India Adventures (5): Compassion Will Prevail


People often asked me what i think about the plight of Tibet, I’m sympathetic but have not much to comment. The true is I did not know China and Tibet’s histories well enough to say much. Each seems to have their own side of the story and I lacked the true wisdom to judge. In an indirect way, my recent trip to India somewhat gave me a chance to get to know a bit more about Tibetan culture, its people, religion and history. Probably due to the fact that our Buddhist guide is a Tibetan, he sparked some interest in me to want to understand what’s really going on.

Back in Singapore, Shi’an passed me the ‘BioGraphic Novel: The 14th Dalai Lama’ by Tetsu Saiwai. I guess I’m probably one of only ones who shed tears over a ‘comic’ book. The light of the tragedy of how a peaceful loving country fell into the crutches of a deluded powerful country (or rather, its key politicians) dawned upon me.

Let’s set aside the argument that Tibet truly belongs to China. Even if so, it still does not justify violence to claim it back. What’s more, Tibet is not part of China at all, even though it may be so in the past. Both Tibet and China have very distinctive different cultures and languages. To say one belongs to other is like saying the oranges belong to the durian family. I don’t believe in violence and like most, am very much against war. Unless it’s for defense, war means extreme greed, hatred and ignorance at play. Only fools wage war – due to lack of understanding about suffering and karma. It perplexes me, for a terribly war torn country that just recovered from a world war, I would think starting another war would be the last thing on its mind?

It seems somewhat contradictory for me to say I hate to see suffering. If my empathy springs from aversion, how genuine could it be? Yet, how does one justify millions of helpless people being robbed off their rights in their own motherland? It is beyond comprehension. However, till this very day, HHDL (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama) still refuses to give an eye for an eye. He truly internalised and exemplifies the Buddha’s teaching on how hatred can NEVER be ceased by hatred. I have great admiration for his non-violent stance towards his country’s oppressors. It was not just the suffering of the Tibetans that brought tears to my eyes but that his pure uncorrupted compassion for both friends and ‘foes’ touched me deeply too. He knows very well that if he ever uses violence to retaliate, he would not only create more hatred for and from his oppressors, but let down his people as well.

It was a shocking awakening when I read about how the then young HHDL was forced to face one of the toughest decisions anyone in his twenties would ever need to. The entire country’s fate pivoted upon his one decision. Should he fight back with inadequate firearms and soldiers, the result will be devastating. Many more would have been killed and what’s left would be more grief, bitterness and hatred. Having said that, it’s sad to know at least a million Tibetans had died since the invasion. But HHDL has never loses hope. Like a true Bodhisattva, he goes around the world teaching compassion and peace, while raising awareness about Tibet. He never loses hope that one day, his genuine sincerity could melt the iron hearts of his people’s oppressors. Like a true warrior, his non-violent fight for peace will carry on.

I’m a simple Buddhist. I’m neither pro-China nor Tibet, but I’m certainly pro-peace and understanding! May all beings be well and happy. May they be free from aversion and suffering!

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8 thoughts on “India Adventures (5): Compassion Will Prevail

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for sharing but it will be a historical fact that the Dalai and Panchen lamas of the Manchu Qing dynasty did acknowledge the rule of the China emperors and paid their respects to the Chinese court. To some extent, the Manchu rulers also had some say over the religous and political rule of Tibet in those days. The different language and custom is not unusual given the very diverse make up of both Han and minority people living in all parts of China.

  2. Hi Visitor,

    According to the BioGraphic Novel, the Tibetan army successfully fought and repelled the Qing’s rule in winter of 1911 and immediately, the 13th HHDL declared Tibet’s independence to the rest of the world. And I did mention that even if Tibet truly belonged to China, there’s no need to claim it back by sheer violence.

    Minority tribes live within China’s ground, but Tibet is a huge country by itself and is not within China’s mainland. This ‘minority’ region is huge – if you see the world map.

    Anyway, politics aside, the main purpose of the article is to sing praise of my personal admiration of the 14th HHDL’s non-violent policy and how his compassion and patience never diminished all these years with hope for a peaceful resolution. To me, that is a true Bodhisattva at work – one who never gives up a worthy cause. 🙂

  3. Food for thought:
    Why is Taiwan not forcefully taken back? Because its people are not easily bullied – unlike helpless Tibet – that already didn’t belong to China. And Tibet was huge, in strategic position, easy to conquer and resource rich. China claimed that they emancipated the Tibetan people from foreign imperialists. But according to records, the only foreigners present in Tibet during the invasion were very few and non-intrusive! Do read ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ on Heinrich Harrer’s personal testimony. (See ) Perhaps, the real imperialists were the ones who came in to force feed communism.

  4. Zylirica,
    You brought up a controversial topic that is both interesting and demanding us (me at least) to delve deeper into understanding it in order to have a more balanced views, especially on several facts you quoted.

