Tibetan Buddhism in the 21st Century


I noted some months ago the opening of a high-speed rail line between Shanghai and Lhassa.  It seemed to me the clear objective being to make Tibet into just another Chinese province.

Recently I read that 250,000 Tibetan peasants have been forcibly relocated in the Chinese goverment’s ‘Comfortable Housing’ programme.  They are all being relocated into ‘Socialist Villages’ by the sides of the new roads and railway lines that the the Chinese have put in.  They have to take out loans against the Chinese govt for the materials, and are then forced to build their new houses and then move into them (and out of their traditional villages).  The Chinese press reports the smiles on the faces of the herders and pastoralists as they build their glorious new socialist villages.

Echoes of Julius Nyrere’s ‘collective villagisation’ programme, under the ethos of ‘African Socialism’ in the 70’s.  Also of the old British Empire hut tax.  Make them indebted to you, then make them work for you building roads, to pay off the debt…

Now we hear that Australian leaders are not sure whether to meet with the Dalai Lama, for fear of offending the Chinese government, Australia’s biggest customer.

I wonder what is the Buddhist view of such things…

    • One can be happy anywhere, even in a Chinese labour camp?
    • My kingdom is not of this world?
    • It is all maya anyhow?
    • Is it time for monks to start setting fire to themselves, following the Sri Lankan example?
    • Cynically, I could say that the Dalai Lama, whilst a nice old man, has been singularly unsuccessful in his international diplomacy, with the exception of a bit of tokenism from Richard Gere and the Hollywood buddhists.
    • A stark realpolitik picture of what happens when one side has the money, the guns, and the power, and the other side has ‘enlightenment?’
    • Tibet is no better and no worse than Zimbabwe, East Timor, Irian Jaya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Uganda, Western Sudan, or Somalia.  The West believes in peace and so doesn’t want to get involved?
    • ‘The interconnectedness of all things’ is not practical politics for the West.  Some things you just can’t fix.
    • Or, ‘Who cares, it will be better next time around, after reincarnation as a different animal, in the wheel of life?’
    • Or, ‘There is an economic imperative to improve the GDP of Tibet if it is to fulfil its obligation to its citizens in the modern world?’
    • Or ‘Tibetan culture and The Book of The Dead are not the most important things.’

International Buddhism appears to be abandoning Tibet in practical terms, as it moves it’s headquarters into a secular democracy that will defend the freedom of observance.  This is at least theoretically so of India.  That is a way that many religions can thrive.  Scientology and Presbyterianism, to name but one.

As one buddhist writes to the editor of The Age, this morning, "The only important thing is peace."

The website for the tour of Australia by the Dalai Lama, has this quote, "Compassion and Tolerance are not signs of weakness, but signs of strength."  The Chinese government begs to differ.  Which is right?

Myself, a very un-Buddhist, Kurt Vonnegut like, "sad, sad, sad…  And so it goes…" fatalism.  Which is not very helpful.  I might do something, if I knew what to do…



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