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Dalai Lama

There is no need to explain who is Dalai Lama. He is one of the most popular religious leaders in the world; recently he was reported to be more popular than the Roman Pope. He is also the most popular peace activist and freedom fighter. The tibetan buddhist tradition, which he represents, became a sort of fashion in the west, to a large extent because of his efforts. Though his public image seems to be idealised. Let’s look closer at the reality.
The future Dalai Lama was born in a farmers family in the border region between Tibet and China. At the age of 2 he was discovered and recognized as an incarnation of his predecessor, Dalai Lama 13th. The place he lived was inder the control of China, and it took two years of negotiation and bribing to get the permission to take the boy to Lhasa. At the age of 4 he was ordinated and officially became the leader of Tibet. From the age of 4 to 25 Dalai Lama passed a period of rigorous studies, which was required for his position. In the 1950s, after China forced Tibet to accept its sovereignity, he formally governed the country under the cninese control. In 1959, after the unsuccessful tibetan uprising in Lhasa, Dalai Lama fled to India with the help of the CIA. The next year he established the Tibetan Government in Exile in the indian Himalayas. He reestablished thousands of tibetan refugees, that left Tibet after him, and founded a number of organisations aimed to preserve tibetan buddhism, culture and lifestyle in exile. After his escape from Tibet he is known for his close association with the government of the US. He is generally well-received by the western political elites, and enjoys great popularity all over the world. Lately, though, a number of countries denied his visa to keep good relations with China. He is known as a leader of a non-violent tibetan independence movement and a peace activist advocating human rights and non-violent solutions for the conflicts. Up till now, he travels extensively meeting officials, scientists, religious leaders and followers, speaking on a wide range of subjects, and of course giving buddhist teahings. Despite his numerous attempts over decades to discuss the status of Tibet with the chinese government, supported to a certain extent by the the american and european governments, his attempts to change the political situation in Tibet were largely unsuccessful. In 2011 Dalai Lama left his official position of a leader of Tibetan Government in Exile. Recently he declared, that it is not certain that the Dalai Lama lineage will continue after his demise. Nevertheless, he remains the informal leader of all tibetan buddhists in the world, and the symbol of tibetan culture and national identity.
First of all, despite the popular belief, Dalai Lama is primarily a poilitical (and not a religious) figure. The post was established by the mongolian khans, and became associated with one of the four schools of tibetan buddhism – Gelug; the three other schools had their own heads, were independent and even rival to Gelug. Historically, Dalai Lamas were waging wars, ruling the country and dealing with the international affairs, they were also patrons and protectors of tibetan buddhism in general. Second, the lineage of Dalai Lamas has always remained a part of political game between the tibetan aristocracy, mongolian chans and chinese emperors. So it is highly doubtful, that the succeeding lineage of reincarnations (the new Dalai Lama is found with the signs and prophecies left by the previous one) was really kept pure and intact. The first recognised Dalai Lama was named the 3rd, while his teachers were named the 1st and the 2nd already after their death. One of the Dalai Lamas was a son of a mongolian khan, four died young, some were killed, and some were chosen with a direct chinese influence by picking lots from the urn. So the “sacredness” of the lineage itself is quite doubtful. Third, there is a common idea, that the tibetan refugees and monks are happily united under the enlightened guidance of His Holiness. In fact, Dalai Lamas have mostly been pretty authoritarian, and the present one is not an exception. Many “dissident” and “rebellious” lamas are forced to leave Dharamshala (his official residence and the “capital” of tibetan community in exile), and deprived of the considerable financial support from the international community and of course the political and social support of the Tibetan Government in Exile. Within the tibetan community Dalai Lama received lots fo criticism for his “diplomatic” approach. Many criticise him for being too soft, pleasing the western governments and paying too much attention to keep his image of a “nice guy”. Another point of criticism is his close ties to the celebrities like Richard Gere and Steven Seagal; the first one is his longtime friend and always enjoys first row seats and private meetings, while the second is even a lama and a recognised tulku (reincarnated master). Well, financial support is much needed in his position. Even if it comes from the CIA. In 1998 the agency released some info about their tibetan program, which featured a considerable sponsorship of Dalai Lama and the tibetan community starting from the 60s. Dala Lama recognised the fact; he repeatedly said that the US only helped him because of their anti-chinese policy, though he refused to comment on whether he actually worked for the CIA. Another point of criticism, that came up recently, is that the idealistic image of pre-chinese Tibet he created is far from reality. In fact, before the 1950s Tibet was a medieval feudal society, where most of the population were serfs or slaves, without any rights, education and medical care. Tibetans experienced exploitation and atrocities far more horrible than those under the chinese occupation. Dalai Lama himself, the heads of the buddhist schools and major monasteries were not only religious leaders, but the ruling class and the biggest landowners in Tibet. So their representation of tibetan realities is bound to be one-sided.
Of course, all these does not mean, that Dalai Lama is a conman or he is insincere in his peace initiatives and his work for tibetan cause. It is obvious, that he actually stands for his people and did a great job to preserve tibetan religion and culture. He is an embodiment of tibetan national identity and irrespective of his personal quilities and flaws is a symbol of tibetan culture in general. But it is just good to see the general picture, and not to be deceived by his public image of a perfect human being.

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