    Certainly, it’s not only you who seem to have developed more sympathy for HH Dalai Lama after your recent trip or reading; I have encountered many other Singaporeans who become ready “converts” after a trip or two to Dharamsala or read one or two books by the 14th Dalai Lama. Some of my friends even extended such sympathy and open support, without trying to gain further understanding over the historical and socio-political context, for Tibetan Freedom Fighters’ cause for independence from PRC which itself was disapproved by HH DL.

    But in all fairness, do we (or why don’t we) read a more balanced literature on the contemporary discourse on Tibetan history and politics before coming to such conclusions, like “Tibet is not part of China,” “millions of people being robbed off their motherland,” “at least a million Tibetans had died since the invasion”? Offering an opinion that is solely based on reading a single biographic novel that moved you to tears or based on conversations with your friendly Tibetan guide during a trip to India recently may be misleading to your readers? Nothing wrong with that as you are entitled to your opinion however emotional it is. Yet as Buddhists, we should never forget the spirit of the teachings in Kalama Sutra, shouldn’t we? Or else, a little learning is a dangerous thing …? (Having said that, I am very much impressed by your dedicated works and regular posts here or your Buddhist related works elsewhere and sincerely hope yours will continue to keep up with the great jobs for many many years to come).

    I guess there are several premises in your writing that needs critical evaluation. Firstly, “Tibet is not part of China at all, even though it may be so in the past. Both Tibet and China have very distinctive different culture and languages, … like … oranges … to durian.” I found this statement was rather naively constructed or at least at political level (btw, both Chinese and Tibetan languages belong to the Sino-Tibetan language family). A nation state does not need to have a similar culture and language to come together. Studies on the formation of nation state have proven it a complex socio-political process. Even at definition level, it sometimes tends to be enigmatic. Political Scientist Walker Connor, for example, discusses the tendency to confuse nation and state, and to treat all states as “nation-states”. Likewise the founding of Tibet within the People’s Republic of China, de facto recognized by the United Nations, is more complex than the pro-independent arguments offered by many amateurish sympathizers of Tibetan Freedom fighters. For the historical background and complexity of the issue, one can refer to “Tibetan sovereignty debate” in wikipedia. A spectrum of topics ranging from “legal arguments based on historical status,” “de facto independence,” “foreign interventions” (especially British Government and CIA involvement in Tibet), “human rights abuse and its controversy,” to “PRC legitimacy in Tibet Autonomous Region”.You can also find quotes from a telegram by Dalai Lama to Mao Zedong and quotes from Panchen Lama (as recorded in The History of Tibet: Volume III The Modern Period: 1895-1959 edited by Alex McKay, London and New York: Routledge Curzon (2003)

    I suggest you read them in conjunction with some of the links below.

    Another statement you made above that “millions of [Tibetan] people being robbed off their motherland” also needs further clarification if not revisiting. I guess you mean those millions are the Tibetan diaspora now living in Dharamsala? However, according to “A 2008 documentary indicated that there are about 130,000 Tibetan refugees living in Dharamsala & their numbers are increasing every year by about 3000-4500.” (quoted documentary in The number barely adds up to a population of 300,000 people if you are talking about the exodus from Tibet to India for the past 30 years. I wonder which millions you have in mind? When I was in Lhasa and its vicinity mountainous region, once in 2003 and during another trip in 2006, I didn’t see the Tibetans being robbed off from their religous practices.

    Finally, your quote, perhaps from Tetsu Saiwai’s comic?, that “at least a million Tibetans had died since the invasion” (also cited quite unequivocally in many websites that are sympathetic to Tibetan freedom fighters) needs to be read in conjunction with the critical examination by Michael Parenti in “Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth” :
    “Both the Dalai Lama and his advisor and youngest brother, Tendzin Choegyal, claimed that “more than 1.2 million Tibetans are dead as a result of the Chinese occupation.”36 The official 1953 census–six years before the Chinese crackdown–recorded the entire population residing in Tibet at 1,274,000.37 Other census counts put the population within Tibet at about two million. If the Chinese killed 1.2 million in the early 1960s then almost all of Tibet, would have been depopulated, transformed into a killing field dotted with death camps and mass graves–of which we have no evidence. The thinly distributed Chinese force in Tibet could not have rounded up, hunted down, and exterminated that many people even if it had spent all its time doing nothing else.”

    Please don’t get me wrong. I am neither pro-China (as you claim yourself to be). I happened to be an ethnic Chinese living in Singapore who loves traveling and reading and certainly see more benefits, both economic and cultural, the world may inherit from the rise of a benign and united China with 5,000 years of deep-rooted ancient culture of values. The rise of China is presently facing the challenge of secular alternatives coming through globalization, socially and politically, which is also a challenge that faces Tibetan Autonomous Region.

