On the Great Significance of the Dalai Lama’s latest visit to Mongolia

(from my posting on the blogsite of the International Campaign for Tibet)

Mongolian Buddhists

One of the outcomes regarding the Dalai Lama in the post-1959 period is the clarity that has emerged about the nature of his followers. The conventional thinking about the Dalai Lama being merely the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people has changed. He has not only gained thousands of followers in both the Eastern and Western world, but more importantly the traditional followers of Tibetan Buddhism outside of Tibet, along the Himalayan region as well as in Mongolia and present-day Russian Federation, have become more visible.

This can be clearly seen at the very many teachings that the Dalai Lama has been giving in India and elsewhere, particularly in Bodh Gaya, where we see an intermingling of Bhutanese, Monpas, Sherpas, Sikkimese, Ladakhis, Mongols, and more.

His Holiness has spent the past several decades spreading his message urging traditional Buddhists to become modern; to devote more of their attention to the all-round study of Buddhism and not merely be consumed by the ritualistic aspect of it. He also feels modern Buddhists should be able to utilize the knowledge of Buddhist science to interact with modern science.

Ladakhi Buddhists

His Holiness had the same messages during his four day visit to Mongolia.In adding to giving Buddhist teachings, the Dalai Lama also participated in a Buddhist and Science conference in Ulaan Baatar, the capital of Mongolia. During this conference, he said: “Buddhist scholars and practitioners have benefited from learning about physics, while modern scientists have shown a keen interest in learning more about what Buddhism has to say about the workings of the mind and emotions.”

His Holiness also mentioned his pleasure in the conference being held for the benefit of the Mongolian Buddhist community. Among speakers at the conference were Helen Y. Wang, a neuroscientist and a clinical psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, spoke about Contemplative Neuroscience and Socially Engaged Buddhism; B. Boldsaikhan from the Mongolian University of Science and Technology who spoke about medicine and logic; K. Namsrai, a senior scholar in physics, who talked about relations between Quantum Physics and Buddhist philosophy; and Dr. Fadel Zeidan, Associate Director of Neuroscience at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, spoke about the Neuroscience of Mindfulness, Meditation and Pain.

In general the Dalai Lama visiting Mongolia should not be a surprise, considering the nature of country and its people. The Mongolian people have had a special historical connection with the Dalai Lama. Many are followers of Tibetan Buddhism, and their devotion to His Holiness was clearly visible during this visit. Some people traveled hundreds of miles in the current harsh wintry climate merely to have a glimpse of a spiritual leader they revere. In fact, there were even Buddhists from neighboring Russian Federation, who after hearing about His Holiness’ visit at short notice, made arrangements to be able to participate in the teachings. A New York Times report on November 19 described two such individuals: Daritseren, 73, an ethnic Mongolian from Russian Siberia, who had heard only on Friday (November 18) that the Dalai Lama was visiting Mongolia. “She traveled with 40 other people for 15 hours overnight to make it just in time for the sermon,” it said. Another individual, Boldbaatar, 75, a herder, had traveled 125 miles. “I’m an old man,” the New York Times quotes him as saying. “Maybe I’m seeing His Holiness, the incarnation of Lord Buddha, for the last time,” he added.

However, China has for long been misunderstanding the person of the Dalai Lama, considering him a problem rather than a solution, and has been using economic clout to prevent countries from welcoming him. In fact, many countries far bigger than Mongolia have succumbed to Chinese pressure. The fact that Mongolia did not do so is a testimony to its leaders’ ability to uphold their principles and traditional values. The Mongolian government did not let this undue pressures from China get in the way of enabling Mongolian Buddhists to receive His Holiness’ teachings. Reactions in the Mongolian media that I monitored clearly regard this development positively. I hope such developments will even lead to a time when Chinese Buddhists in China, too, can avail themselves of the wisdom imparted by His Holiness, just as the Mongolians were able to do this time.

Game 7 of the World Series and November 8

Game 7 of the World Series and November 8

Bhuchung K. Tsering

On November 2, 2016, I watched the Chicago Cubs play against the Cleveland Indians in Game 7, the final game, of the baseball World Series.


cubs electionsA World Series in itself is a matter of excitement. But this time, as the TV’s tagline said, “History will be made.” Thus, given the stakes, there was even more excitement. Talking about the atmosphere in the field just before the game, I hear the commentator say, “there is also tension here”.

