Afghanistan.”

The Karmapa controversy

“A difference arose over the selection of the seventeenth Karmapa, head tulku of the Kagyu, with the Dalai Lama and others supporting one candidate and most of the Kagyu monks supporting another, firing a dozen years of conflict, punctuated by intermittent riots and the looting of the Karmapa’s monastery in Rumtek, India, by supporters of the Dalai Lama.”

The Dorje Shugden controversy

“The Dalai Lama manifests a less than perfect tolerance for other religious denominations. He banned the worship of certain old masters and deities, claiming that such devotions cause Tibetan Buddhism to degenerate into idolatry. Many Tibetans living in India who venerate the Dorje Shugden deity testified to being subjected to threats and severe beatings. Their homes and crops were burned and their herds taken away by self-identified supporters of the Dalai Lama. While claiming to have not heard of these violent incidents, the Dalai Lama did opine that “if the goal is good then the method, even if apparently of the violent kind is permissible.”

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4 responses to “Goodbye Shangri-la – excerpts from the new book by Michael Parenti

  • thom

    Dalai Lama’s ‘democracy’ hollow10:35, July 06, 2010
    After my story on the “democracy” of the Dalai Lama group was published in China Ethnic News, I became the target of attack by writers of the Dalai Lama group. Though I was not surprised by this, I felt obliged to write something as a response to their poor rhetoric and vicious attacks.

    The Tibetan government-in-exile led by the Dalai Lama is an authoritarian government that combines religion with politics. My previous story gave a brief description of this, and so far the Dalai Lama’s writers have not responded on this point. They must agree as they have no argument against the claim.

    On Aug. 10, 2009, while answering the question on Voice of Germany: Is the Tibetan government in exile a secular government or a theocracy? The No. 2 figure of the Dalai Lama group, Chief Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile Samdhong Rinpoche, shuffled and said, it was more or less a secular government, but they did not use the word secular. They wrote clearly in their “Charter,” the government is one that combines spirit and politics. Undoubtedly, his answer admitted the government’s theocratic nature.
    As for the authoritarian nature of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Samdhong Rinpoche admitted in a group discussion jointly held by the Tibetan Women’s Association and other organizations in Dharamsala on June 21, 2009, that the Chief Minister did not have the freedom to conduct work in accordance with usual practice. Instead, he must work within a structure where the will of the Dalai Lama was absolutely and undoubtedly the most important.

    And Samdhong Rinpoche said a key obligation of the Chief Minister was to predict the unsaid ideas of the Dalai Lama and strive for realization of these ideas through efforts. This remark was satirized by Jamyang Norbu, a Tibetan scholar, as similar to a eunuch’s flattery and catering to the Emperor in a corrupt feudal government.

    It is this authoritarian theocratic government that lies to the whole world under the guise of democracy. It strictly controls ordinary exile Tibetans and ruthlessly cracks down on those with different opinions.

    Qi Maizeren, who was once a core member of the Dalai Lama group, said there were 10 Tibetans assassinated because their opinions differed from those of the Dalai Lama.

    My previous story also mentioned that the leader of Labrang’s local forces, Gungthang Tsultrim, was assassinated by the Dalai Lama group. In addition, the Dalai Lama once sent Samdhong Rinpoche with more than 200 men,to smash the New Delhi headquarters of the organization called Four Rivers, Six Ranges and burned the documents on the deeds of the organization’s leader Lithang Athar.

    Writers from the Dalai Lama group responded that these were lies I deliberately created, but they could not provide any concrete evidence to refute me. Instead, they used more than 2,000 words to criticize my confusion of the persecution of Tibetan scholar Tsultrim Kalsang Khangkar and another exile Tibetan named A Lequnze due to memory mistake. They introduced the details of the two cases, trying to prove their group did not impose political persecution on them. In fact, their correction added new data for the list of persecuted victims.

    Tibetan scholar Jamyang Norbu’s description revealed the political persecution Tsultrim Kalsang Khangkar and A Lequnze suffered from. He wrote that there was a well-organized threatening letter movement against Tibetan scholar Tsultrim Kalsang Khangkar, who lived in Japan and once attacked Dalai Lama in a work.

