Tibetan Buddhism facing 'annihilation,' but there's still hope Special

Posted Mar 11, 2010 by Christopher Szabo
On the 51st anniversary of Tibet’s uprising against Chinese rule, the Dalai Lama says Tibet and its culture are facing the ‘most critical period’ in the country’s history. Digital Journal spoke to his representative to find out more.
Tibet Representative Sonam Tenzing
Sonam Tenzing in his Office in Pretoria, South Africa
Christopher Szabo
In an address forwarded to Digital Journal by the Tibet Office, the country’s spiritual leader warned that Tibet’s unique culture and religion were under attack from China’s secular authorities:
Today, the Chinese authorities are conducting various political campaigns, including a campaign of patriotic re-education, in many monasteries in Tibet. They are putting the monks and nuns in prison-like conditions, depriving them the opportunity to study and practise in peace. These conditions make the monasteries function more like museums and are intended to deliberately annihilate Buddhism.
Digital Journal asked the Dalai Lama’s spokesman in Africa, Sonam Tenzing, whether Tibetan culture and religion could die out under Chinese rule. Tenzing explained:
There is an increasing concern: It has been clearly stated several times over several years and recently. It is not a secret that there is an increasing number of Chinese migrants into Tibet and you would find more and more towns and counties being increasing populated by the migrant population. The indigenous people are increasingly marginalized.
Number two, there is increasing effort being made by the Chinese authorities: “Patriotic Education“ in many monasteries and there is a lot of restrictions put on monks and nuns, especially monks and nuns from monasteries and nunneries that took part in peaceful demonstrations in one way or another. As a result these monasteries have become more like a museum. They are regulated by a “democratic committee” which formulates discipline. In other words the peoples’ culture, and for that matter religion, has become an object in the eyes of the Chinese authorities to be shown to the tourists of the outside world, not to be practiced in their own peaceful way (according their traditions and beliefs.)
For this reason that there is a growing concern that Tibetan culture is on the brink of disappearance. That’s why His Holiness has called on the youth to study Tibetan culture and Buddhism so that it can be preserved for posterity
Digital Journal wanted to know whether there was hope for further dialogue with China’s Communist authorities after their recent rejection of the requests by the Dalai Lama’s envoys:
We do feel (there is hope) because a genuine effort is being made by the Dalai Lama and his administration in exile to reach out more and more to Chinese individuals (and) intellectuals, and this effort will continue in future; the process of dialogue will remain and ultimately, as His Holiness has pointed out in his statement, the issue of Tibet needs to be tackled and studied by both the Tibetan and Chinese people. I think he has clearly has stated that the issue needs to be solved by the two peoples themselves.
Potala Palace
The Potala Palace was the traditional home of the Dalai Lamas until 1959.
Tenzing added:
One of the encouraging aspects has been that because of the constant effort being made, more and more Chinese intellectuals both on mainland China and abroad have tried to understand the Tibet issue. Many have shown sympathy and support to the stand taken by His Holiness the Dalai Lama because the Middle Way Approach does not mean success to oneself and failure to the other person. It actually means benefits (for) both the communities. In this manner, this means benefits, happiness to all communities in the PRC.
Digital Journal asked how the Middle Way could work in the midst of the present crackdown, called the “Strike Hard” campaign” by Chinese authorities:
The Strike Hard campaign is a measure adopted by the Chinese authorities every now and again. They have adopted (it) in China proper as well as Tibetan areas. More severely in the Tibetan areas, Strike Hard campaign is used to silence, intimidate and stifle any kind of political dissent against Chinese authorities.
Tenzing said these oppressive policies would not change the Dalai Lama’s peaceful approach:
So, even if Srike Hard campaigns and other campaigns continue, the Middle Way Approach is a policy that is aimed to benefit the two communities. So Strike Hard campaigns are temporary measures, and it doesn’t take away the Middle Way approach, because that is a policy that is adopted by Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile and this is made aware to the entire population who come to India to receive Buddhist teachings. (They) are also aware of the Middle Way approach and many Tibetans think this the policy that is really going to benefit both communities, so whatever campaign the Chinese authorities will use, the Middle Way Approach will continue to be used as His Holiness has said.
In his speech, the Dalai Lama expressed appreciation for steps taken by China’s Premier Wen Jiabao to govern all Tibetan regions uniformly. I asked if this was a sign that the Middle Way Approach was working. The Tibetan leader’s spokesman said:
It is noteworthy that the Chinese authorities have, after a long time, and specially having had talks with envoys of the Dalai Lama and especially with the document that was presented 2008 and early 2010, we do see that there has been a change, even though it is a small change. In the past, the (PRC’s) Tibet Work Forum would only comprise Tibetans living in the Tibet Autonomous Area. (Because of) the efforts being made it has resulted in the Fifth Work Forum for the entire Tibetan-inhabited areas, which, small though it may appear, is the result of 30 years of effort being made by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his administration in exile.