Will the Dalai Lama return to Tibet?

Meindert Gorter gives his views on religious freedom in China today and the prospects of the Dalai L

The Dorje Shugden Society is trying to put a stop to the ban on the worship of Dorje Shugden on the basis of India’s constitution, a country where you are free to worship almost anything. The Indian High Court is due to consider the case in September.

Advanced Buddhist hermeneutics are unnecessary to understand a protector, which is actually simply a powerful thought used for developing wisdom instead of attaining mundane goals. Increasing wisdom is never forbidden and while the Buddhist teacher Tsongkhapa’s middle way philosophy has room for interpretation you have to rely on your own teacher, because he’s your protector. Teacher and protector are indivisible and the so called ‘guru-devotion’ relationship is the heart of this Buddhist practise.

You can, however, criticise your teacher. Buddhism does not mean blind adherence to dogma but rather the opposite: individual analysis. One could say the Dalai Lama found his own truth, so than let him ban the deity, but the guru-disciple relation does not apply here. It’s a decreed dogma, justified by the Dalai’s dreams: he calls upon your faith in him.

This brings back memories of the theocratic Tibet. Alas, factual history has nothing in common with the romantic Shangri-la portrayed by Hollywood, but recalling this gets you branded as anti-Dalai Lama by most who are said to be pro-Tibet. But should not pro-Tibet campaigners be working on constructive dialogue, instead of repeating the same litany over and over, creating an atmosphere of mistrust? If any constructive dialogue with the Chinese is going on, it's taking place behind the scenes and without the Dalai Lama, thanks to his policy-making friends in the West. Maybe he could fire some compassionate arrows towards Beijing.

Criticising the Dalai Lama is as taboo as Dorje Shugden is and would instantly get you branded as pro-Chinese by the majority of Tibetans. As an outcast from society, even guesthouses don’t allow you in. The Dalai Lama is encouraging this as is widely documented. His portrait next to Mahatma Gandhi’s on the Dharamsala walls shows his appreciation for Gandhi’s style of peaceful revolution, but while Gandhi's achievements were transparent and relevant, the Dalai Lama’s ways are inscrutable. When the Dalai Lama accuses China of ‘cultural genocide’, he seems to forget times have changed. The cultural revolution has ended and Buddhism is practised by millions all over China and Tibet, with the government funding the restoration of the Tibetan monasteries that the Red Guards destroyed. Its clear that China is absolutely not democratic, but as long as Tibetans don’t mix religition with politics, they are free to practise. The Dalai Lama is welcome back as long as he’s not politically involved. And, as you can read on his website: “his commitment to the Tibetan issue will cease to exist once a mutually beneficial solution is reached”.

So, back in Tibet, the only role left for him would be a religious one. He could be the humble monk he has always claimed to be, but does he really have it in him? Or is he harbouring ambitions to become the religious leader he never was, in spite of all the naive parroting of him being a ‘temporal and spiritual leader’? Why else can he be so zealously devoted to uniting the lineages? I can’t think of another reason why he’s profiling himself as a religious chief than to create the possibility of his return to Tibet as Dalai Lama.

His dual role allows him to stop being a politician and the suffering of the Tibetans in exile ends' but the Dalai Lama seems set on leading them back as the dogmatic Buddhist pope that he never was.

Meindert Gorter is a student of Kundeling Rimpoche, a major critic of the Dalai Lama’s ban on the deity Dorje Shugden. He lives in the Netherlands with his wife and two children.
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Hannan Fodder: This week, Daniel Hannan gets his excuses in early

I didn't do it. 

Since Daniel Hannan, a formerly obscure MEP, has emerged as the anointed intellectual of the Brexit elite, The Staggers is charting his ascendancy...

When I started this column, there were some nay-sayers talking Britain down by doubting that I was seriously going to write about Daniel Hannan every week. Surely no one could be that obsessed with the activities of one obscure MEP? And surely no politician could say enough ludicrous things to be worthy of such an obsession?

They were wrong, on both counts. Daniel and I are as one on this: Leave and Remain, working hand in glove to deliver on our shared national mission. There’s a lesson there for my fellow Remoaners, I’m sure.

Anyway. It’s week three, and just as I was worrying what I might write this week, Dan has ridden to the rescue by writing not one but two columns making the same argument – using, indeed, many of the exact same phrases (“not a club, but a protection racket”). Like all the most effective political campaigns, Dan has a message of the week.

