Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ghostbusters: I Ain't Afraid Of No Ghost!

“If we really thought about it, how can worshipping this thing shorten Kundun’s life span,” I heard Acha Purbu-la say to my mom the other day. They are good friends and talk openly about things. “People have been praying to this thing before and some still do so now”, she went on, “Kundun is over 70 and - thanks to the Lord - still in very good shape, so where’s the connection? And even if something were to happen to him – God forbid! – how could we tell it was the ghost and not just old age?”

My mom found that a down-to-earth observation. I could tell from the amused smile appearing on her face. “Ngune ré, really true, but Purbu-la, you must not say such a thing in public, people could say you are disrespectful.” Acha Purbu-la agreed: “Khaba khaba, I must never say such a thing, Better remain silent. Chho yomaré, it’s not worth it.”

At that moment, I realised that the ghost topic had actually never been critically covered by Radio Free Asia or Voice of America’s Kunleng TV. Because it wasn’t worth it? Ayamtsen, how come something as far-reaching as the ghost controversy seems to go unreported by the Tibetan-language media, at least the ones I have access to…

I didn’t want Purbu-la and my mom to think I was following their conversation uninvited, so I kept on washing the dishes without making a comment. Instead, that silly tune sneaked into my head: If there’s something wrong in the neighbourhood, who’re you gonna call? Ghostbusters! Dew, rew, dew rew, dew rew, dew dew dew dew…I ain’t afraid of no ghost! And I saw Tibetan Dan Akroyds before me in their ghostbuster outfits.

While we’re at it, isn’t it absurd that some paranormal phenomenon is held responsible for the policy failures of a government? In all seriousness? How could a ghost harm a cause? Doesn’t such an argument make the exile administration look really, really bad? What government could blame political failure on a ghost without looking like they’re taking people for a ride? What would the world think of President Bush (ok, maybe not a good example), if he suddenly said, the devil was responsible for US-policy failure in Iraq? Koochee, please!

Unfortunately that’s not the end of it. There’s plenty of violent verbal abuse over this thing in places like The insults hurled at each other make my blood freeze. How is it possible that people can get all worked up about a ghost? OK, let’s assume that the pro-ghost side is obsessed anyway and can’t be helped. Shouldn’t the other side - the good side - be more resaonable, not respond to the provocation and refrain?

Even if the pro-ghost people were all unpatriotic, selfish, pro-Chinese, Kundun-haters, and devil-worshippers, I’d wish Kundun followers wouldn’t behave like riffraff. Honestly, it’s not flattering to the Dalai Lama to have such a following. I would wish for His Holiness to distance himself from this kind of behaviour. And I would also wish he would stop raising the issue in public.
From an innocent bystander view, it would be more effective to debate the issue with the defiant Lamas and Geshes directly. After all, it’s them who are meant to be persuaded. The collateral damage of raising the issue in front of the public has reached a frightening dimension.

Actually, I wish Kundun would consider dropping this thing altogether - just like some of the Tibetan-language media. He has successfully discouraged the practice for years. So then the ones who remain stubborn just can’t be helped, can they? Why not leave it at that? There can’t be too many renegades left by now, can there? A couple of Lamas here and there, most keeping a low profile. If Kundun stops to speak against the practice, they will stop defending themselves. If he intensifies his efforts, they will too. The way I see it, Kundun can control this.

Look, if it can be assumed, that the Gelukpa Yellow Hats make up 50 % of all Tibetan Buddhists, and of these, half have never had anything to do with the ghost to start with, that would leave us with 25 % pro-ghost people. If it can further be assumed that out of these, 20 % (the majority) has followed Kundun’s advice and stopped the worship, that would leave us with - what? Maybe 5 % of the Tibetan Buddhist population? What difference do these 5 % make, really? The world recognises Kundun as a man of peace and forgiveness. So why not just tolerate 5 % ghost-worshippers?

Someone close to the Dalai Lama once told me that Kundun sometimes takes a walk around the office after everyone has gone home. I liked the idea of him scuffling around the desks in flip-flops picking up a document here, turning over a sheet of paper there, basically touch base and get a feel for what’s happening on the ground. Perhaps these days he also surfs the net?

“Dear Kundun, do you surf the net sometimes? - I really hope so. I humbly wish you would read what a fellow Tibetan has to say and people like Acha Purbu-la think. I wish you would agree that this ghost hunt leads us nowhere and is disrupting social harmony. I wish you would stop making the ghost an issue and lead us again on the path to cope with the big problems that lie ahead of us as a people.” – If only he were to read my blog, that’s what I would tell His Holiness.

To be fair to the other side, I should mention that they don’t think they are worshipping a ghost. For them, the ghost is an enlightened being (a Buddha or something to that effect). A view, that many people don’t like to hear, no Tibetan media reports on, and nobody wants to openly talk about. Nevertheless, if the other side believes the ghost is a divine thing, it’s their right. Just as it’s the right for the mainstream to believe the ghost is a deamon. Believe one or the other but keep quiet. Or opt out altogether and keep quiet. I for one opt out. And no more word from me on this absurd topic. Better to use one’s energy for constructive stuff, marè, la?

Of course, the laughing third party in this are the Chinese: “My enemy’s enemy is my friend. Let’s use this ghost story to weaken the influence of the Dalai!” I can see big yellow brother smiling away, diligently adding fuel to the fire by instrumentalising pro-ghost folks to weaken Kundun’s position. All over Tibet and into the farthest corners of the highlands, spreading the seed of hatred, brother against brother, Lama against Lama. - Chho mindu, there is no value in this. So why not try and do the obvious. My partner says, sometimes the obvious thing to do, is also the right thing to do. Let’s all keep quiet on this.

Pumo, daughter! Are you dreaming?” My mother is yelling. “Don’t let the water run forever. Dishes are washed, now leave me and Acha Purbu-la alone, will you? We need to discuss some serious stuff!” – Oops, got caught day-dreaming about a ghost. Lucky my kids are too small to know anything about this unfortunate episode reminiscent of the Dark Ages. Otherwise my parental credibility would be shattered. You don’t know, but I’ve always told them: ”Shégo maré, don’t be afraid, there ain’t no such thing as ghosts!”

Mountain Phoenix

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