With the Summer Olympics now upon us, I’ve turned the question of Tibet over in my mind a hundred times, trying to reconcile the grievous actions taken there by the Chinese Communists with the fact that the world is now lauding the Chinese government with an honor that it frankly, in my opinion, does not deserve.
I, for the first time in my adult life, have actually stopped watching the news, tired of seeing a government that has caused so much harm, death and destruction — and that has apparently gone back on just about every promise it made in order to secure the 2008 Games — showcase itself as an internationally sanctioned, Olympic-worthy powerhouse of the 21st century.
I did catch some images of the Forbidden City on the news this morning; Matt Lauer was giving U.S. viewers a first-ever glimpse at a former emperor’s “retirement chamber.” Seeing the wide shots of the Forbidden City, with all its beauty and ancient allure, made a connection in my mind between ancient China and a not-so-ancient Tibet, which was largely isolated from the world until the 1959 invasion by the Communists. Two ancient-but-ultimately-interconnected societies, where religious philosophers explored the inner workings of the mind.
Again, my mind is drawn to the Tibet of old, with its great Buddhist masters who forged a path for the rest of us to explore and contemplate upon. A society — albeit a flawed one — that produced a man best described as a simple monk who has gone on to captivate an entire planet with a message of peace, tolerance and love.
Then it occurs to me that my feelings toward the Chinese government are largely based on my own attachment to something that I’ve never experienced in person, but for which I have poured out so much compassion. I have protested in front of the Chinese embassy here in Washington with native Tibetans and Uyghurs — the people who actually lost their nations and fled for their lives. Yet my attachment to the notion of a free Tibet, where Vajrayana Buddhism can one again flourish, creates negative emotions.
I know that Vajrayana doesn’t need a free Tibet — or anything in Tibet — to be the Diamond Vehicle. The Triple Gems of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha will outlast both His Holiness and the Communists. Our samsaric suffering will continue, even if His Holiness is able to return to Lhasa in this lifetime and, as he has called for, Tibet is declared an International Zone of Peace.
I can not criticize people for taking an anti-China stance on the Olympics. What’s done is done, and my ability to actively seek refuge in Three Jewels does not require me to support or oppose the Beijing Olympics.
What we must realize, however — and these are difficult words for me to type — is that because of our interconnectedness, an attempt to make a political statement about China during the Games could very well lead to even greater suffering. If someone in Beijing tries to do something to embarrass the Communist government, what of the crackdowns that will certainly take place in the monasteries across the old Tibet, and in the back-alley shops in Lhasa?
I read enough from credible sources on the Internet to know of the horrors that are going on right now in prisons around China, and especially in the Tibetan areas. And I know it will get worse when His Holiness dies — the Communists will certainly do everything in their power to take over Tibetan Buddhism by naming his successor, just as they have already done with the Panchen Lama. The youth of Tibet, both inside and outside of the People’s Republic of China, will rise up, leading to even greater suffering, despite calls from their elders to practice pacifism.
Be it now or later, it is inevitable that we will fulfill our destiny as humans by creating more suffering in the name of stopping suffering. There is hope, but that hope exists solely inside the hearts, minds and souls of more than 6 billion individuals, all sharing this shrinking little planet.
For me, I will accept that I can do nothing to change the events that will unfold over the next three weeks. I am sure, in fact, that these Olympic games will bring joy to some people, and perhaps that joy will be enough to spur the innate seeds of compassion that we all harbor deep in our hearts.
I will keep vigil, however, being mindful of those who do not, will not or simply can not share in that Chinese Olympic joy. I will keep Tibet and Tibetans in my motivations and dedications. I will continue to pray for His Holiness’ long life. I will continue to seek refuge, and I will wish nothing but loving-kindness for the Chinese, including their leaders.
To do anything otherwise would defeat the entire purpose of my practice.
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