First up, on Monday, there was this headline, in the conservative American journal, the Washington Examiner:

“Why Brexit should work out for everyone”

And yesterday, there was his column on Conservative Home:

“We will get a good deal – because rational self-interest will overcome the Eurocrats’ fury”

The message of the two columns is straightforward: cooler heads will prevail. Britain wants an amicable separation. The EU needs Britain’s military strength and budget contributions, and both sides want to keep the single market intact.

The Con Home piece makes the further argument that it’s only the Eurocrats who want to be hardline about this. National governments – who have to answer to actual electorates – will be more willing to negotiate.

And so, for all the bluster now, Theresa May and Donald Tusk will be skipping through a meadow, arm in arm, before the year is out.

Before we go any further, I have a confession: I found myself nodding along with some of this. Yes, of course it’s in nobody’s interests to create unnecessary enmity between Britain and the continent. Of course no one will want to crash the economy. Of course.

I’ve been told by friends on the centre-right that Hannan has a compelling, faintly hypnotic quality when he speaks and, in retrospect, this brief moment of finding myself half-agreeing with him scares the living shit out of me. So from this point on, I’d like everyone to keep an eye on me in case I start going weird, and to give me a sharp whack round the back of the head if you ever catch me starting a tweet with the word, “Friends-”.

Anyway. Shortly after reading things, reality began to dawn for me in a way it apparently hasn’t for Daniel Hannan, and I began cataloguing the ways in which his argument is stupid.

Problem number one: Remarkably for a man who’s been in the European Parliament for nearly two decades, he’s misunderstood the EU. He notes that “deeper integration can be more like a religious dogma than a political creed”, but entirely misses the reason for this. For many Europeans, especially those from countries which didn’t have as much fun in the Second World War as Britain did, the EU, for all its myriad flaws, is something to which they feel an emotional attachment: not their country, but not something entirely separate from it either.

Consequently, it’s neither a club, nor a “protection racket”: it’s more akin to a family. A rational and sensible Brexit will be difficult for the exact same reasons that so few divorcing couples rationally agree not to bother wasting money on lawyers: because the very act of leaving feels like a betrayal.

Or, to put it more concisely, courtesy of Buzzfeed’s Marie Le Conte:

Problem number two: even if everyone was to negotiate purely in terms of rational interest, our interests are not the same. The over-riding goal of German policy for decades has been to hold the EU together, even if that creates other problems. (Exhibit A: Greece.) So there’s at least a chance that the German leadership will genuinely see deterring more departures as more important than mutual prosperity or a good relationship with Britain.

And France, whose presidential candidates are lining up to give Britain a kicking, is mysteriously not mentioned anywhere in either of Daniel’s columns, presumably because doing so would undermine his argument.

So – the list of priorities Hannan describes may look rational from a British perspective. Unfortunately, though, the people on the other side of the negotiating table won’t have a British perspective.

Problem number three is this line from the Con Home piece:

“Might it truly be more interested in deterring states from leaving than in promoting the welfare of its peoples? If so, there surely can be no further doubt that we were right to opt out.”

If there any rhetorical technique more skin-crawlingly horrible, than, “Your response to my behaviour justifies my behaviour”?

I could go on, about how there’s no reason to think that Daniel’s relatively gentle vision of Brexit is shared by Nigel Farage, UKIP, or a significant number of those who voted Leave. Or about the polls which show that, far from the EU’s response to the referendum pushing more European nations towards the door, support for the union has actually spiked since the referendum – that Britain has become not a beacon of hope but a cautionary tale.

But I’m running out of words, and there’ll be other chances to explore such things. So instead I’m going to end on this:

Hannan’s argument – that only an irrational Europe would not deliver a good Brexit – is remarkably, parodically self-serving. It allows him to believe that, if Brexit goes horribly wrong, well, it must all be the fault of those inflexible Eurocrats, mustn’t it? It can’t possibly be because Brexit was a bad idea in the first place, or because liberal Leavers used nasty, populist ones to achieve their goals.

Read today, there are elements of Hannan’s columns that are compelling, even persuasive. From the perspective of 2020, I fear, they might simply read like one long explanation of why nothing that has happened since will have been his fault.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.