Saturday, December 26, 2015

Spiritual Instability on the Tibetan Plateau

Tibetan Lama arriving in Beijing
A few days ago, I mentioned the growing ‘popularity’ of the Tibetan Lamas and ‘Living Buddhas’ in China, but what about Tibet?
The ‘Living Buddhas’, under the wings of the Communist Party of China are also flourishing on the Plateau.
A question however comes to mind: are these ‘Rinpoches’, 'Tulkus', 'Living Budhdas' fake or genuine?
According to the White Paper, Tibet's Path of Development Is Driven by an Irresistible Historical Tide published in April: “Currently, Tibet has 1,787 sites for different religious activities, over 46,000 resident monks and nuns, and 358 Living Buddhas.”
I wrote about the Fake Lama, Communists Lamas, after the issue received a great deal of publicity from Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference's Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee.
In a CCTV interview, Zhu said that ‘[some] fake Living Buddhas are cheating people out of their savings or luring them into sexual activities using religious practice as an excuse.”
Jamphel Gyatso, a Tibetan scholar associated with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has now attacked Zhu Weiqun and Ye Xiaowen, former head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) on Weibo on December 18 about this.
I shall come back to it.
Perhaps more importantly, a senior Communist cadre of Tibetan origin, recently spoke of 'ethnic discrimination' in China. It is new!

Ethnic Discrimination
Jampa Phuntsok, who before being appointed as Vice-Chairman of the National People’s Congress in 2013, served as Governor of Tibet, openly stated that that the Chinese government “needed to make more efforts to tackle ethnic discrimination”.
This was reported by Xinhua and the Chinese media.
It is a rare comment by a senior official on what is a really tricky issue for Beijing.
The syndrome known as ‘Great Han Chauvinism’ has often been mentioned on this blog,
Three years ago, a debate was raging is China: should 'nationalities' continue to enjoy the autonomy offered to them by the Constitution of the People's Republic of China?
It is again Zhu Weiqun, the former Chinese interlocutor in the Beijing-Dharamsala talks who suggested that the 'nationalities' should be divested of their special privileges in order to achieve 'national cohesion'.
On the opposite, I had also quoted Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek about the possibility for the ‘nationalities’ to obtain ‘independence'.
In 1945, Chiang announced in the Chinese Parliament that his Government desired to allow the ‘frontier racial groups’ to attain independence …if capable of doing so. He affirmed:
I solemnly declare that if the Tibetans should at this time express a wish for self-government our Government would, in conformity with our sincere traditions, accord it a very high degree of autonomy. If in the future, they fulfill economic requirement of independence, the nation’s Government will, as in the case of Outer Mongolia, help them to attain this status.
In the early days of the Chinese Revolution, the Communists also believed in giving a large autonomy to the 'nationalities'
Blogger Tsering Woeser once wrote:
After the Red Army had firmly settled in Yan’an, Mao Zedong told the American journalist Edgar Snow: 'the Red Army’s only external debt is that it took away the food from the outer ethnic minorities and now owes them, one day, we must repay this debt.' But what does this 'external debt' mean? Does this not refer to owing a foreign country? It shows that at the time, Mao Zedong did not consider Tibet a part of China.
Bapa Phuntsok Wangyal, the 'first' Tibetan Communist in the 1940's has extensively worked (while in solitary confinement in the 1960s/70s) on the issue of nationalities, regional autonomy within the People's Republic of China. In 2004/2005, he wrote a series of letters to CCP's General Secretary Hu Jintao. Wangyal's first letter sent in 2004, is posted on my website.

The Great Han Chauvinism
All this demonstrates that the Great Han Chauvinism and the racial discrimination against the non-Han 'nationalities' and the Tibetans in particular has been prevalent in China and some Communist leaders have been conscious about it.
The issue of the passport mentioned in an article published by Radio Free Asia (RFA) is another example showing that in the People's Republic of China, there are rules for Chinese and other rules for Tibetans.
According to RFA: “Under the April 2012 procedures issued by the TAR authorities, prospective Tibetan travelers are subject to arduous — and what some call discriminatory — procedures in an apparent attempt by Beijing to clamp down on their travels abroad.”
It appears that the procedures, contained in an official TAR document, were introduced after Tibetans attended the Kalachakra in India in January 2012, which was presided over by the Dalai Lama.
The article mentions the discrimination: "This is a contradiction of the law as the Chinese government, under national regulations, require the authorities to issue passports within 15 days after an application is made and to notify unsuccessful applicants within six days with the reasons why their applications were denied", it is more than a contradiction, it is part of a number of calculated policy which often pushes young Tibetan to become radical and look for undesirable solutions.
There are many more examples.
Take the posts in the defence services. A quick look at the composition of the CCP's Central Committee shows that there are 67 members with an Army background who made it as full or alternate members of the 18th Central Committee. Interestingly, there is only one woman, an alternate, among the 67 military CC members. All the military CC members - 100% of 67 -- are Han Chinese.

The case of Jampa Phuntsok
Now, the fact that Jampa Phuntsok, the senior most Tibetan in the Communist hierarchy with Pema Thinley, mentioned this during a session of the NPC, is new.
Phuntsok is quoted by Xinhua as saying: "In recent years, there have been recurring instances where people with ethnic backgrounds, even Han people, were discriminated against or denied access to certain service trades."
He takes the example of transport hubs and security checks at border posts and hotels where the discrimination often happened.
Phuntsok continues: “Despite repeated efforts to implement China's ethnic policies, the problem had generated unwanted social impact and caused strong public reactions from ethnic regions.”
He even warns: "Such practices which run counter to the regional ethnic autonomy law must be resolutely rectified."
An article by Reuters comments: “Officially self-governing regions with large minority populations, are supposed to have large-scale autonomy, though in reality Beijing holds the reins.”
This is particularly true in Tibet but also in Xinjiang with the Uighur minority.

