The Dalai Lama of Tibet in Tawang

A view of Tawang (

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has arrived at the famed Tawang Monastery in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, in north-east India on Sunday morning.

The people of Arunachal Pradesh, as represented by their Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, have extended a grand reception to His Holiness when he arrived in Tawang. Many Arunachalis interviewed by the Tibetan language radios have expressed their strong positive emotions at the visit of their spiritual leader. In his first day in Tawang, His Holiness has already opened an exhibition (being the monastery’s collection and composing of both religious and secular artifacts) at Tawang Monastery and received a report of the monastery’s activities from its abbot, Guru Rinpoche.

It was a bit amusing to see how the political pundits, primarily in India, were having a field day in recent times dissecting China’s statements concerning the visit and predicting grave calamities. The latest among them was the Indian politician, Dr. Subramanium Swamy, who tweetered on November 4 saying, “I hope the Indian governmrnt is ready for a violent reaction from the Chinese once Dalai Lama sets foot in Tawang on Nov 6th.” Was he predicting China’s declaration of war against India by his use of the term “violent reaction”? Others were advising the Indian Government to discourage His Holiness from visiting Tawang with the implied meaning that this might assuage the Chinese Government.

Despite Chicken Little’s fears, the sky has not fallen. I would be greatly surprised if the sky did fall. It is my view that these commentators had fallen prey to Beijing’s public relations strategy.  My hunch is that the recent Chinese unusual outburst is not because they believe that it would be in their interest if the Dalai Lama did not visit Tawang. It is more to do with the natural India-China competition as emerging regional and global powers.  To me, it seems China is using the issue to gain political points  that could be used later on and to make India owe them one.

May be some in China have the view, as spelled out by the Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo in a writeup on YaleGlobal on September 8, 2009, about Tawang’s implication to China for the future. The Singapore Minister had referred to the Dalai Lama saying “In a recent TV interview, he said that he was born to accomplish certain tasks, and as those tasks were not completed, it was ‘logical’ that he would be reincarnated outside China. Many believe that ‘outside China’ means Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh where the 6th Dalai Lama came from, a Tibetan area controlled by India but claimed by China. This would greatly complicate the border demarcation between China and India. Beijing, of course, insists on the old rule that the appointment of high lamas must have its approval.”

If that indeed is the Chinese fear, anyone who understands the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual process would know that a true lama will choose to take a rebirth in a place where he is needed most and from where he can serve his congregation and the broader humanity. In the past, when there was an appropriate spiritual environment and need, one of the Dalai Lamas was born in Mongolia. So, the answer to this possible Chinese concern can be got from the answer to the question whether there is a possibility of an appropriate spiritual environment in Tibet or China when that time comes. Just a thought!


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