NOT THE BUDDHA’S MIDDLE WAY

 

You might not agree with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s decision to give up the fundamental national goal of Tibetan independence, but you have to admit that whoever was put in charge of branding and marketing this policy did a bang-up job.

Just the name “Middle Way” confers on this “approach” a deeply spiritual aura. It makes its proponents seem moderate, sensible and tolerant, and those opposing it extreme and radical. All this happens reflexively, as a matter of course, sometimes without even the need for any explanation, since Tibetans, and indeed, almost all those who have been raised Buddhist, are conditioned to accept the Middle Way as infallible and perfect. Naming the policy of surrendering Tibetan sovereignty to Communist China the “Middle Way” was a stroke of genius. It was also a deeply dishonest, perhaps even a sacrilegious act.

When the Buddha spoke of the Middle Way he was describing not his goal of achieving Enlightenment but the method he had worked out and ultimately used to achieve that goal. He explained it in the very first teaching he gave after his Enlightenment. In this teaching “Setting in Motion the Wheel of Dharma” Buddha clearly described the Middle Way as a mid- point between extremities; between the extreme of self-mortification (which he had tried for six years) and the other extreme of sensual indulgence (which had been his lifestyle as a prince).

Though His method or “Way” had changed or evolved over time, we should note that the Buddha never compromised on his goal of achieving Enlightenment. That goal was immutable. It could never be changed. The Middle Way was only a method for attaining it. As mentioned before, the Buddha did try other means before deciding on the Middle Way. But once He had decided His commitment was total. Siddharta fixed his resolve on the goal with an unshakable resolution. A beautiful and dramatic verse is attributed to him by some early compilers of the sutras. “Let blood dry up, let flesh wither away, but I shall not stir from this spot till Enlightenment be attained.”

Other great Buddhist figures – Milarepa immediately comes to mind – have demonstrated such uncompromising and single-minded resolve in the pursuit of their spiritual goals. The Dalai Lama was as single-minded about the goal of Tibetan independence when he first arrived in India in 1959. I have offered relevant quotations from His Holiness in previous writings, but in all his early 10th March statements He is very clear that Tibetans should never compromise on the goal of freedom and independence, no matter how long it took and whatever the cost. He was also convinced that we would succeed. “Our way may be a long and hard one…” He said “…but I believe that truth and justice will ultimately prevail.” The only condition that His Holiness set himself and us was that the struggle had to be non-violent.

In 1960 His Holiness wrote the “The Prayer to the Word of Truth” (dentsig monlam) which is recited daily in Tibetan schools and in the prayers of most Tibetans. Tibetans also sing it at every 10th March rally, and in other demonstrations and marches as well. Lonely prisoners in cramped dark prison cells in Tibet may have sung or recited this prayer for strength and solace. They would certainly have been reassured by these two lines:

May the object of my most heartfelt yearning —
COMPLETE FREEDOM FOR ALL TIBET be soon realized.*

(Ring ne nying du nag pey dod pey don
Yong dzog bho jong rang wang tsang may pel
)

The Dalai Lama was at the time not only inspired by Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, but also, it appears, by the Mahatma’s advice on why we should never compromise on our fundamental beliefs. “All compromise is based on give and take” Gandhi said, “but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.”

Mādhyamaka, the philosophical system systemitized by Arya Nagarjuna, is also called the Middle Way. It is a rejection of two extreme views, and therefore represents the “middle way” between eternalism—the view that something has an objective existence (i.e., its existence does not depend on external objects)—and nihilism, or a denial of the existence of something that actually exists.

Whether we support or oppose the present policy of giving up Tibetan sovereignty to Communist China, we all have to accept, at least if we are not irredeemably dishonest or deluded, that it doesn’t have anything to do with Buddha’s Middle Way or Nagarjuna’s philosophy.

But does this policy have a connection, no matter how tenuous, to any other traditional Buddhist idea or practice? The only thing that comes to mind is the popular avadana story of the compassionate prince who gives away everything: his kingdom, his queen his children, thereby displaying the virtue of perfect charity. There are quite a few versions of the story of Prince Visvantara (Skt) or Vessantara (Pali), which is popular in most Buddhist countries, especially South East Asia where it is performed theatrically for the public, as it was done in old Tibet.

In the Tibetan version of the story Prince Drimekundan is the son of the king of Betha, a very wealthy and powerful king. The king possesses a magical wish granting jewel, which is the source of the kingdom’s fabulous wealth and power. From his earliest years the young Prince Drimekundan had given away his possession to the poor, so much so that his compassion was a household word. One day a wicked Brahmin, acting secretly for the king of another kingdom who hated and envied Betha, asks Drimekundan to give him the magic jewel. Drimekundan gives it to him, and of course the kingdom of Betha suffers all sorts of disasters and calamities.

When his father, the old king finds out, Drimekundan is banished into the wilderness with his wife and two children. During the course of the journey he gives away his elephants, then his horses and then his chariot to other Brahmins who ask him for charity. He even gives away his two children and also his wife, the queen, to various beggars who accost him on the way. Finally he meets a blind man who asks him for his eyes which he immediately plucks out and bestows on him. Then after many other trials the Supreme God Indra (literally the deus ex machina in this drama) resolves everything in the most miraculous way. Drimekundan gets back his eyes, his children, his wife and also his kingdom. He even gets the magic jewel back from the wicked king who, naturally, begs for forgiveness.

We never put on this play at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) when I was director. In Tibet it was performed by the monks of the Muru monastery and not by the popular Ache Lhamo companies. I was told that it was not a favorite of opera fans as the dialogue verses were chanted in a monotonous recitative and not sung in the musically dramatic namthar style. A year or so after I was removed from TIPA, the Private Office off His Holiness informed TIPA that it should perform the story of Prince Drimekundan. The private Office also arranged for an old monk of Muru monastery to develop the script for the play and also direct the performance. Finally, a special performance was arranged for His Holiness, kashag ministers, officials and members of the Tibetan parliament.

Of course the Drimekundan story must be regarded as a fable or allegory. All avadana and jataka stories are, in a sense, poetic and dramatic metaphors used to illustrate Buddha’s teachings. Many of the stories predate Buddhism and the period and setting of the Drimekundan legend is clearly pre-Buddhist and Vedic. We see this not only in the belief system of the characters and the appearance of the Supreme God Indra, but also in the extreme acts of charity, self-mortification and renunciation, which are conspicuous features of certain Hindu religious practices. In fact a similar legend, Raja Harishchandra, recounted in the Ramayana and Mahabharata, is very popular in the Hindu world. The first full-length feature film (silent) ever made in India was Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchardra (1913).

The historical Buddha though renouncing power, wealth and family-life to seek Enlightenment, did not give away his kingdom to its enemies. Nor did he give away his queen and child to passing beggars, nor his eyes to the blind in the hope of divine intercession and salvation. In point of fact Buddha absolutely rejected the idea of divine salvation. But what I think is crucial for all Tibetans to grasp, even appreciate, is that the Buddha never claimed that his teachings could provide solutions to political and national problems.

The Drimekundan story may or may not have inspired or influenced the formulation of the TGIE policy of giving away Tibetan sovereignty to Communist China. But the underlying assumption in the story that extreme acts of piety and renunciation, no matter how absurd or self-destructive, will somehow be divinely rewarded and everything miraculously set right in the end, is too uncomfortably close to the imbecilic claims being made right now as to how the “Middle Way” will not only resolve the Tibet crisis, but China’s spiritual problems as well.

————————————————————————————–
* A few years ago some members of the Tibetan community in Switzerland tried to get these two lines of the “Prayer For the Word of Truth” changed to fit with current “Middle Way” politics. They approached a Tibetan scholar to make the necessary changes but the scholar was horrified by the request and sent them away.

Comments

  1. tenchoyin | January 31st, 2011 | 1:45 pm

    Good one Jamyang la, keep up the good work!

