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With the events in Asia, I'm anxious to go to Ann Arbor and hear His Holiness the Dalai Lama. But my dear teacher, Gelek Rimpoche, approached the crisis last Sunday in a talk.
Let's try to understand the current situation in Tibet. This has been going on for fifty years. The Communist Chinese have always been suspicious of monasteries and Buddhism. For example, in Drepung, the monastery where I was educated in Tibet, the Communists openly set up government-sanctioned committees, organizing people to spy on each other. You couldn't trust anybody - your teachers, friends, students, not even your parents. Kids were spying on their parents, students on their teachers, and disciplinary monk officials on their abbots. That is how it has been functioning for fifty years.
Close to two years ago, communist officials had the idea to ensure that the monks there didn't respect His Holiness the Dalai Lama. They made up a document that basically said: "The Dalai Lama is evil" and wanted everybody to agree by signing it. The monks refused to sign.They said their refusal had nothing to do with politics, but was purely for spiritual reasons.
The authorities arrested the monks who refused to sign and put them in jail and never released them. A few days ago, some Drepung monastery monks went into the market place to demonstrate their request for these monks to be released. They were beaten, tear gased and jailed. Turn by turn, each day following, monks from Sera, then Ganden monasteries also demonstrated, were beaten and jailed as well as nuns from various monasteries. The sound of their cries and screams were heard all over Lhasa. Everybody was crying. Eventually, some people got angry and started to throw molotow cocktails into Chinese owned shops, so there was a huge amount of destruction. The central government of China declared martial law at three am on March 14. . The whole city of Lhasa is now completely filled with soldiers and para-military that were trucked in and the Chinese government said they would violently suppress any demonstrations. The Chinese claim 10 people were killed. Tibetan sources say that more than 200 were killed -- quite a different picture.
It is very clear that the Chinese authorities have had complete control over Tibet for 50 years but failed to win the heart of the people. That is because their policies are not helping the people much. In particular the local government of Tibet is run by lesser educated officials, many of whom are relics of the Cultural Revolution. They are confused and don't understand the true situation. Their reports to the Central government in Beijing are confused and incorrect and that is why the Chinese authorities were taken by surprise by the events of the last weeks.
The local Chinese authorities also can never understand the relationship between the Dalai Lama and Buddhism. They can neither separate the two nor put them together. They are completely confused about the role of the Dalai Lama. Vilifying statements like "The Dalai Lama is nothing but a wolf covered by monk's robes, a demon with human face" clearly show the limit of knowledge and character of those making such statements.
This situation is indeed very, very sad. It really calls for international support. This can be done by people expressing their sympathy and feelings and also urging their representatives, senators and house representatives, as well as journalists in national and local media, to pay attention and try to find out the true situation.
His Holiness has threatened to resign to avoid all the violence. It was his appeal to the Tibetan people and a strong demonstration to the Chinese that he is NOT the root cause. It also reinforces why he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.
There are still economically priced tickets available to hear the Dalai Lama in Ann Arbor April 19 and 20. The free talk on environmentalism at 2:00 Sunday was "sold" out in three hours, but there is a panel discussion on Buddhism and Art with Gelek Rimpoche, Philip Glass, and Francesco Clemente friday night. Best get reservations in for a hotel, I'm staying with a couple of dear and generous friends.
Even on Easter, it's nice to be a BuJu.
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