The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, warned that the successor chosen by China could not be trusted Credit: BIJU BORO/AFP/Getty Images
The Dalai Lama has warned of a possible “double reincarnation” with one from a “free country” after Beijing reiterated that his next incarnation must comply with Chinese law.
The Tibetan Buddhist leader on Monday warned that a successor chosen by Beijing after his eventual death could not be trusted.
He said it is possible that his reincarnation could be found in India, where he has lived in exile for 60 years upon fleeing Tibet following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
“In future, in case you see two Dalai Lamas come, one from here, in free country, one chosen by Chinese, then nobody will trust, nobody will respect [the one chosen by China].
“So that’s an additional problem for the Chinese! It’s possible, it can happen,” he told Reuters in an interview.
The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in northern India since the failed uprising, along with other Tibetans Credit: MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images
China stated in response that its leaders have the right to approve the Dalai Lama’s successor. The selection process “must comply with Chinese laws and regulations,” according to Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the foreign ministry.
Chinese state media highlighted those laws, titled “New Regulations on Religious Affairs and the Rules on the Management of the Reincarnation of Tibetan Living Buddhas.”
Many Tibetans, who believe that the soul of a senior Buddhist monk is reincarnated into the physical body of a child upon his death, worry a successor chosen by Beijing will be under the thumb of the ruling Communist Party.
The current Dalai Lama was identified as the reincarnation of his predecessor when he was two years old.
Now at 83, it’s getting harder for him to travel the world to boost awareness, and his influence is waning just as China’s is growing on the world stage.
The Dalai Lama is now 83 Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images
Beijing has recently cracked down heavily on religion under president Xi Jinping, after the government vowed to “Sinicize” faith. The wave of repression has affected Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists.
“China considers Dalai Lama’s reincarnation as something very important,” the Dalai Lama said in an interview with Reuters. “They have more concern about the next Dalai Lama than me.”
Beijing has previously co-opted the spiritual reincarnation process with a goal of bringing Tibetan Buddhism within party lines.
In 1995, the Dalai Lama named a young Tibetan boy as the reincarnation of the previous Panchen Lama – the second highest in spiritual authority after himself. But the child was then put under what Chinese officials described as protective custody.
Beijing put forth another successor and the Dalai Lama’s choice – then only six years old – disappeared from public.
‘Chinese interference is routine’
The Chinese government has sought to discredit the Dalai Lama. In February, Wu Yingjie, leader of a parliamentary delegation from Tibet, said that Tibetans didn’t love the Dalai Lama at all.
“Since Dalai Lama defected from Tibet, he has never done a single thing that was for the benefit for the Tibetan people,” Mr. Wu said. Instead, “they are grateful for what the Party brings to them.”
Last May, Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan businessman, was given a five-year prison sentence by China for promoting the Tibetan language, based on comments made in interviews with the New York Times.
The Tibet Autonomous Region, in China’s far west, is considered a homeland to many Tibetans and remains on lockdown. Travel in and out of the region is difficult, even for Tibetans.
Foreign journalists cannot visit without government permission, and those requests are frequently denied. Chinese officials have said they are concerned this is out of concern that foreigners may find it difficult to acclimate to the high altitudes on the Tibetan plateau.
The iconic Potala Palace in Tibet’s regional capital of Lhasa (AFP Photo/JOHANNES EISELE)
Sixty years after the Dalai Lama fled into permanent Indian exile, the cause of Tibetan freedom that earned him a Nobel prize and a celebrity-studded international following has lost much of its momentum — neutralized, analysts say, by the passage of time and China’s rising global power.
Inside Tibet, Beijing has effectively wiped out any organized opposition to its iron-clad rule, while outside, the once-vocal support of sympathetic governments and world leaders has dwindled to near-silence in recent years despite the 14th Dalai Lama’s enduring personal popularity.
“The fate of Tibet is in the hands of the Chinese state… Tibetans outside the region are not very relevant to the fate of Tibet, and this includes the Dalai Lama”, said Nathan Hill, convener of Tibetan studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.
In 2007, the Buddhist spiritual leader said his homeland was facing its “darkest period in 2,000 years”. The following year, with the world’s eyes on China in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, protests unfurled across Tibet, sparking a furious response from Beijing.
“You don’t see protests like that anymore,” said Kate Saunders of the US-based International Campaign for Tibet, attributing the shift in part to Tibetans abiding by the Dalai Lama’s message of non-violence and to massive Chinese state surveillance.
Although the Dalai Lama’s campaign largely focused on autonomy rather than independence, negotiations with China stalled in 2010, amid suspicion that Beijing was intentionally dragging on pointless talks, hoping international pressure would ease with his eventual death.
The 83-year-old has sought to pre-empt any attempt by Beijing to name his reincarnated successor, even announcing in 2011 that he may be the last in the lineage.
The officially atheist Communist Party has already shown it will intervene in the reincarnation of important figures in Tibetan Buddhism, such as the Panchen Lama who traditionally plays a significant role in choosing the Dalai Lama’s successor.
The boy chosen by the Dalai Lama to serve as the Panchen Lama was detained by Chinese authorities at the age of six and has not been seen since, with Beijing appointing its own candidate in 1995.
Although the exiled leader remains a hugely popular speaker, he has cut back on his global engagements and has not met a world leader since 2016 — while governments have been wary of extending invitations to him for fear of angering Beijing.
“The craze for Tibet among Westerners in the 1980s and the following decades has decreased significantly”, said Katia Buffetrille, a Tibetologist at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris.
