A Human Approach to the Dalai Lama’s Taiwan Visit

The Dalai Lama consoling some Taiwanese people during his visit
The Dalai Lama consoling some Taiwanese people during his visit

I have been following the developments relating to the Dalai Lama’s ongoing groundbreaking visit to Taiwan with great interest.  Although this is his third trip to the island, the visit is groundbreaking on account of the different factors that have gone into play in its happening.

While political rhetoric has dominated the “controversy” part of the visit, I feel the human aspect of the visit has to be appreciated much more than that is being done. The human aspect is something that I feel will continue to have far reaching impact when the visit is over and when the political din has subsided.

When President Ma Ying-jeou made that announcement before the media, the words he used to describe the nature of the Dalai Lama’s visit was “to pray for the dead and bring hope for the living.” In these 11 short words President Ma has succinctly described the spiritual and moral standing of individual known by the title of the Dalai Lama. While given his position and the situation of cross-straits relations, President Ma had his hands bound, it seems clear that the political decision of the KMT leadership was based on the basic human need of the Taiwanese society.

His Holiness also brings out the human aspect of the visit quite clearly when he told CNN in an interview, “As soon as I received the invitation, I know there’s some complications maybe. But it is my sort of moral responsibility to come and to see, show my face, to those people who are passing through a difficult period.”

The Dalai Lama would certainly have weighed the consequences of such a visit by him. As can be expected of him, he has utilized the new opportunity provided by the visit to encourage the Taiwanese people to think positively, pragmatically and to have a long-term vision.

A case in point is the issue of the protestors who had shown up at some of the venues where the Dalai Lama went.  When the media confronted him about his reaction to them, he had this simple response saying he understood the right of these people to exercise their freedom of expression.  May be the people behind the protestors (some of whom seem to be the handiwork of a leader of a criminal organization who has openly admitted to this in Chinese media) were seeking a confrontation. But the Dalai Lama’s message of “I love it” is something they may not have expected. A Taiwanese individual from Chungli, near Taipei, put this well when she told the Taiwan News that she was deeply moved by an event with the Dalai Lama that she attended, and that “the compassion and magnanimity of the Dalai Lama transcends all of those who criticize him.”

The fact that these protestors do not reflect mainstream Taiwanese public opinion can be seen from the turnout at the public events during the visit. According to one estimate over 17,000 people gathered on September 1 to hear the Dalai Lama and a photo shows a long winding line of people waiting to enter the venue.

Some official Chinese media tried to create dissension in the religious fraternity by pointing out that majority of the victims were Christians and not Buddhists, and thereby questioning the purpose of the Dalai Lama’s visit. In response, NTDTV carried a report where one Kaohsiung resident says this, “It doesn’t matter whether the evacuees follow his religion or not. His visit here should be meaningful to all of us. It is not about the politics. I think those people are reading too much into it.”

Chinese politic rhetoric is understandable for that is the only position they can take with regard to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan. It will be too much to hope that the Chinese leadership would be mature enough to welcome the spiritual solace that such a visit is providing to the Taiwanese people.

All in all, while the Chinese government and some elements in Taiwan have taken a political approach, the Dalai Lama has chosen to take a human approach to his visit to Taiwan.


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