Very big headlines coming out of Dharamsala, India, this weekend, perhaps the most important of which is that the Tibetan Government-in-Exile has agreed to stick with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s “middle way” approach, despite the fact that, in my view, it seems destined to fail as China has no incentive whatsoever to do anything even closely resembling accommodation of Tibetan autonomy. The “patriotic education” campaigns against monks and nuns will continue; state policies that favor the ethnic Han majority while legally discriminating against native Tibetans will probably grow stronger; and the Chinese government will likely accelerate its concerted campaign to extract resources from Tibet without regard for the environment or the people who consider the land to be sacred.
Moderate voices prevailed, it seems, against the younger generation of Tibetan exiles, some of whom want direct confrontation against China with an explicit demand for full independence for Tibet.
His Holiness, in quashing reports that he may be considering retirement as the spiritual head of Vajrayana Buddhism and/or the temporal head of the Tibetan people within and outside Tibet, said he has a moral responsibility to stay on the job “till death.” Though I am happy — and certainly not surprised — to hear that, I still am deeply concerned that the Chinese Communists will attempt a wholesale takeover of Tibetan Buddhism once His Holiness dies through the state-sanctioned search for his “successor.”
All this week, as I’ve followed news coverage of the historic meeting in Dharamsala, called by His Holiness as a democratic gathering to allow Tibetans to determine the future of their movement, I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of a Tibetan exile. It’s hard to put what I perceive as the Tibetan experience into words: culture without country? Wandering exiles? Or people who embody the best of humanity’s potential, having doors slammed in their faces around the globe because no one is willing to truly and effectively engage the Chinese government on the issue?
What I do feel I know is that they made the right decision. The rational part of my mind says that Tibet would be nothing but a distant memory if the Chinese government had its way; odds are that His Holiness will never lay eyes on Lhasa again in this lifetime. But if the Tibetan exile community had chosen any other path this weekend, they would have lost the one thing that that defines them as Tibetans.
To the assembly of most kind teachers, both present and past –
the miraculous dance of the body, speech and mind of innumerable Buddhas
manifesting in accord with aspirants’ spiritual capacities,
the wish-granting jewel, the source of all virtue and goodness –
to you, we offer our prayers with fervent devotion:
That Tenzin Gyatso, protector of the Land of Snows,
live for a hundred aeons. Shower on him your blessings
so that his aspirations are fulfilled without hindrance.
— Prayer for the Long Life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama