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December 17, 2010

WikiLeaks cables: Dalai Lama called for focus on climate, not politics, in Tibet

Jason Burke in Delhi, guardian.co.uk, Thursday 16 December 2010

The Dalai Lama urged the US to focus on climate change in Tibet, secret cables reveal.

The Dalai Lama told US diplomats last year that the international community should focus on climate change rather than politics in Tibet because environmental problems were more urgent, secret American cables reveal.

The exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader told Timothy Roemer, the US ambassador to India, that the "political agenda should be sidelined for five to 10 years and the international community should shift its focus to climate change on the Tibetan plateau" during a meeting in Delhi last August.

"Melting glaciers, deforestation and increasingly polluted water from mining projects were problems that 'cannot wait', but the Tibetans could wait five to 10 years for a political solution," he was reported as saying.

Though the Dalai Lama has frequently raised environmental issues, he has never publicly suggested that political questions take second place, nor spoken of any timescale with such precision.

Roemer speculated, in his cable to Washington reporting the meeting, that "the Dalai Lama's message may signal a broader shift in strategy to reframe the Tibet issue as an environmental concern".

In their meeting, the ambassador reported, the Dalai Lama criticised China's energy policy, saying dam construction in Tibet had displaced thousands of people and left temples and monasteries underwater.

He recommended that the Chinese authorities compensate Tibetans for disrupting their nomadic lifestyle with vocational training, such as weaving, and said there were "three poles" in danger of melting – the north pole, the south pole, and "the glaciers at the pole of Tibet".

The cables also reveal the desperate appeals made by the Dalai Lama for intervention by the US during unrest in Tibet during spring 2008.

As a heavy crackdown followed demonstrations and rioting, he pleaded with US officials to take action that would "make an impact" in Beijing.

At the end of one 30-minute meeting, a cable reports that the Dalai Lama embraced the embassy's officials and "made a final plea".

"Tibet is a dying nation. We need America's help," he was reported as saying.

Other cables reveal US fears that the influence of the 75-year-old Dalai Lama over the Tibetan community in exile might be waning or that a succession to his leadership could pose problems.

In June 2008, officials reported that their visit to six Tibetan refugee settlements across north and north-eastern India "underscores concerns that frustrated and dissatisfied Tibetan youth ... could pose serious problems".

"A widening generational divide finds Tibetan leaders unable to resolve growing dissatisfaction among younger Tibetans," the officials said.

In February, following the ninth round of talks in Beijing between the Tibetan government in exile, known as the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), and Chinese officials, US diplomats predicted that "the Chinese government's international credibility on human rights will continue to decline as Tibetans gain further access to media tools".

In a section of the cable entitled "A militant Shangri-La?", a reference to the fictional mythical Himalayan kingdom, the officials explained: "Their frustration's effect on the Tibetan movement could be exacerbated by the passage of time, as the Dalai Lama's increasing age inevitably slows down his gruelling travel schedule and his potential ability to continue to capture the world's attention on his people's plight."

A final point, made repeatedly by officials, is that the Indian government's policy towards the Tibetans in exile is likely to be decided by public sentiment.

In one confidential cable of March 2008, an official told Washington that Shiv Shankar Menon, the current Indian national security adviser and then India's top diplomat, had explained to the US ambassador that though "the Tibetan movement has the sympathy of the Indian public, and India has been a generally supportive home to tens of thousands of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, for nearly 50 years ... the tacit agreement that Tibetans are welcome in India as long as they don't cause problems is being challenged at a time when India's complex relationship with Beijing is churning with border issues, rivalry for regional influence, a growing economic interdependence, the nascent stages of joint military exercises, and numerous other priorities".

The US officials concluded that "while the [government of India] will never admit it", New Delhi's "balancing act with India's Tibetans [would] continue for the foreseeable future, with the caveat that a rise in violence – either by Tibetans here or by the Chinese security forces in Tibet – could quickly tip the balance in favour of the side with greater public support".

Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

May 29, 2010

Dalai Lama & the Russian Card Moscow As Mediator Between China And The Tibetan Spiritual Leader Claude Arpi Startling news often goes unnoticed amidst the daily diet of glamorous cricket. As happened on 13 May when Novosti, the Russian state-owned news agency, quoted the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov: “Russia is ready to help settle the conflict between China and the Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama”.
During a speech in the Federation Council, Russia’s Upper House of Parliament, Lavrov said that Moscow supports the development of inter-religious and inter-confessional ties, though it is “against aspects of religion that have been distorted into politics”. And then, the news: “We are following carefully what is happening between the leadership of China and the Dalai Lama and we know that the Chinese leadership is deeply committed to the Dalai Lama dissociating himself from any kind of political activity and separatist tendencies in regard to one or another territory in China.”
Lavrov explained that the occasional attempts to politicise the Dalai Lama’s role as a spiritual leader have not yielded any results, not even in the context of his relations with Buddhists in Russia. “If all the parties make attempts to separate clearly pastoral contacts from political associations, this would be a solution to the problem. We are ready to assist in this.” Visa refused This statement was rather unexpected; first, because Moscow does not interfere in ‘Beijing’s internal affairs’; further, a few days earlier when the Buddhists in Kalmykia asked the Russian Foreign Ministry to issue an entry visa to the Dalai Lama, it was apparently refused, though Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of the Republic of Kalmykia affirmed that Elista, the capital of Kalmykia was expecting the Dalai Lama to consecrate a temple. During a news conference, Ilyumzhinov clarified his personal position: “The Church is separated from the State in our country, but as a person professing Buddhism, I wait for the Dalai Lama’s visit.” The three Russian Republics of Kalmykia, Buryatia and Tuva have a predominantly Buddhist population. These small, but strategically located, republics have nearly 1 million Buddhists representing about 0.5 per cent of the total population of the Russian Federation. The Tibetan leader has visited the Buddhist republics several times in the past, but since 2007 the Dalai Lama has been denied entry to Russia. His last visit was in 2004, when he paid a religious visit to Kalmykia to consecrate the land for a Buddhist temple. Telo Tulku Rinpoche, the Kalmyk Head Lama, recently confirmed that the Russian authorities have declined the request of the Kalmykia Buddhist Association for a visa to the Dalai Lama. He said a letter from the Russian government stated: “The Dalai Lama’s visit to Russia would be taken by Beijing especially sensitively in the current year marking a jubilee of China’s and our common victory in WWII.” In these circumstances, the declaration of Lavrov is rather surprising. It is true that in recent years academic interest has increased considerably in the Buddhist republics.
Dr Garri Irina from the Institute for Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies in the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Ulan-Ude (Buryata) wrote: “Tibet and Buryatia are countries very closely related to each other. First of all, both regions share a common historical destiny of Tibet-Mongolian civilization which is rooted in Tibetan Buddhism and submission to the authority of His Holiness the Dalai Lama . … Both regions passed through a similar history of persecution of religion and its subsequent revival . … There are more than 200 Buddhist communities in Russia now.”
A revival of Buddhism (the Tibetan Mahayana tradition) is visible in these republics located north of Outer Mongolia (Tuva and Buryata) and on the Caspian Sea (Kalmykia).