These days there is tension in another upcoming competition that is in the minds of all of us. It will also create history no matter who wins. Will she? Wont she?

In the first inning itself, the Cubs score a home run, and the fans go wild.

The game proceeds and in the third inning, as the Indians score a home run and tied the Cubs 1:1, I hear the commentator say, “The state of the game may be hanging in balance here”.

Indeed, in the past few days there are some who have started to wonder whether the competition is hanging in balance. I still think it is a surefire thing, but there is this that little bit of doubt.

In the fourth inning, the Cubs lead 2:1 after one of the Cleveland players has a brief moment of hesitation before throwing the ball. But that was enough for the Cubs runner to finish a home run. “Just a tiny hesitation is all it takes,” I hear the commentator say.

Will there be collective hesitation on November 8, I wonder?

The Cubs get another home run in the same fourth inning and the score is 3:1. I hear the crowd becoming noisy.

In the fifth inning, the Cubs get another home run and now they lead 4:1.

Meanwhile, the commentator refers to a clip that showed David Ross, catcher for the Chicago Cubs, adding, “That clip shows how much these young guys gravitate towards David Ross.”

I wonder whether the “young guys” will similarly gravitate towards her? Everyone is talking about the millennials being a critical factor in this year’s competition.

The fifth inning ends for the Cubs with another home run and they lead 5:1.

As a new pitcher comes for the Cubs in the Indians’ fifth inning, the commentator says, “We have got a little bit of the unknown”.

In fact, these days we are wondering about the “unknown”. Would there be more surprises? Would the surprises that have surfaced have an impact on the outcome?

But the Indians score two home runs in the fifth inning to make the score 5:3. “The game has changed that quickly,” says the commentator.

That is what we are concerned about. Could the game indeed change quickly? Would we be faced with a situation that will have great impact on the future of this country?

It is the sixth inning and the Cubs score another home run. It is now 6:3.

There is a break between innings and I flip channels. There is a commercial by the competition. Looks like both the campaigns are sensing the tight race and so are flooding the channels with commercials. I wonder about the number of people who are still undecided and what the impact of the commercials, or the surprises, will be on them.

There is nothing to report about the seventh inning. As the eighth inning begins, the commentator talks about the two teams’ development this year by saying, “It has been a wild ride for both of these teams”.

“Wild” actually is also an apt description of the campaigns that we have witnessed during this cycle. Things even went to the extent of hitting the very foundation of the system. But how would things turn out ultimately?

As the eighth inning began, the Indians scored a run making it 6:4 now. Would they catch up with the Cubs with just one more inning? But the game was going way beyond my bedtime and so I decided to retire for the night, taking with me a bit of suspense of the final outcome.

The news media report of different polls that indicate that the two are running neck-and-neck is some states; that he has slight lead in some others; that she is leading in most states. But the suspense is there about the final outcome.

In the morning as soon as I woke up, I switched on the transistor radio beside the bed, as I usually do, to listen to the news on NPR. On the hour, the news began, but NPR decided to prolong my suspense by headlining the broadcast with other news, including yet another death of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

But then came the news: the Indians had tied in the eighth inning 6:6 and in an extended 10th inning (because of rain delay), the Cubs had won 8:7. So the outcome is finally there although it was a nail-biting finish. History has been made.

Would we have to look for a similar outcome on November 8? I keep my fingers crossed.

Why does Tibet matter in the discourse on the democratization of China?

Why does Tibet matter in the discourse on the democratization of China?

On October 2, 2016, I participated in a conference on possibility for democratization of China at New York University. There were scholars on China, Chinese-American academics, Tibetans, Uyghurs, and some of the top names in the Chinese democracy movement, including Tiananmen veteran Wang Juntao and writer of Fifth Modernization Wei Jingsheng. The conference was convened by Prof. Ming Xia of New York University and Mr. Chin Jin of the China Democracy Forum.In my presentation I made a case on why Tibet matters in this discourse by Chinese democracy advocates.

