Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The (more) enlightened one

So, now he's not coming. The Dalai Lama has backed out of his engagement at the Times Union Center in Albany citing the controversy surrounding the organization sponsoring his visit. This according to a press release from the Dalai Lama's office.
"His Holiness the Dalai Lama," the realase read, "Was concerned that his message would not get through in the current environment."

He (His Holiness, that is) is right. The so-called World Ethical Foundation's sponsorship of the visit would have clouded the Dalai Lama's message of wisdom and peace which, somewhat ironically, was reinforced by his refusal to attend. At least in my mind.

Since blogging about the visit and calling for His Holiness to back out, I found myself questioning the purity of the Dalai Lama. I wanted to believe in the sincerity of his message of peace and harmony but I couldn't help but wonder if He was "for hire" by any Johnny-come-lately, pseudo-enlightened organization looking to bask in some respectability in exchange for a donation to His Holiness' cause.

Wouldn't that be the way?

I don't mean "The Way," like eightfold path and snatch the pebble from my hand, Grasshopper.
I mean the "Say it ain't so, Joe" way.

And then, who is the Dalai Lama, anyway? What does it mean to "Free Tibet?" What is the difference between the theocracy that was pre-Chinese invasion Tibet and an absolute, divine right monarchy?

Is it just our Western, elitist, East-coast liberal bias that somehow puts Buddhism beyond corruption and allows Tibet to escape scrutiny as a historically opressive country that has, by most measures, been improved by the Chinese?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a big fan of the Chinese invasion. And there are lots of measures besides infant mortality, per-capita GDP, life expectancy and literacy rates...actually, there aren't a lot of measures but there is more to life than statistical improvements that the World Bank would recognize.

And I don't want to give the Chinese credit where none is due. You would have to try pretty hard not to see improvements in all of the measures I mentioned before. To say that the Chinese did all that is a bit of a stretch, too. It probably would have happened anyway.

But what does the Dalai Lama intend to do with Tibet should be, by some bizarre circumstance, find himself at the wheel of that country? Is the first order to create a constitutional democracy and continue the Chinese-led policy of land-reform? Perhaps the time spent in exhile by His Holiness has had a positive effect but who is to say what the next encarnation will do with his power. Or her power. The fact that the Dalai Lama has hinted at the possibility of a female reincarnation is evidence that the Enlightened One has become more enlightened.

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