Even India, which offered asylum to the Dalai Lama in 1959 when he made a daring escape across the Himalayas dressed as a soldier, has turned its back, with the government reportedly warning officials against attending events featuring him, citing diplomatic sensitivities.
– Buying freedom –
As the exile-led movement loses momentum, Tibetans at home are struggling to keep their traditions alive.
“Tibetans live in a totalitarian police state — if they challenge restrictions, they face the consequences,” said Gray Tuttle, a professor of modern Tibetan studies at Columbia University.
“Previous protests from the 1980s on… have yielded no tangible benefits, rather they have generated a worse political outcome and further clampdown.”
At least 150 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against Beijing, most of whom have died from their injuries. But the frequency of self-immolations has lessened.
China’s investment in the region includes a huge outlay on security to build a surveillance state that makes it harder to organize protests. Rights groups say that a government campaign targeting the family and friends of protesters has also helped suppress dissent.
Beijing insists that Tibetans enjoy extensive freedoms and argues it has brought economic growth to the mountainous region.
The oppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang has also overtaken Tibet as the focus of China’s human rights critics.
When Germany’s top human rights official Barbel Kofler asked to visit Xinjiang last year, she was taken instead to Tibet — an indication of how much Beijing feels secure about the situation there, even though foreign journalists are still barred from reporting independently in the region.
Many locals accuse Beijing of repressing their religion and diluting their culture, but nonetheless the economic growth — boosted by government subsidies — has even seen Tibetan exiles return to the region.
Tibetologist Francoise Robin, who visits the region every year, told AFP that Beijing had effectively sidelined any talk of freedom by pumping money into Tibet.
“This is what is paradoxical in the case of Tibet, compared to other similar situations, because China is a country… that is on the rise. Often, in order for a rebellion, for a mass movement to rise, you need economic despair.”
After 60 years in exile, Dalai Lama’s still remembered in his homeland
TAKTSER, China (Reuters) – It may have been six decades since the Dalai Lama fled into exile, but in the isolated mountain hamlet where he was born, he remains very much on the minds of devotees and Chinese authorities alike.
Buddhist monks enter a prayer hall at Rongwo Monastery in the largely ethnic Tibetan town of Rebkong, Qinghai province, China March 9, 2019. The picture was taken on March 9, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
On the northeastern edge of the Tibetan plateau, Taktser, in Qinghai province, where the Dalai Lama was born in 1935 to parents who farmed buckwheat and barley, is a magnet to worshippers and foreign tourists – and security personnel.
During a recent Reuters visit to Taktser, known in Chinese as Hongya, police armed with automatic weapons blocked the winding road leading into the village of some 60 houses.
Police and more than a dozen plain-clothed officials who declined to identify themselves refused Reuters entry, saying the village was private and not open to the public.
The Qinghai government and China’s State Council Information Office, which doubles as the Communist Party’s spokesman’s office, did not respond to requests for comment.
Beijing views the Nobel Peace Prize laureate as a dangerous separatist and has denounced the 83-year-old spiritual leader as a “wolf in monk’s robes”. The Dalai Lama denies espousing violence and says he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet.
Many of China’s more than 6 million Tibetans still venerate the Dalai Lama, despite government prohibitions on displays of his picture or any public display of devotion.
This Sunday marks 60 years since the Dalai Lama, disguised as a soldier, fled the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital after rumors that Chinese troops were planning his abduction or assassination fomented an abortive popular uprising.
The Dalai Lama crossed into India two weeks later and has not set foot in Tibet since.
Despite the passage of time, during sensitive political anniversaries, China’s security apparatus routinely restricts access to the village where the Dalai Lama’s old family is located, behind a pair of wooden doors and high concrete walls.
‘IN YOUR HEART’
One 29-year-old Tibetan man in the largely ethnic Tibetan town of Rebkong, set in a precipitous valley in Qinghai with a large monastery adorned in rich colors, enthusiastically recounted to Reuters his pilgrimage to Taktser years ago.
He said Tibetans were well aware of the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s exile, even if public commemorations of any sort were banned.
“You can only bury it in your heart, we just don’t speak about it,” he said, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.
“We have no ability to go against politics, we can only just go with society.”
Born Lhamo Thondup, the Dalai Lama was just two years old when identified by a search party as the new incarnation of Tibet’s most important spiritual leader, and was whisked from the family home to live in Lhasa.
The anniversary of his escape over the mountains into exile in India is one of several politically sensitive dates in China this year, including the 30th anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in June, that the ruling Communist Party wants to ensure passes without controversy.
Speaking on the sidelines of China’s annual meeting of parliament this month, Tibet’s Communist Party chief Wu Yingjie said the Tibetan people felt greater affection toward the government than the Dalai Lama, who “hasn’t done a single good thing for the people of Tibet”.
As the Dalai Lama ages, many Tibetans fear that Beijing will simply appoint its own replacement.
The Dalai Lama has suggested that his incarnation might be found outside Chinese-controlled territory, or that the centuries-old Dalai Lama institution could die with him.
Reporting by Philip Wen; Editing by Tony Munroe, Robert Birsel
While the world pays due attention to the flight of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1959, I remind my readers to reflect upon the lives of countless number of innocent Tibetans who lost their lives on account of the brutal and oppressive Communist Regime. Apart from the people, Tibet is ruthlessly exploited and plundered by the military Occupier of Tibet.
SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE
Pictures: the Tibetan uprising and the Dalai Lama’s exile — Quartz
Today (March 10) marks the 60th anniversary of the 1959 Tibet uprising against Chinese rule. The rebellion ultimately failed, leading to the decades-long exile of the 14th Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader.
In the six decades since he escaped to India, the Dalai Lama has evolved into an international icon of nonviolence and spiritual aspirations, traveling frequently and being hosted by political and religious leaders as well as celebrities around the world.
Here is a look at his journey from living among his people at age 23 to his status now as an 83-year-old man unable to return home.
Chinese Red Army troops fire heavy artillery guns in Lhasa Valley, Tibet, on March 17, 1959, crushing a Tibetan uprising against the Chinese occupation.
Tibetans gather during armed uprising against Chinese rule March 10, 1959, in front of the Potala Palace (former home of the Dalai Lama) in Lhasa.
The 23-year-old Dalai Lama and his escape party is shown on the fourth day of their flight to freedom as they cross the Zsagola pass, in Southern Tibet, while being pursued by Chinese military forces, on March 21, 1959, after fleeing Lhasa.
Tibetan monks, surrounded by soldiers of the Chinese Popular Liberation Army, lay down arms in April 1959, somewhere in the Tibetan mountains after an unsuccessful armed uprising against Chinese rule.
An Indian official greets the Dalai Lama on the latter’s arrival at a military camp on the frontier of Assam April 18, 1959, in India.
Armed with a sword, a member of the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan bodyguard is shown at Birla House, Missouri, India, April 21, 1959.
The Dalai Lama of Tibet poses with his hosts, the wealthy Indian Birla brothers and their families April 28, 1959, at Birla house, Mussoorie, India.
The Dalai Lama of Tibet, right, sitting under a portrait of the Buddha, inaugurates the 2,503rd birthday of the Buddha at Birla House in Mussoorie, India on May 22, 1959.
The Dalai Lama at a press conference on June 25, 1959.
AP Photo/Fred Waters
The Dalai Lama of Tibet visits the Taj Mahal in Agra, India on Dec. 8, 1959.
Behind rain-spattered window of car bearing him to his Tokyo hotel, the Dalai Lama greets crowd at the city’s International Airport after arrival from India on Sept. 25, 1967.
The Dalai Lama converted about 2,000 Hindu untouchables to Buddhism at a colorful ceremony in New Delhi on March 11, 1973.
AP Photo/Gene Kramer
Tibet’s Dalai Lama in Simla, India on Oct. 24, 1978, as he nears his 20th anniversary in exile from his native homeland of Tibet.
AP Photo/T. Matsumoto
Welcomed in Tokyo in 1978.
AP Photo/Dan Grossi
Television talk show host Tom Snyder shares a joke with the Dalai Lama during the taping of NBC’s “Tomorrow” show in New York, Sept. 5, 1979.
AP Photo/Robert H. Houston
The Dalai Lama met with then-San Francisco Mayor Diane Feinstein and her fiancé Richard Blum at San Francisco City Hall, Sept. 26, 1979.
Pope John Paul II shakes hands with Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of more than 6 million Tibetans, during a private meeting in Vatican City in Oct. 9, 1980.
AP Photo/Sondeep Shankar
Tibetan spiritual and political leader Dalai Lama offers a scarf during a special prayer meeting Oct. 7, 1987, in the Himalayan foothill town Dharmasala for the estimated 14 dead during the unrest in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.
AP Photo/Neal Ulevich
The ruins of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery sit on a hill outside Lhasa, July 16, 1985. Before the 1959 revolt against China and the subsequent chaos of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, Tibet had more than 2,700 monasteries.
AP Photo/Dave Caulkin
Mother Teresa of Calcutta meets with the Dalai Lama, at the Global Survival Conference in Oxford, England April 12, 1988.
AP Photo/Reed Saxon
The Dalai Lama of Tibet is flanked by actor and activist Richard Gere, left, and model and actress Cindy Crawford, at a dinner to benefit the American Himalayan Foundation at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California on Sept. 17, 1993.
The Dalai Lama waves to the crowd at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the mall in Washington on July 2, 2000.
The Dalai Lama, speaks to a crowd estimated at over 40,000 in New York’s Central Park on Aug. 15, 1999.
The Dalai Lama speaks to a large crowd in Sydney on May 26, 2002.
Reuters/Claro Cortes IV
Chinese military police keep watch on the roof of Potala Palace in Lhasa on Aug. 12, 2002.
The Dalai Lama salutes a crowd near Frankfurt, Germany on Sept. 22, 2007.
Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
Tibetan monks take part in a candle light rally on the outskirts of the Indian city of Siliguri in support of the protests in Tibet on March 15, 2008.
Police arrest a Tibetan exile outside the Chinese embassy in New Delhi on March 17, 2008.
Tibetan monks shout slogans during a protest in New Delhi on March 17, 2008.
The Dalai Lama greets Buddhist monks before a teaching session at Radio City Music Hall in New York on May 20, 2010.
The Dalai Lama poses for a picture with the students of a Tibetan school after inaugurating its auditorium at Gurupura in the southern Indian state of Karnataka on July 14, 2013.
A young Tibetan monk holds a portrait of the Dalai Lama, during celebrations marking his 80th birthday anniversary in the northern hill town of Dharamsala, India on July 6, 2015.
The Dalai Lama waves to his followers before delivering teachings at the Thupsung Dhargyeling Monastery in Dirang, in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, India on April 6, 2017.