Here is an expanded version of the points I made:

First, the aspirations of the Tibetan people need to be considered from the beginning of the discourse. If the Chinese democracy advocates are talking of democratization of the People’s Republic of China, then they need to bear in mind that the present PRC territorial borders include a large number of people like Tibetans who are not Chinese (Han). In fact, the PRC terms itself “a unified multi-ethnic country” with the 56 nationalities supposed to be having equal rights. Therefore, Tibetan viewpoints need to be considered as part of the discourse rather than Tibetans merely being perceived as beneficiaries of the discourse.

The Chinese Communist government has failed, and continues to fail, in understanding Tibetan aspirations. It is for this reason that even after virtually 60 years of occupation, the leadership in Beijing has not been able to gain the trust of the Tibetan people. The Chinese democrats should not commit the same mistake. Continue reading “Why does Tibet matter in the discourse on the democratization of China?”

Empowering Tibetans in More Ways than One

I wrote the following for Tibet Fund for its special publication on the occasion of its 35 years of service. It is on page 27 of the publication.

Empowering Tibetans in More Ways than One

Bhuchung K. Tsering

 

As with all Tibetans of my generation, my choice of a career was shaped more by the availability of funding/scholarship rather than by my own personal ambition.  Growing up I had an interest in science (wanted to be a medical doctor, no surprise there as everyone then wanted to be one!), but when the time came for me to choose my field of study in the last two years of my high school, the only option provided to students of my group was in humanities and not science.

 

I then developed an interest in journalism.  My choice, after my undergraduate study, included applying for a job with a media organization or applying for admission to a mass communication school. I did both.

 

Around that time (in the early 1980s) I had somehow heard that the Office of Tibet in New York (within which Tibet Fund was housed in its initial years) was providing scholarship for further studies.  I therefore wrote a letter to it explaining my interest in studying journalism.  Continue reading “Empowering Tibetans in More Ways than One”

The Next American President and Tibet

The Next American President and Tibet

Hillary Clinton and Dalai Lama

Then Secretary Hillary Clinton receiving the Dalai Lama at the State Department in February 2010. (Photo: Michael Gross, State Department)

As the November 8, 2016 US Presidential elections draw near, there are those who are predicting a very close race between Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.Tibetan Americans and friends and supporters of the Tibetan people are watching the developments closely. In past elections, Tibetan Americans have shown themselves to be single-issue voters; with Party affiliations being regarded secondary to how the candidate has shown his (and now her) support to Tibet. During President George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004, quite many Tibetan Americans said they voted for him even though they identified themselves as being Democrat. This was because President George W. Bush clearly spoke out in support of the Dalai Lama and Tibet.

American politicians have noted this small but influential voting constituency. Continue reading “The Next American President and Tibet”

Tasks before the Re-Elected Sikyong

Reposting this from the blog of the International Campaign for Tibet.

 

Tasks before the Re-Elected Sikyong

Bhuchung K. Tsering

https://weblog.savetibet.org

 

On April 27, 2016, the Tibetan Election Commission announced the results of the Sikyong and parliamentary elections < http://tibet.net/2016/04/final-results-of-sikyong-and-tibetan-parliamentary-elections-declared/&gt;.  Except in the case of some members of parliament, for the Sikyong and some other MPs, the results were already known and this is a mere formality.

There have been some discussions about the degeneration of the Tibetan society in diaspora in the months leading to the elections, with now even the politicians realizing their shortsightedness.  There have been some damage but all is not lost in the broader scheme of things.  In the past when there were concerns about his devolution of authority, His Holiness the Dalai Lama had said it is better that the people tread on this path of self-reliance while he was still active as he can then provide guidance if things go astray.  Therefore, the recent development was something that would have happened at any time given the nature of the system and it was good that it happened now while corrective measures can be taken.

In any case, I wrote the following after the previous election cycle in 2011. Upon re-reading it, other than there being a change in the nomenclature from “Kalon Tripa” to “Sikyong” the rest of my assertion continues to be valid for the new administration under Sikyong Lobsang Sangay.  Therefore, I am reposting it.

 

Message from the Tibetan Elections

Bhuchung K. Tsering

April 27, 2011

 

 

Today, the Tibetan Election Commission in Dharamsala, India, announced the results of the general elections held on March 20, 2011 to elect the Kalon Tripa, the Chairman of the Tibetan Cabinet, and members of the Tibetan Parliament.  As pointed out in the statement our organization issued today, congratulations are due not just to the winners but also to all the Tibetan people who participated in this historic democratic process. Above all, this is yet another testimony to the foresight of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his several decades-long efforts at democratizing the Tibetan governances system.