  2. Tenpa Dhargyal Gashi | January 31st, 2011 | 2:15 pm

    “All compromise is based on give and take” Gandhi said, “but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.”

  3. Sidney Burris | January 31st, 2011 | 3:06 pm

    I was watching the Republican Presidential primary debates several years ago when Governor Mike Huckabee was asked, in relation to some controversial political issue that I’ve now forgotten, “What would Jesus do?” His response was quick and accurate: “Jesus would not get involved in electoral politics.”

    I’m always reminded of that response when I see the Middle Way discussed in this particular context. Besides, what is the Middle Way for some, is far to one side to others. If you ask me, Buddha’s Middle Way, to sit down under a tree until it all Becomes Clear, and then pursue the path of an enlightened, thoroughly renounced, and peripatetic teacher for 4 decades is slightly to one side of what I would locate as the middle.

  4. Atsong | January 31st, 2011 | 3:19 pm

    The head of any state should and must always be secular as history has proven. Clearly the current regime is inefficient and has been for the past 300 or so years. Evidently, the so called “Tibetan government exists for the protection of the dharma” is not working. I think we are all fooling ourselves to eternity. Time we stopped hiding behind Buddhism among other things.

  5. Christophe | January 31st, 2011 | 4:17 pm

    This linguistic fraud had already struck me long ago and it is remarkable that no one raised this issue before. Maybe it was just too embarrassing…?

    Considering that in the Tibetan political context the middle way has nothing to do with the method but with the goal, a more appropriate expression would have been the “Middle End Approach” or simply the “Dead End Approach”. Of course, this wouldn’t have sold so well.

    In any case, it is painful to see how His Holiness compromised on his goal of achieving freedom for his people while naming his policy from such a bright philosophical concept. Allow me to quote these two paragraphs from his 10th March statements in order to illustrate my point:

    “Consequently we the Tibetans in the free world, keeping our stand in conformity with the thinking of the masses of Tibet will never stop our movement for the independence of Tibet.” (March 10, 1975)

    “Any failure in our duties would be a mockery to the memory of those who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of Tibet, while undergoing tremendous hardship, but who have remained steadfast to the ideals for which we have left our country.” (March 10, 1980)

    Would it be that Mara, the Lord of Death who failed to snare and delude the Buddha from his search for enlightenment, is back under the form of wicked and unscrupulous political advisers?

  6. Sangay | January 31st, 2011 | 5:27 pm

    “Just the name “Middle Way” confers on this “approach” a deeply spiritual aura. It makes its proponents seem moderate, sensible and tolerant, and those opposing it extreme and radical”…and that’s what it is. You say Rangzen and you immediately become against His Holiness, and who gives you this anti-HHDL label is kashag, Chitue and all the tsokpas and kyidugs in our exile wrld.

  7. GELEG | January 31st, 2011 | 5:53 pm

    In Mahayana & Vajrayana there is also ‘skillful’ compassion …………….

  8. Gyakhab Rangzen | January 31st, 2011 | 8:33 pm

    it may not be exageration to say “without your n lhasang’s consistent substantial guiding effort, exile rangzen voice might have been dead long ago”. may you two live to see the days of 113 in age!

  9. Average Tenzin | January 31st, 2011 | 9:36 pm

    Forgive me for being simple, but I think the ‘middle way’ was chosen as a term to describe a state of affairs for greater Tibet that would give it a large degree of autonomy and independence in various areas important to the survival and flourishing of Tibetan culture, while still remaining a part of China ; a sort of middle ground between full independence and being just another Chinese province, which it essentially is today even though a part of Tibet is labeled ‘autonomous’.
    I don’t have much faith in the ‘middle way’ proposal leading to a near term solution because Beijing is on a dollar high and feeling quite bullet proof these days, but when the day comes for a 4% annual growth in China’s economy and Beijing’s immunizations against the Egypt flu start to fail, the CCP may see the ‘middle way’ in a whole new light. Things change. And that’s another Buddhist link to the ‘Middle Way’ strategy.

  10. Choni Tsultrim Gyatso | January 31st, 2011 | 10:01 pm

    I am so glad JN wrote pointed out middle way approach and trying to explain what middle way really is about.

    The reason I am saying this because so many people in our communities around the world have been hearing and reading thousand of times of ” middle way” on speeches, radios, new papers and government documents and private sites but most of people haven’t had clue yet and never pay any attention what is middle way and where this middle way came from or how it took such important position(solution)in our current policy face China. More specifically uses this term given up our ultimate goal independence for China.

    Middle way” may be misunderstood as equivocal. In fact Buddhism is not as such. “Middle” means neutral, upright, and centered. It means to investigate and penetrate the core of life and all things with an upright, unbiased attitude. In order to solve a problem, we should position ourselves on neutral, upright and unbiased ground. We investigate the problem from various angles, analyze the findings, understand the truth thoroughly, and find a reasonable conclusion.
    The Middle way in Buddhism does not mean having a biased view or superficial understanding only. The “Middle way” represents a distinct theory and way of Buddhist practice that is not common to other religions. Buddhism is a religion with high moral values. It lays great emphasis on human thought and action in dealing with the natural environment, society or individual problems. It is concerned with the relationship between thoughts and behavior, and the relationship between behavior and its consequences.
    By observing the activities of mankind in real life, the Buddha mastered the principles of human behavior. He then taught the two characteristics of the Middle Path: The Middle Path of Dependent Origination and the Noble Eightfold Path. The Law of Dependent Origination explains the process of human activity. The Noble Eightfold Path shows the way of practice that enables one to uplift oneself.

    I think we got some idea what middle way use in Buddhism but the question is that can we apply same method on China-Tibet issue. If not then what is other option we have out there to hold on independence without consider no matter what government and H.H is trying to put up in our plate.

    Middle way to me is not totally give up everything and sit back but it is an option for us to choose from. However middle way approach solution with China- Tibet issue I think is nothing really much to do with terminology used in Buddhism rather it is Emergency and critical circumstance to protect people and save culture and including stop environmental distractions by the Chinese. Nevertheless, the finally solution or decision make is still on our hands as H.H Dalai Lama frequently mentioned in his speeches.

  11. Confused | February 1st, 2011 | 1:03 am

    Dear Jamyang la,

    Could you please blog about what concrete steps
    we can take towards Rangzen. You have de-constructed the Middle Way approach many times, without clearly stating your points on what we can do towards complete indepence. It would be ideal to have independence, I am fully with you on that, but how? Please tell a young Tibetan how do we do that, and I say this with all due respect!

