Well, the aim of this post is to help the rest of the Buddhist community in America come to grips with the complexity of the issue. I'd previously covered much of these issues here, but I think it's useful to revisit this topic.
It is my hope that this will help American Buddhists view the situation more realistically, like the way Brian Victoria work on Zen in Japan in WWII helped American Zen students be more attuned to ethics and teachers' responsibilities. Americans, knowing this situation, might be a further force for peace in this area, which, let's face it, is going to happen. How can I say that when the Dalai Lama doesn't get a chance to lead a "free" Tibet? Read on...
First of all,
[C]ontrary to the pop history version, the Tibetans did not simply let the Chinese roll over their country in 1951. For almost 20 years afterward they fought a long, bloody war of resistance that struck serious blows to Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s expansionist plans. Invisible to outsiders as it raged, this largely unknown struggle that no novelist could have dreamed up got support from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which sponsored secret training camps and made arms and equipment drops to aid horse-mounted herdsmen against the bombers and artillery of the largest standing army on the planet.
By way of background, the story begins in the fall of 1951, when the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) marched into the ancient Tibetan capital at Lhasa, after forcing the Dalai Lama’s religious government to sign a ‘Plan for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet.’ This thin fiction of an agreement was somewhat maintained in Lhasa, but in the outlying regions the Chinese occupation involved forced collectivization and the killing of tribal chiefs and lamas.
Read the rest of the article. It's from a Western source. But as you read the article I think it's useful to keep a few things in mind. Try, for a moment, even though it's hard in the West, to see things through Chinese eyes:
- The Chinese were attacking the Tibetans, true. But given the fact that historically, Tibet was seen by the Chinese (and acknowledged at times by Tibetans) as part of China
, and given the fact that it was the religious head of Tibet that led a separatist movement from China, it was not unreasonable for the Chinese to deal with the Tibetan theocracy as inimical to its state interests. That's just another corollary of "religion and state should not mix."
- The Dalai Lama's brother, as you read from that article, turned to help from the sworn enemies of the Chinese government, which was as much about throwing off imperialism as anything else. This was bound to permanently affect the way the Dalai Lama was viewed by China.
- The state of Tibet before the Chinese was hardly a Shangri-La, and the subsequent nepotism on the part of the Dalai Lama, you can be sure, has done nothing to assure the Chinese that there's been a real change.
The history of Tibet is quite complex, and includes acts of brutality by Dalai Lamas, (including, as Wikipedia notes, "ethnic cleansing" by the Dalai Lama's immediate predecessor). It is also evident that the very existence of the Tibetan Buddhist state itself as headed by the Dalai Lama (see here and here) is itself historically a creation of the Chinese government (as headed by the Mongols)!
That's why it's quite easy to predict that eventually, hundreds of years down the line, this Tibetan Buddhist issue will have been resolved. True, there won't be any "pure" Tibetan "Shangri-La" in Tibet, but there never was. There will be a Tibetan Buddhism, because it survives not just in Tibet but in Dharmasala and Beijing, and elsewhere. Like all Buddhism, it does not and should not depend on the existence of a "guru." The biggest "guru" in Buddhism said, "Be a lamp unto yourselves."
But let's take a step back, and do this especially as Americans. Why, oh why should there be ethnic based nationalism that we, as Americans would support today?
At least nominally, both the US and China in their own official mythologies reject such a racist ideology, though of course in practice both countries have fallen short in great degree.
And yes, today the Dalai Lama doesn't talk about "independence," but "autonomy," but when you read the fine print there's still racist implications all around. There is no reason to believe or expect that a "culture" should prevail or be given special status merely because it relates to one group of people whose group is defined ethnically.
Moreover, it's unrealistic politically and historically. Tibet's rich in natural resources, but to assume that the Tibetans (or the Chinese) have sole right to determine who will become ridiculously wealthy from Tibet's resources is an odd position, given the history.
But make no mistake about it: the Dalai Lama is to the Chinese government as FALN is to most of the US government. The Dalai Lama countenanced, or at least did not conemn a violent rebellion against what the Chinese saw as their legitimate state authority, and have historical claims to assert in this regard. The Dalai Lama's brother was a key player in this.
Would anyone in the US seriously entertain the notion of having FALN, or the Weather Underground, run parts of the US?