Thursday, June 28, 2012

Spiritual hubs as a formula for peace

My article Spiritual hubs as a formula for peace appeared today in the DNA

News that China is planning a tourist hub, just north of the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh, has flashed in the Indian media.
According to an Indian national newspaper: “China is building a ‘golden’ tourist complex in Nyingchi prefecture in Tibet, close to the disputed areas on the India-China border”.
In fact, the ‘hub’ already exists with even a 5-star hotel, but the announcement had perhaps to do with the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit in Brazil.
Just a look at GoogleEarth, will show you the amazing developments in the Nyingchi area; regrettably, it is not merely the base camp for tourists to visit the Yarlung Tsangpo gorges, it is also Chendu Military Region’s most strategic ‘military hub’.
Another news item should have attracted the Indian media’s attention more: the encounter in London between the two Buddhist Nobel Peace Prize laureates, the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the Burmese opposition.
Apart from the fact that both these exceptional beings have greatly suffered from totalitarian regimes, each in its own way, the two world icons have something else in common, their love for a ‘spiritual hub’, just south of the McMahon Line.
Let us recall a few important moments in Suu Kyi’s life.
In 1964, she went to Oxford where she studied for three years to earn a BA in philosophy, politics and economics. Later she got her first work experience as an assistant secretary in the United Nations Secretariat.
In 1972, her life took another turn when she met a young and brilliant British scholar, Dr. Michael Aris, whose expertise was the Tibetan Buddhism. Michael’s father was a Tibetan scholar too, so was Michael’s twin brother, Antony.
Soon after Suu Kyi and Michael married in London, they moved to Bhutan, where he worked on Pemalingpa, the famous 15th century yogi and siddha. In the early 1970’s, Aris added another topic to his study: the ‘lives’ of Tsangyang Gyatso (the Precious Ocean of Pure Melody), the Sixth Dalai Lama, born in 1643 in Monyul (today’s Tawang district of Arunachal).
Though Tsangyang Gyatso’s official biography said that he passed away in 1706, some texts said that he survived and roamed around Mongolia and the Gobi desert and had the most extraordinary adventures.
Micheal Aris researched the ‘secret’ life of the Dalai Lama.
Already Tsangyang Gyatso’s ‘first’ life was quite remarkable. His official biography said: “Though he continued to live in the Potala Palace, he roamed around Lhasa and other outlying villages, spending his days with his friends in the park behind the Potala Palace and nights in taverns in Lhasa and Shol (an area below the Potala) drinking chang (barley beer) and singing songs. He was known to be a great poet and writer. In 1706, he was invited to China and died on the way.”
Michael Aris studied both lives of the Dalai Lama. Speaking Tibetan perfectly, Michael (accompanied by his wife) traveled to Urgyeling, at the outskirts of Tawang where the Dalai Lama took birth and to Berkhar, the remote hamlet, south of Tawang where Tsangyang Gyatso’s mother lived. She herself was a descendant of Pemalingpa. The visit of the couple is still remembered in the area. Ironically (or ‘karmically’) in March 1959, Tenzin Gyatso, the present Dalai Lama entered India through the same area.
These past years must have made the Burmese leader closer to the Dalai Lama.
Did they discuss the ‘secret life of Tsangyang Gyatso when the two met in London? Perhaps!
After traveling extensively through the Himalayas and writing on India’s age-old traditions of peace and tolerance, the couple returned to London in early 1988. And then she jumped into politics!
Aung San Suu Kyi surely remembered this poem of Tsangyang Gyaltso (and thought of Michael), when she met the Dalai Lama in London.
The cuckoo bird from the land of Mon (Tawang) brings rain,
It descends from the sky
It brings blessings to the earth.
Life grows and blossoms.
When the cuckoo bird comes from Moon
My lover and I join as one
In body, heart and mind.
It made me think: why can’t the Chinese leadership opt for the Burmese model and use the Dalai Lama as an ally and an ambassador, instead of making him an enemy or a demon?
One can dream of the sea of changes this would bring in China and Tibet (and consequently in India).
First and foremost, from a ‘bully boy’, China would become a ‘normal’ State, respectable and even respected. This would completely change the image of China and ‘image’ has always been important in the Chinese psyche. The Burmese model should inspire them.
But before this, Beijing should stop claiming Tawang as theirs and concentrate on their hubs.
The author is a French-born journalist and writer
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