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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dalai Lama Departs Lightly




Last time I talked about the Dalai Lama was months ago in “Christine O’Donnell and the Dalai Lama” . I briefly looked at a manga adaptation of his life which I’ve since read. I might speak on that a bit, but for the most part, I’m interested in his official announcement of retirement from being a political leader for Tibetan autonomy. He emphasized that he will still be a spiritual leader, but he also thinks it’s time for a new person to take on the responsibilities that he shouldered along with being a lama, which has its own importance in Tibetan culture, from what I understand.  If anything, this reflects an understanding Tenzin Gyatso has of his position of authority in Tibet that Christopher Hitchens critiqued him on. As much as he advocated peace and equality of humanity, the contention is that he was complacent to impoverished situations in Tibet itself, while he was treated like a king, even if he was also trained in Buddhist monasticism.

Tibet’s a difficult place to live, especially considering their funeral practices would make many people squirm. To sum it up, the body is prepared in such a way that it can be left to the elements and carrion birds to consume. It’s actually something that appeals to me, though I imagine non-Tibetans wouldn’t be permitted to actually have that kind of funeral, plus I’d traumatize many acquaintances who thought of me as still holding some of my Christian heritage of respecting the body. But to be frank, if I die, people won’t remember me primarily by my body so much as the memories I created with them. Perhaps they’ll remember my face, but I think they’d remember the goofy things I’ve done, such as getting peanut butter stuck in a toaster by toasting bread with the peanut butter already on it.

Many Tibetans seem to object to the end of the 14th Dalai Lama’s 60 year reign, possibly because of lingering attachments to this charismatic figure who  apparently wasn’t so eager when he became the leader of the country at 15 years of age. The manga adaptation seems a decent backstory, from what little I understand. It certainly introduces it through a medium I’m always reading these days (reading about 18 series on a ‘religious’ basis whenever they update) and the historical facts don’t seem to be stretched; at best there might be technicalities about the Chinese governments’ treatment of the Tibetans, considering that, from what I understand, China views Tibet as just another part of China, like Taiwan. The issue of independence as a country was never Gyatso’s goal. Autonomy was all he sought; simply being able to practice their native culture and religion as well as manage internal affairs, the government taking care of more international affairs between both parties. All in all, the general tone seems to be a somber acceptance, though I’ve never followed the Dalai Lama significantly beyond the few stories I even mentioned him, one of which was over a year ago, “Tenzin Gyatso (In General)”

At 75 years old, I imagine not being involved with the political aspects of his position will be a weight off his shoulders. Focusing on the spiritual advisor position of sorts and seeking out world peace among other things is more his forte, especially considering his education was primarily in Buddhist studies since a young age, allegedly having the level of a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy on his graduation at 23. I wholeheartedly support this move, since, as even the Dalai Lama said, to paraphrase; it’s in the nature of democratic systems to balance power and delineate it to those possessed of skill in those areas. So people objecting to this change in power forget that Tenzin Gyatso does care about his people, but his area of expertise has never been politics so much as general activism of peace and nonviolence as well as other passions including interfaith dialogue and dabbling in physics from what I’ve heard. All the best to Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (yes, that’s his full name). Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

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