The Shadow of the Dalai Lama – Part II – 3. The Foundations of the Tibetan Buddhocracy

© Victor & Victoria Trimondi






The cult drama of Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism consists in the constant taming of the feminine, the demoness. This is heralded already in the language. The Tibetan verb dulwa has the following meanings: to tame, subjugate, conquer, defeat; and sometimes: to kill, destroy; but also: to cultivate the land, civilize a nation, convert to Buddhism, bring up, discipline. Violent conquest and cultural activities thus form a unit for the Lamaist. The chief task of the Tibetan monastic state consists in the taming of wilderness (wild nature), the “heathen” barbarians, and the women. In tantric terminology this corresponds with the method (upaya) with which the feminine wildness (Candali or Srinmo) is defeated. Parallel to this, state Buddhism and social anarchy stand opposed to one another as enemies since the beginning of Tibetan history — they conduct their primordial struggle in the political, social, philosophical, divine, and cosmic arenas. Even though they battle to the bitter end, they are nonetheless — as we shall see — dependent upon one another.


The history of Buddhist state thought

The fundamental attitude of the historical Buddha was anarchist. Not only did he leave his family behind, the king’s son also laid aside all offices of state. With the founding of the Buddhist community (the sangha), he assumed that this was a purely spiritual union which was ethically far superior to worldly institutions. The sangha formed the basic pattern for an ideal society, whilst the secular state was constantly receiving karmic stains through its worldly business. For this reason the relationship between the two institutions (the sangha and the state) was always tense and displayed many discordances which had arisen even earlier — in the Vedic period — between kshatriyas (warriors and kings) and brahmans (priests).


However, the anti-state attitude of the Buddhists changed in the third century B.C.E. with the seizure of power by of the Emperor Ashoka (who ruled between 272–236 B.C.E.) Ashoka, a ruler from the Maurya dynasty, had conquered almost the entire Indian subcontinent following several terrible campaigns. He converted to Buddhism and set great store by the distribution of the religion of Shakyamuni throughout the whole country. In accordance with the teaching, he forbade animal sacrifices and propagated the idea of vegetarianism.


His state-political status is not entirely clear among the historians, then a number of contradictory documents about this are extant. In one opinion he and the whole state submitted to the rule of the sangha (the monastic community) and he let his decisions be steered by them. According to another document, he himself assumed leadership of the community and became a sangharaja (both king and supreme commander of the monastic community). The third view is the most likely — that although he converted to the Buddhist faith he retained his political autonomy and forced the monastic community to obey his will as emperor. In favor if this view is the fact that it was he who summoned a council and there forced through his “Buddhological” ideas.


Up until today the idea of the just “king of peace” has been celebrated in the figure of Ashoka, and it has been completely overlooked that he confronted the sangha with the problem of state power. The Buddhist monastic community was originally completely non-coercive. Following its connection with the state, the principle of nonviolence necessarily came into conflict with the power political requirements this brought with it. For example, the historical Buddha is said to have had such an aversion to the death penalty that he offered himself as a substitute in order to save the life of a criminal. Ashoka, however, who proclaimed an edict against the slaughter of animals, did not renounce the execution of criminals by the state.


Whether during his lifetime or first due to later interpretations — the Emperor was (at any rate after his demise) declared to be a Chakravartin (world ruler) who held the “golden wheel” of the Dharma (the teaching) in his hands. He was the first historical Bodhisattva king, that is, a Bodhisattva incarnated in the figure of a worldly ruler. In him, worldly and spiritual power were united in one person. Interestingly he established his spiritual world domination via a kind of “cosmic sacrifice”. Legend tells how the Emperor came into possession of the original Buddha relic and ordered this to be divided into 84,000 pieces and scattered throughout the entire universe. Wherever a particle of this relic landed, his dominion spread, that is, everywhere, since at that time in India 84,000 was a symbolic number for the cosmic whole.  [1] This pious account of his universal sovereignty rendered him completely independent of the Buddhist sangha.


In the Mahayana Golden Shine Sutra, a few centuries after Ashoka, the coercive power of the state is affirmed and presented as a doctrine of the historical Buddha. With this the anarchic period of the Sangha was finally ended. By 200 C.E. at the latest, under the influence of Greco-Roman and Iranian ideas, the Buddhist concept of kingship had developed into its fully autocratic form which is referred to by historians as “Caesaropapism”. An example of this is provided by King Kanishka from the Kushana dynasty (2nd century C.E.) In him, the attributes of a worldly king and those of a Buddha were completely fused with one another. Even the “coming” Buddha, Maitreya, and the reigning king formed a unit. The ruler had become a savior. He was a contemporary Bodhisattva and at the same time the appearance of the coming Buddhist messiah who had descended from heaven already in this life so as to impart his message of salvation to the people. (Kanishka cultivated a religious syncretism and also used other systems to apotheosize his person and reign.)


The Dalai Lama and the Buddhist state are one

Tibet first became a centralized ecclesiastical state with the Dalai Lama as its head in the year 1642. The priest-king had the self-appointed right to exercise absolute power. He was de jure  not just lord over his human subjects but likewise over the spirits and all other beings which lived “above and beneath the world”. One of the first western visitors to the country, the Briton S. Turner, described the institution as follows: “A sovereign Lama, immaculate, immortal, omnipresent and omniscient is placed at the summit of their fabric. [!] He is esteemed the vice regent of the only God, the mediator between mortals and the Supreme ... He is also the center of all civil government, which derives from his authority all influence and power” (quoted by Bishop, 1993, p. 93).


Turner, who knew nothing about the secrets of Tantrism, saw the Dalai Lama as a kind of bridge (pontifex maximus) between transcendence and reality. He was for this author the governor for and the image of Buddha, his majesty appeared as the pale earthly reflection of the deity. This is, however, too modest! The Dalai Lama does not represent Buddha on earth, nor is he an intermediary, nor a reflection — he is the complete deity himself. He is a Kundun, that is, he is the presence of Buddha, he is a “living Buddha”. For this reason his power and his compassion are believed to be unbounded. He is world king and Bodhisattva rolled into one.


The Dalai Lama unites spiritual and worldly power in one person — a dream which remained unfulfilled for the popes and emperors of the European Middle Ages. [2] According to doctrine, the Kundun is the visible form (nirmanakaya) of this comprehensive divine power in time; he exists as the earthly appearance of the time god, Kalachakra; he is the supreme “lord of the wheel of time”. For this reason he was handed a golden wheel as a sign of his omnipotence at his enthronement. He is prayed to as the “ruler of rulers”, the “victor” and the “conqueror”. Even if he himself does not wield the sword, he can still order others to do so, and oblige them to go to war for him.


There was just as little distinction between power-political and religious organization in the Tibet of old as in the Egypt of the Pharaohs. As such, every action of the Tibetan god-king, regardless of how mundane it may appear to us, was (and is) religiously grounded and holy. The monastic state he governs was (and is) considered to be the earthly reflection of a cosmic realm. In essence there was (and is) no difference between the supernatural order and the social order. The two vary only in their degree of perfection, then the ordo universalis (universal order) which is apparent in this world is marred only by flaws due to the imperfection of humanity (and not due to any imperfection of the Kundun). Anarchy, disorder, revolt, famine, disobedience, defeat, expulsion are a matter of the deficiencies of the age, but never incorrect conduct by the god-king. He is without blemish and only present in this world in order to instruct people in the Dharma (the Buddhist doctrine).


The state as the microcosmic body of the Dalai Lama

Ashoka, the first Buddhist Emperor, was considered to be the incarnation of a Bodhisattva and probably as that of a Chakravartin (world ruler). His role as the highest bearer of state office was, however, not of a tantric nature. Fundamentally, he acted like every sacred king before him. His decisions, his edicts, and his deeds were considered holy — but he did not govern via control of his inner microcosmic energies. The pre-tantric Chakravartin (e.g., Ashoka) controlled the cosmos, but the tantric world ruler is (e.g., the Dalai Lama) the cosmos itself. This equation of macrocosmic procedures and microcosmic events within the mystic body of the tantric hierarch even includes his people. The tantra master upon the Lion Throne does not just represent his people, rather — to be precise — he is them. The oft-quoted phrase “I am the state” is literally true of him.


He controls it — as we have described above- through his inner breath, through the movement of the ten winds (dasakaro vasi). His two chief metapolitical activities consist of the rite and the bodily control with which he secretly steers the cosmos and his kingdom. The political, the cultic, and his mystic physiology are inseparable for him. In his energy body he plays out the events virtually, as in a computer, in order to then allow them to become reality in the world of appearances.


The tantric Buddhocracy is thus an interwoven total of cosmological, religious, territorial, administrative, economic, and physiological events. Taking the doctrine literally, we must thus assume that Tibet, with all its regions, mountains, valleys, rivers, towns, villages, with its monasteries, civil servants, aristocrats, traders, farmers, and herdsmen, with all its plants and animals can be found anew in the energy body of the Dalai Lama. Such for us seemingly fantastic concepts are not specifically Tibetan. We can also find them in ancient Egypt, China, India, even in medieval Europe up until the Enlightenment. Thus, when the Kundun says in 1996 in an interview that “my proposal treats Tibet as something like one human body. The whole Tibet is one body”, this is not just intended allegorically and geopolitically, but also tantrically (Shambhala Sun, archives, November, 1996). Strictly interpreted, the statement also means: Tibet and my energy body are identical with one another.


Tibet on the other hand is a microcosmic likeness of the sum of humanity, at least that is how the Tibetan National Assembly sees the matter in a letter from the year 1946. We can read there that “there are many great nations on this earth who have achieved unprecedented wealth and might, but there is only one nation which is dedicated to the well-being of humanity and that is the religious land of Tibet, which cherishes a joint spiritual and temporal system” (Newsgroup 12).


The mandala as the organizational form of the Tibetan state

There is something specific in the state structure of the historical Buddhocracy which distinguishes it from the purely pyramidal constitution of Near Eastern theocracies. Alone because of the many schools and sub-schools of Tibetan Buddhism we cannot speak of a classic leadership pyramid at the pinnacle of which the Dalai Lama stands. In order to describe in general terms the Buddhocratic form of state, S. J. Tambiah introduced a term which has in the meantime become widespread in the relevant literature. He calls it “galactic politics” or “mandala politics” (Tambiah, 1976, pp. 112 ff.) What can be understood by this?


As in a solar system, the chief monasteries of the Land of Snows orbit like planets around the highest incarnation of Tibet, the god-king and world ruler from Lhasa, and form with him a living mandala. This planetary principle is repeated in the organizational form of the chief monasteries, in the center of which a tulku likewise rules as a “little” Chakravartin. Here, each arch-abbot is the sun and father about whom rotate the so-called “child monasteries”, that is, the monastic communities subordinate to him. Under certain circumstances these can form a similar pattern with even smaller units.


Mandala-pattern of the tibetan government (above) and the corresponding government offices around the Jokhang-Temple (below)


A collection of many “solar systems” thus arises which together form a “galaxy”. Although the Dalai Lama represents an overarching symbolic field, the individual monasteries still have a wide ranging autonomy within their own planet. As a consequence, every monastery, every temple, even every Tulku forms a miniature model of the whole state. In this idealist conception they are all “little “ copies of the universal Chakravartin (wheel turner) and must also behave ideal-typically like him. All the thoughts and deeds of the world ruler must be repeated by them and ideally there should be no differences between him and them. Then all the planetary units within the galactic model are in harmony with one another. In the light of this idea, the frequent and substantial disagreements within the Tibetan clergy appear all the more paradox.


Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, forms the cosmic center of this galaxy. Two magnificent city buildings symbolize the spiritual and worldly control of the Dalai Lama: The cathedral (the Jokhang temple) his priesthood; the palace (the Potala) his kingship. The Fifth Dalai Lama ordered the construction of his residence on the “Red Mountain” (Potala) from where the Tibetan rulers of the Yarlung dynasty once reigned, but he did not live to see its magnificent completion. Instead of laying a foundation stone, the god-king had a stake driven into the soil of the “red mountain” and summoned the wrathful deities, probably to demonstrate here too his power over the earth mother, Srinmo, whose nailed down heart beats beneath the Jokhang.