Dalai Lama arrives for his visit to the Tibet Institute Rikon in Rikon, Switzerland on Sept. 21, 2018.
Activists hold Tibetan flags during a march to mark the 60th anniversary of Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, in Taipei, Taiwan, March 10, 2019.
Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of Tibet’s failed uprising against China.
The abortive mission forced the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s traditional Buddhist leader, into exile in mountainous Dharamsala, in India, where he established a Tibetan government-in-exile.
He launched his campaign for a free Tibet from Dharamsala. His efforts earned him worldwide respect and fame as an adherent of non-violence.
He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
FILE – Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama wears the ceremonial hat of the Gelug school of the Tibetan Buddhism as he prays during his religious talk at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharmsala, India, March 2, 2018.
The 83-year-old Dalai Lama continues to live in Dharamsala.
Devotees at the Dalai Lama’s temple in Dharamsala observed the anniversary Sunday with chants and prayers. Some had painted “Free Tibet” on their faces.
A photo exhibit entitled “60 Years of Tibetan Resistance” is on display at the Tibet museum in Dharamsala.
A march, marking the anniversary, was planned in New Delhi, India’s capital.
Under Chinese rule, critics say Tibet’s unique cultural heritage and language are slowly fading away.
China insists that Tibet has been under Chinese rule for centuries, but Tibetans insist they were essentially independent for most of that time.
An editorial in China’s official Xinhua News Agency said Saturday that under China’s rule Tibet has experienced economic growth, increased lifespans and improved education.
Xinhua said “Sixty years since the epoch-making democratic reform in Tibet, people… have enjoyed unprecedented human rights in history.”
Tibet monitoring groups, however, disagree with that assessment.
The International Tibet Network said in a statement that “China has ridden roughshod over the human and political rights of citizens under its rule for far too long.” It added: “With resistance by the Tibetan people so strong and vibrant, it’s time for a response from the international community that matches their courage and conviction.”
THE SUPREME RULER OF TIBET IS TRAPPED IN EXILE FOR 60 YEARS
On Saturday, March 09, 2019 I want to remind my readers that the Supreme Ruler of Tibet is trapped in exile for sixty years. My concern is not about the Face of Tibetan Buddhism. I am talking about the Face of Tibetan Ruler.
SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE
The Dalai Lama on Donald Trump, China and His Search for Joy | Time
Morning has broken on the cedar-strewn foothills of the Himalayas. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama sits in meditation in his private chapel in Dharamsala, a ramshackle town perched on the upper reaches of North India’s Kangra Valley. Rousing slowly, he unfolds his legs with remarkable agility for a man of 83, finds the red felt slippers placed neatly beneath his seat and heads outside to where a crowd has already gathered.
Around 300 people brave the February chill to offer white khata scarves and receive the Dalai Lama’s blessing. There’s a group from Bhutan in traditional checkered dress. A man from Thailand has brought his Liverpool F.C. scarf, seeking divine benediction for the U.K. soccer team’s title bid. Two women lose all control as they approach the Dalai Lama’s throne and are carried away shaking in rapture, clutching prayer beads and muttering incantations.
The Dalai Lama engages each visitor like a big kid: slapping bald pates, grabbing onto one devotee’s single braid, waggling another’s nose. Every conversation is peppered with giggles and guffaws. “We 7 billion human beings — emotionally, mentally, physically — are the same,” he tells TIME in a 90-minute interview. “Everyone wants a joyful life.”
Ruven Afanador for TIME
His own has reached a critical point. The Dalai Lama is considered a living Buddha of compassion, a reincarnation of the bodhisattva Chenrezig, who renounced Nirvana in order to help mankind. The title originally only signified the preeminent Buddhist monk in Tibet, a remote land about twice the size of Texas that sits veiled behind the Himalayas. But starting in the 17th century, the Dalai Lama also wielded full political authority over the secretive kingdom. That changed with Mao Zedong’s conquest of Tibet, which brought the rule of the current Dalai Lama to an end. On March 17, 1959, he was forced to escape to India.
In the six decades since, the leader of the world’s most secluded people has become the most recognizable face of a religion practiced by nearly 500 million people worldwide. But his prominence extends beyond the borders of his own faith, with many practices endorsed by Buddhists, like mindfulness and meditation, permeating the lives of millions more around the world. What’s more, the lowly farmer’s son named as a “God-King” in his childhood has been embraced by the West since his exile. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and was heralded in Martin Scorcese’s 1997 biopic. The cause of Tibetan self-rule remains alive in Western minds thanks to admirers ranging from Richard Gere to the Beastie Boys to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who calls him a “messenger of hope for millions of people around the world.”
Yet as old age makes travel more difficult, and as China’s political clout has grown, the Dalai Lama’s influence has waned. Today the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that drove him out of Tibet is working to co-opt Buddhist principles — as well as the succession process itself. Officially atheist, the party has proved as adaptive to religion as it is to capitalism, claiming a home for faith in the nationalism Beijing has activated under Xi Jinping. In January, the CCP announced it would “Sinicize” Buddhism over the next five years, completing a multimillion-dollar rebranding of the faith as an ancient Chinese religion.
The Dalai Lama delivers a lecture from his throne on Feb. 18 to mark Losar, the Tibetan new year.
Ruven Afanador for TIME
From Pakistan to Myanmar, Chinese money has rejuvenated ancient Buddhist sites and promoted Buddhist studies. Beijing has spent $3 billion transforming the Nepalese town of Lumbini, birthplace of Lord Buddha, into a luxury pilgrimage site, boasting an airport, hotels, convention center, temples and a university. China has hosted World Buddhist Forums since 2006, inviting monks from all over the world.