    Regards,

    Tenzin from Canada

  12. Sonam | February 1st, 2011 | 4:40 am

    Dear Jamyang norbu la,
    Bas to karo bahud ho gaya ( hindi dialouge ) We had have enough of yours sitting- room political analysis, intellectual frustations and lamenting oriented strategic about yours core belief tibetan Indipendence. I know you are true at heart when you talk about tibetan RANGZEN but the “Way” you are carrying out yours Rangzen Cause is neither credibile nor beneficial. You will not convince tibetan by sputting this denegrating piece about middle way policy. What so ever, H H Dalai lama has proved himself and has walked his talk far more than any tibetan. It is so simplistic and out of context regarding yours assumption ( you haven’t admit but the piece seems to suggest) that HH Dalai lama has derived or atleast inspired by bhuddhist middle way path regarding middle way policy about tibetan right cause. The bhuddist philosophy or religion or way of life is a 360° dimentional vision about our existence. It is not an arid monodimentional philosophical treatment of life neither an intellectual quest to subdue our nevrotic. HH Dalai lama can be considered one of the best holder of this tradition. He has done and is doing his best to resolve the interest of all six million tibetan and possibly every sentient beings. Ah I guess this last word “sentient being” is not easy to digest for your taste. For HH Dalai lama it is a core beleive to have compassione for whole sentient being so naturally one billion chinese are inclusive in infinite sentient being. There is a risk of passing for an idiot for worst and an idle utopist at the best. Not only these value are real to him but he is implementing at its maximum potential. I don’t need to remind you how he is considered a source of solace for millions in this tormented world.
    Coming back to the track, I know you might be asking okay it is good to have compassione for others but who is going to take care about tibetans? The very fact that the “TIBETAN CAUSE” has not vanished from the face of earth is also a merit of HH the Dalai Lama besides the courage of tibetans in Tibet. Actually HH Dalai Lama is a source of Hope for them.
    Sometimes it is so comforting in discussing , plotting a strategic plan about tibetan indipendence and so on in your cosy appartment . Then you may also decide to go out to expound yours passione of rangzen to few listeners here and there in conferences or may partecipate even in slogans infront of Chinese embassy. Then you come back to your appartment and realised that nothing has changed for Tibet. Sometimes we need to have a holistic view. Time has change since Mahtma Ghandhi and the reality is also different in these days Yours article seems a psyco analytic therapeutic session of “Rangzenholic”. Sorry I don’t mean to be negative about this . What I want to suggest is every one of us should walk our talk then perhaps we will be more credibile. There is an infinte space between saying and practically doing it.

  13. Nawang Gurung | February 1st, 2011 | 10:31 am

    I think right now is the great time and opportunity for us to reposition ourselves with Chinese. If we continue to elect people from same school of thought or different person from the same pool of people, outcome will be NO different. We need a leader who can get Chinese interested and engage in talking to us and use the international community support differently while we still have it. Our window of opportunity is running thin. So, put our personal likes and dislikes aside, pick a fresh “engaging” candidate that will represent our goal better. We missed the opportunity in 1980’s when Deng Xioping administration was budging. That is being said, I don’t know the details of how that channel got derailed. Maybe Jamyang La can kindly elaborate on this little. This is serious! We can’t afford “turtle movement”. Don’t worry about hurting feelings! Just prioritize the importance first!

  14. Tenzin Nyinjey | February 1st, 2011 | 2:44 pm

    It is true, Jamyang Norbu-la. The ‘propaganda’ about the Middle-way has been a stroke of genius.

    Nowadays, thinking about regaining Tibetan independence, even through strictly non-violent means, appears as something very radical, dangerous – something that needs to be shunned, as if it is something ‘illegitimate.’

    And it’s a great tragedy when it comes to our struggle!

  15. GELEG | February 1st, 2011 | 4:37 pm

    Posting #14 – says it all.
    For those questioning the alternative to middle way:
    Its always been there – All the grass roots mobilization efforts mainly by SFT, Rangzen alliance etc .
    I believe these activists are struggling for an INDEPENDENT Tibet.

    Regarding TGIE; I am quoting an excerpt form Jamyang Norbu’s previous essay:

    “There was a real possibility that the Tibetan leadership could have stuck to its fundamental national goal, and though encountering temporary setbacks and some cold-shoulders in Western capitals for a time, have hung on to a significant (and more genuine) segment of its support base, and eventually, as China dropped its “soft power” mask (as it is beginning to do right now) rebuilt its international support in a more real and meaningful way”.

  16. Kalsang | February 1st, 2011 | 5:33 pm

    The Buddhist “Middle Way” and the current Tibetan political “middle way” are two terms that carry the same name but are opposite in their essence. Is this outward sameness coincidental? Perhaps it, too, serves as an allegory, which we can interpret in that ignorance and superstition pervade the Tibetan public at ALL levels, and that once positioned in a place of immense national responsibility, it is not a guarantee that one can make informed and beneficial decisions. The clue to changing the course and adopting a sound “Way” is to have Tibetan mentality exorcised of demons and deities that constantly threaten to destroy if one does not comply with “higher” decisions. Education through question and answer and an openness from authorities to receive constructive questioning might be a way that rings more democratically.

    And another thing: it is time to stop acting like uncivilized fools and slandering each other just because we don’t like what we hear. Tibetan Freedom is not a changkhang gossip!

    Excellent work, Jamyang Norbu la, as always you are awake… I wish others were, too.

  17. Forward Moving | February 2nd, 2011 | 2:23 am

    Jamyang Norbu la,

    You have wrongly quoted His Holiness. In Dentsig Monlam, He has written Rangwang as you quoted, not Rangzen. I hope you know the difference between Rangwang and Rangzen. There is a huge difference between Freedom and Independence.

    I have not seen or heard you doing anything for independence. Also, you do not get involved with Tibetan community at all. We don’t understand you well.

    We would be happy to see you doing something for our cause first, be it for independence, and then read your writings next.

    You have written so much on independence, but I guess not even once on the strategy to gain it. We would appreciate reading your thorough writings on the later. Even parrot can say “we need independence”. Am I right?

  18. Christophe | February 2nd, 2011 | 4:23 am

    Forward Moving,

    Where did Jamyang Norbu quoted “independence” or “rangzen” in His Holiness’ Dentsig…? Did you read proprely his essay?

  19. Kalsang | February 2nd, 2011 | 5:12 am

    Dear Forward Moving,

    I don’t know how good your Tibetan is, but rangwang and rangdzen are SYNONYMS! And if not, does not freedom guarantee independence? And isn’t independence freedom? No, you are off the mark by a long shot! They are related, innately.

    Perhaps it was something personal you wanted to “catch” Jamyang Norbu la with??? That in English, is termed, below the belt.

    Stop pointing fingers, and examine yourself, what YOU are doing for “the cause”. Isn’t that the departure point of every Buddhist – yourself?!

  20. Jamyang Norbu | February 2nd, 2011 | 9:56 am

    Forward Moving la,
    I would like to ask you this question. When his Holiness wrote:
    COMPLETE FREEDOM FOR ALL TIBETANS BE REALIZED
    Yong dzog bho jong rang wang tsang may pel

    Do you think he meant INDEPENDENCE or being a part of Communist China – autonomous or not?

  21. Kalsang Phuntsok | February 2nd, 2011 | 12:06 pm

    Jamyang La, Thank you for another excellent piece. Your insights are invauable and a must-know for every thinking Tibetan.

    For once I hope the nutheads stop this business of interpreting what HHDL has said or not said. A lot of our conversation is consumed by what HHDL meant by this and what HHDL meant by that. For tsampa’s sake people, think on your own and come out with your best ideas about what is good for the future of Tibet and Tibetans. I believe that’s what HHDL actually wants of us. Stop waiting for the next instruction, be the owner of your own brain, unless you don’t have one.

  22. Tenzin Nyinjey | February 2nd, 2011 | 1:02 pm

    Forward Moving-la,

    I really want to read your writings. Can you give me the link?

    yong dzog bod jong rangwang in dentsig monlam means complete freedom and independence to the whole of Tibet. But it was written decades back.

    This dichotomy between rangwang and rangzen appeared later, with the adoption of Middle-Way policy with its spiritual boundary-less, nation-less, internationalist pretentions.

    And many NGOs, even SFT is playing this card, this dichotomy between the terms rangwang and rangzen: They call it Students for Free Tibet, rather than Students for an Independent Tibet, as rightly put it in the Tibetan: Bod Rangzen Lobdrug Tsogpa!

    Now a days, the word INDEPENDENCE, is the principle, the key. As long as you don’t use it, even couched it in Freedom, you are compromising on the principle.

    That’s why SFT free-Tibet t-shirts, though ‘attractive,’ never inspires me to wear it.

  23. Tenzin Nyinjey | February 2nd, 2011 | 1:24 pm

    Kelsang la,

    Freedom and Independence indeed are same. But with the manipulation of the word ‘freedom/rangwang’ in our struggle by those who are not able to keep the dream of independence/rangzen alive, its critical that we focus on the word independence/rangzen in our literature: independence for Tibet, Tibetan independence, to create an independent Tibetan state, with fixed boundaries, citizenship, totally sovereign like other countries, like India, America, China.