Significantly, a sanctuary in southern India dedicated to Avalokiteshvara was known in earlier times as a “Potala”. His Tibetan residence, which offers a view over all of Lhasa, was a suitably high place for the “Lord who looks down from above” (as the name of the Bodhisattva can be translated). The Potala was also known as the “residence of the gods”.


Tibet is also portrayed in the geometric form of a Mandala in the religious political literature. „While it demonstrates hierarchy, power relations, and legal levels”, writes Rebecca Redwood French, „the Mandala ceaselessly pulsates with movement up, down and between its different parts” (Redwood French, 1995, p. 179).


The mchod-yon relationship to other countries

What form does the relationship of a Chakravartin from the roof of the world to the rulers of other nations take in the Tibetan way of looking at things? The Dalai Lama was (and is) — according to doctrine — the highest (spiritual) instance for all the peoples of the globe. Their relationship to him are traditionally regulated by what is known as the mchod-yon formula.


With an appeal to the historical Buddha, the Tibetans interpret the mchod-yon relation as follows:


  1. The sacred monastic community (the sangha) is far superior to secular ruler.
  2. The secular ruler (the king) has the task, indeed the duty, to afford the sangha military protection and keep it alive with generous “alms”. In the mchod-yon relation “priest” and “patron” thus stood (and stand) opposed, in that the patron was obliged to fulfill all the worldly needs of the clergy.


After Buddhism became more and more closely linked with the idea of the state following the Ashoka period, and the “high priests” themselves became “patrons” (secular rulers), the mchod-yon relation was applied to neighboring countries. That is, states which were not yet really subject to the rule of the priest-king (e.g., of the Dalai Lama) had to grant him military protection and “alms”. This delicate relation between the Lamaist Buddhocracy and its neighboring states still plays a significant role in Chinese-Tibetan politics today, since each of the parties interprets them differently and thus also derives conflicting rights from it.


The Chinese side has for centuries been of the opinion that the Buddhist church (and the Dalai Lama) must indeed be paid for their religious activities with “alms”, but only has limited rights in worldly matters. The Chinese (especially the communists) thus impose a clear division between state and church and in this point are largely in accord with western conceptions, or they with justification appeal to the traditional Buddhist separation of sangha (the monastic community) and politics (Klieger, 1991, p. 24). In contrast, the Tibetans do not just lay claim to complete political authority, they are also convinced that because of the mchod-yon relation the Chinese are downright obliged to support them with “alms” and protect them with “weapons”. Even if such a claim is not articulated in the current political situation it nonetheless remains an essential characteristic of Tibetan Buddhocracy. [3]


Christiaan Klieger has convincingly demonstrated that these days the entire exile Tibetan economy functions according to the traditional mchod-yon (priest-patron) principle described above, that is, the community with the monks at its head is constantly supported by non-Tibetan institutions and individuals from all over the world with cash, unpaid work, and gifts. The Tibetan economic system has thus remained “medieval” in emigration as well.


Whether the considerable gifts to the Tibetans in exile are originally intended for religious or humanitarian projects no longer plays much of a role in their subsequent allocation. „Funds generated in the West as part of the religious system of donations,” writes Klieger, „are consequently transformed into political support for the Tibetan state” (Klieger, 1991, p. 21). The formula, which proceeds from the connection between spiritual and secular power, is accordingly as follows: whoever supports the politics of the exile Tibetans also patronizes Buddhism as such or, vice versa, whoever wants to foster Buddhism must support Tibetan politics.


The feigned belief of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama in western democracy

However authoritarian and undemocratic the guiding principles of the Buddhist state are, these days (and in total contrast to this) the Fourteenth Dalai Lama exclusively professes a belief in a western democratic model. Now, is the Kundun’s conception of democracy a matter of an seriously intended reform of the old feudal Tibetan relations, a not yet realized long-term political goal, or simply a tactical ploy?


Admittedly, since 1961 a kind of parliament exists among the Tibetans in exile in which the representatives of the various provinces and the four religious schools hold seats as members. But the “god-king” still remains the highest government official. According to the constitution, he cannot be stripped of his authority as head of state and as the highest political instance. There has never, Vice President Thubten Lungring has said, been a majority decision against the Dalai Lama. The latter is said to have with a smile answered a western journalist who asked him whether it was even possible that resolutions could be passed against him, “No, not possible” (Newsgroup 13).


Whenever he is asked about his unshakable office, the Kundun always repeats that this absolutist position of power was thrust upon him against his express wishes. The people emphatically demanded of him that he retain his role as regent for life. With regard to the charismatic power of integration he is able to exercise, this was certainly a sensible political decision. But this means that the exile Tibetan state system still remains Buddhocratic at heart. Nonetheless, this does not prevent the Kundun from presenting the constitution finally passed in 1963 as being “based upon the principles of modern democracy”, nor from constantly demanding the separation of church and state (Dalai Lama XIV, 1993b, p. 25; 1996b, p. 30).


In the course of its 35-year existence the exile Tibetan “parliament” has proved itself to be purely cosmetic. It was barely capable of functioning and played a completely subordinate role in the political decision-making process. The “first ever democratic political party in the history of Tibet” as it terms itself in its political platform, the National Democratic Party of Tibet (NDPT), first saw the light of day in the mid nineties. Up until at least 1996 the “people” were completely uninterested in the democratic rules of the game (Tibetan Review, February 1990, p. 15). Politics was at best conducted by various pressure groups — the divisive regional representations, the militant Tibetan Youth Association and the senior abbots of the four chief sects. But ultimately decisions (still) lay in the hands of His Holiness, several executive bodies, and the members of three families, of whom the most powerful is that of the Kundun, the so-called “Yabshi clan”.


The same is true of the freedom of the press and freedom of speech in general. “The historian Wangpo Tethong,” exiled Tibetan opponents of the Dalai Lama wrote in 1998, “whose noble family has constantly occupied several posts in the government in exile, equates democratization in exile with the ‘propagation of an ideology of national unity’ and 'religious and political unification'. This contradicts the western conception of democracy” (Press release of the Dorje Shugden International Coalition, February 7, 1998; translation). The sole (!) independent newspaper in Dharamsala, with the name of Democracy (in Tibetan: Mangtso), was forced to cease publication under pressure from members of the government in exile. In the Tibet News, an article by Jamyang Norbu on the state of freedom of the press is said to have appeared. The author summarizes his analysis as follows: “Not only is there no encouragement or support for a free Tibetan press, rather there is almost an extinguishing of the freedom of opinion in the Tibetan exile community” (Press release of the Dorje Shugden International Coalition, February, 7, 1998).


The Tibetan parliament in exile and the democracy of the exiled Tibetans is a farce. Even Thubten J. Norbu, one of the Dalai Lama’s brothers, is convinced of this. When in the early nineties he clashed fiercely with Gyalo Thondop, another brother of the Kundun, over the question of foreign affairs, the business of government was paralyzed due to this dispute between the brothers (Tibetan Review, September 1992, p. 7).  The 11th parliamentary assembly (1991), for instance, could not reach consensus over the election of a full cabinet. The parliamentary members therefore requested that His Holiness make the decision. The result was that of seven ministers, two belonged to the “Yabshi clan”, that is, to the Kundun’s own family: Gyalo Thondop was appointed chairman of the council of ministers and was also responsible for the “security” department. The Dalai Lama’s sister, Jetsun Pema, was entrusted with the ministry of education.


In future, everything is supposed to change. Nepotism, corruption, undemocratic decisions, suppression of the freedom of the press are no longer supposed to exist in the new Tibet. On June 15, 1988, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama announced to the European Parliament in Strasbourg that upon his return a constitutional assembly would be formed in the Land of Snows, headed by a president who would possess the same authority as he himself now enjoyed. Following this there would be democratic elections. A separation of church and state along western lines would be guaranteed from the outset in Tibet. There would also be a voluntary relinquishment of some political authority vis-à-vis the Chinese. He, the Dalai Lama, would recognize the diplomatic and military supremacy of China and be content with just the „fields of religion, commerce, education, culture, tourism, science, sports, and other non-political activities” (Grunfeld, 1996, p. 234).


But despite such spoken professions, the national symbols tell another tale: With pride, every Tibetan in exile explains that the two snow lions on the national flag signify the union of spiritual and worldly power. The Tibetan flag is thus a visible demonstration of the Tibetan Buddhocracy. Incidentally, a Chinese yin yang symbol can be found in the middle. This can hardly be a reference to a royal couple, and rather, is clearly a symbol of the androgyny of the Dalai Lama as the highest tantric ruler of the Land of Snows. All the other heraldic features of the flag (the colors, the flaming jewels, the twelve rays, etc.), which is paraded as the coat of arm of a democratic, national Tibet, are drawn from the royalist repertoire of the Lamaist priesthood.


The Strasbourg Declaration of 1989 and the renunciation of autonomy it contains are sharply criticized by the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), the European Tibetan Youth Association, and the Dalai Lama’s elder brother, Thubten Norbu. When the head of the Tibetan Youth Congress came under strong attack because he did not approve of the political decisions of the Kundun, he defended himself by pointing out that the Dalai Lama himself had called upon him to pursue this hard-line stance — probably so as to have the possibility of distancing himself from his Strasbourg Declaration (Goldstein, 1997, p. 139).


This political double game is currently intensifying. Whilst the god-king continues to extend his contacts with Beijing, the TYC’s behavior is increasingly vocally radical. We have become too nonviolent, too passive, declared the president of the organization, Tseten Norbu, in 1998 (Reuters, Beijing, June 22, 1998). In the countermove, since Clinton’s visit to China (in July 1998) the Dalai Lama has been offering himself to the Chinese as a peacemaker to be employed against his own people as the sole bulwark against a dangerous Tibetan radicalism: “The resentment in Tibet against the Chinese is very strong. But there is one [person] who can influence and represent the Tibetan people [he means himself here]. If he no longer existed the problem could be radicalized” he threatened the Chinese leadership, of whom it has been said that they want to wait out his death in exile (Time, July 13, 1998, p. 26).


Whatever happens to the Tibetan people in the future, the Dalai Lama remains a powerful ancient archetype in his double function as political and spiritual leader. In the moment in which he has to surrender this dual role, the idea, anchored in the Kalachakra Tantra, of a “world king” first loses its visible secular part, then the Chakravartin is worldly and spiritual ruler at once. In this case the Dalai Lama would exercise a purely spiritual office, which more or less corresponds to that of a Catholic Pope.


How the Kundun will in the coming years manage the complicated balancing act between religious community and nationalism, democracy and Buddhocracy, world dominion and parliamentary government, priesthood and kingship, is a completely open question. He will at any rate — as Tibetan history and his previous incarnations have taught us — tactically orient himself to the particular political constellations of power.


The democratic faction

Within the Tibetan community there are a few exiled Tibetans brought up in western cultures who have carefully begun to examine the ostensible democracy of Dharamsala. In a letter to the Tibetan Review for example, one Lobsang Tsering wrote: „The Tibetan society in its 33-years of exile has witnessed many scandals and turmoils. But do the people know all the details about these events? ... The latest scandal has been the 'Yabshi vs. Yabshi' affair concerning the two older brothers of the Dalai Lama. [Yabshi is the family name of the Dalai Lama’s relatives.] The rumours keep on rolling and spreading like wildfire. Many still are not sure exactly what the affair is all about. Who are to blame for this lack of information? Up till now. anything controversial has been kept as a state secret by our government. It is true that not every government policy should be conducted in the open. However, in our case, nothing is done in the open” (Tibetan Review, September 1992, p. 22). [4]


We should also take seriously the liberal democratic intentions of younger Tibetans in the homeland. For instance, the so-called Drepung Manifesto, which appeared in 1988 in Lhasa, makes a refreshingly critical impression, although formulated by monks: „Having completely eradicated the practices of the old society with all its faults,” it says there. „the future Tibet will not resemble our former condition and be a restoration of serfdom or be like the so-called ‘old system’ of rule a succession of feudal masters or monastic estates.” (Schwartz, 1994, p. 127). Whether such statements are really intended seriously is something about which one can only speculate. The democratic reality among the Tibetans in exile gives rise to some doubts about this.


