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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Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war