Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dalai Lama and the theocratic state of Tibet

Dalai Lama, who is widely accepted as the great spiritual leader is never seen for his interest in maintaining the theocratic Tibet. The life of every Tibetan is centered around the monasteries. Children complete their education in the monastery. The monks hold important posts in the Government as is evident from the current cabinet of the Government in Exile, led by PM 5th Samdhong Rinpoche.

Hitherto, the history of Tibet has been shaped by the various Buddhist monastic establishments – Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug struggling with each other to control the political Tibet.

Persecution of Bon, pre-Buddhist religion
Buddhism was born in Tibet in the seventh century through the wedlocks of the then Tibetan King, Srong-brtsan-sgam-po. The king had married Chinese and Nepali royalty, both were devout Buddhists.

Before the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet, Bon clergy predominated the Tibetan pantheon. Bon was more animistic and mystic than Buddhism.

Tibetan Emperor Khri-srong-ide-brtsan became an ardent Buddhist, following his mother, a Chinese princess and a strict Buddhist. He persecuted Bon practitioners, who were not willing to take to Buddhism. The state-sponsored culling of Bon practitioners led to its decline.

It became the official religion under the reign of Khri-srong-ide-brtsan, who was a votary of the Nimgya tradition.

This was followed by civil war, when old aristocratic families fought each other for pre-eminent control of the region. Just like the vacuum prevailing over the royal throne, the civil war gave other traditions of Buddhism the scope for establishing their supremacy without fearing persecution at the hands of royalty, followers of the Nimgya tradition.

Finally, the civil war ceased and it was the Gelugpa tradition that gained political control of Tibet in 1642 by defeating the rival Sakyapa tradition that prevailed in the Tsang province. Gushri Khan helped the 5th Dalai Lama in gaining control by defeating the prince of Tsang, supporter of Sakyapa.

Gelugpa’s objection to reforms
Till today, Tibet has no national army. The 13th Dalai Lama was opposed by the Gelugpa establishment when he thought of putting an army into place. The establishment felt that it would lose its monopoly on force, represented by the hordes of monks at its beck and call.

In 1924, anxious of his own power, the 13th Dalai Lama abandoned the reformist project – the army and the English school at Gyantse.

Suppression of Shudgen practioners and attempts at negating other beliefs
The present Dalai Lama has banned the practice of Shudgen, the Dharma protector of the Geluk tradition, citing him as an evil spirit. However, followers of Dorje Shudgne argue that ostracization of the Shudgen practitioners is purely a political decision. Their defiance of the Dalai Lama’s order to merge with other traditions has brought about their own persecution. They reckon that the Dalai Lama wants to merge all traditions under him and thus strengthen his own office.

Related article: Is the illegal ban on Dorje Shugden politically motivated?


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