Monday, July 6, 2015

Tibet's Road Ahead: the Dalai Lama's birthday

Monks, Buddhist nuns, and other Tibetans take part in a Tibetan Uprising Day protest march held in Dharamsala, India, on March 10, 2014 (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times).

  • Phurbu Tsering takes part in Tibetan Uprising Day, held at the Tsuglagkhang Temple of the Dalai Lama Complex in McLeod Ganj, India, on March 10, 2014. Tibetan Uprising Day, March 10, commemorates the 1959 Tibetan uprising against the presence of the People's Republic of China in Tibet. It also was the time when the Dalia Lama fled Tibet and went into exile. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama lives in McLeod Ganj, where this ceremony took place.
A view of the Himalayas from Dharamsala with Buddhist monastic in foreground (LAT)
Meet the man who got the Dalai Lama to Orange County for his 80th birthday
The 14th Dalai Lama turns 80 this year.
To hear the Dalai Lama laugh, his face lighting up in a beatific smile, it is easy to forget the cascade of disasters endured by the Tibetan Buddhist movement over the course of his life.
Yet the list is long, and growing longer, as an ascendant China consolidates control over Tibet.
On the cusp of the Dalai Lama's 80th birthday Monday, which he will mark during a three-day visit to Anaheim [Orange County, Southern California, Los Angeles adjacent], China's rising economic clout is slowly strangling the movement for Tibetan independence and, in the process, nudging the charismatic Tibetan spiritual leader off the world stage.

Under Chinese pressure, South Africa refused to grant him a visa last year to attend a gathering of Nobel laureates. Even Pope Francis [head of the corporate body of the Holy Roman Empire's church with its office/capital at the Vatican in the Holy See just outside of Rome], presumably worried about the fate of Chinese Catholics, declined to grant him an audience in December. 
Dalai Lama
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The 94,000-strong Tibetan community in India, which for years has operated a government in exile headquartered in this mountain resort, is shrinking as a result of tighter Chinese controls on borders and passports that keep the 6 million Tibetans living in China from leaving.
At the same time, after a decades-long exodus, a new phenomenon is occurring: Tibetans are quietly requesting Chinese documents to go home, implicitly acknowledging that China's rule over Tibet is here to stay.

Tibet: Central Asia to the west, Nepal and India to the south, China to the north and east
"Everybody knows that the economic situation is better over there than here,'' said a Tibetan engineer in his 30s who is preparing to return soon and asked not to be named for fear of reprisals. "We're paid very well back in Tibet and people feel it is better to go back home than to live here in a shack.''
And yet Tibetans at home are not happy. Since 2009, 140 Tibetans have immolated themselves to protest Chinese policies that limit their freedom of movement, speech and religion, especially their right to venerate the Dalai Lama.

Exiled from his homeland since 1959, the Dalai Lama views these setbacks and challenges with the air of a man who meditates five hours a day and takes a transcendental approach to adversity.
"I don't consider China powerful at all,'' he said during an interview at the sprawling complex of Buddhist temples here. "They may be powerful in their economics and weapons, but in terms of moral principles, they are very weak. The whole society is full of suspicion and full of distrust."
Looming over any discussion of Tibet is a simple actuarial fact: The Dalai Lama is in his final decades of life. At some point, Tibetan Buddhists will be faced with the loss of a man who has been revered as both a secular and spiritual leader and has given their Free Tibet movement a sense of moral authority throughout the world.

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