The Tibetan Dalai Lama arrived in Portland propounding the message of Peace and Democracy to high school students and adults alike (The Oregonian, May 15, 2001).
One student is quoted as saying, “he made peace sound so simple, and everybody else makes it sound so complicated.” And another added, “he’s fighting a righteous fight.” The civic leaders sighed, and adults applauded in agreement to the Dalai Lama’s compassionate message!
But help me to understand: is this the real Dalai Lama of Tibet? For the Encyclopedia Britannica reveals that the history of Tibetan Buddhism is one of armed power struggles. The monasteries representing different schools of Buddhism were virtual fortresses and the monks were warriors of the abbots.
On one major historical occasion, the monastery of the Dalai Lama solicited the aid of war-mongering Mongol Khans to come to Tibet and conquer the rival monasteries. The Dalai Lamas were given political (and spiritual) control by this Chinese Dynasty of the Kahn, which they have held tightly through the succession of 14 Lamas.
One history writer has described Tibet as a land “of the Lamas, by the Lamas, and for the Lamas.” That hardly sounds like a democracy “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
So are we, and the impressionable (gullible) high school students, to believe that the Dalai Lama has been converted from Buddhist power-grabbing to Democracy based on the Judeo-Christian ethic? Or is he merely wanting our sympathies and whining because he is no longer in power?
China, historically, gave the Lamas political control, and since 1951 they have taken it away. In the interest of peace and compassion, should the Dalai Lama not be rather grateful to the Chinese for allowing the Lamas to enjoy such imperial supremacy all these centuries?
And in the interest of liberal education should not the Vancouver and Portland School Districts be honest with their students and teach them both sides of the story before they cart them off to hear the god king?
Raymond Grand M.Ed.
University of Portland