Recently, historians have discovered several documents showing the close connection between the rulers of Tibet and the Russian Empire. For example, 25 secret letters from Thubten Gyatso, the thirteenth Dalai Lama to his representative in Russia, a Buryat monk called Agvan Dorzhiev have come to light. The letters, dating between 1910 and 1925, demonstrate that the Dalai Lama was interested in getting political support from Russia, mainly to balance the British influence in Tibet and keep the Chinese nationalists at bay. The Lhasa government maintained strict confidentiality in its communications with St Petersburg and till recently, it was not known.
This is not enough to explain the sudden offer from Moscow to ‘assist’ Beijing and Dharamsala to find a common ground. However, it is true that Moscow has always kept an eye on what was happening in the hill station of Himachal. In 1973, a declassified cable from the US Ambassador, Patrick Moynihan, to the State Department in Washington quotes Gyalo Thondup, the Dalai Lama’s elder brother: “Thondup also mentioned that the Soviets had been in touch with Tibetan refugees in Nepal and in India. They had explored the possibility of refugee cooperation in intelligency [sic] operation and in other activities in Tibet. Thondup said he had discouraged Tibetans from cooperating with the Soviets, but some Tibetans were quite interested in this. He indicated that these contacts had started three or four years ago with then Foreign Minister [Secretary] TN Kaul’s encouragement, they were more active two years ago than they were now.” More importantly, President Hu Jintao visited Moscow on May 8 and 9, hardly a week before Lavrov’s declaration. The occasion was the 65th anniversary of Russia’s Great Patriotic War and the victory over the Nazis. During his stay, Hu lauded the sacrifices made by the Russian people during the fight against ‘fascism’. Hu’s participation was interpreted “as a signal of Hu’s determination to forge a close strategic alliance,” says Russel Hsiao in the China Brief of the Jamestown Foundation. Hu called upon Russia and China to consolidate their strategic partnership, and promote ‘multipolarity’ in the international system as well as ‘democratization of international relations’. Extensive interests President Hu met his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev (they had already met on 15 April during the BRIC conference). Hu affirmed that “Beijing and Moscow share extensive interests on many major issues.” Moreover, Hu spoke of China’s ‘new security concept’. For Beijing, this means “to rise above one-sided security and seek common security through mutually beneficial cooperation … and refrain from interfering in other countries’ internal affairs and promote the democratization of the international relations”. This last concept points to the ‘unilateral’ role played by the US on the world stage today as well as the greater importance Beijing wants international ‘democratic’ institutions, such as the UN, to have in the future. This does not elucidate why the Russian Foreign Minister offered to mediate between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government, except, of course, if Beijing was in the know and the announcement was made in consultation with Beijing. Recently, Ma Zhaoxu, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, urged the United States to stop ‘supporting anti-Chinese separatist forces’. Beijing is unhappy about the constant reprimand coming from the US about human rights and Tibet. To ask Moscow to be the intermediary is a way to pull the carpet from under Washington’s feet and show the world that the Americans are not the only ones who care for Tibet. It is consistent with Beijing’s policy: in July 1981 CCP General Secretary Hu Yaobang told Gyalo Thondup that the Dalai Lama could return to China, but he would have to stay in mainland China and not get involved in any political activities. The Dalai Lama’s answer was that his only interest was the fate of six million Tibetans, not his personal welfare.
Dharamsala has not reacted so far, but it is worth watching the situation unfold. (The writer is an expert on China-Tibet relations and author of the Fate of Tibet.)

