Lama likely to announce retirement
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai
Lama is likely to announce his retirement from active life March
14 through a message to be read out in the Tibetan
The Chinese Communist leaders think
by ignoring the Dalai Lama they would subdue the free spirit of
six million Tibetans and earn their loyalty. The leaders in
Beijing are in for a bit of disappointment. By giving up his
wide-ranging political powers, the 14th Dalai Lama, the man who
calls himself a "simple Buddhist monk", has thrown them a
challenge that they would find it almost impossible to face
without altering their own long-held repressive policies.
When he announced his plans to hand over all his political powers
- from endorsing laws to appointing top officials - to an elected
government-in-exile headed by an Indian-style powerful prime
minister, the Dalai Lama was not only making way for a smooth
transition to a modern, democratic political entity after his
death but was also teasing the Beijing leadership to match his
ideals of freedom, openness and democracy.
For Beijing's current Communist rulers, there is no 'Tibet issue'.
The only issue for them is the status and future of the Dalai
Lama. The avowedly atheist Communist leadership which has let
loose violent repression on Tibetan people, banning even his
photographs, has tried all methods to gain total control and
loyalty of the fiercely independent and devout Tibetan Buddhist
people. They thought the Tibet issue will die out after the Dalai
Lama, who will be 76 this July, passes away. They thought time is
on their side.
All those calculations have now come to naught. In one fell swoop,
the Dalai Lama has undercut their game plan. First of all, by
removing himself as the political head of the Tibetan people, he
has set in motion a far-reaching reform process - something like
separating the church from the state and welcoming and empowering
a democratically elected collective leadership to decide the
future of Tibet. So, whether Chinese supremo Hu Jintao likes it or
not, he or his representatives would now have to talk, if at all,
to the Tibetan government-in-exile about the future of Tibet.
Second, he has nipped in the bud the plans of avowedly atheist
Communist leadership to create confusion among the Tibetan people
by selecting his reincarnation and making him pliable - like they
did in 1995 - by picking a young boy as the 11th Panchen Lama.
Historically, the Panchen Lama has been the second most important
religious figure in Tibet. Most Tibetans however consider the
Chinese pick a fake and demand that the boy named by the Dalai
Lama be released from imprisonment. Even if Beijing still creates
a fake Dalai Lama, the poor fellow will neither have legitimacy in
the eyes of Tibetans nor any political powers, since the
government-in -exile will from now be the supreme political
Third, to keep up with modern human aspirations of democratic and
secular governance, the Dalai Lama has now fully endorsed the
democratically elected secular leadership. All the three
candidates who are contesting for the post of prime minister in
the final voting on March 20 are relatively younger,
western-educated, articulate lay people. One of them, Lobsang
Sangay, who is barely 43, is a senior fellow at Harvard Law
School. Tenzin Namgyal Tethong is a highly respected scholar who
teaches at Stanford. The third candidate, Tashi Wangdi, who was
educated in India and Britain, was the Dalai Lama's representative
in Brussels, New York and New Delhi. All three of them possess
modern outlook and yet they are seeped in their Tibetan identity.
There is no doubt that as long as he lives, the Dalai Lama will
continue to be the most influential voice for the cause of Tibet
and will work towards his well-articulated "Middle Way" approach
that calls for meaningful autonomy for the Tibetans within China.
And he was the best bet for the Chinese to have a deal with him
for a permanent solution of the Tibet issue, as he alone has had
both the spiritual and temporal authority to get the majority of
Tibetans to accept his prescription for lasting peace.
By vilifying and turning him into an enemy of the state, the
Chinese leadership has lost an opportunity to create real
stability in Tibet, upon which, according to the Chinese leaders
themselves, depend China's stability. Once he is gone, the young
elected leaders of Tibetans may be forced to revive the demand for
total independence for Tibet in the face Chinese belligerence and
the repressive policies.
One of the basic tenets of Buddhism is that all things in this
universe are impermanent and that includes the Chinese Communist
Party's stronghold on China and over the Chinese people, and the
earthly life of the Dalai Lama. For a Buddhist monk and teacher
like Tenzin Gyatso, better known as the 14th Dalai Lama, deep
understanding of this truth informs all his thinking.
The Dalai Lama knows that the seemingly invincible and monolithic
Chinese Communist Party will ultimately disintegrate like his own
body will. (He however enjoys exceptionally good health and he
believes he will have several decades of active life). Like so
many tyrants who appeared unshakable till the other day but fell
ignominiously. As a Buddhist he also has those fine qualities like
patience and tolerance in abundance and he has tried to inculcate
the same values among his people.
That is why the Chinese strategy of violent repression and
lollipops of modern consumerism has failed to earn the loyalty of
six million Tibetans. For nearly 60 years, Tibetans have endured
unspeakable torture, denial of rights, basic freedom to worship
and constant fear of reprisals. The Tibetans have neither lost
hope nor their patience nor their love and admiration for the
Dalai Lama. That in itself is their victory over China's brutal
is a foreign correspondent and long-time observer of Tibetan
affairs. He can be contacted at email@example.com)