It is likewise a fact that the protest movement in Tibet, continually expanding since the eighties, draws together everyone who is dissatisfied in some way, from upright democrats to the dark monastic ritualists for whom any means is acceptable in the quest to restore through magic the power of the Dalai Lama on the “roof of the world”. We shall return to discuss several examples of this in our chapter War and Peace. Western tourists who are far more interested in the occult and mystic currents of the country than in the establishment of a “western” democracy, encourage such atavisms as best they can.


For the Tibetan within and outside of their country, the situation is extremely complicated. They are confronted daily with professions of faith in western democracy on the one hand and a Buddhocratic, archaic reality on the other and are supposed to (the Kundun imagines) decide in favor of two social systems at once which are not compatible with one another. In connection with the still to be described Shugden affair this contradiction has become highly visible and self-evident.


Additionally, the Tibetans are only now in the process of establishing themselves as a nation, a self-concept which did not exist at all before — at least since the country has been under clerical control. We have to refer to the Tibet of the past as a cultural community and not as a nation. It was precisely Lamaism and the predecessors of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, who now sets himself at the forefront of the Tibetan Nation, who prevented the development of a real feeling of national identity among the populace. The “yellow church” advocated their Buddhist teachings, invoked their deities and pursued their economic interests — yet not those of the Tibetans as a united people. For this reason the clergy also never had the slightest qualms about allying themselves with the Mongolians or the Chinese against the inhabitants of the Land of Snows.


The “Great Fifth”: Absolute Sun King of Tibet

Historians are unanimous in maintaining that the Tibetan state was the ingenious construction of a single individual. The golden age of Lamaism begins with Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617–1682) and also ends with him. The saying of the famous historian, Thomas Carlyle, that the history of the world is nothing other than the biography of great men may be especially true of him. None of his successors have ever achieved the same power and visionary force as the “Great Fifth”. They are in fact just the weak transmission of a very special energy which was gathered together in his person in the seventeenth century. The spiritual and material foundations which he laid have shaped the image of Tibet in both East and West up until the present day. But his practical political power, limited firstly by various Buddhist school and then also by the Mongolians and Chinese, was not at all so huge. Rather, he achieved his transtemporal authority through the adroit accumulation of all spiritual resources and energies, which he put to service with an admirable lack of inhibition and an unbounded inventiveness. With cunning and with violence, kindness and brutality, with an enthusiasm for ostentatious magnificence, and with magic he organized all the significant religious forms of expression of his country about himself as the shining center. Unscrupulous and flexible, domineering and adroit, intolerant and diplomatic, he carried through his goals. He was statesman, priest, historian, grammarian, poet, painter, architect, lover, prophet, and black magician in one — and all of this together in an outstanding and extremely effective manner.


The grand siècle of the “Great Fifth” shone out at the same period in time as that of Louis XIV (1638–1715), the French sun king, and the two monarchs have often been compared to one another. They are united in their iron will to centralize, their fascination for courtly ritual, their constant exchange with the myths, and much more besides. The Fifth Dalai Lama and Louis XIV thought and acted as expressions of the same temporal current and in this lay the secret of their success, which far exceeded their practical political victories. If it was the concept of the seventeenth century to concentrate the state in a single person, then for both potentates the saying rings true: l'état c'est moi ("I am the state”). Both lived from the same divine energy, the all-powerful sun. The “king” from Lhasa also saw himself as a solar “fire god”, as the lord of his era, an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara. The year of his birth (1617) is assigned to the “fire serpent” in the Tibetan calendar. Was this perhaps a cosmic indicator that he would become a master of high tantric practices, who governed his empire with the help of the kundalini ("fire serpent”)?


In the numerous visions of the potentate in which the most important gods and goddesses of Vajrayana appeared before him, tantric unions constantly took place. For him, the transformation of sexuality into spiritual and worldly power was an outright element of his political program. Texts which he himself wrote describe how he, absorbed by one such exercise by a divine couple, slipped into the vagina of his wisdom consort, bathed there “in the red and white bodhicitta” and afterwards returned to his old body blissful and regenerated (Karmay, 1988, p. 49).


Contemporary documents revere him as the “sun and moon” in one person. (Yumiko, 1993, p. 41). He had mastered a great number of tantric techniques and even practiced his ritual self-destruction (chod) without batting an eyelid. Once he saw how a gigantic scorpion penetrated into his body and devoured all his internal organs. Then the creature burst into flames which consumed the remainder of his body (Karmay, 1988, p. 52). He exhibited an especial predilection for the most varied terror deities who supported him in executing his power politics.


The Fifth Dalai Lama was obsessed by the deliriums of magic. He saw all of his political and cultural successes as the result of his own invocations. For him, armies were only the executive organs of prior tantric rituals. Everywhere, he — the god upon the Lion Throne — perceived gods and demons to be at work, with whom he formed alliances or against whom he took to the field. Every step that he took was prepared for by prophecies and oracles. The visions in which Avalokiteshvara appeared to him were frequent, and just as frequently he identified with the “fire god”. With a grand gesture he dissolved the whole world into energy fields which he attempted to control magically — and he in fact succeeded. The Asia of the time took him seriously and allowed him to impose his system. He reigned as Chakravartin, as world ruler, and as the Adi Buddha on earth. Chinese Emperors and Mongolian Khans feared him for his metaphysical power.


One might think that his religious emotionalism was only a pretext, to be employed as a means of establishing real power. His sometimes sarcastic, but always sophisticated manner may suggest this. It is, however, highly unlikely, then the divine statesman had his occult and liturgical secrets written down, and it is clear from these records that his first priority was the control of the symbolic world and the tantric rituals and that he derived his political decisions from these.


His Secret Biography and the Golden Manuscript which he wrote (Karmay, 1988) were up until most recently kept locked away and were only accessible to a handful of superiors from the Gelugpa order. These two documents — which may now be viewed– also reveal the author to be a grand sorcerer who evaluated anything and everything as the expression of divine plans and whose conceptions of power are no longer to be interpreted as secular. There is no doubting that the “Great Fifth” thought and acted as a deity completely consciously. This sort of thing is said to be frequent among kings, but the lord from the roof of the world also possessed the energy and the power of conviction to transform his tantric visions into a reality which still persists today.


The predecessors of the Fifth Dalai Lama

The organizational and disciplinary strength of the Gelugpa ("Yellow Hat”) order formed the Fifth Dalai Lama’s power base, upon which he could build his system. Shortly after the death of Tsongkhapa (the founder of the “Yellow Hats”) his successors adopted the doctrine of incarnation from the Kagyupa sect. Hence the chain of incarnated forebears of the “Great Fifth” was fixed from the start. It includes four incarnations from the ranks of the Gelugpas, of whom only the last two bore the title of Dalai Lama, the first pair were accorded the rank posthumously.


The chain begins with Gyalwa Gendun Drub (1391–1474) , a pupil of Tsongkhapa and later the First Dalai Lama. He was an outstanding expert on, and higher initiand into, the Kalachakra Tantra and composed several commentaries upon it which are still read today. His writings on this topic, even if they never attain the methodical precision and canonical knowledge of his teacher, Tsongkhapa, show that he practiced the tantra and sought bisexuality in “the form of Kalachakra and his consort” (Dalai Lama I, 1985, p. 181).


His androgynous longings are especially clear in the hymns with which he invoked the goddess Tara so as to be able to assume her feminine form: “Suddenly I appear as the holy Arya Tara, whose mind is beyond samsara” he writes. “My body is green in color and my face reflects a warmly serene smile ... attained to immortality, my appearance is that of a sixteen-year-old-girl” (Dalai Lama I, 1985, pp. 135, 138).


This appearance as the goddess of mercy did not, however, restrain him from following a pretty hard line in the construction of the legal system. He determined that prisons be constructed in all monasteries, where some of his opponents lost their lives under inhuman circumstances. The penal system which he codified was intransigent and cruel. Days without food and whippings were a part of this, just like the cutting off of the right hand in cases of theft or the death penalty for breach of the vows of celibacy, insofar as this took place outside of the tantric rituals. His severity and rigor nonetheless earned him the sympathy of the people, who saw him as the arm of a just and angry god who brought order to the completely deteriorated world of the monastic clergy.


The title Dalai Lama first appears during the encounter between the arch-abbot of Sera, Sonam Gyatso (1543–1588) and the Mongolian Khan, Altan. The prince of the church (later the Third Dalai Lama) undertook the strenuous journey to the north and visited the Mongols in the year 1578 at their invitation. He spent a number of days at the court of Altan Khan, initiated him into the teachings of the Buddha a and successfully demonstrated his spiritual power through all manner of sensational miracles. One day the prince of the steppes appeared in a white robe which was supposed to symbolize love, and confessed with much feeling to the Buddhist faith. He promised to transform the “blood sea” into a “sea of milk” by changing the Mongolian laws. Sonam Gyatso replied, “You are the thousand-golden-wheel-turning Chakravartin or world ruler” (Bleichsteiner, 1937, p. 89).


It can be clearly gathered from this apotheosis that the monk conceded secular authority to the successor of Genghis Khan. But as an incarnated Buddha he ranked himself more highly. This emerges from an initiatory speech in which one of Altan's nephews compares him to the moon, but addresses the High Lama from the Land of Snows as the omnipotent sun (Bleichsteiner, 1937, p. 88). But the Mongol prince called his guest “Dalai Lama”, a somewhat modest title on the basis of the translation usual these days, “Ocean of Wisdom”. Robert Bleichsteiner also translates it somewhat more emotionally as “Thunderbolt-bearing World Ocean Priest”. The god-king of Tibet thus bears a Mongolian title, not a Tibetan one.


At the meeting between Sonam Gyatso and Altan Khan there were surely negotiations about the pending fourth incarnation of the “Dalai Lama” (Yonten Gyatso 1589–1617), then he appeared among the Mongols in the figure of a great-grandchild of Khan’s. Bleichsteiner refers to this “incarnation decision” as a “particularly clever chess move”, which finally ensured the control of the “Yellow Hats” over Mongolia and obliged the Khans to provide help to the order (Bleichsteiner, 1937, p. 89). The Mongolian Fourth Dalai Lama died at the age of 28 and did not play a significant political role.


This was taken over by the powerful Kagyupa sect (the so-called “Red Hats”) at this stage in time. The “Red Hats” recruited their members exclusively from national (Tibetan) forces. They had attacked Sonam Gyatso’s (the III Dalai Lama’s) journey to the Mongols as treason and were able to continually expand their power political successes so that by the 1630s the Gelugpa order was only savable via external intervention.


Thus, nothing seemed more obvious than that the “Great Fifth” should demonstratively adopt the Mongolian title “Dalai Lama” so as to motivate the warlike nomadic tribes from the north to occupy and conquer Tibet. This state political calculation paid off in full. The result was a terrible civil war between the Kagyupas and the followers of the prince of Tsang on the one side and the Gelugpas and the Mongol leader Gushri Khan on the other.


If the records are to be trusted, the Mongol prince, Gushri Khan, made a gift of his military conquests (i.e., Tibet) to the Fifth Dalai Lama and handed over his sword after the victory over the “Red Hats”. This was not evaluated symbolically as a pacifist act, but rather as the ceremonial equipping of the prince of the church with secular power. Yet it remains open to question whether the power-conscious Mongol really saw this symbolic act in these terms, then de jure Gushri Khan retained the title “King of Tibet” for himself. The “Great Fifth” in contrast, certainly interpreted the gift of the sword as a gesture of submission by the Khan (the renunciation of authority over Tibet), then de facto from now on he managed affairs like an absolute ruler.