May 26, 2010

Many Faiths, One Truth (by His Holiness the Dalai Lama)

NY Times 5/25/10

WHEN I was a boy in Tibet, I felt that my own Buddhist religion must be the best — and that other faiths were somehow inferior. Now I see how naïve I was, and how dangerous the extremes of religious intolerance can be today.

Though intolerance may be as old as religion itself, we still see vigorous signs of its virulence. In Europe, there are intense debates about newcomers wearing veils or wanting to erect minarets and episodes of violence against Muslim immigrants. Radical atheists issue blanket condemnations of those who hold to religious beliefs. In the Middle East, the flames of war are fanned by hatred of those who adhere to a different faith.

Such tensions are likely to increase as the world becomes more interconnected and cultures, peoples and religions become ever more entwined. The pressure this creates tests more than our tolerance — it demands that we promote peaceful coexistence and understanding across boundaries.

Granted, every religion has a sense of exclusivity as part of its core identity. Even so, I believe there is genuine potential for mutual understanding. While preserving faith toward one’s own tradition, one can respect, admire and appreciate other traditions.

An early eye-opener for me was my meeting with the Trappist monk Thomas Merton in India shortly before his untimely death in 1968. Merton told me he could be perfectly faithful to Christianity, yet learn in depth from other religions like Buddhism. The same is true for me as an ardent Buddhist learning from the world’s other great religions.

A main point in my discussion with Merton was how central compassion was to the message of both Christianity and Buddhism. In my readings of the New Testament, I find myself inspired by Jesus’ acts of compassion. His miracle of the loaves and fishes, his healing and his teaching are all motivated by the desire to relieve suffering.

I’m a firm believer in the power of personal contact to bridge differences, so I’ve long been drawn to dialogues with people of other religious outlooks. The focus on compassion that Merton and I observed in our two religions strikes me as a strong unifying thread among all the major faiths. And these days we need to highlight what unifies us.

Take Judaism, for instance. I first visited a synagogue in Cochin, India, in 1965, and have met with many rabbis over the years. I remember vividly the rabbi in the Netherlands who told me about the Holocaust with such intensity that we were both in tears. And I’ve learned how the Talmud and the Bible repeat the theme of compassion, as in the passage in Leviticus that admonishes, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

In my many encounters with Hindu scholars in India, I’ve come to see the centrality of selfless compassion in Hinduism too — as expressed, for instance, in the Bhagavad Gita, which praises those who “delight in the welfare of all beings.” I’m moved by the ways this value has been expressed in the life of great beings like Mahatma Gandhi, or the lesser-known Baba Amte, who founded a leper colony not far from a Tibetan settlement in Maharashtra State in India. There he fed and sheltered lepers who were otherwise shunned. When I received my Nobel Peace Prize, I made a donation to his colony.

Compassion is equally important in Islam — and recognizing that has become crucial in the years since Sept. 11, especially in answering those who paint Islam as a militant faith. On the first anniversary of 9/11, I spoke at the National Cathedral in Washington, pleading that we not blindly follow the lead of some in the news media and let the violent acts of a few individuals define an entire religion.

Let me tell you about the Islam I know. Tibet has had an Islamic community for around 400 years, although my richest contacts with Islam have been in India, which has the world’s second-largest Muslim population. An imam in Ladakh once told me that a true Muslim should love and respect all of Allah’s creatures. And in my understanding, Islam enshrines compassion as a core spiritual principle, reflected in the very name of God, the “Compassionate and Merciful,” that appears at the beginning of virtually each chapter of the Koran.

Finding common ground among faiths can help us bridge needless divides at a time when unified action is more crucial than ever. As a species, we must embrace the oneness of humanity as we face global issues like pandemics, economic crises and ecological disaster. At that scale, our response must be as one.

Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world. From this perspective, mutual understanding among these traditions is not merely the business of religious believers — it matters for the welfare of humanity as a whole.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the author, most recently, of “Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together.”

April 19, 2010

I Was Hacked in Beijing

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/weekinreview/11jacobs.html

By ANDREW JACOBS

BEIJING — The reality — and my fears — dawned only slowly.

For weeks, friends and colleagues complained I had not answered their e-mail messages. I swore I had not received them.

My e-mail program began crashing almost daily. But only when all my contacts disappeared for the second time did suspicion push me to act.

I dug deep inside my Yahoo settings, and I shuddered. Incoming messages had been forwarding to an unfamiliar e-mail address, one presumably typed in by intruders who had gained access to my account.

I’d been hacked.

That phrase has been popping up a lot lately on Web chats and at dinner parties in China, where scores of foreign reporters have discovered intrusions into their e-mail accounts.

But unlike malware that trawls for bank account passwords or phishing gambits that peddle lonely and sexually adventurous Russian women, these cyberattacks appear inspired by good old-fashioned espionage.

Recent probes by cyber-countersleuths at the University of Toronto have unmasked electronic spy rings that have been pilfering documents and correspondence from computers in 100 countries. A few patterns have been noted: many of the attacks originated on computers located in China and the spymasters seemed to have a fondness for the Indian Defense Ministry, Tibetan human rights advocates, the Dalai Lama and foreign journalists who cover China and Taiwan.