    And A Lequnze was also attacked by the masses in Dharamsala. They painted his face with ink and spit on him. His daughter, a government official, was also temporarily hijacked. This description of an insider from the Dalai Lama group proves that the Dalai Lama group uses political persecution as a means of control.

    Actually, Jamyang Norbu also talked about a series of political persecution cases inside the Dalai Lama group in an article. For instance, a man named Bai Maben was marked for death by the group just because he wrote an academic thesis on Tibetan literature. An organization of the Dalai Lama group offered a reward of 200,000 rupees to recruit killers for this.

    Ge Maqunpei, former head of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, was once forced to resign, as he brought up a bill against the Dalai Lama’s proposal. At last, he had to withdraw the bill. Jamyang Norbu established a newspaper. Its sales staff was often bullied, its editors were threatened with death and its office was harassed by thugs. All these actions were organized. Jamyang Norbu said these actions were conceived of by Dalai Lama himself, who has never condemned these violent actions.
    The perverse acts of the Dalai Lama group made young Tibetans in exile see through the hypocrisy of its democratic cloak and hate politics. Thus it led to the low voter turnout of the group in 2006 as I mentioned in my previous story.

    However, writers of the Dalai Lama group hold a different view. In this regard, I especially looked through relevant reports of various media, and they all said the voter turnout was only 26.8 percent. The population of Tibetans in exile was about 150,000, with 120,000 above the age of 18. But in the 2006 election, only 60 percent of them registered, and actually only 26.8 percent or 32,000 people voted in the end.

    In late 2009, a Tibetan in exile denounced the Tibetan government in exile as full of corruption and said that it led to the alienation of many Tibetans in exile. He said many “ambitious” young people lost confidence in the government and went back to their hometowns or went to earn money in Western countries. This is a very important reason for the low voter turnout. But writers of the Dalai Lama group explained the low voter turnout with an excuse that the election period was the busiest time for the Tibetans in exile, and thus they could not make it.

    This excuse exposed two points: first, what the authoritarian government of the Dalai Lama group brought to ordinary Tibetans in exile was actually extensive poverty. Most of them could only live on small businesses. Therefore, they felt the election had nothing to do them, and their political participation was low. Second, the aristocratic class of the Dalai Lama group purposefully excluded the poor people, i.e. the majority of Tibetans in exile, from the vote, through setting an improper election time.

    This conclusion is based on good reasons. One Tibetan scholar discussed the voter turnout of the Dalai Lama group in an article. He wrote that due to the mechanism of the election, people who were busy making a living could not go to the vote, and in addition, at least 15 percent of Tibetans in exile were not qualified to register as a voter because they had no money or did not want to pay the “voluntary tax.”

    As we all know, voter turnout is regarded as an important indicator of the degree of voters’ recognition for the current political system. A so-called government elected with a voter turnout of 26.8 percent was just a joke, no matter how they decorate it with “democracy.”

    Most people of the Dalai Lama group have no democratic concept at all, which further proves the hypocrisy of their “democracy.” For instance, the head of the so-called Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile Penpa Tsering said frankly while attending a group discussion jointly held by the Tibetan Women’s Association and other organizations on June 21, 2009, only a person who agrees with Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” approach could be appointed as Chief Minister. And he said it was a waste of time for a dissenter to take part in the election. Such remarks with no democratic spirit at all came from the head of a parliament. What a strange thing it is! In addition, the Tibetans in exile who criticized the Tibetan government in exile in blogs were severely warned.

    My own experience further proved this. I am not a member of the Communist Party of China, but a private person who is concerned with Tibet. After writing a critical article, I was immediately condemned as mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China. What’s more, I was cursed and called by them a lowly scoundrel who is brazen and shameless.

    Such arbitrary style of writing and gangster practice lack basic respect for people and for the spirit of debate. The deeds of the “well-educated elites” of the Dalai Lama group have made the hypocrisy of their democracy self-evident.

  • Michael Parenti – Dalai Lama’s not all he’s cracked up to be? « Western Shugden Society

    […] Goodbye Shangri-la – excerpts from God and his Demons by Michael Parenti […]

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