Although not, of course, the world’s most famous. Beijing still sees the Dalai Lama as a dangerous threat and swiftly rebukes any nation that entertains him. That appears to be working too. Once the toast of capitals around the world, the Dalai Lama has not met a world leader since 2016. Even India, which has granted asylum to him as well as to about 100,000 other Tibetans, is not sending senior representatives to the diaspora’s commemoration of his 60th year in exile, citing a “very sensitive time” for bilateral relations with Beijing. Every U.S. President since George H.W. Bush has made a point of meeting the Dalai Lama until Donald Trump, who is in negotiations with China over reforming its state-controlled economy.
Still, the Dalai Lama holds out hope for a return to his birthplace. Despite his renown and celebrity friends, he remains a man aching for home and a leader removed from his people. Having retired from “political responsibility” within the exiled community in 2011, he merely wants “the opportunity to visit some holy places in China for pilgrimage,” he tells TIME. “I sincerely just want to serve Chinese Buddhists.”
Despite that, the CCP still regards the Dalai Lama as a “wolf in monk’s robes” and a dangerous “splittist,” as Chinese officials call him. He has rejected calls for Tibetan independence since 1974 — acknowledging the geopolitical reality that any settlement must keep Tibet within the People’s Republic of China. He instead advocates for greater autonomy and religious and cultural freedom for his people. It matters little.
“It’s hard to believe a return would happen at this point,” says Gray Tuttle, a professor of modern Tibetan studies at Columbia. “China holds all the cards.”
The boy born Lhamo Thondup was identified as the 14th incarnation of the Dalai Lama at just 2 years old, when a retinue of top lamas, or senior Buddhist Tibetan monks, followed a series of oracles and prophecies to his village in northeastern Tibet. The precocious toddler seemed to recognize objects belonging to the 13th Dalai Lama, prompting the lamas to proclaim him the celestial heir. At age 4, he was carried on a golden palanquin into the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and ensconced in its resplendent Potala Palace. A daily routine of spiritual teaching by top religious scholars followed.
“Sometimes my tutor kept a whip to threaten me,” the Dalai Lama recalls, smiling. “The whip was yellow in color, as it was for a holy person, the Dalai Lama. But I knew that if the whip was used, it made no difference — holy pain!”
It was a lonely childhood. The Dalai Lama rarely saw his parents and had no contact with peers of his own age, save his elder brother Lobsang Samden, who served as head of household. Despite his tutors’ focus on spiritual matters, or perhaps because of it, he was fascinated by science and technology. He would gaze from the Potala’s roof at Lhasa street life through a telescope. He took apart and reassembled a projector and camera to see how they functioned. “He continually astonished me by his powers of comprehension, his pertinacity and his industry,” wrote the Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer, who became the Dalai Lama’s tutor and was one of six Europeans permitted to live in Lhasa at the time. Today the Dalai Lama proudly describes himself as “half Buddhist monk, half scientist.”
The Dalai Lama was only supposed to assume a political role on his 18th birthday, with a regent ruling until then. But the arrival of Mao’s troops to reclaim dominion over Tibet in 1950 caused the Tibetan government to give him full authority at just 15. With no political experience or knowledge of the outside world, he was thrust into negotiations with an invading army while trying to calm his fervent but poorly armed subjects.
Conditions worsened over the next nine years of occupation. Chinese proclamations calling Lord Buddha a “reactionary” enraged a pious populace of 2.7 million. By March 1959, rumors spread that the Dalai Lama would be abducted or assassinated, fomenting a doomed popular uprising that looked likely to spill into serious bloodshed. “Just in front of the Potala [Palace], on the other side of the river, there was a Chinese artillery division,” the Dalai Lama recalls. “Previously all the guns were covered, but around the 15th or 16th, all the covers were removed. So, then we knew it was very serious. On the 17th morning, I decided to escape.”
The two-week journey to India was fraught, as Chinese troops hunted the party across some of the world’s most unforgiving terrain. The Dalai Lama reached India incognito atop a dzo, a cross between a yak and a cow. Every building in which he slept en route was immediately consecrated as a chapel, but the land he left behind was ravaged by Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. Hundreds of thousands died. By some reckonings, 99.9% of the country’s 6,400 monasteries were destroyed.
Tibet’s desire to remain isolated and undisturbed had served it poorly. The kingdom had no useful allies, the government of Lhasa having declined to establish official diplomatic relations with any other nation or join international organizations. The Dalai Lama’s supplications were thus easy to ignore. Tibet had remained staunchly neutral during World War II, and the U.S. was already mired in a fresh conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
“[First Indian Prime Minister] Pandit Nehru told me, ‘America will not fight the Chinese communists in order to liberate Tibet, so sooner or later you have to talk with the Chinese government,'” the Dalai Lama recalls.
Around 300 devotees line up early at Tsuglagkhang temple to offer the Dalai Lama traditional khata scarves and to receive his blessing.
Ruven Afanador for TIME
When Tibetans first followed the Dalai Lama into India, they lived with bags packed and did not build proper houses, believing a glorious return would come at a moment’s notice. It never did.
