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Tibetan Buddhism - Empowerment

posted Jan 7, 2012, 7:20 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Jan 9, 2012, 10:59 AM ]
By Tsewang Namgyal
In January 1913, the XIII Dalai Lama returned in triumph to Tibet from his exile in India. The cruel General Chao Erh Feng was forced to return home, where he was arrested by his enemies and executed. In order to prevent a future humiliating defeat at the hands of foreign powers, the XIII Dalai Lama proclaimed Tibet’s independence and called upon his people to perform five duties. One of these was to purify Buddhism and to the outlaw those monks who deal with money, livestock or the subjugation of human beings. In many of His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama’s current talks, he often encourages our religious teachers to practice what they preach. If we are again not able to take His advice, this could threaten the very viability of our unity.

Tibetan Buddhism is one of the key forces that unite us Tibetans together. It is our precious treasure that we can offer the world. It is our strength and joy. It is our competitive strength. We in the secular world can do much to assist our spiritual leaders in incorporating modern governance structures, financial controls, technology and systems so that our dharma can continue its critical functions. Here I would like to share one strategy in case it would be of any interest to our leaders.

Our initial focus must be in bringing awareness to our young influential Abbots and Tulkus on macro political economic trends, different governance structures, challenges faced by other religious institutions such as the Catholic church, best financial control practices and modern negotiation tactics. I believe once the young religious leaders get a better understanding, they will propose customized solutions and create the internal will to change within their respective schools. The XIII Dalai Lama’s limited success is the proof that it is very challenging to impose change even with the best motivations.

The other benefits of focusing on our young religious leaders are that (i) they will likely be more receptive, (ii) will have the time to implement the changes and (iii) help further unlock the potential in our own community. Many in our society still seek the guidance of our spiritual teachers on even mundane issues such as schooling, marriage, business etc. Increasing the young religious leader knowledge on earthly subjects will make them more resourceful to our community. This will also prevent them from easily being tricked by fraudsters. I heard of one highly respected teacher who was defrauded. Instead of using the law to get his funds back, I understand he opted for prayers to remove obstacles. This makes our teachers and community highly vulnerable.

One tactic to educate our young religious leaders could be through organizing short intensive training programs for select representatives of different schools. The benefit of such intense programs is that it would allow the young religious leaders to share experiences. After the training, the network of religious leaders from different schools could be a useful resource. An indirect benefit of having diverse representatives would increase their realization of similar challenges and further increase our unity. Ideal sponsors for such training programs would be His Holiness Private Office, Central Tibetan Administration and non-religious affiliated development organizations.
The Golden ChildA still from the Eddie Murphy movie - The Golden Child (1986)

Recently, I came across two separate small monasteries with a different set of problems that increased my urgency to share my thoughts. In one, the Administrator mentioned that the Tulku in the monastery kept the revenues he earned but used the monastery’s resources for his "tour" expenses. In another monastery, the Tulku mentioned how the Abbot was using his position in the monastery to find sponsors to push his hometown pet projects. It appears from hearing such stories and similar ones there is a lack of mechanism where concerns can be raised and solutions proposed to ensure the very viability of their respective institutions. There is a chance that our religious organizations could implode one day if proactive actions are not undertaken now. This could be a greater threat than even the Chinese government. The great thing is that we have control over this threat.
The author is an MBA graduate from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and a BA from Dickinson College. He currently works in the banking field with a focus on the energy sector. Tsewang is one of the Founding Board of Directors of Students for a Free Tibet, the first Tibetan to officially enlist in the United States Military and currently serves on the Board of The Tibet Fund.

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