    The narrative in the international community has become Free-Tibet movement. Our next goal should be to change it to Tibetan independence movement. And it should obviously begin among us Tibetans first – individually, then among the NGOs, and finally the TGIE.

    Jamyang Norbu and Lhasang Tsering have stuck to this dream throughout their lives. We slipped up once in a while – after all the influence of His Holiness, and the spin doctors manipulating his ideas, were too strong for us who were all born and brought up in a Buddhist environment.

    Middle-way is indeed a stroke of genius. But it is not working.

  24. Kalsang | February 2nd, 2011 | 2:51 pm

    Tenzin Nyinjey la,

    I don’t know about you but when I read the sentence, “Naming the policy of surrendering Tibetan sovereignty to Communist China the “Middle Way” was a stroke of genius.”, I get the strong impression that it is meant ironically.

    And words get misused all the time, but that doesn’t mean we need to accept it. It is never too late to set the record of semantics straight and do a bit of educating 😉

    Also, the Middle Way, as illustrated above, is not a concept that can be applied to the ends of the Tibetan struggle. Tibet cannot be simultaneously free and not free, or a compromise in between. A COUNTRY cannot exist as a half. It would be like committing the irreversible act of suicide and later defying natural forces and try to undo it. Nay, when it comes to freedom, life, human rights, independence – definitive facts – there is only YES or NO, not both or neither.

    Tashi delek

  25. Tenzin Nyinjey | February 2nd, 2011 | 4:08 pm

    Kelsang-la,

    The manipulation of Middle-Way by the spin doctors is a stroke of ‘propaganda’ genius in that it has powerfully gripped the imagination of the majority of Tibetans in exile. They deserve some credit for their ingenuity and skill.

    However, sovereignty cannot be compromised – that’s the key. It’s the lifeblood of the nation.

    The main problem which the spin doctors couldn’t grasp is that their Middle-Way was constructed on the flawed assumption that the Chinese can be somehow persuaded to grant us the autonomy.

    Therefore, I believe its high time for Tibetans to be a little suspicious, and the Chinese to be hopeful.

    Things would surely then be a lot better between the two ancient neighboring peoples.

  26. GELEG | February 2nd, 2011 | 7:20 pm

    Dear Forward Moving:

    I am quoting your question to Jamyang Norbu:

    “I have not seen or heard you doing anything for independence. Also, you do not get involved with Tibetan community at all. We don’t understand you well.”

    Promotion of Tibetan Culture and grass roots Activism aside; have you ever put your LIFE on the LINE for the CAUSE of your COUNTRY?

  27. Christophe | February 2nd, 2011 | 8:47 pm

    For those who have any doubts about the past “Rangzen Approach” of His Holiness, below are a few more quotes from his 10th March Statements:

    “I appeal to the sponsors and to the U.N. Assembly to get the Chinese to vacate their aggression and to help restore the independence of Tibet. Any half measures will be of little avail.” (March 10, 1961)

    “It is only fitting that we in the free countries shoulder this responsibility as our duty. We, therefore, solemnly rededicate this day and earnestly renew our pledge for the cause of Tibet’s independence.” (March 10, 1970)

    “Our struggle for the independence of Tibet is compatible with the hopes and aspirations of 6,000,000 Tibetans. It is a fulfillment of our rights and duties, and a just cause. Therefore, in order to realize this goal in its entirety, every Tibetan must endeavor to work in unity, with resolve, courage and determination.” (March 10, 1977)

    (translation: Private Office)

  28. AN OBSERVER | February 2nd, 2011 | 10:13 pm

    Dear Tsampa Eaters,

    I think you need to be reminded of the reality here, it’s probably too late … the Middle Way offer has been made. The fundamental right of the Tibetans to independence has been compromised forever. The TGIE / CTA has locked the Tibetan people into a position that they probably cannot extract themselves from. The PRC, as it patiently works to sinocize Tibet, will always fall back to the TGIE / CTA’s kindly proffered compromise position even if the chance of independence became a reality. It’s been 20+ years now, how long does sinocization take again?

    Those Tibetans taking pot shots at JN would appear to be ignorant of his pedigree: his joining the resistance forces in Mustang, his long and detailed writings and publications on independence and his campaigns to put pressure on China. JN’s pen is one of the few powerful mediums for thought leadership and change in the exile community.

    It’s clear, the division amongst exile Tibetans is increasing. When other nations are threatened, they often form governments of national unity – to struggle without internal politics until the goal of national survival is acheived. What hope would exile Tibetans have, right now, of forming an exile government of national unity and suspending internal politics?

    Look at the divisions across the exile community, you are divided and sliced up like a very small pizza (make that a shaphaleb) at a big party: new arrivals versus old, this sect versus that sect, this lama versus that one, reincarnation politics, deity politics, inter-settlement politics, Kham versus Amdo versus Utsang regional politics … not to mention Rangzen versus Middle Way.

    It’s very sad. It’s ironic too how so many Tibetans delegate responsibility for your national cause upwards … to HHDL. Most of you have realised he won’t be around much longer, so you’re already deciding to delegate interim responsibility upwards to the Karmapa (Easy, now what time is Mahjong today?).

    If you are a nation, a people, then you need to unite as one. You need to set the politics aside, to stop sapping your energy with pettiness and an increasing tone of abuse. The root problem, as this blog debate highlights, is you need to agree what the goal is. China doesn’t need to divide and conquer you, you are doing it successfully yourselves.

    Perhaps, through the Kalon Tripa elections, a secular national leader, a Tibetan Churchill, might emerge, who will set aside the politics, call your best and brightest, debate and agree the goal and then have the exile Tibetans work towards that goal as a united people. If I ate Tsampa, I know that is what I would want to see happen.

    I’d also want to be a Tibetan, not a third-rate autonomous sub-chinaman.

  29. Tenzin Nyinjey | February 3rd, 2011 | 2:50 am

    Eventually, Middle-way will be changed to that of independence. It might take a few more years. Perhaps in the next ten years.

    Even while writing this, my shoulders are so stiff and aching. It’s hard, but that’s the reality! So, let’s keep walking and take more loads on our shoulders!

  30. Kalsang | February 3rd, 2011 | 5:20 am

    Dear Mr. Observer

    Your comment was a pleasure to read up to the last paragraph, but then… Churchill? Kalon Tripa? As you said, the TGIE government is wrought with internal politics. Then how a strong leader will materialize so suddenly? The current candidates are all old school and some aspire to be Asian-version “Obamas”?

    I disagree with you on placing hope in the Kalon Tripa as some sort of medicine to the current maladies of the Tibetan nation.

    However, I welcome your insight about the existent divisions amongst Tibetans… it is very sad.

  31. AN OBSERVER | February 3rd, 2011 | 8:15 pm

    Dear Kalsang, Tenzin and other Tsampa Eaters,

    Yes, note I said perhaps! I actually don’t hold much hope for the Kalon Tripa process either. Or the present candidates. But at least it is a start. My point is the Tsampa Eaters need a strong secular leader … IN A HURRY. Hoping someone will spring from somewhere in ten years, or scratching your head wondering where he / she will come from? Well, every year you waste waiting and in further division only strengthens the PRC’s hand. Every day in Tibet more nomads are being forcebly resettled to have their children taught in chinese. Roads are pushed another 100 metres to exploit your resources. Another 1,000 tourists are told the chinese version of Tibet’s glorious history under china. Every day, more Han are resettled on Tibetan land. The PRC’s grip keeps tightening, whilst you bicker and make excuses.

