On the 18th of February President Obama met with the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, at the White House. The tradition of meetings between U.S. presidents and the Dalai Lama goes back to George H.W. Bush. Perhaps ironically, these meetings have always been discreet and lukewarm so as not to upset the Chinese, a supposedly Communist country which has become a crucial pillar of America’s economy. The conversation was standard liberal fare: the president expressed his concern for “human rights” in Tibet, and preservation of Tibetan culture—typical liberal ritual. Yet like other liberal sacred cows such as Bono, George Soros, or Obama himself, “His Holiness” the 14th Dalai Lama has some far less-publicized skeletons in his closet.
In fact, Tibetan culture under his tenure was a brutal feudal theocracy, and if the Chinese got one thing right, it was ending his reign and the literal slavery it entailed. As if that weren’t enough, the Dalai Lama has a history of working for the CIA, and even ties with Nazi Germany. Suffice it to say Obama wasn’t the only undeserving Nobel Laureate at the meeting.
“Free Tibet” Crowd Protests Freeing Slaves
The 28th of March was designated by the Chinese government as “Serf Emancipation Day” in 2009, marking the 50th anniversary of the end of feudal slavery in Tibet. The proposed bill was also endorsed by Tibet’s local legislature. Normally one would think that freeing slaves is a good thing. If you think that, you don’t know the “Free Tibet” crowd well enough. On the first Serf Emancipation Day, Tibetan nationalist supporters actually held protests against the holiday in major cities such as San Francisco and New York. One banner in New York read, “50 yrs of Enslavement in Tibet by the Communist China [sic].” This message alone shows the delusional mindset of the Dalai Lama’s supporters. Far be it from this Party to defend the policies of revisionist, capitalist China, but freeing slaves is freeing slaves.
Imagine if people protested Juneteenth, the day which marks the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865. Now imagine that these protesters justified their cause by, for example, pointing out that freeing slaves only led to them being exploited as wage slaves by the system, ignoring the fact that a wage slave is at least not property. Imagine that they advanced such an argument while trying to deny the horrors of chattel slavery. That is precisely what the Free Tibet movement is all about – whitewashing the history of the Tibetan theocracy.
Progressive writer Michael Parenti once fired a devastating salvo at the Tibetan Buddhist insanity with his article “Friendly Feudalism.” He begins this reality check on Tibet by addressing some common myths about Tibet, fostered by the Dalai Lama’s advocates as well as the media.
“Western news media, travel books, novels, and Hollywood films have portrayed the Tibetan theocracy as a veritable Shangri-La. The Dalai Lama himself stated that ‘the pervasive influence of Buddhism’ in Tibet, ‘amid the wide open spaces of an unspoiled environment resulted in a society dedicated to peace and harmony. We enjoyed freedom and contentment.”
The reality of feudal Tibet and its theocrat is another matter entirely. Not only was feudal slavery widespread in the country, but the 14th Dalai Lama himself, as a matter of tradition, had his own house slaves. Slaves in feudal Tibet were not only exploited for their labor. Like in all oppressive societies, girls and boys who attracted the fancy of the landlords and Lamas were bought and used as objects of sexual entertainment. The punishment for serfs who ran away was severe, not unlike that meted out to runaway slaves in theAmerican South. So much for his supposedly boundless “compassion.” Of course like most liberal sacred cows, there is much, much more.
On Nazis & the CIA: His Holiness’ Bloody Hands
Long before the Dalai Lama was rubbing elbows with celebrities and enjoying his status as a Nobel Peace prize winner, he was rubbing elbows with Nazis. After rising to power over Germany in 1933, the Nazis, particularly Heinrich Himmler, took an interest in finding archeological evidence for their racial theories.
Once the war began, there was also a priority to court various nations or populations who had some grievance against British imperialism or enemies of the Axis. Seeking information about the history of Indo-European peoples in Central Asia, Tibet became a focal point of Himmler’s interest. In 1938-1939, the Nazis sent their first expedition to Tibet, where they were happily received by the Lama’s court. Ernst Schaefer, leader of this expedition, received a more than cordial response from the Tibetan court in the form of a letter, stating:
“…His Highness Herr Hitler, King of the Germans, may he be blessed with physical well-being, with serene peace, and good deeds…Greetings from a Divine Ruler to the Fuhrer.”
Schaefer himself saw in Tibet a model political system, remarking,
“They are ahead of all the rulers on this Earth, in that they are real kings, absolute leaders, often violent, but usually just. Their way of life is proud and manly.”
The Dalai Lama continued to have close links to Nazis such as Bruno Beger, who was convicted as a war criminal for his role in the death of 86 Jewish inmates at Auschwitz, killed in the course of his “scientific experiments.”
After the Chinese Revolution in 1951, the Dalai Lama’s brother was engaged in resistance to Chinese rule, aided by the CIA. Citing documents released by the US State Department in 1998, Michael Parenti shows that during the 1960s, the Tibetan exile community received $1.7 million annually from the CIA. The Dalai Lama’s cut was $186,000. As the hijinks of the CIA gave way to the supposedly more respectable imperialism of the National Endowment for Democracy, a supposedly non-governmental organization that helps take down governments which don’t have Washington’s approval, the Dalai Lama leapt on board as an advocate for “democracy” around the world.
So what do we have here exactly? A man who preaches peace and non-violence, yet not only ruled over a brutal, exploitive system of slavery but who also aided a CIA-sponsored guerrilla insurgency. He is beloved by liberals the world over, yet he is anti-abortion and anti-homosexual. He collaborated with Nazis yet he is seen as an icon of peace and spiritual enlightenment the world over. All this speaks to the boundless hypocrisy of liberals and their sacred cows, the martyrs who are supposed to be admired for their “struggles” for justice. When his theocratic regime was toppled, the 14th Dalai Lama did not take the path of non-violence. Instead he and his aristocratic ruling class threw in his lot with the CIA and their plan to drive out the Chinese by force of arms. Receiving money from the US government since then, he has loyally served the cause of US imperialism under the guise of compassionate, peaceful rhetoric.
What is contained in this article is merely the tip of the iceberg. Not only have we only scratched the surface in regards to the 14th Dalai Lama’s hypocrisy and his bloody past. The history of Tibetan Buddhism itself is a history of oppression, intolerance, and violence just like any other major organized religion. The lesson here is that when liberals lift up their so-called progressive heroes, one ought to take these living martyrs with a big bag of salt. Scratch any ‘progressive’ hero, and you more often than not find a die-hard reactionary trying to conceal a dark past in flowery, idealistic rhetoric.
1. Parenti, Michael ‘Friendly Feudalism’ 2007 http://michaelparenti.org/Tibet.html
2. Phayul.com ‘New York Tibetans Protest Serf Emancipation Day’ 1 April 2009 http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=24348&t=1