I've grown sadder and sadder within the past weeks as I have watched the current conflicts between the people of Tibet and the government of China. I have felt helpless and useless. Sure, I could go online and find some organization to donate nominal amount of money to support Tibetan refugees or write letters to our government asking them to urge the Chinese Government to meet with the Dali Lama, but these actions will not alleviate the heart sickness I've been experiencing over the situation.
In case you've been too bombarded by the plethora of other horrifying news headlines (recession, war, etc.) that are continually developing in our 24-hour news cycle, here are a few of links that have helped me to understand the circumstances currently occurring in Tibet:
The cover story of Time Magazine a few weeks ago was 'A Monk's Struggle'. The story focus's on the Dali Lama's non-violent quest to convince the Chinese Government that he is not behind the separatist movement; however, the Chinese government continually viciously accuses him of being the leader. The Dali Lama is on public record as only wanting autonomy and religious freedom for the people of Tibet. Although there are many Tibetans that do want full-fledged independence, the Dali Lama's firm stance is now, and has always been, that he is willing to work with the China's leaders to develop a state-like autonomy for the Tibetan region that does not require the area to become its own nation.
Recently, The Jim Lehrer News Hour featured the story: Deep-rooted Tensions Surface in Tibet Unrest. The story, which you can watch by following the above link, summarizes the current conflicts and then has several experts discuss the possible outcomes. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this discussion is the fact that all of the guests in the discussion agreed that protesting the Olympic Torch as it is carried or boycotting the opening ceremonies of the games will only cause the Chinese government to punish the Tibetan people.
Democracy Now, a liberal daily new show that you can easily podcast at democracynow.org, recently interview noted Tibetan scholar and personal friend of the Dali Lama, Robert Thurman. Listen to the interview from this link. This interview, like the PBS link, does a good job of covering the recent conflicts but also gives Mr. Thurman's personal view of the situation which is very informative due to his close relationship with the Dali Lama.
Finally, the news of today. Today's New York Time's front page story, "Olympic Torch Goes Out, Briefly, in Paris" covers the recent protest in London and Paris. In both places the path of the Olympic Torch has been lined with protesters that feel the honor of the Olympic Games should not be given to a government that is trying to destroyed the ethnic and religious beliefs on a large population in their country. There is no doubt that there will be more protest tomorrow when the torch is scheduled to travel through San Francisco the only U.S. stop on the torch's journey to Beijing.
In conclusion, I have decided that the best action I can take is to meditate consistently each day dedicating my practice to a peaceful resolution for the people of Tibet. I've tried off and on to stick to a meditation routine for the last three or four years, but I have always been willing to skip a session for the flimsiest of excuses. Skipping one day leads to skipping two and then I'm off the Zafu for weeks. Currently, I am 2 weeks strong meditating everyday. My goal is to have an unbroken practice through the Olympic games in August. Perhaps, by creating the space in myself that meditation fosters, I will find a way to be at peace with the dreadful reality that faces one of the most peaceful groups of people alive on the planet today.
There are a lot of things about China that should fill you with despair, but Tibet is not one of them. The Tibetans are better off now than they ever were under the rule of the god-king Dalai Lama. China is guilty of human rights violations in all parts of the nation, not just Tibet. And the Tibetan Buddhists are simply not the peaceful people you or any Americans think they are. The Tibetan monks were extremely rich and built their grand palaces and temples on the backs of serfs, just like the lords of Old Europe. Except that the monks had serfs until 1959. That's a few years after the current "incarnation" took power. It wasn't until the Chinese conquered Tibet that people were able to own land and sell the product of their labor. Oh, and have running water and electricity - again, in 1959.
Do not shed many tears for the Lama and his monks and their precious Tibet. At least, no more than you would for all Chinese under communism.
Just look at this quote from the Washington Post (1999) that I got from this website:
"Tibet’s former slaves say they, too, don’t want their former masters to return to power. 'I’ve already lived that life once before,' said Wangchuk, a 67-year-old former slave who was wearing his best clothes for his yearly pilgrimage to Shigatse, one of the holiest sites of Tibetan Buddhism. He said he worshiped the Dalai Lama, but added, 'I may not be free under Chinese communism, but I am better off than when I was a slave.'"
In your opinion did early Americans "free" the Native Americans by taking their land and their customs? Did we do a good job of forcing them to give up their silly beliefs?
The Tibetan culture is precious to the people of Tibet. They do not want to be Han Chinese. The Tibetan people are as different from Chinese people as Native Indians were from the European-Americans that took their land and destroyed their futures. Furthermore, very few are benefiting in anyway. They are not allowed to own businesses. They are not allowed to have government posts. These jobs are reserved for Chinese people who are shipped in by train. Tibet is a land that the Chinese want to dominate and make themselves richer from. They do not care at all about improving conditions for the Tibetans.
No, we didn't "free" Native Americans. Any benefit that they managed to wrest from our plunder was purely accidental and developed along with the nation. In Tibet, the benefits were immediate, even if far from perfect.
I didn't say that Tibetans were free and I didn't mean to imply that the Chinese gave a shit. I'm sure the Chinese don't care. The fact remains that they are better off under communism than under feudalism. Could their lives be even better if the Chinese were to leave? Of course they could, but not necessarily. They have no experience in self rule along with a history of subservience. Giving power back to the monks cannot be the answer and until a better one comes along, the Chinese are the best bet they've got.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of China. They suck. But the face the Lama shows the public is not the face of Tibetan history. A return to theocracy would be just as bad for them as it would be for us.
It's good to see your domestication out west hasn't smothered your fire.
I'd tell you who I am, but I think you'd be more satisfied if you figured it out. It shouldn't be that difficult. :)
Jess, Great post. I like that you've compiled various sources for backup and given a quick summation of each.
The idea of committing to meditate through the Olympics is great. I'll join you and make the same commitment to sit, if only for a few minutes, every day.
Bullet - You must be Eric. How are things in New Orleans?
Jen - I'm glad you've committed to meditation as well. I was hoping someone else might.
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