    There is a crisis. In business they use an analogy called the “burning [oil] platform”. You Tibetans have a crisis and you need to deal with the crisis RIGHT NOW. Tibetans are very good at searching for rinpoches – perhaps you can use these skills to find your secular leader? I know that sounds cynical, and I don’t mean to disrespect your culture, but what I want to highlight to you is that you need to stop making excuses even before you start, as you always seem to do. Who are your best and brightest? Search for them, develop them, support them.

    As for Churchill? – look to the need you have rather than the historical analogy I’ve used. You need someone modern and strong enough to communicate the widely accepted goal (whatever you decide it is to be) and deal effectively with the politics of opposition. There can be only one goal in a crisis.

    If I ate Tsampa, that goal would be to push for the fundamental right to self-determination. Take inspiration from Timor and Southern Sudan. Forget all the crap inji’s tell you to add onto your cause – zones of peace, environmental nature parks, yoga wonderlands, meaningless meaningful autonomy etc. Too many of these injis are soft in the head. Avoid them. Many western decision makers see the Tibetan cause linked permanently to the looney dope-smoking hippy set that hang out in your wealthy lama’s foreign dharma centres or bum around India. Whilst that might seem harsh, by association, all their inji agenda items appended to your cause just dilutes your cause and allows the PRC to ridicule your cause. Keep the cause simple and only about Tibetans’ right – i.e. the fundamental right to self-determination. How you get there is up to you – maybe develop global campaigns about your aspirations, followed by sustained mass civil disobedience (by every single Tibetan) united across Tibet and the exile communities at the appropriate time (at a moment of economic or political weakness in the PRC). Might be worth further thought. Again, you need to find the way that YOU TIBETANS are prepared to implement.

    Final point: when I wrote about the division amongst Tibetans I did not narrow it just to the TGIE / CTA. I mean the division amongst all Tibetans on practically every aspect of your politics, culture and society. If you aspire to being a Tibetan Nation, you will need to change your mindsets, to start thumping your chests and be Tibetans first, Amdowa, Khampa, Tsangpa etc next, Lhasawa, Phariwa, Dergewa etc. third, Gelugpa, Kagyupa, Nyingmapa, Bonpo fourth, … etc etc etc … and Tenzin, Dawa or Gonpo etc last. At the moment, I think most Tibetans are wired the otherway around. You therefore find division and personal opportunism at every level before you even think of yourselves as Tibetans. Unite, stop the internal politics, bickering and the petty opportunism.

    I’m not a Tibetan. I can’t do anything to help you to change. At the end of the day it is up to you. I know I might be perceived as harshly assessing you, but sometimes this is required to guide those you feel sorry for.

    Oh, a final point: I respect and admire your HHDL. I feel sorry He carries YOUR burden on YOUR behalf and suffers like a Tibetan Jesus(another analogy – note: I’m not a practising Christian with an agenda). He is absolutely without doubt fundamentally a good man. But like a father with a large adult family, a sizeable proportion of which is proving self-centred and unruly, He can’t be held accountable for all the misbehaviour (i.e. politics and other monkey business). He is a Buddhist scholar trained in ancient dialetics and logic. He can’t be expected to also deal with the challenges of modern nationhood. Though He does His absolute best, He needs a strong secular right-hand man or woman to lead the flock in a united way to achieve your desired goal whilst He remains your national figurehead.

  32. Choni Tsultrim Gyatso | February 5th, 2011 | 11:45 pm

    Tibetan Women’s Association asked the candidates of their faith and conviction in the Middle Way approach of the Tibetan Government in Exile. Kasur Tashi Wangdi reaffirmed that ‘the policy will bring about a peaceful solution to the longstanding injustice against the Tibetan people and that the Chinese side will have to eventually respond to it primarily because it is in their interests to do so.’ Kasur Tenzin Namgyal Tethong emphasized that ‘the new Kalon Tripa will have to follow the middle way policy but since the policy is adopted to pursue a goal and depending on whether that goal is achieved, the policy is subject to change in accordance with the public mandate.’ Dr. Lobsang Sangay remarked ‘if elected, he will continue to pursue the Middle way policy but that he is hopeful about a change in the international scenario as the years between 2012 to 2021 will witness some great changes in scores of countries holding bilateral ties with China.’

  33. Darig Thokmay | February 6th, 2011 | 7:09 am

    Gen Jamyang La,

    It is quite interesting to compare our “Middle Path policy” with the selfless-notion of Drimekundan.The basic political defect of our policy decision is “the extreme access of Buddhist ideas in Political context” Middle Path is one example of that decision, backed up the Buddhist philosophy of Nagarjuna.

    I also would like to remind you that, present Kasheg, led by Zamdhong Rinpoche,even further compromised the standard of “Middle Path” as they claimed that Middle Path is not only the path or method, but also the ultimate goal, for which we are fighting,,,,,,,

    Tomorrow, we may ask Chinese Govt to let us return back to Tibet without any condition,also we may interpret it with the idea of some other Buddhist philosophy,,,,

  34. AA | February 6th, 2011 | 7:47 am

    Dear Jamyang-la
    I find so little information on why HH changed his stand from complete independence to genuine autonomy with the Strasbourg proposal of 88. What were the reasons for this change in stance?

  35. Kalsang | February 6th, 2011 | 4:12 pm

    The reasons are obvious! With every claim HH makes, at least one Tibetan inside Tibet suffers.

    I think maybe if Tibetans born and bred in exile were to just visit Tibet and tour all of it, perhaps, just maybe, I hope, that they will understand the urgency of the situation better and will finally realize the need for action, the need for unity, the need for RANGZEN!!!!!!!

  36. Kalsang | February 6th, 2011 | 4:13 pm

    scrap “at least one” at least one hundred is more correctly put

  37. newgenerationtb | February 7th, 2011 | 1:31 pm

    @Kalsang, it is not an issue of “maybe visit Tibet”. It should be, every Tibetan outside “must visit Tibet.” Otherwise, people are too disconnected from the land and ground realities. Every narrator trying to be objective and reasonable, everyone has its own utopian version of Tibet. Every protest interpreted either as for “rangzen” or “for middle way”! We are on the way of creating our own version of Tibet of mind!

  38. Kalsang | February 7th, 2011 | 4:39 pm

    Newgenerationtb la

    I’m sorry my irony didn’t reach you… “perhaps, just maybe, I hope” is a self-effacing way of basically begging for something that is so obstinately reluctant, like exile born Tibetans. It’s all good and great to cry about Tibet from one’s comfortable seat – mind you that same cry could easily go for a PS3! – and when it comes to action there is much, TOO much insecurity and thus defensive reaction…

    Anyway, I’m sorry my irony failed to be effective 🙂

  39. Chinese Engineer | February 11th, 2011 | 10:31 pm

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/India-has-more-claim-over-Tibet-than-China/articleshow/7471666.cms

    I think this is quite hilarious.

  40. Tsewang | February 18th, 2011 | 6:25 pm

    Why would I compromise on what is rightfully mine? It’s like someone kicks you out of your house and you plead to them so that you can live in the garage with their rules?
    Rangzen, Rangzen, Rangzen

  41. Dolma | February 28th, 2011 | 7:39 pm

    JN, can’t you stop finding fault and criticising our spiritual leader. Is this your business to always make hill out of mould and try to create uncomfortable situation in the community. We don’t like what you write. Be constructive, positive and responsible. Show us what you can do. Just saying Rangtsen, it will not come to you. You have to get out of your four wall and take concrete and feasible steps in order to achieve what you have been advocating. Or we will consider your writing just a “bluff”.

  42. Phuntsok Wangdu | March 4th, 2011 | 12:05 pm

    Asking Jamyang Norbu – What does The Dalai Lama follow if not the Buddha?

    If you read Mr. Jamyang Norbu’s Feb 1, 2011 article on Phayul website, titled, Not the Buddha’s Middle Way, he went into great lengths to prove that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is not following the Buddha’s Middle Way, and is disingenuous, misleading Tibetans by misusing Buddha’s teaching. His second sentence is directed at Prof Samdhong Rinpoche. He is faulted for being the main salesperson of His Holiness’ policy.