Although the authors of the reports were careful not to blame the Chinese, a subtext in their findings was not hard to discern: Someone in China — maybe a rogue individual or perhaps a government agency — has been engaged in high-tech surveillance and thievery against perceived enemies of the state.

If that is indeed happening, it would represent a new chapter in the long history of Chinese attempts to manage the foreign journalists who live and work here, who now number more than 400.

The monitoring and manipulation of foreign reporters — the ability to keep them and their sources on edge — would have come a long way since the days when thick-set men in ill-fitting blazers would trail correspondents to interviews, and when unmistakable clicking noises during phone calls gave new meaning to the expression “party line.”

Perhaps most disturbing would be the anonymity of the attacks — the prospect that we and our sources will never know just what we are facing or whom to blame.

Nart Villeneuve, a Canadian researcher who helped analyze the attacks, including an infectious e-mail message designed to dupe the assistants of foreign reporters in Beijing, cautioned there was not enough hard evidence to blame the Chinese, or at least the Chinese government.

“The attackers tend to mask their location,” said Mr. Villeneuve, who is the chief researcher at SecDev.cyber, an Internet security company. “On the other hand, you have to wonder who has the time and interest to produce these kinds of targeted attacks.”

Those of us who live and work in China might be forgiven for suspicions that focus on our hosts, or at least on the legion of so-called patriotic hackers who take umbrage at our coverage and use their computer skills accordingly. While impossible to know for sure, it may have been these nationalistic lone wolves who last week shut down the Web site of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, the association that represents overseas journalists in China.

To be clear, the lot of the foreign journalist has greatly improved in recent years. But there is an undeniably contentious edge to our relationship with China, one rooted in history and a stubborn conviction held by many Chinese that reporters here are spies with an ability to turn a phrase. (This point was driven home recently by a friend’s mother, who warned him to stay away from me lest he be ensnared by my subterfuge.)

Even if we have scant evidence, most foreign journalists have come to assume our phone conversations are monitored. We have learned to remove our cellphone SIM cards when meeting dissidents. At the office, we often reflexively lower our voices when discussing “politically sensitive” topics.

Is that just paranoia? Perhaps. But recent history provides plenty of examples of government intrusion into the affairs of overseas journalists and their employees. It was only in 2007 that Zhao Yan, a researcher in the Beijing bureau of The New York Times, emerged from three years of detention after he was convicted of fraud. The unrelated accusations that led to his arrest — that he had revealed state secrets — were based on a Times article that correctly predicted the impending retirement of a senior Chinese leader. The state secrets charge, which was far more serious than fraud, eventually was dismissed, but not before the prosecutors introduced documents that had come from a desk in the Times office — an indication that we were never truly alone.

Even now, Western news organizations complain when their employees are called in for tea-drinking sessions with security personnel who ask about the stories they are working on.

The antagonism and surveillance, by most accounts, have become less harsh and blatant over the years. The nadir may have been in 1967, when one of the first foreign reporters allowed into the country, Anthony Grey, a British correspondent for Reuters, spent more than two years confined to a room of his Beijing home. Accused of being a spy but never formally charged, his detention was widely thought to be retaliation for the arrest of Chinese journalists in Hong Kong, then a British colony. They had been detained during a protest, and were released long before he was.

When the author and journalist Orville Schell arrived in 1975, in the waning days of the Cultural Revolution, fear effectively deterred Chinese citizens from having any meaningful interaction with foreigners, whose reputations had been thoroughly maligned by a decade of extravagant anti-Western propaganda. Mr. Schell said that the few times he wandered away from his minders, security officers would find him and escort him back to his hotel.

On one occasion, after he managed to chat up a man tending an apple orchard in Shanxi Province, Mr. Schell was pronounced sick and locked in his accommodations, which at the time happened to be a cave. Even when he managed to pose questions to pedestrians, his queries were often waved away or ignored. “People were almost completely standoffish and unreceptive,” he said. “We foreigners lived in a bubble.”

