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Sunday, April 11, 2010

On Tenzin Gyatso (In General)

http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/02/22/americans.love.dalai.lama/index.html?hpt=C2

.http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/02/18/obama.dalailama/index.html




While I probably should be making commentary primarily on the sage's visit with the President of the U.S. in the White House, my main concern lies with his semi retirement he announced about 2 years ago. While I'm not a Tibetan Buddhist and while I probably would find a great deal of his thought on Buddhism a bit too Tantric and monastic for my tastes, the guy's general outlook is something I can seek to imitate. His tenet of achieving peace through peace (nonviolence, that is), has earned him the comparison to Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. And he has met with virtually every president since the mid 40s or early 50s (to my estimation).

There's always the complex topic of his advocacy for Tibetan independence; though technicaly he has clarified that he seeks autonomy for Tibet, not independence and sovereignty in the political sense. That would be part of the reason why his visit with President Obama was viewed with skepticism/pessimism about how it would reflect on U.S. -China relations on the issue of Tibetan autonomy/independence/freedom. Considering that the issue of Tibet is nearly identical in importance to that of Taiwan, I can see how people think this might loosen some relations with Chinese government. Though the Dalai Lama is hardly a separatist as Beijing officials have termed him. But he is not without controversy even regarding his status as an advocate of Tibetan preservation, since he was also accused of using his influence within Tibetan Buddhism to nominate the 17th Karmapa, something of an equivalent to the Dalai Lama within the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Some suggest he nominated the choice he did because he thought it would have influence on saving Tibet. I cannot speak further on this besides stating that the context of this issue is probably all the more complex because it is dealing with a country that is still theocratic to a great degree (as Christopher Hitchens has noted).

Another reason why the visit was seen as contentious was that it was in the White House instead of a more neutral or religious themed location, such as a church or a more public venue. I can sympathize with those critics in suggesting that the location should've been changed. While Tenzin Gyatso is a political figure representing Tibet, he is first and foremost in the minds of even his fellow Tibetans a religious leader. From my understanding, he is the 14th in a series of rebirths (or reincarnations if you prefer a more familiar term) of sages that are key within the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. But the association of the White House as a solely political and thus areligious area seems suspect if we're to regard it as the home of a president who is regarded as religiously observant himself. Inviting another religious figure into his home suggests to me that Obama was attempting to bridge a gap that exists between the "East" and "West" on a mutual search for world peace. Choosing to have him at the White House only suggests they are politically aligned as much as they are religiously aligned; that is to say, as they are ethically aligned.

To speak more on the present Dalai Lama would be a bit longwinded even for me, so I will end with the thought that it may be best for him to retire or semi retire, especially since he is in my grandparents' generation and while he may be in somewhat better shape, he has had surgery for a gallstone (ironically reflecting a similar but distinct surgery my paternal grandmother had on her gallbladder). And by that merit, he has to take the Buddhist tenet of mindfulness seriously. Though like the Buddha Gautama he may continue his quest up till the day he dies, in which case, he can be seen as more identical to Gandhi and MLK Jr. than before.



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