The Secret Biography

The Fifth Dalai Lama took his self-elevation to the status of a deity and his magic practices just as seriously as he did his real power politics. For him, every political act, every military operation was launched by a visionary event or prepared for with a invocatory ritual. Nevertheless, as a Tantric, the dogma of the emptiness of all being and the nonexistence of the phenomenal world stood for him behind the whole ritual and mystic theater which he performed. This was the epistemological precondition to being able to control the protagonists of history just like those of the spiritual world. It is against this framework that the “Great Fifth” introduces his autobiography (Secret Biography) with an irony which undermines his own life’s work in the following verses:


The erudite should not read this work, they will be embarrassed.

It is only for the guidance of fools who revel in fanciful ideas.

Although it tries frankly to avoid pretentiousness,

It is nevertheless corrupted with deceit.

By speaking honestly on whatever occurred, this could be taken to be lies.


As if illusions of Samsara were not enough,

This stupid mind of mine is further attracted

To ultra-illusory visions.

It is surely mad to say that the image of the Buddha's compassion

Is reflected in the mirror of karmic existence.


Let me now write the following pages,

Though it will disappoint those who are led to believe

That the desert-mirage is water,

As well as those who are enchanted by folk-tales,

And those who delight in red clouds in summer.”

(Karmay, 1988, p. 27)


Up until recent times the Secret Biography had not been made public, it was a secret document only accessible to a few chosen. There is no doubting that the power-obsessed “god-king” wanted to protect the extremely intimate and magic character of his writings through the all-dispersing introductory poem. One of the few handwritten copies is kept in the Munich State Library. There it can be seen that the Great Fifth nonetheless took his “fairy tales” so seriously that he marked the individual chapters with a red thumbprint.


Everything about Tibet which so fascinates people from the West is in collected in the multilayered character of the Fifth Dalai Lama. Holiness and barbarism, compassion and realpolitik, magic and power, king and mendicant monk, splendor and modesty, war and peace, megalomania and humility, god and mortal — the pontiff from Lhasa was able to simplify these paradoxes to a single formula and that was himself. He was for an ordinary person one of the incomprehensibly great, a contradiction made flesh, a great solitary, upon whom in his own belief the life of the world hung. He was a mystery for the people, a monster for his enemies, a deity for his followers, a beast for his opponents. This ingenious despot is — as we shall later see — the highest example for the current Fourteenth Dalai Lama.


The regent Sangye Gyatso

The Fifth Dalai Lama did not need to worry about a successor, because he was convinced that he would be reincarnated in a child a few days after his death. Yet with wise foresight the time between his rebirth and his coming of age needed to be organized. Here too, the “Great Fifth”'s choice was a brilliant piece of power politics. As „regent” he decided to appoint the lama Sangye Gyatso (1653–1705) and equipped him with all the regalia of a king already in the last years of his life. He seated him upon the broad throne of the fearless lion as the executor of two duties, one worldly and one religious, which are appropriate to a great Chakravartin kingship, as a lord of heaven and earth (Ahmad, 1970, p. 43). The Dalai Lama thus appointed him world ruler until his successor (who he himself was) came of age. It was rumored with some justification that the regent was his biological son (Hoffmann, 1956, p. 176).


In terms of his abilities, Sangye Gyatso must be regarded not just as a skilled statesman, rather he was also the author of a number of intelligent books on such varied topics as healing, law, history, and ritual systems. He proceeded against the women of Lhasa with great intolerance. According to a contemporary report he is said to have issued a command that every female being could only venture into public with a blackened face, so that the monks would not fall into temptation.


So as to consolidate his threatened position during the troubled times, he kept the demise of his “divine father” (the Fifth Dalai Lama) secret for ten years and explained that the prince of the church remained in the deepest meditation. When in the year 1703 the Mongolian prince, Lhazang, posed the never completely resolved question of power between Lhasa and the warrior nomads and himself claimed regency over Tibet, an armed conflict arose.


The right wing of the Mongol army was under the command of the martial wife of the prince, Tsering Tashi. She succeeded in capturing the regent and carried out his death sentence personally. If she was a vengeant incarnation of Srinmo in the “land of the gods”, then her revenge also extended to the coming Sixth Dalai Lama, over whose fate we report in a chapter of its own.


The successors of the “Great Fifth”: The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Dalai Lamas

The Seventh and Eighth Dalai Lamas only played a minor role in the wider political world. As we have already reported, the four following god-kings (The Ninth to the Twelfth Dalai Lamas) either died an early death or were murdered. It was first the so-called “Great Thirteenth” who could be described as a “politician” again. Although in constant contact with the modern world, Thubten Gyatso, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama (1874–1933), thought and acted like his predecessor, the “Great Fifth”. Visions and magic continued to determine political thought and activity in Tibet after the boy moved into the Potala amid great spectacle in July 1879. In 1894 he took power over the state. Shortly before, the officiating regent had been condemned because of a black magic ritual which he was supposed to have performed to attack the young thirteenth god-king, and because of a conspiracy with the Chinese. He was thrown into one of the dreadful monastery dungeons, chained up, and maltreated him till he died. A co-conspirator, head of a distinguished noble family, was brought to the Potala after his deeds were discovered and pushed from the highest battlements of the palace. His names, possessions and even the women of his house were then given to a favorite of the Dalai Lama’s as a gift.


In 1904 the god-king had to flee to Mongolia to evade the English who occupied Lhasa. Under pressure from the Manchu dynasty he visited Beijing in 1908. We have already described how the Chinese Emperor and the Empress Dowager Ci Xi died mysteriously during this visit. He later fell out with the Thirteenth Dalai Lama with the Panchen Lama, [5] who cooperated with the Chinese and was forced to flee Tibet in 1923. The “Great Thirteenth” conducted quite unproductive fluctuating political negotiations with Russia, England, and China; why he was given the epithet of “the Great” nobody really knows, not even his successor from Dharamsala.


An American envoy gained the impression that His Holiness (the Thirteenth Dalai Lama) „cared very little, if at all, for anything which did not affect his personal privileges and prerogatives, that he separated entirely his case from that of the people of Tibetan, which he was willing to abandon entirely to the mercy of China” (Mehra, 1976, p.20) When we recall that the institution of the Dalai Lama was a Mongolian arrangement which was put through in the civil war of 1642 against the will of the majority of the Tibetans, such an evaluation may well be justified.


As an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the thirteenth hierarch also (like the “Great Fifth”) saw himself surrounded less by politicians and heads of state than by gods and demons. David Seyfort Ruegg most astutely indicates that the criteria by which Buddhists in positions of power assess historical events and personalities have nothing in common with our western, rational conceptions. For them, “supernatural” forces and powers are primarily at work, using people as bodily vessels and instruments. We have already had a taste of this in the opposition between the god-king as an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara and Guanyin in the form of the Empress Dowager Ci Xi. Further examples in the coming chapters should show how magic and politics, war and ritual are also interwoven here.


Now what is the situation with regard to these topics and the living Fourteenth Dalai Lama? Has his almost 40--year exposure to western culture changed anything fundamental in the traditional political understanding? Is the current god-king free of the ancient, magical visions of power of his predecessors? Let us allow him to answer this question himself: in adopting the position of the Fifth Dalai Lama, the Kundun explained in an interview in 1997, “I am supposed to follow what he did” (Dalai Lama, HPI 006). As a consequence we too are entitled to accredit the Fourteenth Dalai Lama with all the deeds and visions of the great fifth hierarch and to assess his politics according to the criteria of his famous exemplar.


Incarnation and power

Lamaism’s particular brand of controlling power is based upon the doctrine of incarnation. Formerly (before the Communist invasion) the incarnation system covered the entire Land of Snows like a network. In Tibet, the monastic incarnations are called “tulkus”. Tulku means literally the “self-transforming body”. In Mongolia they are known as “chubilganes”. There were over a hundred of these at the end of the nineteenth century. Even in Beijing during the reign of the imperial Manchus there were fourteen offices of state which were reserved for Lamaist tulkus but not always occupied.


The Tibetan doctrine incarnation is often misunderstood. Whilst concepts of rebirth in the West are dominated by a purely individualist idea in the sense that an individual progresses through a number of lifetimes on earth in a row, a distinction is drawn in Tibet between three types of incarnation:


  1. When the incarnation as the emanation of a supernatural being, a Buddha, Bodhisattva, or a wrathful deity. Here, incarnation means that the lama in question is the embodiment of a deity, just as the Dalai Lama is an embodiment of Avalokiteshvara. The tulku lives from the spiritual energies of a transcendent being or, vice versa, this being emanates in a human body.
  2. When reincarnation arises through the initiatory transfer from the master to the sadhaka, that is, the “root guru” (represented by the master) and the deities who stand behind him embody themselves in his pupil.
  3. When it concerns the rebirth of a historical figure who reveals himself in the form of a new born baby. For example, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama is also an incarnation of the Fifth Dalai Lama.


The first and third concepts of incarnation do not necessarily contradict one another, rather they can complement each other, so that a person who has already died and deity can simultaneously be embodied in a person. But come what may, the deity has priority and supreme authority. It seems obvious that their bodily continuity and presence in this world is far better ensured by the doctrine of incarnation than by a natural line of inheritance. In a religious system in which the person means ultimately nothing, but the gods who stand behind him are everything, the human body only represents the instrument through which a higher being can make an appearance. From the deity’s point of view a natural reproduction would bring the personal interests of a family into conflict with his or her own divine ambitions.


The incarnation system in contrast is impersonal, anti-genetic, and anti-aristocratic. For this reason the monastic orders as such are protected. through the rearing of a “divine” child  it creates for itself the best conditions for the survival of its tradition, which can no longer be damaged by incapable heirs, family intrigues, and nepotism.


On a more fundamental symbolic level, the doctrine of incarnation must nevertheless be seen as an ingenious chess move against the woman’s monopoly on childbirth and the dependence of humanity upon the cycle of birth. It makes things “theoretically” independent of birth and the woman as the Great Mother. That mothers are nonetheless needed to bring the little tulkus into the world is not significant from a Buddhological point of view. The women serve purely as a tool, they are so to speak the corporeal cradle into which the god settles down in the form of an embryo. The conception of an incarnated lama (tulku) is thus always regarded as a supernatural procedure and it does not arise through the admixture of the male and female seed as is normal. Like in the Buddha legend, where the mother of the Sublime One is made pregnant in a dream by an elephant, so too the mother of a Tibetan tulku has visions and dreams of divine entities who enter into her. But the role of the “wet nurse” is taken over by the monks already, so that the child can be suckled upon the milk of their androcentric wisdom from the most tender age.


The doctrine of reincarnation was fitted out by the clergy with a high grade symbolic system which cannot be accessed by ordinary mortals. But as historical examples show, the advantages of the doctrine were thoroughly capable of being combined now and again with the principle of biological descent. Hence, among the powerful Sakyapas, where the office of abbot was inherited within a family dynasty, both the chain of inheritance and the precepts of incarnation were observed. Relatives, usually the nephews of the heads of the Sakyapa order, were simply declared to be tulkus.


Let us consider the Lamaist “lineage tree” or “spiritual tree” and its relation to the tulku system. Actually, one would assume that the child recognized as being a reincarnation would already possess all the initiation mysteries which it had acquired in former lives. Paradoxically, this is however not the case. Every Dalai Lama, every Karmapa, every tulku is initiated “anew” into the various tantric mysteries by a master. Only after this may he consider himself a branch of the “lineage tree” whose roots, trunk, and crown consist of the many predecessors of his guru and his guru’s guru. There are critics of the system who therefore claim with some justification that a child recognized as an incarnation first becomes the “vessel” of a deity after his “indoctrination” (i.e., after his initiation).