    I think our ideal of “Tibetan” culture and “Tibetan” Buddhism are ones of that belong to the world, ones that transcend territory and even ethnicity through its emanation of compassion and wisdom. Only then, can the Tibetan political and religious leaders win the empathy of China’s billions within and the world’s without and subsequently nurture many more Bodhisattvas in the future.

  5. Hi Xiaosheng,

    For any peace-loving person, it is very natural to feel empathy for those deprived of peace.

    It is inaccurate to pick an incomplete sentence to comment, which is likely to be understood inaccurately. Here’s it in full – “It was not just the suffering of the Tibetans that brought tears to my eyes but that his pure uncorrupted compassion for both friends and ‘foes’ touched me deeply too.” Even if there’s only a Tibetan who suffered from the Chinese occupation, it is natural to feel sympathetic towards this single person. If the number of people has to hit a larger minimum before there is compassion, is it true compassion then? We will tend to hear different stories about the WWII told by a Japanese versus a Chinese. Likewise, when Tibetans relate their horrific experiences during the occupation, it will be largely different from the Chinese’s side. Have you heard any Tibetan’s side of the story?

    You are right that Sinitic (Chinese) language and the Tibeto-Burman (Tibetan) belongs to Sino-Tibetan. But the Chinese and Tibeto-Burman branches of Sino-Tibetan are strikingly different in their morphological and syntactic typology. Well, I’m not an expert. I said it’s different based on their written characters. Tibetan is written in a very conservative syllabary script based on the writing system of the ancient Sanskrit language of India. Used in its present form since the 9th century, it was developed as a means of translating sacred Buddhist texts that were being brought into Tibet from India. To me, perhaps only me, I don’t see any similarity between Chinese characters and Tibetan ones.

    Please allow me to further emphasise… Even if Tibet belongs to China, there was no need to use violence to ‘claim it back’. Peaceful negotiation would be enough.

    To take something away from by force is to rob. China took Tibet by force from the Tibetans in 1950. According to human rights organizations, nearly all of Tibet’s 6,400 Buddhist monasteries were destroyed. Arrest, torture and forcible re-education of Tibetans continue. The Tibetan language has been abolished from Tibetan schools. The 7.5 million Chinese now outnumber Tibetans in Tibet. So to speak, Tibetans are now the minority in their own country. And most Tibetans yearn to have HHDL back – but even having his photograph can land a Tibetan in jail. Well, having said that, I’m sure there are different reports to counter what was stated.

    I realised that there are many arguments regarding the real number of deaths due to Chinese takeover of Tibet. I guess it depends on which one we choose to believe. I chose to believe in a monk’s words because he is well respected by many and is supposed to abide by moral precepts while being fully aware of any karmic consequences of lying. It may be a million, it may not be. What’s undeniable is that many were killed and mostly were civilians. Perhaps to some, HHDL is more of a politician than a monk. But to many, he’s a practising Buddhist monk. I’m not saying HHDL is almighty, but he is certainly more compassionate than those who fight with guns and imprison guiltless monks for over 20 years for example.

    It all depends on how one gauges one’s gains and losses. To a Buddhist practitioners, economic and cultural benefits means very little, as compared to a business person’s views. From a Tibetan friend, most of the funds from China go to developing limited places and paying Chinese soldiers high salaries to police Tibet. Not much goes to truly benefiting the rural areas.

    How fair is it to only have Tibetans emanate compassion and wisdom, while the aggressors don’t do likewise? Actually, HHDL already exemplifies many cherished Buddhist qualities. If everyone show their compassion wisely, no one has to prove anything to anyone. We will be living in a peace-loving world.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, but this article is not meant to be political. I’m sorry if it’s read as one, It’s to show how a man, through his Buddhist education, applies compassion and determination of using non-violence to negotiate. I guess I failed terribly. I have disable all links, as this is a Buddhist website and not meant to be a political one. I have as many links and sources to counter the suggested links as well. But I don’t see a point in listing any of them. It would be endless because none of us are investigative journalists or expert historians. Please understand that I have no wish to discuss politics any further, but I welcome any Buddhist-related discussion. To truly understand the plight of Tibetans, one has to hear their thoughts in person and investigate for their factuality. That is the Kalama Sutta in practice; not based upon mere written words and hearsay. Amituofo.

