Well, we are a little behind the curve here at Fool’s Mountain. An article titled “Down with the Dalai Lama” was published* by the Guardian a few weeks ago, and I was completely ignorant of it until the Chinese translation began to be passed around. (*Was it actually published in print, or is it only available online?)
Here are a few choice snippets from that article:
The Dalai Lama says he wants Tibetan autonomy and political independence. Yet he allows himself to be used as a tool by western powers keen to humiliate China. Between the late 1950s and 1974, he is alleged to have received around $15,000 a month, or $180,000 a year, from the CIA. He has also been, according to the same reporter, “remarkably nepotistic”, promoting his brothers and their wives to positions of extraordinary power in his fiefdom-in-exile in Dharamsala, northern India.
He poses as the quirky, giggly, modern monk who once auctioned his Land Rover on eBay for $80,000 and has even done an advert for Apple (quite what skinny white computers have got to do with Buddhism is anybody’s guess). Yet in truth he is a product of the crushing feudalism of archaic, pre-modern Tibet, where an elite of Buddhist monks treated the masses as serfs and ruthlessly punished them if they stepped out of line.
The Dalai Lama demands religious freedom. Yet he persecutes a Buddhist sect that worships a deity called Dorje Shugden.
As the Dalai Lama tours Britain, lots of people are asking: why won’t Brown receive him at Downing Street? I have a different question: why should Brown, who for all his troubles is still the head of an elected political party, meet with an authoritarian, fame-chasing, Apple-loving monk?
The Guardian column links to a related editorial (“Behind Dalai Lama’s holy cloak”) from The Age (Australia), dating all the way back to 2007:
Rarely do journalists challenge the Dalai Lama.
Partly it is because he is so charming and engaging. Most published accounts of him breeze on as airily as the subject, for whom a good giggle and a quaint parable are substitutes for hard answers. But this is the man who advocates greater autonomy for millions of people who are currently Chinese citizens, presumably with him as head of their government. So, why not hold him accountable as a political figure?
No mere spiritual leader, he was the head of Tibet’s government when he went into exile in 1959. It was a state apparatus run by aristocratic, nepotistic monks that collected taxes, jailed and tortured dissenters and engaged in all the usual political intrigues.
The government set up in exile in India and, at least until the 1970s, received $US1.7 million a year from the CIA…. The Dalai Lama himself was on the CIA’s payroll from the late 1950s until 1974, reportedly receiving $US15,000 a month ($US180,000 a year).
Like many Asian politicians, the Dalai Lama has been remarkably nepotistic, appointing members of his family to many positions of prominence. In recent years, three of the six members of the Kashag, or cabinet, the highest executive branch of the Tibetan government-in-exile, have been close relatives of the Dalai Lama.
He has kept Tibet on the front pages around the world, but to what end? The main achievement seems to have been to become a celebrity. Possibly, had he stayed quiet, fewer Tibetans might have been tortured, killed and generally suppressed by China.
I don’t think anything new is being introduced here, although it’s certainly refreshing to see a cynical spotlight on the Dalai Lama. If there’s one message from these editorials that I really hope sticks to the Western consciousness, is that the Dalai Lama’s role as a politician should be separated from that of the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader. If George Bush happened to be a particularly adorable Methodist preacher, should that change anyone’s views of his political agenda?
Let’s evaluate the Dalai Lama’s political proposals from a political perspective.