By Bhuchung K. Tsering
International Campaign for Tibet
April 10, 2012
Although NASA or any other space organizations have not announced any fresh attempt to send another human being to the moon, there is a man on the moon, and this has become an issue for China. Yes, China has lunar ambitions, but that is not the reason why it sees this report of a man on the moon as a problem. The issue is literally something beyond our world; power of faith over which China’s space research laboratories (or the politburo) do not have any control.
I am referring to the report from Tibet that an individual has sighted an image resembling that of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the moon. According to the Central Tibetan Administration’s website, www.tibet.net, the individual – 20 year old Phurbu Namgyal—residing near Lhasa reportedly told his friends “that if someone gazes at the night sky one can see His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the moon.”
Now, the moon is not just a beautiful object to behold on a clear bright night, but for someone with a bit of imagination it can also be a source of fascination. The rabbit on the moon is a universally accepted image, but there are those who see images of other things or people. As a child I used to partake in a harmless ritual where we children would stand and stare intensely at our shadows on a moonlit night. Then if we look up to the sky suddenly we would even “see” the form of a human being there.
More to the point, we Tibetans are from a cultural environment in which we can see visions in lakes or locate spirits in trees. Therefore, the idea of someone seeing an image on the moon did not come as a surprise to me. In fact, it seemed logical that given the Tibetan people’s faith in His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the lack of opportunity for them to see him in person (or even in portraits), his is the image that people will project on the moon, a virtual presence, if you will.
Of course, those who do not believe in religion will see such things as superstition and even objectionable. One might conclude from this that since the Chinese Communists do not believe in religion, it is from this angle that they have the problem with ‘backward” Tibetans seeing stuffs on the moon. But of course that is not the reason. I have no hesitation in saying that the Chinese authorities would not have cared a wee bit if this same Tibetan reported seeing a Yak, Steve Jobs or even the Apple logo on a waxing or a waning moon (or a partially-eclipsed moon). I think they would even have welcomed if this person had reported seeing the four leaders of modern China, the same people whose portraits have been made obligatory decoration in Tibetan monasteries.
But the issue of course is that it is none of these images that the Tibetan reported seeing. It was the image of the Dalai Lama and therein lay the problem. Seeing an image on the moon could be ordinarily ascribed to eye fatigue and blurred vision that could be corrected by a good night’s rest. But the Comrade who reportedly detained the individual seeing the image knew that for a Tibetan to see the image of the Dalai Lama on a heavenly body has much greater significance.
The crux of the matter is this: China has been trying for so many decades to win over the Tibetan people through economic incentives and political coercion. In the process they have been making the case that the Communist Party is the Tibetan people’s new deity. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” sort of commandment. Unfortunately for China, what they could not achieve, the power of faith of the Tibetan people, combined (I think) with some atmospheric disturbance on the surface of the moon, made it possible for the Dalai Lama to land on the moon. I guess that just as the Chinese people had to “Learn from Lei Feng” at one time, now they should “Learn from the Man on the Moon.”
Reprinted in TPR with permission of ICT.