The traditional power of the individual Lamaist sects is primarily demonstrated by their lineage tree. It is the idealized image of a hierarchic/sacred social structure which draws its legitimation from the divine mysteries, and is supposed to imply to the subjects that the power elite represent the visible and time transcending assembly of an invisible, unchanging meta-order. At the origin of the initiation tree there is always a Buddha who emanates in a Bodhisattva who then embodies himself in a Maha Siddha. The roaming, wild-looking founding yogis (the Maha Siddhas) are, however, very soon replaced in the generations which follow by faceless “civil servants” within the lineage tree; fantastic great sorcerers have become uniformed state officials. The lineage tree now consists of the scholars and arch-abbots of the lama state.


The “Great Fifth” and the system of incarnation

Historically, for the “yellow sect” (the Gelugpa order) which traditionally furnishes the Dalai Lama, the question of incarnation at first did not play such a significant role as it did, for example, among the “Red Hats” (Kagyupa). The Fifth Dalai Lama first extended the system properly for his institution and developed it into an ingenious political artifact, whose individual phases of establishment over the years 1642 to 1653 we can reconstruct exactly on the basis of the documentary evidence. The “Great Fifth” saw himself as an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The embodiment of the Tibetan “national god” was until then a privilege claimed primarily by the Sakyapa and Kagyupa orders but not by the Gelugpa school. Rather, their founder, Tsongkhapa, was considered to be an emanation of the Bodhisattva Manjushri, the “Lord of Transcendental Knowledge”. In contrast, already in the thirteenth century the Karmapas presented themselves to the public as manifestations of Avalokiteshvara.


An identification with the Tibetan “national god” and first father, Chenrezi (Avalokiteshvara), was, so to speak, a mythological precondition for being able to rule the Land of Snows and its spirits, above all since the subjugation and civilization of Tibet were associated with the “good deeds” of the Bodhisattva, beginning with his compassionate, monkey union with the primal mother Srinmo. Among the people too, the Bodhisattva enjoyed the highest divine authority, and his mantra, om mani padme hum, was recited daily by all. Hence, whoever wished to rule the Tibetans and govern the universe from the roof of the world, could only do so as a manifestation of the fire god, Chenrezi, the controller of our age.


The “Great Fifth” was well aware of this, and via a sophisticated masterpiece of the manipulation of metaphysical history, he succeeded in establishing himself as Avalokiteshvara and as the final station of a total of 57 previous incarnations of the god. Or was it — as he himself reported — really a miracle which handed him the politically momentous incarnation list? Through a terma (i.e., a rediscovered text written and hidden in the era of the Tibetan kings) which he found in person, his chain of incarnations was apparently “revealed” to him.


Among the “forebears” listed in it many of the great figures of Tibetan history can be found — outstanding politicians, ingenious scholars, master magicians, and victorious military leaders. With this “discovered” or “concocted” document of his, the “Great Fifth” could thus shore himself up with a political and intellectual authority which stretched over centuries. The list was an especially valuable legitimation for his sacred/worldly kingship, since the great emperor, Songtsen Gampo, was included among his “incarnation ancestors”. In his analysis of the introduction of the Chenrezi cult by His Holiness, the Japanese Tibetologist, Ishihama Yumiko, leaves no doubt that we are dealing with a power-political construction (Yumiko, 1993, pp. 54, 55).


Now, which entities were — and, according to the Fifth Dalai Lama’s theory of incarnation, still are — seated upon the golden Lion Throne? First of all, the fiery Bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara, then the androgynous time turner, Kalachakra, then the Tibetan warrior king, Songtsen Gampo, then the Siddha versed in magic, Padmasambhava (the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet), and finally the Fifth Dalai Lama himself with all his family forebears. This wasn’t nearly all, but those mentioned are the chief protagonists, who determine the incarnation theater in Tibet. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, as the successor of the “Great Fifth” also represents the above-mentioned “divinities” and historical predecessors.


In an assessment of the Buddhocratic system and the history of Tibet, the power-political intentions of the two main gods (Avalokiteshvara and Kalachakra) must therefore be examined and evaluated in the first place so as to deduce the intentions of the currently living Dalai Lama on this basis. “It is impossible”, the Tibetologist David Seyfort Ruegg writes, “to draw a clear border between the 'holy and the 'profane', or rather between the spiritual and the temporal. This is most apparent in the case of the Bodhisattva kings who are represented by the Dalai Lamas, since these are both embodiments of Avalokiteshvara ... and worldly rulers” (Seyfort Ruegg, 1995, p. 91).


If we assume that the higher the standing of a spiritual entity, the greater his power is, we must pose the question of why in the year 1650 the Fifth Dalai Lama confirmed and proclaimed the first Panchen Lama, Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen (1567–1662), his former teacher, as a incarnation of Amitabha. For indeed, Amitabha, the “Buddha of unending light”, is ranked higher in the hierarchy than the Bodhisattva who emanates from him, Avalokiteshvara. This decision by the extremely power conscious god-king from Lhasa can thus only be understood when one knows that, as a meditation Buddha, Amitabha may not interfere in worldly affairs. According to doctrine, he exists only as a principle of immobility and is active solely through his emanations. Even though he is the Buddha of our age, he must nevertheless leave all worldly matters to his active arm, the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Through such a division of responsibilities, a contest between the Panchen Lama and Dalai Lama could never even arise.


Nevertheless, the Panchen Lamas have never wanted to fall into line with the nonpolitical role assigned to them. In contrast — they have attempted by all available means to interfere in the “events of the world”. Their central monastery, Tashi Lhunpo, became at times a stronghold in which all those foreign potentates who had been rebuffed by the Potala found a sympathetic ear. While negotiations were conducted with the Russians and Mongolians in Lhasa at the start of last century, Tashi Lhunpo conspired with the English and Chinese. Thus, the statesmanly autonomy of the Panchen Lama has often been the cause of numerous and acrid discordances with the Dalai Lama which have on several occasions bordered on a schism.


The sacred power of the Tibetan kings and its conferral upon the Dalai Lamas

So as to legitimate his full worldly control, it seemed obvious for the “Great Fifth” to make borrowings from the symbolism of sacred kingship. The most effective of these was to present himself as the incarnation of significant secular rulers with the stated aim of now continuing their successful politics. The Fifth Dalai Lama latched onto this idea and extended his chain of incarnations to reach the divine first kings from prehistoric times.


But, as we know, these were in no sense Buddhist, but rather fostered a singular, shamanist-influenced style of religion. They traced their origins to an old lineage of spirits who had descended to earth from the heavenly regions. Through an edict of the Fifth Dalai Lama they, and with them the later historical kings, were reinterpreted as emanations from “Buddha fields”. As proof of this, alongside a document “discovered” by the resourceful hierarch, a further “hidden” text (terma), the Mani Kabum, is cited, which an eager monk is supposed to have found in the 12th century. In it the three post powerful ruling figures of the Yarlung dynasty are explained to be emanations of Bodhisattvas: Songtsen Gampo (617–650) as an embodiment of Avalokiteshvara, Trisong Detsen (742–803) as an emanation of Manjushri, and Ralpachan (815–883) as one of Vajrapani. From here on they are considered to be bearers of the Buddhist doctrine.


After their Buddhist origins had been assured, the Tibetan kings posthumously took on all the characteristics of a world ruler. As Dharmarajas (kings of the law) they now represented the cosmic laws on earth. Likewise the “Great Fifth” could now be celebrated as the most powerful secular king reborn(Songtsen Gampo, who was likewise an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara) and through this could combine the imperium (worldly rule) with the sacerdotium (spiritual power). This choice legitimated him as national hero and supreme war lord and permitted a fundamental reform of the Lamaist state system which S. J. Tambiah refers to as the “feudalization of the church”.


The great military commander and tribal chief, Songtsen Gampo (617–650), who during his reign forged the highlands into a state of unprecedented size, was thus included into the Buddhist pantheon. Still today we can find impressive depictions of the feared warlord — usually in full armor, and flanked by his two chief wives, the Chinese Wen Cheng, and the Nepalese Bhrikuti.


The king is said to have commanded a force of 200,000 men. His conduct of war was considered extremely barbaric and the “red faces”, as the Tibetans were known by the surrounding peoples, spread fear and horror across all of central Asia. The extent to which Songtsen Gampo was able to extend his imperium roughly corresponds to the  territory over which the Fourteenth Dalai Lama today still claims as his dominion. Hence, thanks to the “Great Fifth” the geopolitical dimensions were also adopted from the sacred kingship.


From the point of view of a tantric interpretation of history, however, the greatest deed of this ancient king (Songtsen Gampo) was the nailing down of the earth mother, Srinmo, and the staking of her heart beneath the holiest of holies in the land, the Jokhang temple. The “Great Fifth”, as a confirmed ritualist, would surely have considered the “mastering of the demoness” as the cause of Songtsen Gampo's historical successes. Almost a thousand years later he too would precede almost every political and military decision with a magic ritual.


One day, it is said, Songtsen Gampo appeared to him in a dream and demanded of him that he manufacture a golden statue of him (the king) in the “style of a Chakravartin” and place this in the Jokhang temple. When, in the year 1651, the “Great Fifth” visited locations at which the great king was once active, according to the chronicles flowers began to rain from the skies there and the eight Tibetan signs of luck floated through the air.


The Fourteenth Dalai Lama and the question of incarnation

On July 6, 1935, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama was born as the child of ordinary people in a village by the name of Takster, which means, roughly, “shining tiger”. In connection with our study of the topic of gender it is interesting that the parents originally gave the boy a girl’s name. He was called Lhamo Dhondup, that is, “wish fulfilling goddess”. The androgyny of this incarnation of Avalokiteshvara was thus already signaled before his official recognition.


The story of his discovery has been told so often and spectacularly filmed in the meantime that we only wish to sketch it briefly here. After the death of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, the then regent (Reting Rinpoche) saw mysterious letters in a lake which was dedicated to the protective goddess Palden Lhamo, which together with other visions indicated that the new incarnation of the god-king was to be found in the northeast of the country in the province of Amdo. A search commission was equipped in Lhasa and set out on the strenuous journey. In a hut in the village of Takster a small boy is supposed to have run up to one of the commissioners and demanded the necklace of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama which he held in his hands. The monk refused and would only give him it if the child could say who he was. “You are a lama from Sera!”, the boy is said to have cried out in the dialect which is only spoken in Lhasa. [6] Afterwards, from the objects laid out before him he selected those which belonged to his predecessor; the others he laid aside. The bodily examination performed on the child also revealed the necessary five features which distinguish a Dalai Lama: The imprint of a tiger skin on the thigh; extended eyelashes with curved lashes; large ears; two fleshy protuberances on the shoulders which are supposed to represent two rudimentary arms of Avalokiteshvara; the imprint of a shell on his hand.


For understandable reasons the fact that a Chinese dialect was spoken in the family home of His Holiness is gladly passed over in silence. The German Tibet researcher, Matthias Hermanns, who was doing field work in Amdo at the time of the discovery and knew the family of the young Kundun well, reports that the child could understand no Tibetan at all. When he met him and asked his name, the boy answered in Chinese that he was called “Chi”. This was the official Chinese name for the village of Takster (Hermanns, 1956, p. 319). Under difficult circumstances the child arrived in Lhasa at the end of 1939 and was received there as Kundun, the living Buddha. Already as an eight year old he received his first introduction into the tantric teachings.


Every little tulku who is separated from his family at a tender age misses the motherly touch. For the Fourteenth Dalai Lama this role was taken over by his cook, Ponpo by name. Not at the death of his mother, but rather at the demise of his substitute mother, Ponpo, the Kundun cried bitter tears. “He fed me,” he said sadly, “most mammals consider the creature that feeds them as the most important in their lives, That was the way I felt about Ponpo. I knew my teachers were more important than my cook, but emotionally the strongest bond was with him” (Craig, 1997, p. 326).


In a discussion which the Dalai Lama later conducted with academics, he showed a keen interest in the maternal warmth and tender touching of the child as an important element in the development of personality. He became reflective as one (female ) speaker explained that the absence of such bodily contact in childhood could result in serious psychic damage to the person affected (Dalai Lama XIV, 1995, p. 319).


