This complete translation of the 13th Dalai Lama’s decree was prepared by Tsewang Norbu la of Germany. He calls it a “decree” rather than “declaration” as he feels that the Dalai Lama was not “declaring Tibet´s independence but reiterating her independent status.” It is an interesting point, though strictly speaking a declaration does not necessarily have to be confined to a first-time or original statement and a decree does not mean a reiteration . Nonetheless this new and excellent translation is most welcome as are the translator’s helpful notes at the conclusion. JN
Decree of the XIII. Dalai Lama (February 13, 1913)
I, King of the Victorious Ones, Lord of the Three Worlds, Possessor of the Buddhist Faith of the Three Times and Space, Omniscient Vajra-Holder called the Dalai Lama, the Ocean-Like Teacher, prophesized by Lord Buddha from the Noble Land of India, proclaim here this announcement to high, low and middle clergy and lay people, as well as to high civilian and military officials in this great medicinal land surrounded by mighty snow mountains.
As prophesized by our compassionate teacher, Lord Buddha from the Noble Land of India, successive reincarnations of Avalokiteshvara from the times of the three religious kings to the present day took over the reign of this medicinal land and protected all sentient beings in it through appropriate and skillful means with supreme compassion.
In continuity with the previous times of the Mongols, such as Chinggis Khan and Altan Khan, and through Chinese Ming Emperors, a Preceptor-Patron relationship was formed with the Manchu Emperors from the time of the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, and although we have lived since then in mutual support of each other, nevertheless in recent times, Chinese authorities in Sichuan and Yunnan have not only caused unimaginable tyranny and oppression in their desire to seize our territory, but also a large number of Chinese troops have arrived as far as the Holy City of Lhasa on the pretext of safeguarding trade markets as per treaty stipulation. Thereupon, I and my ministers left to the border intending to clarify via wire with Beijing that the existing relationship between Tibet and China had been that of preceptor-patron and not subordination of one to the other. Since my departure, one after another armed Chinese troops were sent to capture me dead or alive, and so I had no choice but temporarily to cross the border.
Upon my arrival in India, we sent several telegrams to the Chinese side clarifying the matter; but due to some leading corrupt ministers, no responses were received. Meanwhile, because of infallible karma, the Manchu rule collapsed and Tibetans of all social strata continued their fight against Chinese troops and expelled them from Central Tibet. Thereupon, I have returned safely to my rightful and sacred land, and we shall drive out the remaining Chinese troops from Kham. The Chinese evil scheme to enslave Tibet under the pretext of a Preceptor-Patron relationship instantly fell apart like sand clumps, fading in a moment like a rainbow in the sky. As a golden age has been ushered in and sentient beings can now enjoy religious and material prosperity once more, clergy and lay people of all social strata should implement the following points:
1. As the survival of Buddha´s teaching – the source of peace and happiness in this world – depends upon offerings and veneration, holy places like the Tsuglagkhang and the Chinese style Ramoche Temples in Lhasa, as well as the Tradruk Temple and Samye Monastery and monastic communities of all schools, including Sera, Drepung and Ganden Monasteries, should untiringly uphold their unique rituals and practices.
2. The abbots, preceptors and monks of the different schools should safeguard and develop their own sacred traditions of sutra, as well as old and new tantra; be diligent in liturgical practices, exposition and listening to teachings, as well as in study, contemplation and meditation; and observe as best as possible the monastic precepts.
3. High officials should all be fair and just in collecting taxes or administering duties so as to benefit both the government and the people. In the far flung areas of Western and Eastern Tibet, some thoughtless officials have compelled people to buy goods at exorbitant prices or imposed taxes of horses, pack animals and men far exceeding the set limits and, thereby, causing intolerable hardships to them. Lands and properties were confiscated just on the pretext of minor breaches of law and amputation of limbs was carried out. They are not only wrong from a karmic point of view, but bad for the reputation and honor of both people and country. Such acts should be banned even in name.
4. Though not prosperous and technically advanced like other countries, Tibet is an independent nation living in peace and in accordance with religion. To become capable of defending our country, we are currently increasing our efforts both in civilian and military areas. Temporarily, all will be required to shoulder greater military tax, and along the communication routes in Kham, people are bound to face additional burdens.
Since China often seized illegally Tibetan territory in the past, everyone should voluntarily increase efforts to protect and safeguard our territory. People in the border areas of Kham and Amdo, as well as in the south and the west, should remain vigilant and inform Lhasa of any suspicious infiltrations, day or night, through state pony express. They should be neither lax nor create major problems for minor causes.
5. Tibet is sparsely populated and has huge barren lands. But when some industrious people wish to clear land, officials desiring bribes or incapable landlords, becoming jealous, have been preventing cultivation under various pretexts. This helps neither landlords nor cultivators and is completely detrimental to the development of the country.
Therefore, from now on, no landowners, be they state, private or monastic, are allowed to prevent poor and industrious households wishing to clear or even plant poplar, willow, shrubs etc. on fallow public lands in mountains and valleys. Only after three years, tax and rent, shall be levied proportionate to the size of the cultivated land and yield. The right to cultivate the land will then belong to the cultivator forever. This should benefit both the government and the people.
Implementing this decree amounts to paying gratitude to the government and definitely increases the happiness and welfare of all. Let this decree be proclaimed that has taken into consideration all the pros and cons and is now exhorting everyone in the country to persistently engage in correct ethical and religious principles. Let copies be posted at major centers so that no one can say that he or she has not heard or seen it. Let the original be placed in the district registers to be handed over from outgoing to incoming officials, and let successive officials take care so that the proclamation achieves a sustained result.
Written on the 8th auspicious Day of the 1st Month of the Female Water-Ox Year in the Second Divine Palace, Potala.
1. On February 13, 2013 Tibetans and their supporters in the free world are going to celebrate the centenary of a historic decree by His Holiness the XIII. Dalai Lama which has come to be known falsely as the “Declaration of Tibetan Independence”. As you will see both in the Tibetan text and English translation, at no point do we find any hint that the Great Thirteen was declaring Tibet´s independence but reiterating her independent status.
According to the XIII. Dalai Lama, Tibet and China lived in mutual support of each other through “Preceptor-Patron” relationship right from the Mongol Khans to the Manchu Emperors. But he states, “nevertheless in recent times, Chinese authorities in Sichuan and Yunnan (…) desire to seize our territory.” In Article 4 he reiterates Tibet´s sovereignty “Tibet is an independent nation”. The XIII. Dalai Lama, however, concedes that “China often seized illegally Tibetan territory in the past” (Article 4) but categorically states that the existing relationship is “not subordination of one to the other”.
This document is all the more remarkable in that Tibet is showing religious tolerance (Art. 2), and is willing to modernize army, reform administration, abolish inhuman punishments, introduce social justice, and above all carry out land reforms. Indeed, Tibetans can take great pride in celebrating the centenary of this great decree.
2. I have done this re-translation, since the English translation in Tsepon W.D. Shakabpa´s “Tibet – A Political History” is only a summary translation and, although it is very readable, it contains two errors: Art. 1 “can only be maintained by preserving the faith of Buddhism” (page 247) and Art. 4 “We are a small, religious, and independent nation” (page 248)
3. I am preparing an analysis of this decree and will post it after February 24, 2013.
Tsewang Norbu, Berlin (Norbu.Tibet@gmail.com)