The Chinese Panchen Lama
In the meantime, The Global Times quotes the Chinese Panchen Lama, ‘a key religious leader of Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region’ who has taken the “pledge to become a Living Buddha protecting the country and benefiting the people.”
The Global Times believes that this could promote ethnic harmony.
But why does Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese selected Panchen Lama need to take this pledge now?
Was he not ‘protecting’ the country (China) before?
The Chinese propaganda says that Norbu questions: "Certain people in foreign countries have denounced my talk of a stable society and steady development, but will the local governments in those countries allow them to stay there for long if they keep making disturbances?"
Earlier, according to The Global Times, Norbu asserted: “Buddhism has no boundary, but the Living Buddha has his motherland, …religious groups cannot survive, let alone develop, if they don't abide by the country's law.”
This constant pledging and re-pledging shows that China is nervous.
The Plateau is spiritually instable.
Incidentally, why should China be the ‘Motherland’ of Buddha?
Was not Buddha the most illustrious ‘Son of India’?
To come back to Gyaltsen Norbu, according to, he further affirmed that ‘protecting the country and benefiting the people’ means “safeguarding society's stability and development is a priority in protecting any country, while people should be offered both material and spiritual benefits by stability and development.”
‘Stability and Development’ has been the leitmotivs of the Party vis-à-vis Tibet.
The young Lama has no choice but to follow the Party's line.
The Global Times recalls that the term ‘protect the country and benefit the people’ was first written on a banner sent to the Panchen Lama by former president Jiang Zemin in 1996
One Lian Xiangmin, said to be an expert with the China Tibetology Research Center, explained that Gyaltsen Norbu's words  “represent Tibetan people's heartfelt wishes for a better life and a stable society.”
Penpa Lhamo, deputy head of the Contemporary Studies Institute at the Tibet Academy of Social Sciences also expounded the Party line: “The Panchen Lama is not only a religious leader, but also an influential Chinese citizen. His patriotic remarks will profoundly affect many people.”
The mouthpiece of the Party reminds its readers that already in June, during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Norbu “had promised that he would learn from the example of his predecessor to unswervingly safeguard national unity and ethnic harmony, studying diligently and working vigorously to contribute to Tibetan Buddhism and socialist construction so as to live up to the expectations of the people.”
Reading all this, it is clear that the situation is not very stable on the plateau and Beijing does not even trust ‘lamas’ selected and groomed by the Party; but at the same time, discrimination continue to exist on the Roof of the World; it is what admitted Jampa Phuntsok, the senior Communist cadre.

Fake Rinpoches
As mentioned earlier in this post, Jamphel Gyatso attacked Zhu Weiqun and Ye Xiaowen on Weibo on December 18. It is interesting because Ye was involved in the fraudulent selection of the Panchen Lama.
In his Memoirs (Surviving the Dragon: A Tibetan Lama's Account of 40 Years under Chinese Rule), Arjia Rinpoche, a Tibetan lama also linked with the selection and now living in the US, recounted that after the enthronement of the Chinese Panchen Lama (Gyaltsen Norbu) in Tashilhunpo, he returned to Beijing by plane. He and Jamyang Shepa (another high Tibetan Lama) were called in a private cabin by Li Tieying, a Central minister and Ye Xiaowen: “Both of them looked especially pleased with themselves. Li Tieying placed the event in the context of great moments in China's history.”
Ye Xiaowen then revealed the shocking secret: “When we made our selection we left nothing to chance. In the silk pouches of the ivory pieces we put a bit of cotton at the bottom of one of them, so it would be a little higher than the others and the right candidate would be chosen.”
Now, Zhu Weiqun and Ye are openly accused of closing their eyes on corruption involving the naming of ‘Living Buddhas’.
I wonder why Jamphel Gyatso does not mention the Panchen Lama’s case?
Regarding Gyatso’s accusations,, a Christian website, comments: “Accusations of rampant corruption, national security violations and other serious disciplinary offenses by senior party officials are rarely written or published in public forums in China unless they are already being pursued by authorities.”
Jamphel Gyatso had written: "Director Ye, how much money did you dredge up yourself?"
In a separate post, Gyatso also accused Zhu of corruption.
He questioned Zhu’ statement on the ‘Living Buddhas’; particularly the fact that they are used to fund separatist activity in Tibet.
According to “The title of a ‘Living Buddha’ reportedly sells for more than 200,000 yuan (US$ 30,800) and many have been accused of selling out after appearing in television advertisements and online stores.”
Zhang Weiming, a researcher at the Sichuan Tibetan Buddhism Culture Research Center says: “There may be as many as 10,000 people calling themselves ‘Living Buddhas’ across China, Zhang estimated, even though the state has only recognized 1,700 [the White Paper says 358], suggesting 83 percent may be fraudulent.”
Zhang was quoted in The Global Times: “The phony tulkus are pervasive, which threatens the authority of the reincarnation system.”
The problem is that the disease touches not only the minor Lamas, but the senior ‘Living Buddhas’ too.
For a regime dreaming of 'stability', the issue of Party-appointed Lamas and ethnic discrimination are two serious weakening factors. 

No comments: