Why Tibetans are not happy with China
Transfigured, kitsched up - Hollywood celebrates the Dalai Lama
China is cracking down on protesting Tibetans with a hard hand. China claims that the Dalai Lama was the mastermind behind the protests. Journalists are not allowed to form their own picture of the situation on site at the moment. It is undisputed that the Chinese dictatorship is trampling on human rights. But what does the Dalai Lama stand for? Lamaism has a very dubious tradition, as a study of history reveals: merciless feudalism, inhuman punishments. Tibet under the Dalai Lama was a poor house. Panorama reported on it as early as 1997 - even from today's perspective, the report is still interesting:
He is called "Defender of Truth", "Ocean of Wisdom" or "Excellent Mind". Wherever he appears, he exudes an aura of peace. None of our politicians is meant, I am talking about the Dalai Lama, who, through his advocacy of non-violence and tolerance and a dash of exoticism, makes the Buddhist doctrine of incarnation also interesting for Western seekers of meaning. And since religious heroes are ideally suited to dreams and myths, you can now relive the life of the Tibetan God-King as Hollywood productions. He still represents a religion without a country: the Chinese government denies the Tibetans their own state. We are not in common with the rulers in Beijing who are rigid with age and ideology when we show that things are not quite as harmonious and tolerant around the Dalai Lama - especially not when it comes to his own power.
By John Goetz and Jochen Graebert.
A superstar in Cologne's Cinedom Brad Pitt is celebrating at the theatrical release of the Hollywood flick "7 Years in Tibet". The blonde teenage crush plays the Austrian SS man Heinrich Harrer, who is fleeing to Tibet from English captivity.
"And suddenly he finds himself back in a forbidden world that should change him forever."
"It is my honor, Your Holiness."
Hollywood paints old Tibet as the modern world likes to see it: a paradise far away from civilization - deeply religious, harmonious, peaceful.
BRAD PITT: (Translation)
"Look at the Tibetans, how poor they are, materially. And then look at how happy and peaceful they are, and the way they approach life with which they go their way. That is just fantastic. It is going under the skin. It is the hearts of the people that make Tibet a Shangri-La, a paradise. In America it has become a real movement. "
He alone embodies the struggle for a free Tibet against the brutal Chinese occupiers. The Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1989. The spiritual and political head of all Tibetans is considered the second Mahatma Gandhi. His non-violent struggle for a free Tibet has met with sympathy and admiration all over the world. He is considered the epitome of Buddhist perfection, and he uses this image to advertise his people's struggle for freedom. Quote:
"The continued influence of Buddhism resulted in a society of peace and harmony. We enjoyed freedom and contentment."
Tibet as it really was: historical recordings from the 1950s, when this Dalai Lama was still ruling the country. Feudal Tibet was ruled by monks and nobles. This is where the young Dalai Lama takes his final exam.
PROF. JENS-UWE HARTMANN:
(Tibetologist, Humboldt University Berlin)
"Society was organized in a strictly hierarchical manner. There was a kind of serfdom, there were definitely draconian punishments, including physical mutilation, flogging and the like. And all of this shows us that society cannot have been quite as ideal as it is is repeatedly demonstrated to us in the context of this myth of Tibet. "
An American travelogue from 1950 documents the archaic conditions in ancient Tibet. These prisoners were supposed to have their noses and ears cut off. It was only when the Americans protested that the sentence was eased: 250 lashes.
The Tibetan monk police were particularly feared by the common people. This man's eyes were gouged out, a common punishment in ancient Tibet. Severed arms are evidence of draconian judgments. The majority of Tibetans belonged to their feudal lord. These serfs were not even allowed to leave the court without his permission.
Tibet, as it was when the Dalai Lama ruled in the 1950s.
The Dalai Lama today, almost forty years later. He still glosses over these conditions and thus nourishes the romantic transfiguration of old Tibet. Quote:
"A poor Tibetan had little reason to envy or dislike his rich lord because he knew that everyone would reap the seeds of his previous life. We were simply happy."
This cliché of poor but deeply religious and therefore happy Tibet has persisted to this day. Experts have known better for a long time, but so far hardly anyone has dared to shake the myth of Tibet.
Donald Lopez, a renowned Tibetologist, has edited works by the Dalai Lama. He considers the image of happy Tibet to be a western fantasy.
PROF. DONALD LOPEZ: (Translation)
(Tibetologist, University of Michigan, USA)
"It was absolutely understandable that the Tibetans used this transfigured image back then to advance their struggle for freedom. Now this fantasy image of Tibet has become so independent that it has gotten out of control. It is a real danger that this transfigured image of Tibet hides the real interests of Tibetans under Chinese rule. "
The Dalai Lama travels six months a year, soliciting politicians around the world for support for a free Tibet. You support him morally. One reason for this is the brutality of the Chinese rulers in Tibet.
These images have shaken the world public: A video by the Chinese police that was smuggled out of China. It shows the brutal persecution of monks in Tibetan monasteries. If these monks disappear into Chinese prisons, the worst is yet to come. Tibetans repeatedly report of cruel torture in Chinese dungeons. Hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have died since the Chinese occupation.
The Dalai Lama at the Kirchentag in Munich in 1993. He preaches love, freedom and non-violence. And the more brutally the Chinese subjugate his people, the more he becomes a myth, not just in Tibet. His main message of religious tolerance, which he also proclaims here, is almost drowned in the thunderous applause of the faithful.
In contrast, this demonstration in London a few years ago does not fit the picture at all. Tibetan Buddhist followers demonstrate against the Dalai Lama. Dalai Lama, give us religious freedom now, they chant. The monstrous accusation against the godlike religious leader: he was suppressing a centuries-old Buddhist deity. European Buddhists protest here, but the rift goes much deeper.
Gonsar Rinpoche is a globally respected Tibetan lama. He belongs to the Buddhist community of the Dalai Lama and heads this monastery on Lake Geneva. The monks here, like hundreds of thousands of others, worshiped the Tibetan deity Shugden. Shugden is one of the many traditional protective deities of the Tibetans. The Dalai Lama also worshiped this centuries-old deity for a long time. But now he has forbidden belief in this deity - incomprehensible to his fellow believers. You are criticizing the Dalai Lama for the first time.
"Our religious freedom over the use of this particular deity is limited by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and it is threatened. This ban was published last year, and since then we have had some division among us."
The religious ban came from here, from Dharamsala, India, where the Dalai Lama lives in exile. A meeting of his government-in-exile, democratically elected, religious and political offices neatly separated, as he likes to emphasize. All the more astonishing is his assertion that belief in the deity Shugden is to blame for the fact that Tibet is still being oppressed by the Chinese. The Dalai Lama's government then ordered - quote:
"All government officials must make a statement that they will give up belief in the deity Shugden."
Demands by the Dalai Lama for religious freedom and democracy seem like lip service. The Tibetan parliament in exile, its democratic flagship, promptly changed the constitution after the Dalai Lama was banned from religion
Article 63 of the Tibetan Constitution of Exile - Quote:
"The presiding judge of the court and the two jurors should be Tibetans"
- now has been added: "and also do not believe in the deity Shugden."
Shugdism is said to endanger the personal safety and health of the Dalai Lama. The professional bans apply to all Shugden followers, from ministers to nurses. And in addition, the Dalai Lama is now calling for spy services: "If anyone continues to believe in the deity Shugden, make a list with name, address, place of birth. Keep the original and send us a copy of the list."
Denunciation and spying have poisoned the atmosphere among the Tibetans in exile. The bitterness over the deep division is so great that there are now three murdered monks to complain about.
DONALD LOPEZ: (Translation)
(Tibetologist, University of Michigan, USA)
"This split is the most important conflict in the Tibetan community in exile. It is the first public attack on the Dalai Lama's authority. Emotions are so high that the result is three murdered monks."
The Dalai Lama is world famous for his wisdom. But in fact he makes all important political decisions in a highly dubious way: He asks traditional Tibetan oracles for advice.
Pictorial documents of one of those Tibetan state oracles that the Dalai Lama relies on. These recordings were made a few years ago. Further decision-making aids of the Dalai Lama: oracles with balls of dough and drawing lots. Such state oracles have also shown that the Shugden beliefs are harmful to the cause of Tibet, says the Dalai Lama. Even Tibetan traditionalists are starting to feel uncomfortable with such decisions.
"Nowadays the state oracles - and there are still several oracles, a total of three or four oracles in India - play a pretty big role in the various decisions of our government-in-exile that many of us think it's a bit of a risk."
This man, also a supporter of the Dalai Lama, is considered to be the leader of the Tibetan democracy movement. The newspaper he published was called "Demokratie". Under pressure from the Dalai Lama's government in exile, the paper is no longer published. Reason: The newspaper had publicly criticized the government in exile for being too willing to compromise with the Chinese.
LHUSANG TSERING: (Translation)
"As far as democratization is concerned, I can only say that the government-in-exile is half-hearted, yes, almost embarrassing. The executive decided the question of independence on its own. Not even the parliament-in-exile was asked not to talk about the people at all. I say: The decision to give up the goal of independence is undemocratic. "
So far, the common enemy China has united all Tibetans. But now, after almost forty years of exile, conflicts are breaking out and the image of the infallible Dalai Lama is beginning to crack.
PROF. JENS-UWE HARTMANN:
(Tibetologist, Humboldt University)
"The glorification of the Dalai Lama in his capacity as political leader does not help the democratization process any further. A critically differentiating examination of his political statements must be possible, and it should not be suppressed by the argument that criticism only benefits the Chinese The brutal Chinese policy of oppression in Tibet cannot be justified by anything. "
The image of a harmonious Tibetan society with a godlike Dalai Lama at the helm, which Hollywood is now capturing on the screen, turns out to be a myth.
The idea of a completely peaceful coexistence with a religious and political leader is probably more in line with Western ideal. The Chinese government is using this conflict to divide the Tibetans. The government-in-exile sent us a statement on our research. The followers of the deity Shugden are therefore sectarians financed by the Chinese. The Dalai Lama did not want to give us an interview.
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