  6. Hi Zlyrica,

    A few thoughts for ponder :
    Compassion : bound by ethno-centricity/religio-centricity vs cosmological & universal & Buddhistic
    Let’s also offer tears and pray for all the victims of WW II (>100 millions victims), the victims of many world disasters (the Tangshan earthquake 1974, Indian Ocean tsunami 2004, Haitian earthquake 2010, the victims of economic blunder in Greap Leap Forward / cultural revolution 1959-1969 (the Han Chinese, the Tibetan Chinese and many oth Chinese), Pol Pot massacre, CIA-instigated PKI massacre in Indonesia, Nanjing Massacre, Sook-Ching massacre in Singapore, Rwanda genocide, killings in East Timor, Sebrenica massacre in Bosnia and Herzegovina … and many others invisible or inaudible to us …

    2. Beyond information receptivity & development of critical faculty: essence of Kalama Sutra
    Questions to ponder: how does a king/monk/politician/businessman/university student/layperson in developing/developed world, with different gender receive & process their information? (with hermeneutics/feminist/post structuralist nuances) Who will conduct & verify statistical evidence? How do we process information from a close & centrally controlled state? How do we process (biased) information from states that dominate the hegemony of global media? Who verify & cross-check CNN, BBC, etc? Is it possible to gain objective truth? Kalama Sutra teaches the importance of going beyond face value (eg mere journalistic reporting by CNN, BBC, popular books, etc) & to develop critical reasoning. Is it possible to trace to the sources through the labyrinth of information / cross check given our current technology or at least we attempt to …?

    3. “Principle of Impermanence” applies in the ebb and flow of economic reality of nations as well as in the rise and fall of culture, state and civilization. E.g.. After WW II & also during Cold War, in the formation of different states with seemingly same language, history & ethnicity (eg. North & South Korea, East & West Germany), and also in the formation of “same” state with different languages & ethnic groups (eg. Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia. these are the “rojak” states made up of “durian”, “mango”, “lychee”, “rambutan”, etc)… > it happened through complex political process even if they are transitory. Also, the fall of Qing Empire hegemony in 19th century, fall of British Empire in the 20th cent and rise & challenge of US hegemony in 21st cent … all transitory from perspective of the long history of civilization on earth.
    I totally agree with your statement that“ … no need to use violence to “claim [country, possession] back” even if it belongs to them … that is true non-violence … even the camp claiming true legitimacy is in possession of resources like hi-tech weapons and financial clout.”

    Also, please weigh the scenarios of tectonic consequences of stability vs the territorial disintegrity of PRC (due to its sheer geographical & population size) should war happens (whether with US, Russia, Japan, etc): war > killings of innocents, poverty, starvation, diseases > imagine what if more than 100 million refugees out of 2 billion people swamping Southeast Asia? > unprecedented cycle of violence. Political stability has ensured the current economic growth that provides provisions to the many poor and disenfranchised despite economic inequality that is challenging most countries on earth, even in Singapore. Room to improve? Yes : urgently to address excesses of development: moral issues, inequality/ gap of rich poor, skewed Gini Coefficient) > can be fine-tuned with “Buddhistic contributions” (eg. development of paramitas along GDP growth) to development economics.

    4. Kalama Sutra & Buddhist critical reasoning and logic
    Examine : 1) “The king can do no wrong (rex non potest peccare) / because he has the mandate from God/Heaven.”
    Or, 2) a. Most people approve of X. b. So, I should approve of X, too. C. Since I approve of X, X must be true.
    Kalama Sutra can guide us to avoid such Logical Fallacy (Appeal to Popularity / Authority).

    In the midst of the limitation of logic and language, perhaps one can resolve the contradictory nature of reality and the ultimate reality by referring to Nagarjuna’s tetralema (catuskoti) > A/-A > [A+(-A)] /
    -[ A+(-A)] ….
    Also, Dharmakirti, Vasubhandu, Dignaga had also demonstrated that Buddhists can be critical in their reasoning faculty without failing to be compassionate even if one can argue in the end there is no views as perceivable through logical faculty per se …

    With no lack of respect to your opinion and our empathy to the sufferings of the people of Tibetan descendents and to many other sentient /non-sentient beings that are suffering. Frankly, I am more moved by your initial response of the “Tibetan” issue: “sympathetic but no comments” rather than by the subsequent comments. Nagarjuna said “Those who accept the conditioned things/ As being neither true nor false,/ Just like the moon in the water,/ They are not carried away by dogmatic views./”

    I am still reading “Dalai Lama: Man, Monk Mystic” by Mayank Chhaya & “Becoming Enlightened” trans Jeffrey Hopkins. Share with yours in the next occasion. May be I will be more “biased” then…. . Finally, feel free to delete any words/sentences you deem not appropriate for posting in your blog here or even not posting this reply at all. It is okay with me. As I am not in business, there is neither gain nor loss; there is neither view to contest/showcase here… 

    May peace and happiness prevail to All.
    Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta.
    Namo Amituofo.

  7. “To truly understand the plight of Tibetans, one has to hear their thoughts in person and investigate for their factuality. That is the Kalama Sutta in practice; not based upon mere written words and hearsay.” Nuff said… Personal on on-the-ground journalistic interviews/investigations is the way to truth. The point of the original article is about compassion. Let’s not forget this and lose ours.

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