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Tibet's Next Incarnation? Seriously?

posted Apr 30, 2013, 8:35 AM by The Tibetan Political Review
By Dr. Tenzin Dorjee, Ph.D. (Department of Human Communication Studies, California State University at Fullerton) April 28, 2013.

 This article, “Tibet’s Next Incarnation? Constitutional Crisis, Confusion and Conspiracies at the Central Tibetan Administration” by Jamyang Norbu la, contains some serious opinions about democracy, leadership, and policy in Tibetan diaspora. To start off, I am in favor of informed discussion about matters that concern our present and future issues. It is crucial for effective functioning and decision making in democratic system. In regard to the article, I have discussed a couple of issues from a different perspective.

One, the author contests Dr. Lobsang Sangay’s claim that he is ““Sikyong – the democratically elected head of the Tibetan people and political successor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama” by reminding the reader: Public memory is short so I think everyone should remind themselves that Lobsang Sangay la was elected on 26 April 2011 as the kalon tripa or the prime-minister of the exile government. That was it. Nothing more, nothing less. Just a prime-minister, or Kalon Tripa if you like.  Reasonably stated, Dr. Sangay simply argues for the legitimacy of his political leadership based on the historical continuity of political leadership from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to him. Nothing more; nothing less. However, the author seems to take issue with the historical legitimacy of Sikyong’s political leadership. Unfortunately, he resorts to speculation and ridicule (attend to the tone of writing) Sikyong by asking: Is he the manifestation of the “Madhey Trulku” option that His Holiness the Dalai Lama mentioned some years ago, where His Holiness would manifest an alternative emanation before his own passing? The author further states: If the Sikyong is “the political successor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama” and he might furthermore be “Tibet’s Next Incarnation” as his officially approved biographical documentary appears to suggest, then we are in a far deeper constitutional cesspit than if the change were only one from prime-minister to president, which though problematic enough, does not carry with it the many theological questions (and perils) inherent in a system that is based more on metaphysical than on constitutional principles.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has devolved his political power to elected leadership and returned to his spiritual role following the foot-steps of the first few predecessors in the line of Dalai Lama. In making this historic decision he has also separated the Church and the State embodied in the leadership from the Great Fifth to the Great Fourteenth Dalai Lamas. Given this new socio-political Tibetan context, the “Madhey Trulku” option has nothing to do with our present or future Sikyong – political leadership. His Holiness has made it clear that there is no rush to make any decision about his future reincarnation. Whatever options he chooses when the right time and circumstances arise it all relates to his future incarnation as the spiritual head of Tibet and Tibetans. Period. The author has mixed the spiritual and political issues based on the title of documentary film about Dr. Lobsang Sangay: “The Outsider: Tibet’s Next Incarnation?” As far as the writer can tell, Tibet’s Next Incarnation has nothing to do with Dr. Sangay’s leadership. It would be wise for the film makers to rethink about the appropriateness of the current title of their documentary.

Two, the author takes issue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s statement made during a teaching in Salugara, North India, on March 29, 2013. The author states: His Holiness is, of course, correct in his assertion that his people continue to place their faith in him, but the second part of the remark that He “still retains a responsibility” can clearly be read to mean that He “still retains ultimate political power” in the Tibetan world, especially on the issue of the Middle Way Approach, where He appears to be suggesting that no change in policy would be tolerated.  Again the author’s personal interpretation of His Holiness’ statement does not bear evidence. Since His Holiness has devolved his political power he has largely refrained from making political statements and often deferred news reporters to Sikyong – the new political Tibetan leader. While restating his three commitments, His Holiness makes it clear to the world that he is not the political head of Tibetans, however, he feels personal responsibility as a Tibetan and also a spokesperson for Tibetans because they put their faith in him. In this regard, he “still retains a responsibility” as he feels towards Tibet and Tibetans. There is no ground and it is not right to rewrite his statement into “still retains ultimate political power” in the Tibetan world…”  He has devolved his complete political power to the elected leadership and the world knows it and appreciates his bold and altruistic decision and action.

Furthermore, the author writes: If such is the case and that if “two years” after the Dalai Lama’s retirement Tibetan cannot have an open and frank debate on the success or failure of His signature national policy, it makes the whole claim of Tibetan exile democracy a bad joke. It also gives credence to China’s repeated accusations of the Dalai Lama’s insincerity and dishonesty. A Wall Street Journal report mentioned that “China has dismissed the Dalai Lama’s retirement as a ‘trick’ designed to impress the international community.”  The author seems to suggest that His Holiness has put a great wall on having an open and frank debate on the success or failure of his signature national policy – the Middle Way.  This is very unfortunate statement the author has made to say the least. His Holiness is on the record to say that ultimately Tibetans will decide about Tibet issues and he is all for transparency of matters. While His Holiness initiated the Middle Way idea, it was deliberated upon in Tsogchen (General Body Meetings) and Chithue (Tibetan Parliament) by the representatives of the Tibetan people and adopted it as our national policy. If we, the Tibetan people, failed in our responsibilities to engage in open and frank discussions on such matters it is ultimately our own failures. Let’s face it. Contrary to the author’s claim, we see open discussions on Tibetan issues in our diaspora. Recent formation of Bod Gyal Yong Rangzen Lhantsog (Tibetan National Congress) and Rangzen meetings in Dharamsala and in the West attest to the freedom of speech and open discussion about matters of importance to all of us. Also, Chithue Karma Choephel la’s personal statement for Rangzen on the floor of Tibetan Parliament reflects the freedom of speech and safeguard of that freedom.  

His Holiness has served Tibet and Tibetans from his teenage age to senior age during the most difficult period in our long history. The democracy he has provided us, and that the author recognizes as his real legacy, alone is the gift that cannot be repaid in same measure. His Holiness has asked for nothing in return for himself despite his inestimable sacrifices and contributions to the very survival and thriving of Tibetan diasporic community, identity, culture, community, and Tibetan issue. His Holiness has done more than his share of responsibility and now it is our responsibility to manage our national affairs. The future of Tibet is not in His Holiness’ hands, it is in the hands of Tibetan people, especially the younger generation. Let’s be grateful to His Holiness for everything he has done and commit to do our parts. It is best when we make decision and undertake actions based on an informed understanding of Tibetan issues from multiple perspectives.

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