I agree with everything Elliot Sperling says about the Dalai Lama in “He has got it wrong”. Let me add something else here to expand on those thoughts.
For all the faults we find with the Dalai Lama - his leadership style, his assessment of political events and so on - we must acknowledge, in all fairness, that he wasn’t dying to get this job. Other people had made that decision for him. He accepted it and has been working to the best of his ability and knowledge since, and always with what he believed to be in the best interest of our people.
For a change, let’s rather focus on how the rest of us have performed. How able have we been? For in theory, we all agree, it’s not a one-man show.
Let’s look at our government for example. In our country’s most desperate hour, the then Tibetan government dealt with the situation by throwing the entire responsibility into the lap of a six-teen year old kid – in accordance with the wishes of the people, as we can read in the Dalai Lama’s autobiography “My Land and my people”.
And look at us today. After 25+ years of trying to engage the Chinese counterpart, our leader is at his wits’ end and consults us convening this recent gathering in Dharamsala. What other did we do than throwing the responsibility back once more?
There were some encouraging developments in the advent of the gathering with Tibetans all over the world voicing their opinions in all their breadth. Although the discussions during the meeting were held behind closed doors, I assume they were broader and more controversial than the outcome. But in the end, the old habit of avoiding responsibility took the better of us.
So when we look at the outcome of this “special meeting”, there was nothing special about it, let alone “historic”. The ultimate decision was again not to decide but to leave the decision to the Dalai Lama.
So then whenever someone criticises the Dalai Lama, we must also criticise ourselves. To some extent, he is the product of our collective inability to autonomously make decisions and explore new ways.
This meeting could have been both special and historic, if we had taken the bold and painful step that I believe is unavoidable: To allow the Dalai Lama to retire into the religious sphere, and set the stage for the separation of religion and politics.
We all know that Buddhism doesn’t claim to answer the world’s problems. And yet we are expecting the Dalai Lama to solve our political problems. We even elected another Lama, Samdong Tulku, to be our Prime Minister. But by having religious leaders doing political work, we have also been limiting ourselves in ways to struggle for the freedom of our country, which in essence is a worldly problem.
There were specific historical events which led to the emergence of a theocratic form of government in Tibet 500 years ago. But in the last 50 years, since external forces made us join the modern world, the geopolitical situation has become so complex, the demands to government so overwhelming that one guy alone at the top cannot deliver.
In our hearts, we know that worldly problems should be dealt with by worldly measures and by worldly people. As a consequence, let our Lamas return to their monasteries and resume their roles as spiritual teachers. This will clear the way for capable laypeople, men and women, to come forward and eventually, from their midst, a new leader will emerge who will unite and lead us in our struggle for freedom and justice.
In Dharamsala this month, we missed the opportunity to take charge. Now that would have made the meeting not only special but truly historic.
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