    I have respected Jamyang Norbu as a patriot and a scholar. He has written many good books and articles relating to Tibet. I have read some of his writings too. Most of them are quite informative. Some of his writings show that, not only he is opposed to China, he is deeply critical of His Holiness on many issues, particularly, the Middle Way policy on Tibet. For him, it is surrendering of Tibet’s independence. He is also critical of the role of religion in politics.

    In some of his writings, he has employed Buddhist and Gandhi’s ideas to advance some of his arguments. I found on many occasions, his arguments laughable, to put it mildly. I have had doubts about his Buddhist knowledge. He is not alone on this score. There are many modern educated Tibetans, who seem unable to value this Nalanda originated Buddhism as their number one cultural asset. I refrained from being critical, for it would be unfair to single him out.

    Now, after reading his-Not the Buddha’s Middle Way, it not only confirmed my doubt, I was shocked by his arrogance! I was horrified at his audacity to pit Buddha against his followers like HH the Dalai Lama and Prof Samdhong Rinpoche! He is accusing His Holiness and Rinpoche of abusing Buddhism and misleading people! When he said that His Holiness and Rinpoche are not following the Buddha, he is basically saying that they are not good Buddhists! When the best amongst us are not Buddhist, it should directly imply that we Tibetans too, are not good Buddhists. I don’t know if he himself is not committing sacrilege of the highest order! His accusation is outrageous! It is reckless accusation. He was always eager to discredit His Holiness. This line of argument to discredit Him, will be the biggest blunder of his life. Without a shadow of doubt, he has over-crossed the bounds of reasonableness and Tibetan-ness! This is sheer character assassination on his part! We should be very vigilant against such pushers in our society. I find his audacity totally hollow! Above all, his reasons are based on fundamentally flawed understanding of Buddhism! Now in my mind, he has crossed from a seemingly responsible writer to a desperate and reckless writer. Because there are quite a sizable number of people, particularly among educated Tibetans, who buy into his train of thoughts, I felt it is necessary to sound caution here. Somebody needs to stand up to this nonsense! For these reasons, I had to write this piece, however poor it may be.

    Mr. Norbu, has found “contradiction” between the Buddha and the His Holiness. Though I am nowhere close to understanding Buddha’s profound teachings, I will humbly attempt a brief interpretation to show that there is absolutely no contradiction between them. The Buddha’s greatest teaching was-Theory of Emptiness. To the wise, this is an earthshaking, all pervading philosophy. One must understand the direct relation between the theory of emptiness and the Middle Way. The Profundity of this Buddhist theory has been well-established by innumerable scholar-practitioners. A short writing, entitled, In praise of Dependent-Origination, Je Tsongkhapa, one of the greatest scholar-practitioners of Tibet said, “Emptiness is the main essence of Buddhism.” To quote from a different Buddhist text, “Whoever sees emptiness, will see Dharma. Whoever sees Dharma, will see the Enlightened One.” Emptiness is the ultimate key to understand Buddhist philosophy. Also to quote from Diamond Sutra, “All the Buddhas obtained their complete compassion from emptiness. Even the Buddhas themselves came from emptiness.” So, what more could we add? My own view is: This is one of THE GREATEST THEORY, if not the greatest, in the universe. It pervades EVERYTHING in the universe. All other forms of knowledge pales in comparison. Because of its PROFOUNDNESS and SOPHISTICATION, even followers of Buddha have struggled to understand it. Based on individual perspective and depth of understanding of this theory, four main schools of thought developed amongst the followers. The highest school of thought was the Madhyamaka or the Middle Way. This school’s understanding of emptiness was either the closest or exact as the Buddha’s own view of reality. His view was free from the following two extremes: If you believe that the source of everything in the universe, must ultimately originate from a definite, precise, tangible, point-able entity or a Creator, this is one false and extreme notion, called eternalism or permanance. If you believe, after having some vague notion of the theory of emptiness, that there exist nothing after all, this is the other false and extreme notion, called nihilism or nothingness. Buddha discovered that everything, whether physical or emotional, exists interdependently or relatively. Everything is inter-related, and no absolute independent entity exists. Now, even science is just beginning to wake up, in unlocking the mystery of existence. Through the modern quantum physics, it established the ‘fluidity’ of everything at its subatomical level. That means scientists’ inability to pin a precise, tangible, point-able entity. It must have shocked those scientists, because it went against their preconceived notion-the notion of things as tangible in the ultimate analysis. This is the what Buddha discovered some 2500 years ago. This is where science and Buddha’s emptiness converge! Everything exists as an aggregate of parts. Each parts is again an aggregate of other parts and so on. Even the labels like part or aggregate are also inter-related.or inter-dependent on each other. So, this is the Middle Way. Anything that appears random or magical to our conventional perspective, in reality has causes and conditions. This is the ultimate reality of existence. In other words, Buddha showed us the paramount importance of pragmatism and understanding reality. According to Shantideva’s Way of the Bodhisattvas, all of the Buddha’s teachings are meant to lead us to this ultimate emptiness. Simply put, this is the key to connect everything in the universe, be it political, national, life, religion, ecology, economy and what not! It dispels all notions of contradictions. True followers of Buddha like Nagarjuna, Shantideva and other masters lived, breathed and ‘passed on’ with this. As for His Holiness and Samdhong Rinpoche, the impeccability of their moral ethics (based on Buddha‘s teachings,) is like an open book to the world. To be a smart, constructive critic, one should always aspire towards the highest wisdom. His Holiness has clearly mentioned in his book-Mind in Comfort and Ease, the three stages: wisdom born of study (gathering), wisdom born of reflection (confidence) and wisdom born of meditation (familiarization.) Mr. Jamyang Norbu and I are barely at the study/reading level. We have not understood, let alone realization of emptiness. Let us seek the truth from true masters and not just by reading.

    In context of religion v. politics, the two greatest achievers of our time- Mr. Gandhi and Albert Einstein, both had very high esteem for Buddhism. Albert Einstein once said that of all the religions, Buddhism has the best chance to stand with science. On June 12, 2006, The Hindustan paper, ran an article-Gandhi proclaimed himself a Buddhist. This piece, very forcefully articulated Mr. Gandhi’s deep, unqualified respect for Buddha and his teachings. He believed that Buddhism is the cleansed form of Hinduism. He said, “He (Buddha) was saturated with the best that was in Hinduism….Gautama (Buddha) was himself a Hindu of Hindus.” This, in one way, was no ordinary praise from a highly devoted Hindu. When such accomplished men hold Buddhism in such high esteem, why ordinary mortals like us, be so critical? It only reveals our own foolishness.