All young tulkus must do without all motherly contact in the purely masculine society of the monasteries and this may be an unspoken psychological problem for the whole Lamaist system. The Tibetan guru, Chögyam Trungpa has unintentionally captured this longing for contact with the family in the moving words of his „defiant poem”, Nameless Child: „Suddenly,” it says there „a Suddenly, a luminous child without a name comes into being. ... In the place where metal birds croak instantaneously born child can find no name... Because he has no father, the child has no family line. He has never tasted milk because he has no mother. He has no one to play with because he has no brother and sister. Having no house to live in, he has no crib. Since he has no nanny, he has never cried. There is no civilization, so he has no toys. ... Since there is no point of reference, he has never found a self” (quoted and Italics by June Campbell, 1996, p. 88). The poem is supposed to glorify the “instantaneously born child”, but it more resembles the despairing cry of a being who had to renounce the joys of childhood because it was tantrically turned into the vessel of a deity.


The introduction of the doctrine of incarnation to the West

These days, the West is downright fascinated by the idea of reincarnation. In the last twenty years it has like lightning seized the awareness of millions. A large percentage of north Americans today believe in rebirth. Books upon the topic have become legion in the meantime. People are also fascinated by the idea that in the figure of a Tibetan lama they are face to face with a real “deity”. Thus, the concept of being reborn has become a powerful instrument in the Lamaist conquest of the West. Earlier, a few Europeans had already formed the idea that they were the reincarnation of former Tibetans or Mongolians. In theosophical circles such speculative incarnations were en vogue. A Tibetan lama also drew Alexandra David-Neel’s attention to the fact that she came from the race of Genghis Khan.


In 1985 it was discovered that the honorable Lama Yeshe had incarnated as the child of two Spanish parents. His Holiness commented upon the spectacular event in the following words: “[Buddhism] also provides many different methods to practice, understand and meditate, so it has the attraction of the supermarket. So the fact that Lama Yeshe, whose main work was in the West, should be born in Spain, seems quite logical. Actually there are quite a few western reincarnated lamas now” (Mackenzie, 1992, p. 155).


The idea of western reincarnations is also cultivated by Bernardo Bertolucci’s film, Little Buddha. The plot involves a lama who simultaneously embodies himself in a white boy from Seattle and, amazingly, in a girl as well.


An amusing anecdote, likewise from the world of film, brought the Tibetan doctrine of incarnation into discredit a little. Namely, the famous Aikido fighter and actor Steven Seagal announced he was the reincarnation of an important lama (Chung-rag Dorje), who had live several centuries earlier and had made his name as a treasure hunter (terton). [7] It was not at all the case that Seagal had arbitrarily adopted his former identity, rather he was able to appeal to the confirmation of Penor Rinpoche, the head of the Nyingmapa school. This “revelation” raised many questions and some confusion among western Buddhists. There was speculation on the Internet as to whether Seagal had purchased the “incarnation title”, whether this was not an act of religious political propaganda designed to exploit the actor’s popularity, and much more. For others the incident was more embarrassing, since Seagal appeared in monastic robes shortly after his recognition. When he was in Bodh Gaya in India at the beginning of the year 1997, he sat down upon the place where the historical Buddha experienced enlightenment, “giving his blessings to hundreds of baffled Tibetan monks” (Time, September 8, 1997, p. 65).


The action films in which Seagal plays the lead are considered the most brutal of the genre. “Scenes in which he rams a knife through his opponent’s ear into his brain or tears out his larynx”, says the journalist H. Timmerberg, “captivate through their apparent authenticity. He fights dispassionately, one could say he fights coldly, and when he kills neither hate nor anger are to be read in his eyes, at best contempt and a trace of amusement. Precisely the eyes of a killer, or the look of a Samurai. It could be both” (Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin No. 28, July 16, 1999). Timmerberg also characterizes the star as “ a grand master in the art of killing”. Admittedly, in his last two film to Seagal has made an effort to appear a bit more well-mannered, but it is not his religious obligations which have compelled him to do so. At least, this was the opinion of his master, Penor Rinpoche: “Some people think Steven Seagal cannot be a true Buddhist because he makes brutal films. This is not the case.Such films are pure entertainment and have nothing to do with that which is true and important. In the view of Buddhism compassionate beings reincarnate in every kind of life so as to help their fellow people. Seen thus, of course a holy person can be an action star” (Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin No. 28, July 16, 1999). Penor further informed the surprised journalist that tulkus (the reincarnations of high lamas) liked to watch vampire films.


At the major Kalachakra event conducted this year (1999) by the Dalai Lama in Bloomington (USA), Seagal was the shooting star. He is said to had donated a meal for over a thousand participants there. This time Richard Gere, the “god-king’s” second big draw, was not head of the celebrity bill. In fact, the two Buddhist stars cannot stand one another.


Such a sensational and liberal spread of incarnations in the West could, however, be of harm to the whole idea in future. The system has after all not just its strengths but also its weaknesses, which lie above all in the minority of the incarnated child, of whom one does not know exactly what will later happen with him, and who remains incapable of acting until his coming of age. Appointments by the Dalai Lama would probably be a much more effective means of ensuring his centralist power. In fact, there are for this reason discussions in the circles surrounding him about whether the reincarnation of monks is at all sensible. It would be better to give up the whole tulku system, Dahyb Kyabgö Rinpoche wrote in the Tibetan Review, since it has led to an uncontrollable inflation in the number of monastic reincarnations (Tibetan Review, July 1994, p. 13).


At times the Kundun has also speculated in public about whether it would not be politically more clever to name a successor rather than embodying himself anew. But he has not committed himself. At a conference of 350 tulkus in the year 1989 he announced that he would under no circumstance reincarnate in the territory under the control of the Chinese (Tibetan Review, January 1989, p. 5).


In all, the Dalai Lama is interested in a well-functioning incarnation elite, very small in number, which would be combined with an effective system of appointments. He knows that an overly liberal expansion or even a democratization of the idea of incarnation would completely undermine its exclusivity. Appointments and initiations by a guru are thus basically more important to him, but he would never want to give up the system as such, which exercises so a bewitching hold over the western imagination.


His answer to the question of whether he himself will reincarnate as Dalai Lama once more has for years been the same statement: “Should the Tibetan people still want a Dalai Lama after my death then a new Dalai Lama will also come. I shall at any rate not attempt to influence this decision in any manner. If my people should in the next years decide to make an end to old traditions, then one must accept that” (Playboy, German edition, March 1998, p. 44).


We must leave it to the judgment of our readers how seriously they take such a “democratic” solution to the question of tradition by the Tibetan Buddhocrats. That the gods bow to the will of the people is completely new, at least in the history of Tibet. But at any rate we shall not have to do without the “precious presence” (Tibetan: Kundun) of His Holiness in our next incarnations, even if he no longer appears in the form of a Dalai Lama. At the end of his interview with Playboy which we have already quoted from on a number of occasions, he gives his readers the following parting thought: “For as long as the cosmos exists, and as long as there are living creatures, I will be present here so as to drive out the suffering of the world” (Playboy, German edition, March 1998, p. 44).


The various orders of Tibetan Buddhism

Three of the four main schools which determined the religious life of Tibet were all formed in the period from the 11th to the 14th century: The Sakyapa, the Kagyupa and the Gelugpa. The Nyingmapa in contrast has been in existence since the start of the ninth century. All four “sects” are still today the most important pillars of tantric culture. It was the ingenious work of the “Great Fifth” to like an alchemist distill the spiritual and political essence out of all the traditional orders and to impressively assimilate these into his institution as “Dalai Lama” — a power-political act, which is currently being repeated by his incarnation, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.


The Gelugpa order

The “Great Fifth” came from the Gelugpa order. Of all the Tibetan schools the so-called “Yellow Hats” were the most tightly organized. Their founder, the outstanding scholar Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), had begun with a moral campaign against the decline of the teaching and the dissolution in the monasteries. He forbade the consumption of intoxicating liquors, demanded the strict observance of celibacy, insisted upon a rigorous work discipline, improved the dress code and reformed the daily liturgy. Towards the end of his life he succeeded in arresting the general decadence in the various schools through the establishment of a new order. In keeping with his program, this was called Gelugpa, that is, “Followers of the path of virtue”. Although there were precursors, in the final instance Tibetan Buddhism has the “virtuous” to thank for its Buddhocratic/clerical structure. The three “most scholarly” monasteries of the highlands belong to the “yellow church”: Ganden, Drepung, and Sera. These “three jewels” of the spirit accommodated thousands of monks over centuries and were considered the most powerful religious and political institutions in the country alongside the Potala, the residence of the Dalai Lama, and Tashi Lhunpo, the seat of the Panchen Lama.


Like no other school, the “Yellow Hats” can be talked about as being scholastic. They possessed the best libraries, the best educational system, the most stringent training program. What they lacked was the fantasy and the often picturesque wildness of the other orders. The Gelugpas have not produced a single original work, but saw their mission rather as solely to study the already codified Buddhist texts, to prepare commentaries on these, and, in most cases, to learn them by heart. Even the sixteen volumes of Tsongkhapa’s writings are commentaries upon the canonized literature found in the Kanjur ("translations of the word” of Buddha) and the Tanjur ("translation of the textbooks”). The strength of the Gelugpas thus lay not in their creativity, but rather in their superior political and organizational talents which they combined with the teachings of the tantras in an extremely effective manner. Despite his “puritanical” politics which earned him the title of the Tibetan Luther, Tsongkhapa was an outstanding expert in and commentator upon the tantric secret writings, especially the Kalachakra teachings. His pupils continued this tradition with extensive works of their own. This made the Gelugpa order a stronghold of the Time Tantra.


Tsongkhapa was “puritanical” only in the sense that he demanded absolute discipline and iron-clad rules in the performance of the sexual magic rites and in determining that they could only be conducted by celibate monks. Although he became an object of emotional reverence after his death, because of their precision and systematicity his commentaries upon the sacred love techniques seem especially cold and calculating. They are probably only the product of his imagination, then he himself is supposed to have never practiced with a real karma mudra (wisdom consort) — yet he wrote extensively about this. He saw in the tantric exercises an extremely dangerous but also highly effective practice which ought only be conducted by a tiny clerical elite after traversing a lengthy and laborious graduated path. The broad mass of the monks thus fell further and further behind in the course of the academic and subsequent tantric training, eventually forming the extensive and humble “lower ranks”.


It lay — and still lies — in the logic of the Gelugpa system to produce a small minority of intensively schooled scholars and an even smaller number of tantric adepts, whose energies are in the end gathered together in a single individual. The entire monastic “factory” is thus, in the final instance, geared to the production of a single omnipotent Buddhist deity in human form. In accordance with the metapolitical intentions of the Kalachakra teachings which, being its highest tantra, form the main pillar of the Gelugpa order, it must be the time god himself who rules the world as a patriarchal Chakravartin in the figure of the Dalai Lama. In the final instance, he is the ADI BUDDHA.


Although the institution of the Dalai Lama did not yet exist when the Gelugpa order was founded, its essence was already in place. Hence the “virtuous” built the “Asian Rome” (Lhasa) step by step, with the “yellow pontiff” (the Kundun) at its head. Thanks to their organizational talents they soon controlled the majority of central Asia. From the banks of the Volga and the Amur, from the broad steppes of inner Asia to the Siberian tundra, from the oases of the Tarim Basin, from the imperial city of Beijing, from the far Indian river valleys came streams of pilgrims, envoys, and tributary gifts to the god-king in Lhasa. Even his opponents recognized him as a spiritual force towering over all.


The Kagyupa order

Whilst the Gelugpas began cooperating with the Mongolians very early on and regarded these as their protective power, we can more or less call the Kagyupas, with the Karmapa at their head, the national Tibetan forces (at least up until the 17th century). The first Dalai Lama was already caught up in military skirmishes with the “Red Hats” (Kagyupa). 150 years later and with the support of Prince Tsangpa, they had extended their power so far that the Gelugpas had good reason to fear for their lives and possessions. In the 1730s Tsangpa seized Lhasa and handed the holy temple, the Jokhang, over to the priests of the “Reds”. Even the powerful Gelugpa monastery of Drepung fell to his onslaught. In the course of these battles an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the Fifth Dalai Lama is said to have been carried out. In his stead, however, his biological mother was murdered.


