The Dalai Lama - Is He Fighting a Losing Battle with the Chinese?
At 82, Tenzin Gyatso the 14th Dalai Lama is still an international icon, but the future of his office and of the Tibetan people has never been more in doubt. He fled Tibet in 1959 at the age of 23. It has since been a long 59 years. He advocated independence for Tibet from the 1960s to the late 1970s, and in 1988 proposed a sort of high-level autonomy in 1988 for the Tibet Autonomous Region within China, or extending the area of the autonomy to include parts of neighboring Chinese provinces inhabited by Tibetans.
For the Dalai lama, greater autonomy generally refers to, as" Total autonomy" where they want a separate legal system, separate institution, separate identity, separate culture, separate language, separate religion from the rest of China. It would mean essentially rejecting the current leadership of Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party in Tibet's internal and religious affairs.
To the Dalai Lama, and some Pro-Tibet foreigners, the present autonomy is not real because they are not independent from the PRC and it is not governed by ethnic Tibetan. To them, ethnic Tibetan people should rule Tibet which is their interpretation on the concept of "genuine autonomy". To some Tibetans in exile, such as the ‘Free Tibet Movement’ who are advocate of Total Independence, they are also strongly opposed to Han migration and settlements in Tibet itself.
To the Chinese, Tibet is already enjoying autonomy. They see the Dalai Lama as trying to build an independent nation within China. A Central government that have limited power over Tibet. This to the Chinese is seen as going against the current existing political system.
Of course with such differences in the interpretation of what autonomy means, the Chinese have been labelling the Dalai Lama as a "wolf in sheep's clothing" who seeks to use violent methods to establish an independent Tibet, a splittist engaging in dangerous anti-China separatist activities and has refused to negotiate or have anything to do with him.
The problem for the Chinese is that, overseas, the Dalai Lama is a celebrated figure and among the Tibetans in Tibet and elsewhere in the world, he is very much a revered religious figure with tremendous influences. To the Chinese, he is a despised troublemaker.
In Occupied Tibet itself, it is easier for the Chinese to control the local Tibetan population. Any sign of loyalty to the Dalai Lama can be met with arrests, lengthy sentences, torture, violent crackdowns and 're-education' programmes. Despite more than 50 years of China's oppressive occupation, many Tibetans are still fiercely loyal to him especially of the older generations. It might not be so in future as the younger generations slowly but surely have to assimilate into the ‘sinicized’ programs set out by the current Chinese regime on their religion, culture or the restriction on their language, just in order to survive or to find a better life for themselves.
Externally, right from the beginning, the Chinese has always use threats, sanctions, rewards or incentives to try to pressure and prevent other governments from having anything to do with him. We are beginning to see more effective results for the Chinese in isolating the Dalai Lama now. As the Chinese economy grows in strength and the country get wealthier, politically and militarily more influential worldwide; they are exerting greater influence with many countries around the world and persuading them not to have any dealings with the Dalai Lama. This is especially so with countries that cannot afford to antagonized them.
In order to try to isolate and diminished his importance further worldwide, it has in recent years gone to the extent of trying to disrupt and prevent his present in the international stage. It made use of religious institution such as the Dorje Shugden sect to demonstrate and try to disrupt events wherever the Dalai Lama is presents. It uses Chinese student bodies in oversea universities in the States, in Australia to dissuaded the school authorities from inviting the Dalai Lama from giving talks and speeches in their school.
The flow of refugees from Tibet to India, once running into the thousands, has slowed to a trickle. Many exiles have returned to Tibet, where urban and rural incomes have risen. And life for ordinary Tibetans in Dharamsala remains a struggle. As noncitizens in India, they still cannot own property.
It does not help much that the Indian government has now made it easier for the Tibetan living in India to obtained Indian citizenship. There are up to 150,000 Tibetans currently residing there. Slowly but surely, all these Tibetans in India and those who have obtained citizens elsewhere around the world will within the next two or three generations slowly lose their true identity as Tibetan. This is so, as they assimilate and absorb the cultures, traditions and lifestyles of the people of their new homes. The assimilation would be even faster if there is also a change in their religious beliefs away from Buddhism.
It seems the Dalai Lama knows that he is fighting a losing battle with the current Chinese government, from the issues of autonomy for Tibet to his personal reincarnation. The issue of autonomy is a foregone conclusion as the Chinese will only accept on their own terms and interpretation what autonomy means to them in relation to their national security and interest. It would be a non-negotiable issue.
The Dalai Lama is trying desperately to prevent the Chinese from deciding on the issue of his reincarnation by coming out with the options and direction he can take before his passing by mentioning on the possibilities and chooses he has, such as his reincarnate outside of Tibet, as a women or not at all. But it does seem that he is getting nowhere with all these available options. It is a forgone conclusion that eventually there will be two Dalai Lama after his death unless of course, like the position of the Kamapas, one decides to leave the monkhood.
It seems that even his younger brother thought his high office was past its sell-by date. The Dalai Lama has commented that all religious institutions, including the Dalai Lama, developed in feudal circumstances. Corrupted by hierarchical systems, they began to discriminate between men and women; they came to be compromised by such cultural spinoffs as Sharia law and the caste system. But, he said, ‘‘time change; they have to change. Therefore, Dalai Lama institution, I proudly, voluntarily, ended.’’
The ‘‘world picture,’’ as he saw it, was bleak. People all over the world were killing in the name of their religions. Even Buddhists in Burma were tormenting Rohingya Muslims. This was why he had turned away from organized religion, engaged with quantum physics and started to emphasize the secular values of compassion. It was no longer feasible, he said, to construct an ethical existence on the basis of traditional religion in multicultural societies.
Looks like he has given up ever resolving the two very important issue which have been so dear to him for most of his life.
But then again, there may be some hopes the option of discontinuing the Dalai Lama linkage while he is still alive may achieve some favourable result. This is an issue he and other leaders of Tibetan Buddhism is expected to take a call on when he is 90 years old. It was first mooted in 2011.
Perhaps he should bring this option forward to an early date for discussion, and discontinue the Dalai Lama linkage. He can then go into complete seclusion where nobody will be able to verify his passing away later. It would be interesting to see how the Chinese government will handle the whole issue of his reincarnation then. As when there is no death, there will be no reincarnation involved.