Sunday, May 06, 2007

Dalai Lama

I flew to Madison, Wisconsin last week to participate in a fund raiser for the Deer Park Buddhist Center, where I was fortunate to hear His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak to a small group. On the way to Madison my flights were unexpectedly rerouted when I reached Denver, so I had to run around the huge Denver airport to find the gate for the next flight. As I was anxiously rushing from one terminal to another, at one point on an escalator I looked up and saw this billboard.

There I was rushing like a nut all over the airport to make sure I would make it to the meeting with the Dalai Lama early the following day, and I suddenly encounter him on a 15 foot high billboard. It made me laugh. The rest of the trip was fine.


Wanderer said...

i saw Dalai Lama two weekends ago in San Francisco where he was giving a 2 -day lecture. he was very down-to-earth, homely, and a great teacher. a true simple monk. during q&a, he answered a question about science and belief....where he spent quite some time talkin about the nature of consciousness and our limited knowledge of it. he did say that if science ever shows that consciousness is just a product of the brain and that reincarnation is not real then Buddhism must change as well. very open-minded, i thought. it was quite an experience being in his presence and rest of the audience.

Mark Szlazak said...

The current supreme lama is a man of some charm and presence but this does not allow one to overlook his hereditary monarchy or invalidate critiques of hereditary monarchy. As Christopher Hitchens has said,

In exactly the same way as a medieval princeling, he [the Dalai Lama] makes the claim not just that Tibet should be independent of Chinese hegemony---a "perfectly good" demand, if I may render it into everyday English---but that he himself is a hereditary king appointed by heaven itself. How convenient! Dissenting sects within his faith are persecuted; his one-man rule in an Indian enclave is absolute; he makes absurd pronouncements about sex and diet and, when on his trips to Hollywood fund-raisers, anoints major donors like Steven Segal and Richard Gere as holly.

Hitchens goes on to remind us that

...the first foriegn visitors to Tibet were downright appalled at the feudal domination, and hideous punishments, that kept the population in permanent serfdom to a parasitic monastic elite.

Dean Radin said...

Certainly not hereditary monarchy as in e.g. European royalty. The current DL was born to a poor farming family.

In any case, I wouldn't expect any less a rant from the author of "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." Hitchens also rants against Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Would the world be better off without such people, acknowledging that we're all human and as such, we're all subject to human frailties?

I don't think so.

Wanderer said...

while the serfdom to the monastery may be true to the previous dalai lamas, you cannot say with certainty that the current Dalai Lama would do the same. he was too young (mid-teen) when he escaped into India to have much of an impact and did not have a chance to really rule. later on in his life, he said that he would push for reforms to get rid of 'monarchy' that people have heavily criticized him of even though he was not responsible for the actions of previous dalai lamas. and for the skeptics, dont give me an argument that if he was the reincarnation of previous Dalai Lamas, then he would be no different. if you understand more about the Buddhism you'll know that reincarnation doesn't work like that. let's just focus on now- who he is now and what he advocates- which is a Tibet province where Tibetans can rule on their own and given the basic human rights, which China has denied even to its own people. i dont know where you get the information about 'absurd pronouncements about sex and diet, and the celebrity-related events.' but you should really look into Christopher Hitchen's research and find out his motives in making such claims about Dalai Lama.

the current dalai lama is more progressive than the previous ones, and through his extensive travelings to the western world he has learned the necessity to modernize the Tibet- so that they dont go backward, and not isolate themselves as they once did. his greatest concern is the welfare of the people in tibet, who are being treated as lower citizens compared to the chinese population that have recently exploded in Tibet due to massive relocation program ordered by the Chinese government. Chinese government has also ordered massive relocation of tibetan people living in rural area (without compensation) to a more populated area for the 'benefits' of education and higher standard of livings- it's hard to say how much tibetan people will benefit from it, but the chinese government will definitely be able to monitor the activity of tibetan people with more ease by herding them together into one area.

so here we have: dalai lama who promoted self-ruled of tibet by tibetan people, and who has been exposed to the western world with its democratic ideas and the importance of human rights. on the other end of the spectrum- you have China.......plagued with corruption, a fascist state masked as a socialist one, horrible human right violations, massive production of substandard consumer goods and tainted food, and has very little concern for the environment, and disproportional military funding (yes, u can say the same about US, but at least overall the standard of living here is much higher and fewer people die of starvation)....

let's say the worst case scenario, dalai lama returns to tibet and becomes a monarch ruler, i doubt that he will fare worse than what the chinese government is doing to tibet nowaday.

i myself don't believe it'll happen this way, but for the skeptics, wouldnt you think dalai lama is still the lesser of two evils?

Mark Szlazak said...

Well Dean and Wanderer. I don't see anything invalid about those quotes from Hitchen's. If you like replace hereditary monarchy with just monarchy. The end result is the same. Also, in case you think his recent book is all rant then I suggest you get a copy and read it because it's not. Only religious types and their supporters want you to think this so that you won't read his expose. Looks like this strategy isn't entirely successful since his book is a top seller on Amazon.

As to the nature of Tibet and it's ruling Buddhist Lama's, it's slavery, it's tortures and executions, and it's pedophilia then one can read Michael Parenti's, "Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth" at

I believe the current head lama is mentioned in Parenti's article as well. References at end to follow up on.

SenorDee said...

