Can the Dalai Lama be in two different countries at the same time?

When I was working as the editor of Tibetan Bulletin in Dharamsala many years back, one of the things I enjoyed doing was writing a column, which I named “Last Page”. I used the column to focus on human-interest stories with a Tibetan twist.

Here is something that I wrote in 1994. If read in the context of our belief in the supernatural abilities of enlightened beings like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, you will get to appreciate it even more.

As a postscript, some time after this column appeared, I heard from a friend that some elderly Tibetans had heard about this story and they did not have any doubt about it happening.

The omnipresent Dalai Lama

by Bhuchung K. Tsering

Tibetan Bulletin, July 1994

This item comes without being discourteous to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. What would you say, if I told you His Holiness recently displayed his omnipresence by manifesting himself physically in two different places at the same time. Followers of Tibetan Buddhism would, without hesitation, say that this is possible given our belief in the divine power of His Holiness. In fact, we generally believe that beings like His Holiness, who have reached a certain spiritual level, can manifest themselves in as many places as they so desire. Doubtful Thomases may, however, say, “But this can’t be possible.” Yet, such an event really took place, and an Indian ambassador and a governor of an American state can testify to this fact.

After reading this story, even a confirmed atheist or a diehard rationalist will have to accept the fact that the incident indeed happened. The historic date for this phenomenon was April 14, 1994. In the afternoon of that day, while His Holiness was meeting with an Indian ambassador in one part of the world, he was also having tea around the same time with a governor of an American state in another part of the world.

Confusing, isn’t it? Well, if you still do not believe me, then check the tour programmes released by our offices in Tokyo and New York, because the incident took place during His Holiness’s tour of Japan and the United States in May this year (discerning readers would have noticed this in our report on His Holiness’s visits in our May-June issue). If you go by the programme of the Liaison Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama in Tokyo, His Holiness definitely received Indian Ambassador (to Japan) Prakash Shah at his hotel suite in Tokyo in the afternoon of April 14, 1994. But then, if you see the tour programme released by our Office of Tibet in New York, His Holiness definitely met Governor John Waihee of Hawaii at his official residence in Honolulu in the same afternoon. So, either His Holiness was in both the places at the same time (in which case you will have to indulge in what in literature is called “willing suspension of disbelief”) or else one of our offices is indulging in falsehood. Where lies the truth? Call Ambassador Shah or Governor Waihee to verify the facts! Confusing, isn’t it?

The truth, however, is simple. His Holiness was definitely in both Tokyo and Honolulu in the afternoon of April 14, 1994. But this something called the

International Dateline made all the difference. His Holiness was in Tokyo, meeting the Indian ambassador, among others, on April 14, 1994. He left the same evening (Tokyo time) for Honolulu. However, because he was flying in the easterly direction, he was able to gain an extra day after crossing the 180th meridian, i.e. the above-mentioned line. Thus, he reached Honolulu on the morning of April 14, 1994 (Hawaii time), in the process going a bit back to the past, as one would say. This enabled him to meet with the Governor of Hawaii, among others, in the same afternoon. Got it?

Imagine how a simple-minded Tibetan in a remote village in Tibet would react if he hears about His Holiness being in two different places at the same time? I would love to see his face.

By the way, the officer who maintains the appointment diary of His Holiness may need to order customised diaries in future which contain additional pages of certain dates to fill the necessity posed by events like the one mentioned in this item.

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Why do Tibetan doctors get drunk when preparing certain medicinal pills?

By Bhuchung K. Tsering

This is the first personal blog posting that I am doing in 2017. Developments in the US of A, including the atmosphere pre and post presidential elections of 2016, somehow made me want to stay away from writing.

In any case, I had the sudden urge to resume posting on my blog. This led me into recalling why I put my thoughts into words. I grew up and studied in India and the little practice in writing that I have had has been acquired while working for the Indian Express newspaper and subsequently for the Tibetan leadership’s official journal, Tibetan Bulletin. I have also had the pleasure of getting rejection slips from various newspapers as also having my pieces published in publications like Hindustan Times, Deccan Herald and Himal South Asia. The academic journal, The Tibet Journal of the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, has printed some of my writings and book reviews while the Tibetan Review has provided me a forum, including a regular column for some years.

Although straight news reporting has been the focus of my professional time when I was working as a journalist, personally I am more drawn towards human-interest issues. I like to look at the lighter side of life, find humor in situations and and take note of those behind the scene happenings or idiosyncrasies that make life colorful. For example, what could that lady be doing every day as she walked along the road next to my college hostel, putting something on top of the wall at regular interval? Why do Tibetan medical doctors virtually get drunk while preparing a particular “precious pill”? Or, where is the spiritual logic when some attendants in a monastery or a temple pour out and replace a butter lamp (the oil for which was duly paid for by a devotee) the moment another devotee comes wanting to make such a lamp offering? Or, imagine my chagrin when lining up to get the autograph of Salman Rushdie for his book Midnight’s Children, and I had what was obviously a pirated copy (as most novels that college-students of those days could afford were).
Continue reading “Why do Tibetan doctors get drunk when preparing certain medicinal pills?”

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.

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”