KATHMANDU, Nepal, 29 July 2016
Times are hard. Tibetan Buddhism, which flourished for thousands of years protected and preserved by generations of Tibetans, is now grasping for survival. It faced the continuous onslaught of Communist China for more than 70 years, but still its destruction and decimation is not complete. Today we hear with trepidation about the demolition of the world’s largest Tibetan Buddhist Academy LaRung Gar, denial to Tibetan children of the right to learn classical Tibetan language in which Tibetan Buddhist liturgies are written, commercialisation of the holy waters of Kailash Mansarowar, and the detention and torture of monks and nuns, and more. The reason why Tibetan Buddhism has become the target of China’s ire is not because the Chinese are communists and hence atheist, but because the religion, Tibetan Buddhism, is the only factor that unifies the Tibetans and gives them national identity and the feeling of Tibet as an independent country not part of China. They know that if Tibetan Buddhism is eradicated then Tibetans could more easily be assimilated into the billions of faceless Chinese citizens.
Outside Tibet, religion amongst the Tibetans who have managed to escape the clutches of the Chinese and have freedom to practice the religion are assailed by a different set of difficulties, but which are also inadvertently adding to the erosion in faith and in enthusiasm to practice the religion. This is worryingly conspicuous amongst the new generations, who by compulsions of modern living have been exposed to modern schooling and grooming, and have developed a different set of values which makes them look suspiciously on their own religion.
The sway of scientific thinking is complete, and a scientific basis is required before anyone wants to believe anything. To them I would say the age of science is just a few hundred years old. The age of religion is thousands of years, and science is just a toddler trying to catch up with religion. For instance in Tibetan Buddhism, we often hear of the Mandala of Mt Meru, several continents, and thousand-fold world systems. Is it possible to disprove this concept with our present knowledge of space technology, with only a few spaceships unable to even understand our one solar system?
In the eighteenth (CE) century only we have come to know through the atomic theory of science that all things are divisible to atoms and molecules. But thousands of years ago Sakya Muni had already propounded this theory as sunyata or non-existence of self. And had given it an ethical twist by speaking of ego and how this false belief in self gives rise to suffering.
It’s not known why so much emphasis and importance is given to “scientific basis”, when scientific theories themselves have no basis and are being continuously disproved. Dalton’s atomic theory was disproved by JJ Thomson, whose theory in turn was disproved by Rutherford, Rutherford by Bohr, Bohr by Max Planck — and research to disprove Planck is still ongoing or maybe he is also already disproved. However, all this goes to confirm Buddha’s observation that everything is impermanent in this world.
Another refrain often heard is “I need to touch and feel, see or hear before I believe anything” but Sakya Muni says believing what we see, hear, feel is our biggest ignorance, and this the one factor which gives rise to all our suffering. We see a beautiful woman and believe in her beauty, crave for her, and then realize the impermanence of things only after having spent a few years of married life together. Our ego overcomes us, we believe in I and for me, it becomes our overriding concern, and we do everything possible to hurt our self and others to amass wealth for me, only to realise the impermanence of, I and my life, on the deathbed. So don’t just believe in what you see, believe in what you perceive.
Religion like Tibetan Buddhism helps you to view things in correct perspective. Don’t seek for contradiction between science and religion, follow the middle path and make them complementary in your life. Don’t look for the hideous-looking guardian deity in real life, try to perceive what their ugliness represents. Don’t just see incense, lamp, water offering, make attempts to see what they represent. Don’t try to dissect the magic show of life scientifically, you will end up leading a drab life. Have faith, enjoy the magic just as kids do and bring some enjoyment to your life.
However, all the above arguments should be of no consequence to a Tibetan. Perforce, for the sake of your identity and for the sake of independent Tibet, you must set aside all prejudices and with total faith and devotion must diligently and with full gusto follow each and every religious ritual, tradition and dictum. You don’t have guns, you don’t have economic power — but you have an identity given by your religion. Preserve your religion, thereby your identity and your country Tibet, and defeat the Chinese in their own game. Keep the Dharma’s victory banner flying high. GYALSTAN SEMO.
About the author
Laden Tshering Samdup is a retired businessman, living in Kathmandu. He has MA (Hons) economics from Birla Institute of Technology and Science from Pilani, Rajasthan, India. He can be reached c/o Boudha Peace School, Phulbari, Kathmandu, Nepal.
More articles by Laden Tshering Samdup on Tibet Sun.