    So, whatever His Holiness and Samdhong Rinpoche do for Tibet, will always be based on realism and pragmatism. That’s the Middle Way in both spirit and action! Any call that falls short of concrete plan, means, low risk, high assuredness of success is nothing but extreme, dishonest and suicidal. Some think our Tibet policy is a total compromise. Some like Mr. Norbu, say it is sell out to the enemy. We need to wake up to reality. Nearly half of Tibet was gobbled up by China, when the desperate Tibetan government hastily transferred political powers to His Holiness. He was only sixteen years old. When China launched a full frontal attack on Tibet in 1959, His Holiness was only about 24. Tibet’s crisis still continues to this day. He had almost nothing except truth on his side. Unlike what Mr.Gandhi had, His Holiness has: no teeming millions of population, no financial resources, stuck in foreign land, a ruthless superpower nation as enemy, UN enslaved itself by veto wielders, etc,. This 14th Dalai Lama has endured a life of crisis after crisis. Under such mountain of pressures and crises, He did the best He could. For that matter alone, His Holiness deserves our highest admiration and the deepest gratitude from us all. The world rightly acknowledges Him with awards and love, even though the spineless, visionless politicians dare not. Let me ask some of my fellow Tibetans like, Mr. Norbu and Mr. Lhasang Tsering, how could you even dream of criticizing Him? Unless you’re stubbornly enclosed, you owe to this Apostle of Peace, your sincerest apologies and a billion prostrations. You have abused your rights under the guise of freedom of speech! Please criticize me and the other billions of us, who virtually do nothing for Tibet! Survival of Tibet’s CULTURE is in STATE of EMERGENCY! THIS IS THE REALITY UNDER WHICH OUR LEADERS BASE THEIR POLICY. If you have better, success-oriented plan, please get it out in detail for the public. Otherwise, drumming around a single word-Independence alone, will hardly accomplish anything positive for Tibet. As for the present Tibet policy under His Holiness and Samdhong Rinpoche, there isn’t the slightest contradiction or dishonesty or sacrilegious about that. Every single approach is invariably interconnected. Every single deed is spiritual, pragmatic and holistic to them. For them, as in Webster’s Encyclopedia, politic means, ‘art of government or administration of public affairs.’ This dirty, misconstrued meaning of politic arose from our own misdeeds. Look at all the previous Dalai Lamas, the current Dalai Lama and Gandhi. To these GREAT BEINGS, every word or deed has been spiritual. For them, there is no need for imaginary, discriminatory lines or boundaries amongst sentient beings. Everything is seen in the light of Middle Way. This great light becomes the foundation of true peace. The peace that we see in the present world is, fake peace-just like ceasefire. It will unravel at the slightest provocation. The Middle Way is the only way for ushering in real peace-in individual, family, society, country and the world.

    One of the most important lessons from Buddha’s emptiness is, the emphasis on total relationship between causes/conditions and the resultant. That means EVERY GOAL/AIM must have corresponding METHOD/MEAN. In Buddhism, THE METHOD IS PARAMOUNT over THE GOAL. IT MUST BE REALISTIC and COMPREHENSIVE. THEN THE GOAL FOLLOWS NATURALLY. The two are RELATED INSEPARABLY. The seed must correspond to the flower you want. To grow a sunflower, one needs a sunflower seed. Any seed other than sunflower seed will not produce sunflower, however hard one works or prays. The seed itself to be called a sunflower seed, it must originate from a sunflower. It shows total interdependence or inter-relatedness. The relation between the two should have sameness of qualities and conditions. For any choice of careers, one must have totally appropriate line of studies. Any extreme method or path, will be recipe for totally inappropriate and undesirable outcome. This was what Buddha learnt after six years of rigorous Hindu practices. That almost caused His death. Couldn’t we say the same about out ’independence’ call? The means to achieve that call are miniscule. You may say I am unpatriotic, but I can just say: I’m being realistic.

    To prove wholeness of His Holiness and Gandhi, let me cite some instances. On Jan 13, 2011, His Holiness addressed a gathering of people from the Himalayan regions at Sarnath, India. He said, “The cause of Tibet is directly related with Buddhism…I am a monk. Had it been just politics, I wouldn’t be involved in it.” So, it was very clear -Tibet’s cause was His spiritual calling. Similarly, Mr. Gandhi, in his autobiography-The Story of My Experiments with Truth, he wrote, “To see the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face to face, one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. And a man who aspires after that CANNOT AFFORD TO KEEP OUT OF ANY FIELD OF LIFE. That is why my devotion to Truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that THOSE WHO SAY THAT RELIGION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH POLITICS DO NOT KNOW WHAT RELIGION MEANS.” I love this passage for couple of reasons. Firstly, it shows what religion or spirituality actually mean. Secondly, it is a tremendous counterpoint against those who hold a view that religion and politics cannot or meant to coexist. There have
    been many, even some Tibetans, who call for separation of religion and politics. I strongly urge you to remember now, we Tibetans are blessed to have such Great and Wise Beings to lead us! Fools like us will see their true greatness only after their passing away. Then it might be too late for any redemption.

    I think it would be quite appropriate, if I inject the following into our discussion. Some critics, including Mr. Norbu, have had opined superiority of Gandhi over His Holiness. I wish to offer my own views. Gandhi believed Buddhism as cleansed form of Hinduism. He viewed Buddhism as nothing but Hinduism. In my humble opinion, he was unable to see the true greatness of Buddhism. It is true that there are many common approaches between Buddhism and Hinduism. Buddha himself was a Hindu in the beginning. What makes Buddhism a complete stand out is, its take on ultimate emptiness. This difference is huge, a matter of enormous implication, like whether you have the potential to be liberated as Buddha yourself or not! I have never read or heard a word on Buddha’s emptiness from Mr. Gandhi. Had he understood emptiness, he would not be boxing Buddhism into Hinduism completely. I have one other important point to air out.

    Gandhi’s prized political movement was Satyagraha. The two ideas that drove his movement was Truth and Ahimsa (non-violence.) The concept of non-violence do appear in Hinduism, but Gandhi’s non-violence concept went beyond what appear in Hinduism. He was deeply moved by Buddha’s concept of non-violence- which extends nonviolence to all sentient beings and above all, the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of others. Buddhism treats all sentient beings as equal and precious. What I’m getting at is, the ACTUAL inspiration for both these great-men, regarding Ahimsa, sprang from the Buddha, and not Gandhi to the Dalai Lama. By extending this logic, we can attribute Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela’s nonviolence concept to Buddha too. I’ve seen many people, including Mr.Norbu, failing to trace the true source of this inspiration. Please note my words like, actual and true. That’s why Gandhi was proud to proclaim himself a Buddhist at heart. This is a triumph of Buddhism. One should get the facts right before judging others. My question would be: who has followed Buddha in totality, Gandhi or His Holiness?

    Dear readers, please accept my apologies for this long piece. I had to, because in almost every paragraph of his article, is jammed with fallacy. I still have strong views on some of his other points like, ‘conditioned to accept,’ ‘dentsig monlam,’ ‘dimekunden,’ etc,. I prefer to spare my readers the drag. So, Mr. Norbu , please never ever say that His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Prof Samdhong Rinpoche’s works have “nothing to do with the Buddha’s or Nagarjuna’s philosophy.” They have everything to do with the Buddha and his great disciples! The lesson is, never ever pick your fight with the FINEST BEINGS. It will only expose ones hollowness.

    Just as the majority of the Buddhists are unable to grasp the Buddha’s emptiness, so too, the majority of scientists do not grasp this quantum physics. No wonder it seems almost total impossibility to achieve liberation from this mundane life.

    I have done thorough study and reflection on the Middle Way policy. Now, I’ve firm and unshakable confidence in the middle way. I don’t call this a compromise. Compromise implies, getting less than total. When nations in Europe and former Soviet Union joined European Union, is it a compromise? When the new states of America joined to form a union, is it a compromise? If Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma and Sri Lanka join India, would that be a compromise? What comes out of this Middle Way-Tibet policy will be astonishingly better than a piece of land, with profoundly beautiful and positive repercussions throughout the world for generations. Like Buddha, the Dalai Lama is one of the most skillful teacher, shepherding us mortals. If I don’t fall under your spell, please do not insult me with words like, ‘conditioned to accept,’ ‘deluded,’ or ‘irredeemably dishonest.’ I have a fairly reasonable mind of my own, and I have done my homework.

    One last thing to ask Mr. Norbu, What does His Holiness follow if not the Buddha? I’m sure His Holiness follows somebody/something great.

    After writing this piece passionately, I will still love Jamyang Norbu as my own brother with all sincerity.

    Phuntsok Wangdu
    A commoner in Minnesota
    Thuntsok@aol.com

  43. Query | March 14th, 2011 | 3:30 am

    Apologies if i have not grasped all the nuances of this discussion, but i have been wondering about this middle way plan, and the recent announcement that HHDL will be handing over political control. Do you think he is unwell, and is trying to secure a more peaceful transition when he has passed away?

