Some say, he is a publicity seeker willing to endorse anyone who offers him support, others speculate that he is feudalist theocrat who wants Tibet back to regain his privileges, some claim he is a CIA stoog and still others say he is the most compassionate saint who has transformed the modern world. What is he ? holy or unholy? a saint or a sinner ?.
Tenzin Gyatso, was born as a farmer´s son, his re-incarnation established, he was soon declared the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet at a public declaration in 1939, the year next he was enthroned in Lhasa, and eventually assumed full political duties of Tibet in 1950 at the mere age of 15. Historically, the Tibet he inherited in 1950 had been a part of the Qing Empire of China until 1912, and after its fall, in 1913 Tibet had self-proclaimed independence. Therefore in 1950, merely 37 years later and in the very year he assumed his political role, Communist China saw it only as natural to claim its territories that had earlier broken away from the state of Qing. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces barged into Tibet to initiate a process of its re-integration to Chinese mainland. The Dalai Lama, who stayed in Lhasa at the time negotiated with the Chinese and formally accepted a “The 17 Point Plan” peace treaty, uniting Tibet and the People’s Republic of China in 1951. Three years later the Dalai Lama was quickly elected vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s National Assembly, thus entering China’s ruling elite.
This however had other consequences for Tibet, his homeland. As part of the 17 point plan, privately-held land was socialized and redistributed among farmers who had to work it communally. The PLA appropriated much of the produce for its use and the Tibetans hardly had enough to eat. Within a short span of 5 years after Dalai Lama´s entry in to the Chinese ruling elite, more and more farmers back home in Tibet were being stripped of their land. Tens of thousands of tribals and farmers soon organized themselves into an armed resistance group under a tribal alliance (National Army of the defenders of the Faith), and began to fight back the Chinese. In retaliation, the Chinese army reprisals grew increasingly brutal, resulting in wide-spread abuse of Tibetan monks and nuns. China suspecting that many of the monastic Tibetans acted as messengers for the guerrilla fighters asked the Dalai Lama to give up “spiritual support and leadership” for the resistance, which he invariably refused. No mere spiritual leader, and still the head of Tibet’s government, by 1959, the devoted Tibetan people began to fear his abduction by the PLA and cordoned Norbulingkha, his Summer Palace to protect him. When the PLA moved artillery into range of the Summer Palace, the Dalai Lama agreed to evacuate the building and Tibetan troops prepared a secure escape route out of the besieged capital. When two artillery shells struck the palace, two days later, the young Dalai Lama and his ministerial retinue fled Tibet with the help of the CIA’s Special Activities Division, crossing into India on 30 March 1959 after an arduous 14-day trek over the Himalayas. The then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, informed the Parliament of India that the Dalai Lama had crossed into Indian territory and had been granted political asylum. He added that the Tibetan god-king, regarded by his people as the living incarnation of Buddha, was “quite healthy” and would receive “respectful treatment.”
The exiled Dalai Lama soon set up a government of Tibet in Dharamsala, in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, and the Indian government allotted land for the Tibetian government in exile and the Tibetian refugees that followed. India built special schools for Tibetans that provide free education, health care and scholarships. However, the issue of Tibet began to plague Beijing-Delhi’s relationship as China accused India of trying to undermine its rule in Tibet while India charged China with suppressing Tibetan autonomy. On October 20, 1962, China attacked India. Provoked by a territorial dispute and tensions over Tibet, the war was brief and China emerged victorious. Strategically, the war had made Dalai Lama’s presence in India de facto irreversible. Meanwhile as part of a worldwide efforts by the United States to destabilize all communist governments, the Dalai Lama too received from 1950s until the 1970s, $US1.7 million a year ($US15,000 a month) from the CIA. The money was to pay for guerilla operations against the Chinese – the Dalai Lama was no pacifist. The CIA Tibetan program was however discontinued when President Nixon decided to seek rapprochement with China in the 1970s. As a result, each of the 1,500 CIA-trained Tibetan rebels received 10,000 rupees to buy land in India or to open a business, instead of fighting the PLA of China. In addition, the White house also ceased the training of Tibetan guerrillas by the CIA to prevent damaging Sino-American relationship.
The Dalai Lama’s appeal and charismatic personality and his universalist values increased international fascination with Buddhism, international sympathy for the Tibetans, and Western sinophobia culminating in him being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. People close to the Nobel Peace Prize selection process however state that the Dalai Lama as an exiled Tibetan leader, gained the advantage over other candidates, including President Mikhail S. Gorbachev of the Soviet Union, largely because of the brutal suppression of student-led democracy movement in Beijing in 1989 and the international outrage that followed as an aftermath. After six long decades as the living emblem of Tibetans in exile, the Dalai Lama resigned from all “formal authority”, ceding his role as the community’s political leader in 2011, while retaining his place at the apogee of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama has also begun to discuss a range of prospects for the future disposition of his soul and has suggested that he could be reincarnated as a woman, or reincarnated while he’s still alive – politics awaits him even in reincarnation, it appears.
In many ways, the journey of the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet from a God-King into a Chinese ruling elite thence into a CIA pawn and a Nobel Laureate, and last but not least a female re-incarnate to be, seems to me too much of an adventure extra-ordinaire. At times, one wonders, is he a saint or a sinner or simply a wolf in a monk’s robe as the Chinese claim ?. I assume, a more realistic picture would be that he is a survivor, a survivor who is neither wholly perfect nor wholly bad – for every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.