Four decades of conversations between China and exiled Tibetan leadership have led nowhere. Consolatory talks began in the 1970s between the Dalai Lama’s envoys and reformist Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and continued under Deng’s successor, Jiang Zemin. The talks stipulated that Tibetan independence was off the table, but even so, the drawn-out process was suspended in 1994 and after briefly resuming in the 2000s is again at a standstill.
Meanwhile, Tibet remains firmly under the thumb of Beijing. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has lamented that conditions are “fast deteriorating” in the region. In May, Tibetan businessman Tashi Wangchuk was jailed for five years merely for promoting the Tibetan language. In December, the government issued a directive to stop Tibetan language and culture from being taught in monasteries. Once known as the “abode of the gods,” Lhasa has become a warren of neon and concrete like any other Chinese city. Although the U.S. officially recognizes Tibet as part of China, Vice President Mike Pence said in July that the Tibetan people “have been brutally repressed by the Chinese government.”
Many allege their cultural and religious freedom is under attack by the Beijing government. Some in Tibet resort to extreme measures to protest their treatment. Since 2009, more than 150 Tibetans — monks, nuns and ordinary civilians — have set themselves ablaze in protest. Often self-immolators exalt the Dalai Lama with their final breaths. Despite his message of nonviolence, the Dalai Lama has been criticized for refusing to condemn the practice. “It’s a very difficult situation,” he says. “If I criticize [self-immolators], then their family members may feel very sad.” He adds, however, that their sacrifice has “no effect and creates more problems.”
Beijing vehemently refutes accusations of human-rights violations in Tibet, insisting that it fully respects the religious and cultural rights of the Tibetan people, and highlights how development has raised living standards in the previously isolated and impoverished land. China has spent more than $450 million renovating Tibet’s major monasteries and religious sites since the 1980s, according to official figures, with $290 million more budgeted through 2023. The world’s No. 2 economy has also greenlighted massive infrastructure projects worth $97 billion, with new airports and highways carving through the world’s highest mountains, nominally to boost the prosperity of the 6 million ethnic Tibetans.
This level of investment presents a dilemma to Tibetans stranded in exile. The majority live in India, under a special “guest” arrangement by which they can work and receive an education but, crucially, not buy property. Many toil as roadside laborers or make trinkets to sell to tourists. And so large numbers of young Tibetans are making the choice to return, lured to a homeland they have never known. “If you want a safe and secure future for your children, then either you go back to Tibet or some other country where you can get citizenship,” says Dorji Kyi, director of the Lha NGO in Dharamsala, which supports Tibetan exiles.
At 83, the Buddhist leader reflects on a life spent away from his native Tibet.
Ruven Afanador for TIME
Many of the returnees are armed with better education and world experience than their peers who grew up in Tibet. “Some of them do well,” says Thupten Dorjee, president of Tibetan Children’s Village, a network of five orphanages and eight schools that has cared for 52,000 young Tibetans in India. “But if they get involved in political things then they land into trouble.”
Tibet still has a government-in-exile, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) in Dharamsala, but it is dogged by infighting and scandal. Exiles are instead forging their own path. Last September, the Dalai Lama himself was filmed at his temple telling young Tibetans that it was better to live under Beijing’s rule than stay as “beggars” in exile. Speaking to TIME, he said it was “no problem” if exiled Tibetans chose to return to China.
Even those who have achieved prosperity elsewhere are opting to return. Songtsen Gyalzur, 45, sold his real estate business in Switzerland, where his Tibet-born parents immigrated after first fleeing to India, to start China’s Shangri-La Highland Craft Brewery in 2014. Today his award-winning brewery has an annual capacity of 2.6 million gallons of lagers, ales and porters. He recruits 80% of the staff from orphanages his mother set up in Tibetan areas in the 1990s. “Tibet has so many well-educated, well-trained professionals abroad who a real impact on people’s lives could have here,” he says.
Despite the “Lost Horizon” legend, the kingdom was never a spiritual and agrarian utopia. Most residents lived a Hobbesian existence. Nobles were strictly ranked in seven classes, with only the Dalai Lama belonging to the first. Few commoners had any sort of education. Modern medicine was forbidden, especially surgery, meaning even minor ailments were fatal. The sick was typically treated with a gruel of barley meal, butter and the urine of a holy monk. Life expectancy was 36 years. Criminals had limbs amputated and cauterized in boiling butter. Even the wheel wasn’t commonly employed, given the dearth of passable roads.
The Dalai Lama has admitted that Tibet was “very, very backward” and insists he would have enacted reforms. But he also emphasizes that traditional Tibetan life was more in communion with nature than the present. Tibet hosts the largest store of fresh water outside the Arctic and Antarctic, leading some environmentalists to term its frozen plateau the “third pole,” and especially vulnerable to the choking development unleashed by the Beijing government.
“Global warming does not make any sort of exception — just this continent or that continent, or this nation or that nation,” the Dalai Lama says. Asked who is responsible for fixing the crisis, he points not to Beijing but to Washington. “America, as a leading nation of the free world, should take more serious consideration about global issues.”
The Dalai Lama meditates in his private chapel inside his residence on Feb. 18.
Ruven Afanador for TIME
The Dalai Lama is a refreshingly unabashed figure in person. His frequent laughter and protuberant ears make him seem cuddly and inoffensive, and it’s difficult to overstate how tactile he is. He appears equally at home with both the physical and the spiritual, tradition and modernity. He meditated within reach of an iPad tuned to an image of a babbling brook and mountains and a few minutes later turned to Tibetan scriptures written on wide, single sheets, unbound. He retires at 6 p.m. and rises at 4 a.m. and spends the first hours of his day in meditation.