  44. Sherab | March 28th, 2011 | 11:42 am

    With respect,JN la,

    whatever i have overheard about you was not so pleasant one. i haven’t saw you entire my life until i saw the documentary movie SBCL, there i found you saying that H.H.should come on to the street to make a big impact which will shake the mighty china. I’ve been observing and witnessing all our Tibetan politics movement from the 1992 onward.In a way, you are true that we Tibetan relay too much on other to act something for Tibet. on the other hand there was only a few Tibetan, maybe none who can play a genuine political game in our community. everyone relied everything on His Holiness, now it’s a time of younger generation as H.H. had prepared and was hoping all the time to happen it. i am sure you will agree up to here.

    with these pictures when i came to know you and alike many young Tibetans views i am totally convinced That the origin of Tibetan was non but from a (Brg-sri-ma) Devil of rock, whose nature is to use the Yak till it gets old then finally, kill it for meet by reciting Om mani padme hum.

  45. Dawa Tsering | May 15th, 2011 | 4:24 pm

    Jamyang Norbu la,

    I read this article with ample head-nod as usual. Middle Path is the stand of our exile government. But I sincerely believe, with due respect and veneration to H.H. The Dalai Lama, that majority of Tibetans wear Middle Path as an free coat, atop the one that gives warmth, Freedom.

    When the TGIE-referendum was conducted, I expected two choices: Independence(work hard on our own while also taking help from others) and Autonomy(lets cut down our workload and the pay too, due to bad weather!).

    I thought Self Determination(or Referendum), would be the ultimate test for the Chinese if they truly believe Tibetans want to be ruled by them, and on which we can genuinely feel confident. Instead, people were flummoxed with option(s) that I could hardly believe.

    Some middle path beaters were asking me “How are you going to get Independence?”. We don’t do anything supernatural, we talk of our border to begin with. One can make out the gut behind their stand, ‘Middle path is EASIER’.

    I conclude my comment here and as always, I wish fellow Tibetans a meaningful life.

  46. Kalsang Phuntsok | May 19th, 2011 | 11:13 am

    @ Phuntsok Wangdu # 41 –

    Phuntsok Wangdu La you argued

    “If Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma and Sri Lanka join India, would that be a compromise?”

    Your argument only has an impressive outer shell because it would only make sense if it is made with a footnote/fine print saying that you presume free will on part of these nations. Since we Tibetan don’t even have the object of our free will i.e. our LAND, compromising to become part of enemy who took our land in the first place can only be called as capitulation or submission to bullying. Now here you may want to come back and philosophize and say that one doesn’t have to look at it that way. But then I would say OK,then why bother even for a compromise,let’s just make the ultimate sacrifice and forget the whole damn thing, just like Buddha did by offering his body to the hungry Tigress and her cubs. Afterall nothing is permanent, right?

  47. Tibet for Tibetans | June 28th, 2011 | 10:55 am

    Dear Shadow Tibet readers;please ask Jamyang Norbu la to or not to do any thing else,but please do not ask him not to write/express his thoughts and opinions.It is through his writing the above article that,I got to see yet another expressive and fantastic writer in Phuntsok Wangdu la.May be PW-la should be more available to write your side of opinions,and let Jamyang la give his opinions on it.But please neither of should ask the other to quit writing,because,that will be a crime,or else, you will have to put up with likes of me.What’s the point.Show the world,we have likes of you two amongst the exiles and, not the like of me you find them every where.My condolences to all who have to put up with this of my comments.Again,I am sorry,you had to put up with me.

  48. Ngodup | December 14th, 2012 | 12:21 am

    Hi everybody…

    I just read this thing about middle Way which Mr. Jamyang la is strongly opposing, and I think there are few who follows him. Good luck with you guys… Mr. Jamyang la u must have read the article What does the Dalai Lama follow if not the Buddha. by Mr. Phuntsok Wangdu la… I personally feel He has given each and every precise answer for your doubts. I don’t blame anybody but this is what happens when people take the advantage of democracy, they go beyond the line…
    Okai let me ask something How would you get complete independence or Purna Swaraj or what we call Rangzen Tsangma from China? What method should we apply to get it, should we have to use guns, bombs, human bombs, or what?? By the way where can we get these weapons? Isn’t it better to bend then to break. I ain’t saying everyone should blindly follow His Holiness or his approach of Middle Way. Do thorough Investigation as he says.. And I feel one should look at ones own approach or thought and compare the two which would be more benefit, more good for the future, for the people. It is not like what u follow is wrong, you fight ur way I will fight my way , u be ur line I will be my line simple as that. Moreover, we need to think hollistically & then approach or act accordingly. Its not just the matter of you and I, your approach or my approach. At the end of the day its about we six million Tibetans. I don’t have the knowledge to go deep into who has done what, who has attain enlightenment or not.. But I know what I am saying and what I should think.. So, this is my humble request to Mr. Jamyang Norbu to please do thorough investigation before you criticize Middle Way approach, & His Holiness. As a Tibetan I feel sad like all those tibetans and others who follow His Holines. It hurts our sentiment when the person who we look up to, who we regard as our guru being criticize or accuse for he has sacrificed a lot to we Tibetans. Thank you:…

  49. Antique Buddhas | February 3rd, 2016 | 4:55 am

    I think Middle way is the standard version of methods to walk on the path of Buddhism to attain Enlightenment, but one can choose his own path to attain enlightenment, such as Laughing Buddha (popularly known as Budai), is said to attained Enlightenment just by sharing happiness and joy all over the place he went.

  50. duhgood | February 3rd, 2016 | 7:22 pm

    The point here is not who follows the real teachings of Buddha. It is about a nation and the right of its inhabitants to decide the fate of their nation. Anyway the Middle Path that Buddha practiced seemed to be a method he used to develop his own mind and spirituality. When it worked for him he showed the method he used to those who were interested.
    So it’s a false dichotomy.
    The Middle Way that has been started in Exile is completely different. The more than 5 million in Ti bet had no say in this decision and patriot like Lukar Jam who risked life and limb is discounted for opposing this policy. If anyone needs to practice Buddha’s kind of Middle Way, it is those who jumped on Lukar Jam and attacked him for being ungrateful. And those same people who dishonestly blame him for being an extremist. If everyone who fights for freedom is extremists then you should add Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Mandela etc to the list. Some people said Lukar Jam is ungrateful. That is such an offensive term.
    Some of us are fortunate to become leaders to our people but we should not expect our people to give up their right to express their thoughts simply because the leaders fulfilled the duty of leading. It’s no personal favor. Leadership is a duty and a privilege. None one should be arrogant enough to expect people to drool and mope around their leaders’ feet and say yes to everything. It’s not the Middle Ages. If the shoe were on the other foot and Lukar Jam were a leader he too should not expect subservience from those he lead. The way people are overtly intimating dissenters to shut up is reminiscent of thamzing during the cultural revolution.

  51. Angry Old Tibetan | February 4th, 2016 | 10:45 am

    Once I read the “Selfish Gene” by Professor Richard Dawkins in which he proposes a theory (which is now widely accepted among scientist) that the ultimate unit of selection in the process of natural selection – which drives evolution – is the Gene rather than the individual specie. Likewise the Gene (or more appropriately the Meme) that drives Middleway Approach of HHDL is religion which is labeled and sold as Buddhism. The ultimate goal of MWA is the survival of the Religion and the institutions that thrive on it. This has happened throughout our history ever since Gyalpo Lhase Dharma was assassinated by elite monk class. The big monasteries and lamas see China as a ripe reservoir of potential patrons and followers. They dream of monastic centers in every big city of China and millions of Chinese followers. In such a big and universal project Tibetan’s national aspiration obviously get listed as a distant priority.

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