In his hour of need the “Great Fifth” succeeded in forming an alliance with Gushri Khan (1582–1654), the chief of the Oirat Mongols. The Khan descended upon the “Land of Snows” with a force tens of thousands strong. A bloody “civil war” ensued, in which two admittedly worldly rulers, the king of the Tsang and Gushri Khan, faced one another on the open field, but behind whom, however, were hidden the real forces of the two most powerful monastic hierarchs in the country, the “Dalai Lama” and the “Karmapa”, the most influential religious leader within the circle of the Red Hats.


This civil war concerned more than worldly power. According to the tantric obsessions which drove both parties, the battle was for the world throne and control over the spirit of the times. (The “Red Hats” also practiced the Kalachakra Tantra.) During the conflict, the Dalai Lama visited the Ganden monastery and there above an altar saw the huge, grinning, and black face of a demon with many human heads flying into its gaping maw. He interpreted this vision as signaling final victory over the Kagyupas.


In accord with the laws of his ancestors, Gushri Khan intervened with ruthless violence. Through him, the interior of Tibet was, according to one of the “Red’s” documents, “turned into a land of hungry ghosts, like the Domains of the Lord of Death” (Bell, 1994, p. 125). We recall that as a incarnation of Avalokiteshvara the Dalai Lama also represents the god of death, Yama.


The Mongol ordered that the leaders of the opposing force be sewn into fur sacks and drowned. In the year 1642, after much fierce resistance, the red order was finally defeated. Many Kagyupas were driven from their monasteries which were then turned into Yellow Hat sites, as had been the case in reverse before. A mass flight was the result. Sections of the defeated Red Hats emigrated to Sikkim and to Bhutan and joined forces with the local dynasties there.


Yet, being an intelligent despot the “Great Fifth” did not give in to a desire for revenge. He knew from history that the various Kagyupa factions did not form a united front. Hence, after his control had been secured he covered some of them with great honors, thus splitting their ranks. But he even went a step further. Namely, he invaded the mysteries of the Red Hats by taking over from them the “national” Bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezi), as his personal incarnation god. This usurpation was — as we have already shown — a political master stroke.


The Nyingmapa order

Because of his wild lifestyle, the founder of the Nyingmapa, the half-mythic yogi and magician, Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), was thought to be a dubious character by the Gelugpas. Even today, the name “Guru Rinpoche” provokes strong defensive reactions among some “Yellow Hats”. But the Fifth Dalai Lama adopted a completely different attitude in this case. Not only did he indicate that Padmasambhava was, as an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, an earlier incarnation of his, but he also felt himself to be almost magnetically attracted to the tantric practices which Guru Rinpoche had employed to gain control over the Land of Snows. The achievements of the king, Songtsen Gampo, in the military political domain are outstripped by those of Guru Rinpoche on a metapolitical/magical level. We shall return later to discuss the unconventional yogi’s deeds of conquest in detail.


Padmasambhava (eighth century) is the founding hero and the icon of the Nyingmapas, the oldest of the Buddhist schools. They elevated the sorcerer (Siddha) to such a high status that he was sometimes even ranked higher than the historical Buddha. Although the “Old”, as the Nyingmapas are known, had the patina of the original about them (they were the first), over the course of the centuries they nevertheless managed to draw the worst reputation of all upon themselves. As wandering beggars, unkempt and restless, they roamed Tibet, were considered licentious in sexual matters, and supplemented their alms through the sale of all manner of dubious magical pieces. The depravity and anarchy they cultivated, through which they expressed their contempt for the world (of samsara), nevertheless fostered their reputation as powerful magicians among the superstitious populace. In general they were not unpopular with ordinary people because (unlike the tightly organized monasteries of the other sects) they rarely demanded taxes or forced labor.


Their attitude towards the pre-Buddhist Bon cult and remnants of ancient shamanism was extremely relaxed, so that many unorthodox elements flowed into the religious practices of the Nyingmapa. For example, alongside the classic tantras they practiced the so-called Dzogchen method in which enlightenment can be achieved without lengthy preparations and graded progression. Sometimes they were mocked as vagrants, at others they were feared as powerful sorcerers. But it was above all the strict and “puritanical” Gelugpas who punished the “Old” with detestation and great contempt.


Here too, the “Great Fifth” felt and acted at complete odds to the dominant opinion among his own order. His own teacher had been an important Nyingmapa and he had been informed about their “heretical” writings in great detail. With great success he put to use the terma doctrine (concerning the discovery of old mystic texts) fostered in this school. But above all his especial interest was captured by the magic practices of the order, and Golden Manuscript which he wrote is an ingenious compendium of barbaric spells such as are taught by the Nyingmapas.


The Sakyapa Order

The “Great Fifth” learned his grand politics and the subtleties of diplomacy from the Sakyapas who, as powerful ecclesiastical princes, had cooperated with the Mongolians and the Chinese between the 12th and 14th century.


Like every school of Tibetan Buddhism, the Sakyapas were also tantric ritualists. 150 years after the founding of the first monastery (in 1073) the order had developed into one of the most influential institutions in Tibet at that time. Within it the foundations were laid for a “modern political science” which welded together the administration of state and international relations, transpersonal energy fields (the Tibetan “gods”) and the sexual magic ritual system into a single discipline — a combination which exerted a lifelong attraction over the Fifth Dalai Lama.


According to legend, one of the most important abbots of the monastery, the influential Sakya Pandita (1182–1251), is said to have been in correspondence with Genghis Khan. All that has been historically verified, however, is that almost two decades after the death of the great military leader, in the year 1244, he traveled to Mongolia so as to successfully establish Buddhism there as the state religion. In gratitude, Godan Khan appointed him vice regent of the Land of Snows.


This historic alliance was so important to the “Great Fifth” who lived 400 years later that he without ado declared himself to be an incarnation of Sakya Pandita’s nephew and successor, the similarly gifted statesman, Phagspa Lama (1235-1280). The latter’s meeting with Kublai Khan (1260–1294) shortly before the Mongol prince seized the Chinese throne was legendary. The future Emperor was so impressed by the knowledge and rhetoric of the lama that he adopted the Buddhist faith and even let himself be initiated into the Hevajra Tantra.


The “Great Fifth” correctly saw this historical encounter as a corner-stone of world politics which dovetailed perfectly into the foundations of his own global vision. He hence simply declared the conversations between himself and the Mongolian potentate, Gushri Khan, which took place in the year 1637 and which concerned the defeat of the Kagyupa order, to be the “incarnatory” continuation of the dialog which commenced in 1276 between Kublai Khan and the then powerful Phagspa Lama and continued afresh in the year 1578 between the Third Dalai Lama and Altan Khan. During the meeting with the god-king (the Fifth Dalai Lama), Gushri Khan is supposed to have recalled their previous joint “incarnation meetings” (as Kublai Khan and Phagspa Lama and as the Third Dalai Lama and Altan Khan). This example shows, how politics was conducted across the centuries. Death no longer played a role in these political events which were so important for Asia.


The Jonangpa order

The no longer extant school (up until the 17th century) of the Jonangpas was a small but powerful offshoot of the Sakyapa order. During the “civil war” between the Gelugpas and the Kagyupas its followers allied themselves with the king of the Tsang (the “Red Hat” alliance). They were therefore branded as heretics by the “Great Fifth” and de facto destroyed. This is all the more surprising since an abbot of the school, the famous historian Taranatha (1575–1634), was asked by the parents of the Fifth Dalai Lama to name their child. However, it demonstrates once more the unsentimental, uncompromising manner in which the god-king pursued his political goals. He ordered that the printing plates of the sect (i.e., their writings) be sealed and incorporated the order’s funds along with the majority of its monks into the Gelugpa system. It is of interest that at that stage this school was the prime specialist in matters concerning the Kalachakra Tantra, to which Taranatha also devoted a number of writings. Perhaps a cause for the conflict can also be found here, then there can be no doubt that the “Great Fifth” took the cosmic power system of the Time Tantra literally and laid exclusive claim to it.


The Bon religion

The eclectic on the Lion Throne (the Fifth Dalai Lama) was also not at all ill-disposed towards the pre-Buddhist Bon religion. Avalokiteshvara appeared to him in a vision and called upon him “to invite Bonpos often to carry out rituals which ensure the prosperity of the country.” (Karmay, 1988, p. 64). This liaison is not quite as paradoxical as it may appear at first glance. Admittedly, the Bon priests had been fiercely persecuted as the exact opposite of Buddhism since time immemorial- over the centuries they had been reviled as the practitioners of black magic, the sacrificers of animals, the worshippers of demons. This negative Tibetan evaluation has been shared by many western researchers up until of late. However, more recent studies have shown that the Bon religion was closer to Buddhism than was previously thought. It is not — as is often erroneously believed — the original, shamanist religion of the highlands.


Bon – Dharmapala (Yeshe Walmo)


Just like the Indian Buddhist gurus at a later time, the first Bonpos were brought into the country (in the sixth century, probably from Persia). They brought with them a marked doctrine of light unknown in Tibet, which is reminiscent of the Amitabha cult. They worshipped Shen Rab, a supernatural being who exhibits many of the criteria of an Avalokiteshvara, as a messianic savior. The Bon also believed in the existence of an inaccessible mythical kingdom, Olmolungring, which shares essential traits with Shambhala. The doctrine of emanation was likewise as familiar to them as a well-organized priesthood. They were even well versed in tantric practices and other yoga doctrines. The Tibetan lama Namkhai Norbu suspected that the famous Dzogchen meditation practice, through which enlightenment can be reached directly without intermediary stages, could be traced back to them. Both religions (that of the Buddhists and that of the Bonpos) worship the swastika as a cult symbol, but the widespread belief that the Bon followers only used the left-armed “evil” hooked cross and the Buddhist Tantrics the right-armed “good” one as a symbol is untrue.


Since the Bon religion was able to continue to exist following the Buddhization of the Land of Snows (since the seventh century) despite extreme persecution, the historians have until now assumed that it took on many Buddhist elements so as to protect itself from pursuit. This is sure to have been the case here and there. But, it is becoming ever clearer on the basis of newly discovered documents that the original Bon cult possessed “Buddhist” elements from the outset, indeed, some important authors — such as David Snellgrove for example — even talk of a “heterodox” Buddha doctrine which penetrated the highlands via Persia and united with the local shamanist religion there. Where there is a real difference is in the approval of animal and occasional human sacrifices in the Bon cult. But then even this is supposed to be not entirely foreign to the tantric rites. There was thus no need for the “Great Fifth” to fear contact with the religion of the “black hat magicians”, as the Bonpo are sometimes called. His own system could only be strengthened through their “integration”.


Through his politics of integration the Fifth Dalai Lama demonstratively revealed that he saw himself as the ruler of all sects and all Tibetans, and that he was not striving to achieve absolute hegemony for the “yellow order” (the Gelugpas), but rather the unrestricted sovereignty of his own institution. Where the “Yellow Hats” were always wanting that the other schools be reduced to second or third-order powers; the Fifth Dalai Lama in contrast aspired to a situation where all schools equally bowed down before him as the supreme tantra master. Tensions with his own order were also preordained for another reason. Traditionally, the Gelugpas supplied the regent to the god-king who, once the “living Buddha” (Kundun) attained his majority, had to abdicate and renounce his power.