“Western civilization, including America, is very much oriented toward materialistic life,” he says. “But that culture generates too much stress, anxiety and jealousy, all these things. So, my No. 1 commitment is to try to promote awareness of our inner values.” From kindergarten onward, he says, children should be taught about “taking care of emotion.”
“Whether religious or not, as a human being we should learn more about our system of emotion so that we can tackle destructive emotion, in order to become calmer, have more inner peace.”
The Dalai Lama said his second commitment is to religious harmony. Conflicts in the Middle East tend to involve sectarian strife within Islam. “Iran is mainly Shi’ite. Saudi Arabia, plus their money, is Sunni. So, this is a problem,” he says, lamenting “too much narrow-mindedness” and urging people of all faiths to “broaden” their thinking.
Buddhism has its own extremists. The themes of Buddhism, as a nontheistic religion with no single creator deity, are more accessible to followers of other faiths and even ardent atheists, emphasizing harmony and mental cleanliness. But the Dalai Lama says he is “very sad” about the situation in Myanmar, where firebrand Buddhist monks have incited the genocide of Rohingya Muslims. “All religions have within them a tradition of human loving kindness,” he says, “but instead are causing violence, division.”
He keeps a sharp eye on global affairs and is happy to weigh in. Trump’s “America first” foreign policy and obsession with a wall on the southern U.S. border make him feel “uncomfortable,” he says, calling Mexico “a good neighbor” of the U.S. Britain’s impending exit from the European Union also warrants a rebuke, as he has “always admired” the E.U.
Six decades on, the Dalai Lama still hopes he will visit his birthplace again.
Ruven Afanador for TIME
In his ninth decade and moving with the help of assistants, the Dalai Lama continues to explore human consciousness and question long-held shibboleths. During a series of lectures in February to mark the Tibetan new year, he pontificates on everything from artificial intelligence — it can never compete with the human mind, he says — to blind deference to religious dogma. “Buddha himself told us, ‘Do not believe my teaching on faith, but rather through thorough investigation and experiment,'” he says. “So, if some teaching goes against reason, we should not accept it.”
This includes the institution of the Dalai Lama itself. Even as a young boy, his scientific mind led him to question the idea that he was the 14th incarnation of a deity king. His former tutor recalled that he found it odd that the prior Dalai Lama “was so fond of horses and that they mean so little to me.” Today the Dalai Lama says the institution he embodies appears “feudal” in nature. Leaving the spiritual element aside, he says he doesn’t believe any political authority should be conferred when he dies. “On one occasion the Dalai Lama institution started,” he says. “That means there must be one occasion when the institution is no longer relevant. Stop. No problem. This is not my concern. China’s communists, I think, are showing more concern.”
Indeed, they are. In a blow to the Tibetan exile community, China has set about bringing the leadership of Tibetan Buddhism into the party fold. When the Dalai Lama named a Tibetan child as the reincarnation of the previous Panchen Lama in 1995 — the second highest position in Tibetan Buddhism after himself — China put the boy into “protective custody” and installed a more pliant figure instead. The whereabouts of the Dalai Lama’s choice remain unknown.
So, when the Dalai Lama leaves this plane of existence, it’s highly likely a 15th incarnation will be chosen by the godless CCP. “It’s pretty obvious the Chinese state is preparing for it, which is absurd,” Tuttle says. Tibetan Buddhists will be forced to choose between the party’s Dalai Lama and the selection of Tibetan exiles. On this point, at least, the incumbent is very clear. Any decision on the next Dalai Lama, he says, should be “up to the Tibetan people.”
No doubt the party’s desire to name a Dalai Lama stems from the fact that there are 244 million Buddhists in China — a cohort that dwarfs the CCP membership by 3 to 1. The party craves legitimizing its power above all else and believes yoking it to the institution of the Dalai Lama will provide that. But Beijing clearly also hopes it will be a symbolic final nail in the coffin of Tibetan self-rule, completing the absorption of Tibet into the People’s Republic of China that began seven decades ago.
So, in a twist of irony, it seems the incumbent God-King’s wish will eventually be granted. One day a Dalai Lama will return to China — in this body or the next, with his blessing or without.
Correction, Mar. 7
A photo caption in the original version of this story misidentified a group of people waiting to see the Dalai Lama. They are devotees, not Buddhist monks.
CHINA CAN’T HANDLE THE HEIGHTS OF TIBETAN UPRISING
In my analysis, China imposed travel restrictions for China can’t handle the Heights of Tibetan Uprising which is climbing to a new peak after 60-Years of pent up resentment opposing the military occupation of Tibet.
SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE
No head for heights: China defends Tibet travel restrictions | Reuters
BEIJING (Reuters) – Foreigners can’t handle Tibet’s high altitude so China needs to restrict access, the top Chinese official in charge of the remote and mountainous region said on Wednesday, defending tough government restrictions on who can go there.
Communist Party Secretary of Tibet Autonomous Region Wu Yingjie and Governor of Tibet Autonomous Region Qizhala attend a news conference during the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, China, March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Access to Tibet, which China says it “peacefully liberated” in 1950, has become another irritant in ties with the United States after President Donald Trump signed into law a Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act in December.
That seeks to press China to open the region by denying U.S. entry to officials deemed responsible for restricting access to Tibet. China has denounced the law.
Speaking on the sidelines of China’s annual meeting of parliament, Tibet’s Communist Party boss Wu Yingjie said many Americans visit Tibet, especially older ones, and some foreign tourists “meet with mishap” at high altitude.
