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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 25 IN TIBET TODAY, the Chinese empire has for- feited any claim to legitimacy by harshly beating, shooting to kill, and imprisoning the almost universally religious Tibetans for the crime of possessing a photograph of their spiritual guide, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Could there be anything more ridiculous than that? A giant empire, one that controls the lives of 1.3 billion subjects, with a huge military and economy, oc- cupying the vast territories of three neighboring non-Chinese peoples—Mongolians, Uighurs, and Tibetans—is so afraid of a Buddhist monk who lives in a little hill town in exile, a man fully pledged to nonviolence and dialogue, that its leaders will openly kill people just for possessing his picture. It would be comic, if people were not losing their lives as I write this. Nine men—the standing committee of the Chi- nese Communist Party politburo—hold dictatorial power over the entire Chinese empire. They are responsible for this absurd and ultimately self-defeating behavior, and they could reverse it in a moment. All they need to do is fire the culpable administrators in Tibet, call off their crackdown, launch a gradual criminal investigation of anyone, Chinese or Tibetan, re- sponsible for violent acts, and proclaim to the world their intention to negotiate in good faith with the Dalai Lama. They could do this today. Even if our elusive sense of hope doesn’t inspire us to think they will, it is important to keep in mind that they really could. It would be easy—and they would gain tremendously. Among all the world leaders, who could best help them? Who is the leader who most holds out the promise of turning things in a better direction, away from violence, empire, and nationalist egotism? Who is the leader who stands for peace, dialogue, com- promise, self-restraint, and sharing? Who has practiced these principles for fifty-eight years under extreme duress? None other than the simple Buddhist monk, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The people of Tibet have stood up at the risk of their lives and said “no” to the Chinese occupation in a way the world can clearly see. They are saying “no” to the Chinese occupation that is suppressing Crisis and Opportunity in Tibet The crisis in Tibet offers Chinese authorities the opportunity to give Tibetans their human rights, and at the same time set China itself on a new and better course. As ROBERT THURMAN explains, the key is a simple monk and his Middle Way. their freedoms, taking over their land, extracting their resources, dev- astating their environment, banning their religious practices, prevent- ing their education, and committing cultural genocide by trying to strip them of their Tibetan-ness to make them Chinese. In this year of the Olympics, the Tibetan youth in exile thought to demonstrate with peace marches and protests to let the world know about their people’s dire situation. The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile could not support their activ- ism, because of their pledge to India that they not do things to embarrass the Chinese. But the Tibetan youth were determined to engage in their protests, and they and their supporters have every right to express themselves. Inside Tibet, the Tibetan people are saying their “no” mainly by peaceful, nonviolent protests, though these have at times turned violent when ruthlessly suppressed by Chinese security forces. The demonstrations were started by Buddhist monks who have been deeply disturbed over the last few years by Chinese vilification of the Dalai Lama and other intrusions into their monastic life. Around thirty monks from Drepung Monastery were imprisoned last October because they celebrated the Dalai Lama’s receipt of the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal by whitewashing the mon- astery, since they were forbidden to hold an open celebration. On March 10 of this year, Tibetan National Uprising Day, other Protesting monks greet international journalists on a government-organized visit to their monastery. ROBERT THURMAN is professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism at Columbia University and president of Tibet House U.S. His new book is Why The Dalai Lama Matters, published in June by Atria Books / Beyond Words. PHOTOBYREINHARDKRAUSE/REUTERS JULY 18-39.indd 25 JULY 18-39.indd 25 4/25/08 11:56:49 AM 4/25/08 11:56:49 AM