NEW YORK CITY, US, 7 July 2020
The incumbent 14th Dalai Lama’s charisma and his commitment to promote peace, happiness and compassion have earned him a place in the hearts of millions around the world. He is revered as one of the world’s outstanding moral leaders. However, beyond the person of the Dalai Lama, not many people know the existence of an age-old Dalai Lama institution, which played a pivotal role in building the nation of Tibet and leading the Tibetan Buddhist world.
The spiritual lineage of the Dalai Lama can be traced back to 1391 with the birth of Gendun Drup, and the Dalai Lama institution came into being when Gendun Gyatso was installed as the reincarnation of Gendun Drup in 1485. Since then, the Dalai Lama institution has transformed into a modern institution that provides moral leadership on this global stage.
Perhaps it may not be the right time to discuss this issue when the world is struggling to come out of this devastating Covid-19 pandemic. But this matter is of utmost significance to the Tibetan people as we celebrate the 85th Birthday of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
Great powers of the time had extended great honor to the Dalai Lamas. The Mongol leader Altan Khan bestowed the title “Dalai Lama” to the 3rd Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso, and re-established the priest-patron relationship between Mongol and Tibet in the 16th century. Similarly, the second Manchu Emperor Shunzhi of the Qing Dynasty, who ruled China in the 17th century, recognized the Fifth Dalai Lama as the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet. The British and Russian empires too interfered in the power and position of the 13th and 14th Dalai Lamas of Tibet, that came to be known as the Inner Asia Great Game.
Looking back to our recent history, one might wonder about the fate of Tibetan people and its flourishing culture in exile had it not been for the institution of the Dalai Lama in general and the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The 14th Dalai Lama has played a defining role in leading the Tibetan people through the political crisis of the twentieth century.
By granting asylum to the 14th Dalai Lama in 1959, India has protected a historic institution of Tibetan nation that has evolved through centuries with successive Dalai Lamas.
One of the reasons for the introduction of democracy for the Tibetans in exile early on was to avoid an imminent leadership vacuum in the absence of the Dalai Lama and to ensure the continuity of the Tibetan freedom struggle. However, there is a prevailing concern that, notwithstanding our preparedness, we may not be able to hold onto ourselves at this critical period of our history, without the support of the person holding the throne of the institution of the Dalai Lama.
The historical role of the Dalai Lama has changed with the devolution of all his political authority to elected Tibetan leadership. But the significance and relevance of the Dalai Lama and his institution have become more critical to the survival of the Tibetan freedom movement and our national identity. China, a religion-denier, meddling in the process of finding the next Dalai Lama may result in installing a fake person, devoid of all cultural relevance, without the popular support of Tibetans.
There are historical records of successive Manchu emperors undermining the roles and authority of the Dalai Lamas. Constant interferences in Tibetan polity were believed to be the cause of the early demise of four Dalai Lamas, i.e., from the 9th to the 12th Dalai Lama. Two of them died when they were nine and ten. Surprisingly, the Dalai Lama institution itself did survive through those turbulent times.
It is a different time today. Tibetans are fighting an unequal battle with China, with the world kowtowing to China with their overriding commercial interests defining their roles. The geopolitics of the world is apparently shifting, at least temporarily, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Many countries are seeking to rewrite their long-held appeasement policies concerning China. Trade wars, financial decoupling, and economic sanctions are on the rise in attempts to get even with the Chinese government and in hopes of making it act more responsibly.
The relevance and significance of the Dalai Lama institution go beyond a nation and a people. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama stands not only as a beacon of hope to the Tibetan people, but an inspiring leadership in the advancement of peace and compassion to humanity at large. Nevertheless, the survival of the Tibetan nation and our distinct culture rests mostly upon the Dalai Lama institution.
Given the might of our adversary, Tibetans alone cannot fight the battle against Chinese leadership while it is operating a campaign to weaken the role and position of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism. It is the time for Tibetan people as well as for peace-loving people in the world to appreciate the past contributions of the Dalai Lama institution, and explicitly support and recognize the future potential of the institution in contributing peace in the world, and saving a nation and people.
For further information on the Dalai Lama institution, please go to TibetFund.org/media
About the author
Lobsang Nyandak is President of the Tibet Fund in New York City, and was the former Representative of the Dalai Lama in Washington DC. He has also been a kalon (minister) of the Central Tibetan Administration.
In discussions about all the probable Sikyong contenders, many consider Kasur Lobsang Nyandak to be the top contender.
He has all the right and relevant experiences in Tibetan administration and governance, foreign relations and funding, along with non-profit management and grass root activism, that will provide for an informed leadership.
His non-partisan approach has the huge potential to unify Tibetans from the three provinces of Tibet under the supreme leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
So, our best wishes to him and all the other capable contenders for this upcoming election.
Great op ed Lobsang la! Thank you and all the best!
Wonderful article! Thank you.
My vote definitely goes to you.
Very well written Lobsang Nyandak la. From this article one can see you have high level of education, experience and understanding in Tibetan affairs and a great sense of dedication. You truly are a deserving Sikyong. Not many people, particularly the youngsters, know that.
Good that you are running for Sikyong. But we know that it’s going to be a fight between Gyari Dolma and Penpa Tsering. Both have more chances than you. But I wish that they sit back and support you, because GD has support of Lobsang Sangay. PT has his strong support base. This will create that same scene of 2016.
I wish both GD and PT think in this way. And once you are elected, you appoint GD as Rep in Delhi and PT as Rep in DC. Our society will have a fresh breath of air.
Kasur Lobsang Nyandak may have experience and dedication but he is not a scholar. He has expressed himself well in this article. As for the petty Tibetan politics, he remained neutral despite being close to both Sangay and Penpa. My observation is that people from all Cholkas, including Kham, seem to admire him and may vote for him in the election. Best of luck to him.
It’s so true and we’re all susceptible to it, and we can afford it. It’s no biggie for life is comedy of errors.
However, if the subject is running for some CTA election down the road as rumored, then it’s wise to correct it no matter how minute the glitch is. If not, it can prop up later, and could be interpreted as bordering on dereliction of one’s duty.
To me a discrepancy of a millennium is not a small glitch. Nothing more, nothing less.
Cordially, Ajo Rangwang
It is indeed a typo! May I request the Tibet Sun to accordingly change the 6th to 16th century in the fourth para of this article. Truly appreciate Chewang Ngokhang for noticing this error.
I would appreciate Ajo Rangwang la’s constructive feedback.
If Lobsang Nyandak la is truly running for Sikyong post as rumored, he looks like the most deserving candidate and hope he wins the election.
I too believe Kasur Lobsang Nyandak would win as he has all the relevant experiences and qualifications in all the necessary fields to be the future Sikyong. Many of my friends are excited about his candidacy if he is truly running.
The article is well-written and timely.
May I bring to your attention that in the 5th paragraph there is a glitch and the message is cattywampus, to say the least. Perhaps, a typographical error which should have been 16th century, instead of the 6th.
Conscientiously, Ajo Rangwang
@jhola Rangwang la,
You mean the 4th paragraph. Big big countries small small mistakes keep happening.
Thank you Kasur Lobsang Nyandak la for this excellent article reminding us of the importance of His Holiness and the institution of the Dalai Lama.