Tibetans have been finding foreigners who have died because of the harsh conditions, he said.
“The ordinary people tell us, there’s a tent, the people inside have been dead for many days, with the lack of oxygen,” Wu said. It was not clear what he was referring to and he did not elaborate.
“After considering the special geographical and climatic conditions, we adopted a series of regulations on foreigners entering Tibet in accordance with the law. This is not only for Americans. Other foreigners also have to complete these procedures.”
Tibet’s main city, Lhasa, is at about 3,650 meters (nearly 12,000 feet). Altitude sickness can affect some people at that height.
While some foreigners thank the government for the concern and help given them, only Americans “brood” about it, Wu said.
“This is really odd. If you have the opportunity go tell this to the American people.”
Non-Chinese visitors must apply for a special permit to travel to Tibet, which is usually granted for tourists provided they travel with approved tour companies but rarely for journalists and diplomats.
The government pledged in January to make access easier for foreign tourists.
Rights groups and overseas activists say ethnic Tibetans face widespread restrictions under Chinese rule and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in June conditions were “fast deteriorating”.
China routinely denies such accusations and says its rule of Tibet ended serfdom and brought prosperity to what was a backward region, and that it fully respects the rights of the Tibetan people.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, which resulted in Tibet’s Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fleeing into exile in India.
China views the Nobel Peace laureate as a dangerous separatist. The Dalai Lama denies espousing violence and says he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet.
Many Tibetans in China still deeply venerate the Dalai Lama, despite government restrictions on displays of his picture, especially in what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Wu said the Dalai Lama was not popular in Tibet.
“Since defecting, the Dalai Lama hasn’t done a single good thing for the people of Tibet,” he said.
“The people of Tibet have weighed things up, and really thank the Communist Party for the happy life they have brought them.”
Reporting by Michael Martina and Gao Liangping; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel
Red China’s military invasion and occupation of Tibet is illegal, and it has nothing to do with Tibetans support for the Dalai Lama. Red China has no justification for her Tyranny, Oppression, and Suppression of Tibetan Freedom.
SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE
China denies Tibet support for Dalai Lama | Daily Mail Online
There is no widespread support for the Dalai Lama in Tibet and ordinary people are grateful to the Communist Party for “bringing them a happy life”, Chinese officials insisted Wednesday.
This week marks the 60th anniversary of a failed uprising which led to Tibet’s Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fleeing into exile in India.
Beijing — which claims it “peacefully liberated” the Himalayan area — stands accused of political and religious repression in the region.
But China insists that Tibetans enjoy extensive freedoms and argues it has brought economic growth.
“Since defecting, the Dalai Lama has not done a single good thing for the Tibetan people,” Tibet party boss Wu Yingjie said during a meeting at the sidelines of China’s annual parliamentary meeting.
“Tibetan people have gratitude in their hearts. They are grateful to the Communist Party for bringing them a happy life.”
At least 150 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 to protest Beijing’s presence in Tibet, most of whom have died from their injuries.
China had reached out to the Dalai Lama in 2002 to negotiate but after nine rounds of dialogue that lasted through till 2010, many believed that Beijing was intentionally dragging on pointless talks, hoping international pressure over Tibet would end with the passing of the Dalai Lama.
At 83, the Nobel Peace Prize winner enjoys rapturous crowds around the world.
Many Tibetan Buddhists fear Beijing may seek to impose their choice of spiritual leader after the Dalai Lama’s death.
It is unclear how, or even whether, his successor will be named — the centuries-old practice requires senior monks to interview sometimes hundreds of young boys to see whether they recognize items that belonged to the Dalai Lama and pick one as a reincarnation.
But the 14th Dalai Lama announced in 2011 that he may be the last, seeking to preempt any attempt by China to name its own successor.
China’s officially atheist Communist Party has repeatedly said it has the right to control the process of reincarnation.
LIFE IN SHADOWS OF THE US, INDIA, AND TIBET RELATIONS
I profoundly regret living my life in Shadows of the US, India, and Tibet Relations. I cherish the values of Freedom and Democracy. However, it will be an utter mistake to promote these values using undercover operations. Freedom is not about living life under the dark Shadows of Secrecy. If Democracy is about Transparency and Public Accountability, no democratically elected government should make use of Covert Operations to oppose the Tyranny and Despotism of the One-Party Communist Rule.
Between 1957 and 1969 the CIA armed, financed, and helped train Tibetan guerrillas who operated first inside Tibet, and later — after the Dalai Lama’s escape to India in 1959 — from a base in Mustang, a remote corner of northwestern Nepal. This project, code-named ST Circus, was one of the CIA’s longest-running covert operations. The withdrawal of the CIA’s support in 1969 was as abrupt as its initial involvement was unexpected.
THE MOST UNFORGETTABLE WEEK IN US HISTORY – FEBRUARY 21-27, 1972
While the US troops fight the biggest battle on February 25, 1972, near Saigon in Vietnam, the US President Richard Nixon spent time in Peking befriending the adversary, giving care and comfort to the Enemy while Americans bled on the battlefield.
SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE
U.S. troops fight the biggest battle in nearly a year – HISTORY
U.S. troops clash with North Vietnamese forces in a major battle 42 miles east of Saigon, the biggest single U.S. engagement with an enemy force in nearly a year. The five-hour action around a communist bunker line resulted in four dead and 47 wounded, almost half the U.S. weekly casualties.