‘ The Dragon in Tibet : Cultural and Political genocide of Tibetans’

published on October 15, 2012
Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

 In a previous article ‘ Should Hindus worry about the Dragon in Nepal?’ (at kalyanbharat97blogspot and sooktasumana blogspot and with a change in title at Vijayvaani) I had spoken about one of the threats facing Bharat: the Dragon (short for Chinese great power ambitions). This is an imminent danger, similar to the imminent danger of islamic jihadism. Both will not stop short of our physical extinction if they can achieve that goal. The christian-imperialist- west axis on the other hand, does not seek our physical extinction. They work with economic subversion and conversion.

The dragon, like the elephant in the room, can no longer be ignored and written about only by defence analysts such as B. Raman or the military experts at Indian Defence Review, or scholars writing in obscure journals or even the journalists who tend to soft pedal a serious issue, especially those writers  who confuse Hindu readers by focussing only on the West’s iniquities and quietly provide a smokescreen for Chinese designs in Nepal and Tibet and its designs against  India. They remain silent on China’s atrocities in these countries. We also had noted journalists who headed  well known daily publications  actively promoting the Chinese cause under the pretext that the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism are backward and reactionary.

Hence, the Hindu overall perspective on China should be focused on its great power ambitions which call for China’s  attempted downgrading and pushing back of India, the defeat of the Tibetans and the exploitation of the natural resources of both Tibet and Nepal. In Nepal after the Maoists gained some power in the coalition government, China  has used Prachanda, Bhattarai (Unified Communist Party of Nepal) for imposing their economic exploitation of the country, and the breakaway extremist faction (Communist Party of Nepal, Maoist) for further harassing India, especially Indian businessmen and intimidating the Tibetans living in Nepal. The Indians are private entrepreneurs and depend on stability and peace, whereas the Chinese investors are state owned enterprises which have support from both factions of the Maoists who are presently in a cosy relationship with Beijing. Prior to the Maoists coming to power China had supported the monarch with whom also they had established a cosy relationship.

In this context the additional goal for  Hindus should be to protect Dharma- Dhamma, hence the protection of Tibetan Buddhists, in addition to safeguarding Hindu India and Hindu Nepal. The cultural and political genocide of the Tibetan population is an ongoing reality. This should motivate all Hindus to support the Tibetan government in exile and the Dalai Lama, regardless of what the West’s motivations may be. This is a sacred duty for all Hindus. They cannot allow themselves to be distracted by the claque of leftist writing that will seek to downplay this dimension.

The Han Chinese have always grabbed others’ lands and engaged in the invasion of these lands. There is a popular belief that the aggressive expansionism  all started only with the coming to power of the Communists in 1949, the subsequent driving out in 1959 of the 14th Dalai Lama who is now in exile in India and the 1962 war with India over Arunachal Pradesh.In fact, those events were a sequence in the long chain of aggression practised by Han China against Tibet in particular, as well as the neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim and laying claims to territory in these countries. What happened in 1962 fits in with that sequence. The alleged Communism, or should one say the caricature of the Marxian vision, was simply an ideological sugar coating.

It might be useful to have a brief look at Tibetan history and the interaction between Tibet and China and the role played by the Dalai Lamas (Dalai simply means that which is deep and Lama is the Tibetan word for teacher). The first known interaction between the two countries is is in 640 A.D when the Tibetan king married the niece of the Tang emperor. He also married a Nepalese princess. Both women were Buddhists. The Tibetans transmitted Buddhism to the eastern Mongols. Kubla Khan, the famed emperor (readers will remember Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem which begins with the line ” In Xanadu where Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome did build. . . .), himself studied Buddhism.

The First Dalai Lama was born in 1474 and belonged to the Yellow Hat sect (the 14th Dalai Lama, the present one, also belongs to the Yellow Hat sect). This sect became the dominant one in Tibet, although there are 6 different sects there to this day (we shall return to this).In 1642 the Fifth Dalai Lama acquired both spiritual and temporal power over all of Tibet and it was then that the building of the Potala Palace was begun (which still stands today)The Sixth Dalai Lama was crowned in 1697 and the Seventh reigned between 1708- 1757.

