The Dalai Lama

By Chris Colin

Published November 30, 2000 8:54AM (EST)

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While your article on the Dalai Lama was accurate, it didn't go far enough to show how the Chinese are attempting to wipe the Tibetan culture from the face of the earth. There are currently more Chinese people in Tibet than there are Tibetans. It is forbidden to teach the Tibetan language in school and speaking Tibetan in public can land one in jail. Children who have fled to India are forced to return to Tibet under the threat that the child's relatives remaining in Tibet will be jailed. If one is sent to jail, it is never certain that he or she will make it out alive. Slave labor is rampant.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm no Clinton basher, but for me, his greatest failure is our China trade policy. The Chinese prosper while the Tibetan people suffer and their culture is destroyed. Even at the United Nations, the recent gathering of the world's spiritual leaders excluded the Dalai Lama in order to placate China.

We need to remind our elected leaders that the continuation of the Tibetan culture should take precedence over out trade policy with China. If the leaders of the world don't mention Tibet so that they don't offend China, it's up to us to keep what is happening to Tibet and its people out in the open. The Dalai Lama is doing a tremendous job at keeping Tibet in our consciousness, but he can't do it alone. He needs our voices.


-- Bob Miller

Your article about the Dalai Lama provides interesting historical and factual details about his life and role as spiritual leader. Yet the spin of the article -- the Dalai Lama as marketer -- captures the Western inability to see spiritual wisdom as anything other than just another product. The Buddhists speak of awakening -- being fully aware of the world around us. This is not something you buy or consume or do -- it's a way of being.

Given the article's perspective, it is not surprising at all that the Dalai Lama should be laughing at us.

-- Chris Laszlo

Earlier this year I had the good fortune to visit Tibet as part of a trip to China. There really isn't any accurate way to describe how moving the experience was except that a trip to the Potala Palace (residence of the Dalai Lamas) leaves one feeling incredibly sad that the one person who is meant to be there cannot.

In spite of an enormous Chinese presence, the Tibetans remain a happy people. They are enormously welcoming to Westerners and there is an implicit understanding that we know and they know and no one says anything. Occasionally the odd monk or tour guide will risk telling you stories the Chinese would want us not to hear and you feel incredibly privileged that they would trust a stranger enough to do so.

Perhaps the biggest irony is that Internet cafes exist in Lhasa to serve the many Western backpackers. It is not inconceivable for Tibetans to enter and search for information on Tibet or the Dalai Lama. I'm not sure how long China can control the situation -- Tibet is the biggest tourist area for the Chinese and in 10 years' time China wants to be the biggest tourist destination in the world. They realize they have to at least appear to preserve the Tibetan way of life.

-- Caroline Perry
Sydney, Australia

As a Chinese-American who has grown up in a society where most Asian men, especially Chinese, are regarded as villainous or sexless sages, I find the West's "love affair" with Dalai Lama most amusing as well.

Westerners are swept up with adoration at the Dalai Lama because he represents that sexless sage, unthreatening to Western domination, who will attack those inscrutable and wily Chinese. How many dozens of Hollywood movies have echoed this script?

I find it ironic that the author lambastes China for modernizing Tibet, saying that it destroys what is Tibetan. Funny. Why don't Westerners -- especially Americans -- decry the massive commercialization of China? The current consumerism and slavish subservience to anything Western in China is 1,000 times worse than what's wrought in Tibet.

I don't excuse China's actions in Tibet. I also don't excuse the slave society that existed under the autocratic Lamas prior to the '50s. I do know one thing: Unless Westerners face up to the fact that they have pillaged and destroyed China both past and present, they will never understand why Chinese people despise your pedantic accusations.

-- Joshua Shen

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