Restrictions and attitudes relaxed during the reforms of the 1980s but then tightened up again after the student-led protests of 1989 ended in a violent crackdown. Nicholas Kristof, then the Times Beijing correspondent along with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, recalls early morning jogs shadowed by a small caravan of vehicles. “Sometimes they weren’t very subtle,” he said. “We had lists of all the license plates of the cars that were following us.”

Although Mr. Kristof said they learned to evade some of the monitoring by sneaking out of their building through a stairwell or speaking in code to arrange interviews, he was devastated to find out that one of his closest friends, a Chinese journalist, was actually working as a government spy. “We didn’t really get used to it,” he said of the surveillance. “We were always terrified that a Chinese friend would get into trouble and we had some close calls.”

The Chinese government does not censor the dispatches of foreign correspondents, but the authorities can express disapproval of a writer’s work by withholding visa renewals — a not uncommon practice. In extreme cases, there is always the option of expulsion, which is what happened to a Times bureau chief, John Burns, after he was accused of illegally entering a military zone and taking pictures in 1986. (His interpreter, whose career never recovered from the incident, was jailed for a year.)

Most journalists working in China today would agree that outward signs of surveillance have decreased markedly. Some, however, say that the monitoring has become more sophisticated and subtle, which brings us back to the recent rash of hacking.

Because Yahoo will not discuss the nature of the incidents, it is unclear exactly what happened. The company informed some victims that their accounts had been breached, but declined to be more specific. Were their e-mail messages read? Were their sources endangered? They do not know.

Even if poorly understood, the intrusions have left many reporters, including myself, feeling unnerved. One reporter, a friend with many years of experience in China, said she felt violated and angry after learning her e-mail account was compromised. Even more frustrating, she said, was not knowing whom to blame.

“I worry about Chinese friends who may have written things they could come to regret,” she said, asking that her name and affiliation not be printed for fear of drawing the attention of freelance hackers. “I’d be more relieved if they had just stolen my credit card information.”

January 27, 2010

Reincarnation sutra retold (By Claude Arpi, The Pioneer, January 27, 2010)

Beijing is becoming increasingly nervous. The fact that China is today a recognised world power (the Middle Kingdom has become the second largest economy and the largest exporter) may lead you to conclude that the leadership in Beijing lives in peace with itself, enjoying its newly-acknowledged position.

But that would be a wrong conclusion. For, despite their status, the Politburo members in the walled-enclave of Zhongnanhai are trembling. As in the famous Asterix comic books, some indomitable tribes continue to refuse the rule of the most powerful empire of its time. Though the tiny Armorican village could not be captured by the Roman Empire because the villagers managed to acquire invincible strength by drinking a magic potion brewed by their druid, in this case the tribe does not use magic potion, but non-violence.

The Empire does not really know how to strike back. A meeting of the all-powerful Politburo of the CCP was held on January 8 to deal exclusively with the situation in the Tibet Autonomous Region, which represents about a third of historical Tibet. China’s President Hu Jintao, who between 1988 and 1992 was posted as CCP’s Tibet party secretary, spoke during the meeting of two objectives: “To seek a breakthrough in (economic) development and maintain long-term stability.”

Mr Hu said that the Chinese Government would help Tibet in four ways: Boosting investment, transferring technology, and sending in more qualified officials as well as “experts and talents”. The new motto suggested by the Chinese President is “going down the road of development with Chinese characteristics and Tibetan flavour”.

Unfortunately, this will not apply when it comes to the Lamas’ most sacred institutions: The reincarnation tradition. “Keeping a living Buddha under control means keeping a temple under control, and keeping a temple under control means keeping a district under control.” These words, conveniently put in the mouth of an unknown supporter of the ‘separatist Dalai group’, appeared in The People’s Daily on January 7. In fact, this is what the CCP realised a long time ago.