China seized regions of Tibet and in 1727 the two countries signed a treaty that laid out the boundary between them which remained till 1910. The 13th Lama assumed power in 1895. Throughout this period Russian and Britain engaged in what is called the Great Game, the struggle for influence and control in Central Asia. Britain invaded Tibet in 1903 and in 1904 took Lhasa. They concluded a treaty with the Tibetans, Chinese, Bhutanese, and Nepalese representatives, by which they gained control over Tibet’s affairs. In 1909 the Dalai Lama fled to Darjeeling India and China claimed sovereignty over Tibet. In 1911 the Chinese Revolution began and the Dalai Lama returned to Tibet in 1912. He died in 1933.

He issued a proclamation ” We are a small, religious and independent nation.” He took control of the judicial, penal and educational systems and dealt directly as a sovereign nation with foreign powers. Tibet had its own flag. In 1914 representatives from Britain, China and Tibet met to negotiate a treaty marking the boundary lines between India and its northern neighbours. The Simla Convention (1914)gave China control over Inner Tibet(Qinghai Province). Outer Tibet remained under the control of the Dalai Lama. China and Britain promised to respect the territorial integrity of Tibet and abstain from interference int the administration of Outer Tibet.

It must be pointed out that this division of Tibet was int itself a violation of Tibetan sovereignty.China did not sign because Britain laid claim to Tawang which is now part of Arunachal Pradesh. India and China went to war in 1962 over this boundary. Japan invaded Manchuria in 1910 and by 1945 had advanced into China. The Communists came to power in 1949. In 1950 China invaded Tibet. In 1959 the Dalai Lama fled to India. Between 1956 -1959 there were the uprisings of the monks against Chinese rule and 86,000 Tibetans are said to have died during this period.By March 20,1959 much of Lhasa lay in ruins. Three of the largest monasteries were levelled. Thousands of monks were reported to have been executed and  monasteries and temples all over Lhasa were ransacked. The Dalai Lama’s bodyguard was executed.

According to the 1964 census 300,000 Tibetans were missing. In the previous 5 years they had been secretly imprisoned, tortured, killed or were in exile. China’s strategy now was to overwhelm the Tibetan population with the influx of Han Chinese into Tibet. By 1978 the Western China Development Program provided jobs for Han Chinese brought in for this specific purpose, and to day the Han Chinese population is three times that of the Tibetan. Protests continue and recently there have been the self immolation of monks, and even of the ordinary population. A farmer, a young female student and a widow with children have immolated themselves as a protest against Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama and his government in exile continue in Dharamsala India. The Dalai Lama, as is well known, has become the roving ambassador world wide for the cause of Tibetan freedom, although he has conceded that Tibet is an autonomous region of China. This was most likely a political mistake as was the Indian government’s agreement to the same.

Few know that the Dalai Lama is a scholar of the Buddhist Nagarjuna (said to be from south India, in the second century CE) and his Madhyamika philosophy. It cannot be forgotten by Hindu India that Buddhism went from India to the northern neighbours. The Dharma Dhamma connection is inviolate. In Tibet the introduction of Buddhism led to its intermixture with the previous Bon religion and thus arose a Buddhism that had, along with the contributions by Indian Buddhists a specific Tibetal Buddhism which divided into 6 sects.

The Dragon is interested in destroying Tibetan religion and culture because both these are a threat to its domination of the country. The ideological baggage of Mao Ze Dung is simply window dressing. Much has been written about the repression and brutality against the Tibetans and need not be repeated here. Much has also been written by military experts and and defence analysts about China’s designs in Tibet, where it is secretly training for any possible attacks against India or reportedly planning the defeat of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile. That too need not be repeated here and the material is readily available at various relevant sites. As well the sources describing China’s exploitation of Tibet’s mineral resources and its control over the rivers that rise in Tibet and flow into India are numerous. The human rights question has also been addressed by the relevant human rights organisations.

What does require to be examined is the need to defend the Dharma- Dhamma connection.