Don't forget that Tibet is the first, and so far, only state that has ever decided to put down their weapons and devote their effort toward peaceful spiritual persuits. What the lay community there faces is most certainly not slavery, torture, and the likes; on the contrary, the lay community is fully committed toward upholding the status quo.
When exiled in India one of the first things the current Dalai Lama did was write a new constitution (1963) which included a procedure for his removal as Head of State should he neglect his duties. When this was done there was an outcry from the people who couldn't believe they would ever have to depose of their beloved leader.
This constitution was updated in 2001 along the lines of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights guaranteeing "everyone equality before law and equal enjoyment of rights and freedom without discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, language and social origin."

Some slave state indeed.

M.C. said...


as someone who is not religious, I can only respond that it would be just as easy to write a polemic entitled "How atheism poisons everything" and attack the personal lives and character of noted atheists, as well as pointing out how organized atheocracies slaugthered 100 million + over the past century.

Wanderer said...

Fergie's latest album 'the dutchess' was number 1 on amazon for weeks after its release, does that mean that her music is any good? her music is shallow, superficial and nothing but self-indulgence ranting of a girl whose goal was to make money without any consideration of her music's impact on the today's youth. personally, i dont see hitchens any different from that. his self-indulgence was worshiped by the like-minded atheists. preaching to the choir, really. and frankly, having a title like 'how religion poisons everything' only goes to know that he's out to make money among his fellow dogmatic atheists.

there are always bad apples in any social constructs- hitchens, in his book, claimed that although stalin was an atheist, he wasn't really secular at all, since, as he quotes George Orwell, "a totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy."

how convenient!

how funny that you can justify all murders and wrongdoings to religion.

hitchen's attack on religion only goes to show that he's out to promote his own theocracy- atheism. and that atheists should go out and crush all religious but their own. that sounded like something Catholic Church set out to do back in the Middle Ages.

and obviously, mark did not really read my comment since i asked him to focus on dalai lama as we know today, and see what he advocates as a free Tibet, but instead he showed a link to the article detailing the heinous crimes committed by the previous dalai lamas- again, the current dalai lama was too young to make any political changes while he was in Tibet. The CIA Conspiracy- well, that happened much earlier in his life, and at the time he supported resistance in Tibet to free Tibet, but now he changed his stance and asked to resolve the issue peacefully with Chinese.

i think that some of the atrocities described in the article about Tibet in history were true, but compared to the overall population, what is the percentage of people that suffered? there will always be some with power that do terrible things to people, but is it really religion's fault? no, those people merely use religion as an excuse to commit those atrocity. these kind of atrocities happened in any countries, any religions, and any societies. it's power and greed that corrupt and drive people to do horrible things, not religion. it's just convenient to use religion this way, as just some countries use nuclear weapons to get what they want.

if i follow your logic, then since the shooters at the columbine were atheists, does that mean that all atheists will go on shooting rampage? does that mean we should crush atheism?

keep reading those one-sided arguments will only confine your world view. gaining a better understanding of how the world is, and exposing yourselves to people on both sides will help you open your mind and get a glimpse of what's the cause of all these sufferings.

i'm not going to bother responding to the same old arguments, but am welcoming a change of perspective.

Dean Radin said...

I agree with the last three comments. Criticism by armchair quarterbacks is easy compared to actually accomplishing something noble and good in the world.

So I'll end this thread with a quote from Richard Pryor: "I never met anybody who said when they were a kid, 'I wanna grow up and be a critic.'"

oliver said...

He "anoints them as holly?" how unusual. Saying he consideres himself "appointed by Heaven" shows an ignorance of Buddhism, which recognises no one God or "Heaven", and as for persecuting sects, this no doubt refers to the followers of an entity called Dorje Shugden, who the mainstream tradition in Tibet sees as a demon. He has discouraged this practice, but not actively "persecuted" people. You can find more info on Wikipedia, or on the DL's site here:
I am not a Buddhist but was powerfully impressed by the DL's peaceful and warm presence when I saw him open a peace garden in London. He had a kind of arua about him that is hard to explain.
As for early visitors being appalled by Tibet, he doesn;t explain which ones, just makes this generalised claim - I seem to remember Heinrich Harrer (7 Years in Tibet), for example, was not especially "appalled". Also you can;t blame the DL, for everything done in his country when he was a child. The west had barbaric practices like slavery less than 200 years ago, and the death penalty is still used in the USA. Also - references to a "parasitic elite" of monks makes it sound like they were a small group - in fact, I seem to recall, about a third of the population were monks due to the importance placed on Buddhism.

Steve A. Ray said...

Dean, I know this is a very old blog...But I wanted to quickly mention the importance of Jill Bolte Taylor's TED experience contrasted with the books of the D. Lama...who stated repeatedly that he does not know what Nirvana is..or if it exists. Another expression is from the Vietnamese Thich Nhat Hanh, who states that 'Nirvana is available". This is a very interesting contrast, IMO. JBT experiences Hinayana, the others meditate on Mahayana. Nirvana is rare...and makes for wonderful writings...and Experience. The Earliest Pali states that NIBBANA...means Personal Death...or being "beyond the Wind" as J. Campbell pointed out. So, ironically JBT was actually dying (left brain) and the lack of inhibitions launched her Opening. Surely someone will see the remaining important elements of her overall story. I do. The D.Lama's stories about meditation and associate key-timed tantric sex...doesn't begin to approach Nirvanic or Nirvikalpa Order experiences. IMO

Sorry for the late editing...