When campaigning began for the present election cycle in 2009, I wrote the following about what the next Kalon Tripa’s responsibilities would be.

“The next Kalon Tripa should devote his or her time and effort to the consolidation of the Tibetan community, becoming their spokesperson and look into creation of a system providing a continuation of leadership.

 

“There are three main ways to implement this provision of political leadership.

“First, the position needs to understand that the basis of the Tibetan people’s support to the leadership currently is the historical role of the institution of the Dalai Lamas. The next Kalon Tripa needs to work on a strategy to continuing this relationship and to strengthen the institution to prepare for any and all eventualities. Continue reading “Tasks before the Re-Elected Sikyong”

An Appeal for Civility in Tibetan Elections

An Appeal for Civility in Tibetan Elections

Bhuchung K. Tsering

democracy

Now that the Tibetan Election Commission has announced the candidates for the forthcoming elections to the post of Sikyong and for parliamentarians, campaigning, which had been going on ever before that, is taking a more aggressive turn.

This is good for the strengthening of Tibetan democracy. As voters we need to know the person we wish to elect. For candidates, it is their responsibility to see that the voters are clearly informed of what they stand for and what they aspire to deliver once in office. Thus, campaigning becomes the main vehicle to do this.

However, a better democracy is one where there is positive campaigning. Unfortunately, during this election cycle we are noticing a growing trend in negative campaigning by the candidates, both directly and indirectly through surrogates. More alarming is the use of surrogates (oftentimes anonymous) to launch vitriolic attacks through acerbic and malicious assertions against some candidates.

The growth of social media and the somewhat superficial coverage of developments by some section of the traditional media are providing fuel for this, leading to confusion and commotion rather than clarity.

This is a dangerous development that might lead to wounds and divisions in the small society that might not heal even after the elections are over. Lately, whenever I speak with another Tibetan there is frustration with the current tenor of campaign rhetoric and a concern about where this situation might be leading us.

The Tibetan society is moving to a new stage of assessing the candidates, from that of regionalism and factionalism to one of individual worth. Among those standing up for elections to the Tibetan Parliament, for example, there are many well-meaning ones (I personally know some of them) who have been in the service of the community in different capacity. The nature of the elections is such that not everyone will be elected. Therefore, it should not be that the shortsighted and ill informed utterances of a few lead to the discouragement of people from serving the community in the future. While the Sikyong position has some perks (notwithstanding the somewhat puny remuneration), the parliamentarians for the most part have to devote personal time, energy and resources to their new responsibility in addition to doing their routine jobs.

Therefore, the candidates and the voters have responsibilities to alter the situation and not let it go out of control. There is a need for political civility.

Separate Personalities from Issues

The candidates and voters should bear in mind that our focus should be on issues and not on personalities. We should have frank exchanges of views on the position of the candidates on issues, whether they are as fundamental as the resolution of the Tibetan issue or day-to-day matter like social development programs. But we should stop disseminating information that is personal attacks against particular candidates. It is the right of the voters to support any particular candidate but we do not have the right to malign others. We also should not encourage the candidates to ‘hit each other below the belts’ just because we think that will score a point.

Speak the Truth

Tough questions need to be posed, whether by voters or the media. But everything has to be based on facts and not on hearsay, rumors or half-truths. I myself have seen a few documents circulating out there that are based on ignorance and also have no bearing to the issue. I am told on WeChat or Facebook there are more such destructive assertions being made of specific individuals.

Don’t pull a fast one

I would particularly urge the candidates not to try pulling a fast one to be elected and in the process harm the broader community. In other words, they should not miss the wood for the trees.

Talking about “The Meaning of Civility”, two professors at the University of Colorado had this to say: “The most destructive confrontation process, escalation, arises when accidental or intentional provocations beget greater counter-provocations in an intensifying cycle that transforms a substantive debate characterized by honest problem solving into one in which mutual hatred becomes the primary motive. De-escalation and escalation avoidance strategies are needed to limit this problem.”

I think the candidates should strive to do this. They should not dent  the bus of democracy just to be elected and in the process make it useless to the voters who are the passengers.

To put it in another way, the elections are not a one-night stand. There is the day after that we have to live with and it should not be the case that we have a splitting headache to deal with then.