As the new generation of deracinated  Hindus grow distanced from their ancestral religion it is the aam admi and the traditional acharyas and mathams that will continue to uphold Veda Agama. Similarly it is the aam admi of Tibet, the monks, lamas and above all the 14th Dalai Lama that will uphold Tibetan Buddhism. A heroic people are struggling to maintain their culture and civilisation against the brutal Occupation which seeks quite consciously and deliberately to destroy it. Let Hindu India not have any illusions on that score : a sister Dharmic religion is being attacked and sought to be destroyed.

What is encouraging in Tibet is that there are middles class movements now rising in Tibet itself which seek to energise Tibetan pride in its age old culture and civilisation. These must be encouraged. Writings by defence analysts make it clear that China having used brutality is now faced with these new movements that it cannot easily handle. Since its new found exercise of soft power such as celebrations in Lumbini (Nepal) on the birth anniversary of the Buddha has not impressed the Tibetan population residing there, and since even the middle class Tibetan who has marginally benefited from the so called modernisation of Tibet has joined with the resurgent movements and since the lower classes still wait for the return of the Dalai Lama, the voices from Bharat calling on behalf of a sister Dharmic religion must rise louder and louder.

Hence, there should be a corresponding set of groups of educated middle class individuals who will elaborate on the Dharma Dhamma connection.
In this context the recent effort to set up the Sanchi University of Buddhist and Indic Studies(Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh) is to be commended. In the 19th century it was fashionable in the West to describe Tibetan Buddhism as Lamaism (German philosopher Hegel used this word). Contemporary scholars, on the other hand, stress the continuity of Indian Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, where there are 6 schools of Buddhism that include the Bon religion, a mix of Indian Buddhism and pre Buddhist native religion .

What then is the Dharma Dhamma connection ?

The word Dharma is known to Hindu readers as the earliest Sanskrit word from Rig Vedic times denoting the spiritual aspect of Ritam, the natural Law of the universe. Dhamma is the Prakrit word for the same with some of the differences introduced by the Buddha himself. After his death the school that developed in India was Mahayana Buddhism of which the Madhyamika school of Nagarjuna (believed to have come from the south in 2nd century CE) and Yogacara (4th centurey CE) and Buddhist Logic are the important developments. All schools contributed to the theory known as dependent  origination which simply means that everthing rises in connection with something else. Dhamma is the Buddhist word for the state of Nature (yatha bhuta). Like the Sanskrit word it indicates that which supports. Mahayana Buddhism is known as the Greater Vehicle. Hinayana Buddhism known as the Lesser Vehicle was brought to Sri Lanka by the children of the emperor Asoka.

In Tibet Mahayana became dominant, along with Yogacara (yogic meditation) along with the Vajrayana School brought to Tibet by Padmasambhava from India(8th century CE). The latter was characterised by ritual, mantra, mandala and mudra which Hindus will recognise as Tantra. In time all of Tibetan Buddhism became intermingled with this aspect. In addition there was the devotional aspect of the Dalai Lama being the incarnation of the Avalokitesvara Buddha, the downward looking Buddha, which one sees in the Ajanta frescoes. This Buddha is downward looking because he has not turned away from the suffering of the world. The variety of paintings, sculptures and statues in Tibetan Buddhism are similar to the abundance of the same in Hinduism.

This brief account will remind Hindus of the Veda Agama link(about which the present writer has written) and its similarity to Tibetan Buddhism. It is important to stress this link so that the living reality of Tibetan Buddhism is brought to our attention and the significance therefore of Hindus supporting the Tibetan struggle to maintain its religion and culture which the Chinese Occupation has partially destroyed and seeks to destroy in its entirety. There is a tendency to treat Tibetan Buddhism as some esoteric offshoot of Indian religion and not quite worthy of consideration.China, in fact, now tries to take on the role of being the superhead of Asian Buddhism by promoting some aspects of it which will not encourage any rebellion by the Tibetans. In the Conference held in September 2012 at the Sanchi University in Bhopal Madhya Pradesh, prominent among the scholars from the far East and Asia were Chinese scholars. While these are surely authentic scholars in their own right, the Chinese government’s sponsorship of them may also be an important factor.

Bharat cannot afford further deceptions, after the first one of Panch Sheela. The talk of universal peace, harmony and brotherhood are to be welcomed but India must remain vigilant.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)

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