The People’s Daily article, headlined “Dalai Lama’s reincarnation tale indicative of separatism”, is most offensive and reflects great nervousness on Beijing’s part. The People’s Daily has argued that a few months back the Dalai Lama had declared he could very well be reincarnated in the form of a woman. Beijing says that this is “an eye-popping thing to say”.

Several years ago, I had the occasion to ask the Dalai Lama to elaborate on this point. He had then explained: “In Tibet, the tradition of having reincarnated teachers is almost 700 years old. Among them, we had one instance of a female reincarnation. In case a female Dalai Lama is more useful to Tibet in future, then why not have a woman as ‘reincarnation’? If a Tibetan female Dalai Lama comes, every male will become her follower!”

He had gone on to add, “I feel that education alone cannot solve all our contemporary problems. More emphasis should be given on ‘compassion’. Women are basically more sensitive and compassionate. But men are not. They are more aggressive”.

The Tibetans consider the Dalai Lama to be the reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and Patron Saint of Tibet. His ‘job’, as the present Dalai Lama puts it, is to make sure that the Buddhist tradition flourishes in the Land of Snows.

Beijing has now reacted violently (and belatedly) to the idea of a female Dalai Lama. “A living reincarnation, reincarnated as a girl or a bronze-haired foreigner… all these absurd arguments by the 14th Dalai Lama on his reincarnation have made people in the Tibetan Buddhist circle feel furious,” says the People’s Daily.

The daily, which truthfully reflects the thinking of the Communist Party of China, which has apparently gained great expertise in the Buddha Dharma, argues, “According to the basic teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, (the Dalai Lama) ‘may be a woman’ is simply an outrageous remark.” It then adds: “In the eyes of many Tibetan Buddhists, it is a blasphemy.”

What a sexist remark! Did not Buddha ordain his own mother? But one cannot expect the Communists in Beijing to have read the sutras.

A couple of years ago, the Chinese Government had announced new ‘Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism’. Beijing has clearly been preparing for the Dalai Lama’s departure (and return); the ‘measures’ targeted the Tibetan leader. If Karl Marx could read some of the 14 articles of the ‘measures’, he would be turning in his grave.

The ‘measures’ describe in great detail how “reincarnating living Buddhas should carry out application and approval procedures”. The Chinese Government threatened: “No group or individual may without authorisation carry out any activities related to searching for or recognising reincarnating living Buddha soul children.” The Communist Party of China, which has always treated religion as ‘poison’, has suddenly become an authority on the centuries-old tradition of ‘reincarnation’.

The People’s Daily refers to the ‘measures’ to state that “the reincarnation of Living Buddha shall not be interfered or dominated by any organisation or individual abroad”. It is another way of saying that the Dalai Lama has no business in deciding his own reincarnation.

In Tibet, the lineage system has never been rigid. For example, during the 13-14th century, the hierarchs of Sakya monastery ruled over the Land of Snows. Their succession was set up by way of ‘transmission’ from father to son or uncle to nephew. Further, historians believe that at the beginning of the 17th century, two Dalai Lamas were alive at the same time (the Sixth and the Seventh). There was no fixed place about where a Dalai Lama could be reborn. The Fourth Dalai Lama, Yonten Gyatso was born in Mongolia while the Sixth, Tsangyang Gyatso, was born in India (in Tawang district of today’s Arunachal Pradesh).

Through Tibet’s history, the interregnum between two Dalai Lamas has been a weakness of the reincarnation system. The 19th century saw a succession of five Dalai Lamas. The Chinese, through their Ambans (or Ambassadors) in Lhasa, made full use of this weakness. Many surmise that the premature deaths of the Ninth up to the Twelfth Dalai Lamas were not a mere coincidence and the Chinese Ambans certainly took great advantage of their ‘timely departure’. It is clear that the problem is not only a spiritual issue, but also a political one and this explains the meddling of the Chinese Communists in what seems at first sight to be a religious affair.