Let us summarize once more: It was the “Great Fifth”’s political intention to establish a Buddhocratic system in Tibet with the institution of the Dalai Lama at its helm. To achieve this he required all the material and spiritual resources of the country. From the Gelugpas he took the discipline, organizational talent, administrative skill, reasons of state, and learning; from the Kagyupas the doctrine of incarnation, his incarnation god Avalokiteshvara, and his national roots; from the Nyingmapas the ritual magic; from the Sakyapas the diplomatic skill; from the Jonangpas a well-organized Kalachakra system; and from the Bonpos the support of those ecclesiastical forces which had primarily propagated the idea of the ancient, sacred kingship, an idea which was vital for the establishment of the world throne on the Potala.


According to the laws of the micro/macrocosmic conceptual world in which the Fifth Dalai Lama lived, he must have seen in his power politics a symbolic act which encompassed the entire cosmos: Once he had achieved absolute control over the Land of Snows (the microcosm), then, homologously, as Chakravartin he also had power over the whole world (the macrocosm). He ingeniously understood how to bundle together all the spiritual energies of the country within his person and the institution of the Dalai Lama which he occupied. He collected the most potent extracts from schools of every orientation and mixed them together in his magic cauldron into a potion of power, the consumption of which was supposed to grant him control over the universe.


Through his political application of the doctrine of incarnation, the fifth Kundun could with aplomb draw upon all the important political figures of Tibetan history and employed these as marionettes in his cosmic theaters. He made the tantric idea the driving force of his age . It was not him as a person, but rather the gods he invoked, especially Avalokiteshvara and Kalachakra, the time god, who were the organizing principle, the creative, the one true thing, the ADI BUDDHA.


Unification of the Tibetan Buddhist orders under the absolute reign of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

It is almost uncanny how exactly the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has continued and intensified the integrative politics of his ingenious, unscrupulous, and highly revered predecessor from the 17th century which was aimed at strengthening his own position of power, only this time truly on a global scale. It is primarily the Kalachakra Tantra which serves as his most effective means of bringing the various sects into line. In the meantime each of the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism is committed to the Time Tantra and offers small scale Kalachakra initiations all around the world. On the official Kalachakra homepage in the Internet (, the following “Dharma masters” are presented with photos as the most prominent contemporary “WARRIORS” of the time wheel:


1.      Dalai Lama (Gelugpa)

2.      Gelek Rinpoche (Gelugpa)

3.      Chögyam Trungpa (Kagyupa)

4.      Namkhai Norbu (Nyingmapa)

5.      Jamgon Kongtrul (Kagyupa)

6.      Minling Terchen Rinpoche (Nyingmapa)

7.      Sharmapa Rinpoche (Kagyupa)

8.      Tai Situ Rinpoche (Kagyupa)

9.      Thrangu Rinpoche (Kagyupa)

10.  Tsem Tulku (Gelugpa)

11.  Zurman Garwang Rinpoche (Kagyupa)

12.  Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche (Nyingmapa)

13.  Sakya Trizin (Sakyapa)

14.  Dzongsar Khyentse (Nyingmapa)

15.  Sogyal Rinpoche (Rime Tradition)

16.  Tulku Urgyen (Nyingmapa)

17.  Gelek Rinpoche (Gelugpa)

18.  Kalsang Rinpoche (Kagyupa)

19.  Nan Huai Chin (Kagyupa and Chan)

20.  Rev Shen Yan (?)

21.  Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (Bon)

22.  Thrinly Norbu Rinpoche (Nyingmapa)

23.  Tsoknyi Rinpoche (Kagyupa)

24.  Lama Choedak (Sakyapa)

25.  Ani Choying Drohna (Arya Tara School)


It is immediately apparent from this summary that of the 25 high lamas who publicly represent the Kalachakra Tantra, there is only four Gelugpa masters. This is astounding indeed.


His unique exiled situation allows the fourteenth Kundun to set himself up as the head of all the schools even more than the “Great Fifth”. This is not just true on the level of practical politics as head of state, but also in the initiatory system. Hence His Holiness allowed himself to be initiated into all the significant lineages of the various sects. In 1986 a Nyingmapa teacher initiated him into his tradition. His Holiness also received a tantric initiation at the hands of the highest master of the Sakyapa sect. It was a Nyingmapa lama, Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche, who in 1994 presided over the erection of the first, thirteen-meter high Kalachakra stupa in the West (in Spain).


Traditionally, the Gelugpas were the only ones who had any real influence on the affairs of state — primarily through the position of the “regents”, who were selected from their ranks and conducted the business of state until the Dalai Lamas came of age. In the face of a superior Kundun, the “Yellow Hats”are now set on the same level as the other sects. Their privileges have disappeared. „Today the activities of His Holiness the Dalai Lama serve the whole world and all of Tibetan Buddhism as well as the indigenous Bön faith impartially”, an official statement from Dharamsala says, „The inclinations of the Gelug monasteries to continue to link themselves with the government, even administratively, causes damage and obstacles rather than benefit and support for His Holiness and the exile government” (Tibetan Review, July 1994, p. 12).


The god-king’s claim to spiritually and politically represent all sects has, just as in the past with the “Great Fifth”, in recent times led to a spirited protest movement amidst the ranks of his own order (Gelugpa), whose power is reduced by this. From this wing, the Kundun is accused of creating a “religious hotchpotch” or his personal ambitions are even openly designated. “According to my understanding”, writes Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, a bitter opponent of the god-king from his own ranks (he is an ordained Gelugpa monk), “ the Dalai Lama's main wish is to integrate the four Tibetan traditions into one. The leaders of the other traditions will gradually disappear, leaving him alone as head of Tibetan Buddhism. In this way he will be able to control all aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. In the beginning this plan was rejected by the leaders of Sakya, Kagyu and Nyingma Traditions, while the Gelugpa remained neutral. Later, the Dalai Lama changed his approach. He is now trying to destroy the practice of Dorje Shugden and change the Gelug tradition, while at the same time developing a close relationship with the other traditions, especially the Nyingmapa. Gradually he hopes to fulfill his wishes in this way” (Gyatso, Newsgroup 7).


According to Kelsang Gyatso, the Kundun is supposed to have held a number of meetings with the head abbots of the four main schools in the early 1960s at which he proposed uniting the sects under his leadership. This proposal was rejected. The Sakyapa, Kagyupa, and Nyingmapa then joined together in 13 exile-Tibetan establishments so as to protect themselves from the imposition of the Dalai Lama’s will. The leader of all 13, Gongtang Tsultrim, was murdered under mysterious circumstances. To date the murder case has still not been solved (Sky Warrior, Newsgroup 18).


It has in the meantime become established practice that for all incarnations of great lamas, regardless of sect, the Kundun’s confirmation is sought as the final word. This was not the case in the past. Free from any competition, His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama outshines all other hierarchs from the Land of Snows. Even his often abrasive political/religious rivalry with the pro-China Panchen Lama no longer exists, since the latter died in 1989.


The Rime movement, which began in the 19th century and has as its goal a united church in which all schools are absorbed (retaining certain individual features), is also a boon to the absolutism of the god-king. Even the Bon priests in exile have in the meantime recognized the Kundun as their de facto authority. Like his predecessor from the 17th century (the “Great Fifth”), he maintains good contacts with them and prays in their monasteries.


“The Dalai Lama”, one of his Buddhist opponents polemicizes, “tries to teach everything: Kagyu, Nyingma, Sakya, Gelugpa, Bonpo, and recently he even gave teachings on Christianity! Later may be he will teach on Sufism, Hinduism, Shamanism and so on. What is his motivation here? It is clear to me that his motivation is to gather as many disciples as possible from all these different traditions. In this way he will become their root guru and thereby gain more power and control” (Sky Warrior, Newsgroup 18). Hence, his followers celebrate him not just as the “supreme spiritual and worldly leader of six million Tibetans”, but likewise as the “Head of Buddhists World Wide” (Ron, Newsgroup 14). In a resolution of the Tibetan Cholsum Convention, of which representatives from all (!) organizations of Tibetans in exile are members and which was held from August 27 to 31, 1998, it says: “He [The Dalai Lama] is the Captain of Peace in the world; he is the overall head of all Buddhist traditions on this earth; he is the master acclaimed by all the religious traditions of the world”.


The “Karmapa affair”

A spectacular example of how the Kundun is able to turn the divisions within the other sects to his advantage is offered by the so-called “Karmapa affair”. The turbulent events played out between various factions within the Kagyupa sect since the start of the nineties have included radical confrontations and court cases, violent brawls and accusations and counter-accusations of murder.


The cause of this un-Buddhist disagreement was that in the search for the 17th incarnation of the new Karmapa, the leader of the Kagyupa, two principal candidates and their proponents confronted one another — on the one side, Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche, who advocated a youth in Tibet, on the other, Shamar Rinpoche, who proposed a boy in India. Shortly before the decision, a third abbot, Jamgon Kongtrol Rinpoche, whose voice would have been very influential in the choice, was the victim of a mysterious fatal car accident. Shortly afterwards, the remaining parties accused one another of having brought about the death of Jamgon Kongtrol via magical manipulation. Brawls between the two monastic factions and bloody heads resulted in India, shots were even exchanged, so that the Indian police were forced to intervene (Nesterenko, 1992).


Situ Rinpoche advocated a Sino-Tibetan boy (Urgyen Trinley) as his Karmapa candidate, who also had the support of the Kundun and the Tibetan government in exile. Shamar Rinpoche, however, presented his own Karmapa (Thaye Dorje) to the public in Delhi on March 17, 1994. Since that time a great rift has divided the Kagyupa lineage, affecting the numerous groups of western believers as well. Superficially, one could gain the impression that Situ Rinpoche represented the Asian, and Shamar Rinpoche the Euro-American segment of the Red Hat followers. However, closer inspection proves this to be an erroneous picture, then Shamar Rinpoche has established a notable power base in the kingdom of Bhutan and Situ Rinpoche also has many supporters for his candidate in the West. There are no small number of groups who would like to mediate between the two rivals. But one knows full well what is at stake for the Kagyupa lineage in this fundamental difference. At the end of an open letter by “neutral” Red Hat abbots is to read, that if the differences continue then it is certain that no side will emerge as the 'winner' or the 'loser'. The sole loser will be the Karmapa Kagyupa lineage as a whole (Tibetan Review, October 1993, p. 8).


The two Karmapas: Urgyen Trinley Dorje (l) and Thinley Thaye Dorje (r)


But this split among the Kagyupa is useful for the Dalai Lama. Since the dawn of Tibetan history the Karmapa has been the main opponent of the Kundun and has already been involved in military conflicts with Lhasa on several occasions. He was his major enemy in the Tibetan civil war described above.


This rivalry did not end with the flight of both hierarchs from Tibet. From the outset (since the end of the sixties) the Kagyupa sect have been incomparably more popular in the West than the orthodox Yellow Hats: the Red Hats were considered to be young, dynamic, uncomplicated, informal, and cosmopolitan. The unconventional appearances of the Kagyu tulku, Chögyam Trungpa, who in the seventies completely identified himself with the artistic avant-garde of Europe and America also set an example for many other masters of the sect. Up until the mid-eighties, Western pupils of Buddhism in any case preferred the red order. Here, in their view, an autonomous counterforce, independent of rigid traditions, was emerging, at least this was how the Kagyupas outwardly presented themselves. They developed into a powerful opponent of the Gelugpa, who likewise attempted to attract proselytes in the West. Among others, this would be one of the reasons why the Kundun allied himself with “detested” China in supporting Situ Rinpoche’s candidate, Ugyen Trinley, who is resident in the Tsurphu monastery on Chinese territory.


But in the meantime the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has succeeded in binding the Kagyupa (Situ and Gyaltsab lineages) so strongly to himself that it seemed more sensible to place the young Karmapa under his direct control. At first, Ugyen Trinley appeared to function completely as the Chinese intended. In October 1995, the former nomadic boy was the guest of honor during the national holiday celebrations in Beijing and conversed with important Chinese government leaders. The national press corps reported at length on his subsequent journey through China, organized for the young hierarch with much pomp and circumstance. He is supposed to have exclaimed “Long live the People’s Republic of China!”


It is noteworthy that Beijing is attempting less and less to explain the history and basic doctrines of Tibetan Buddhism and is instead deliberately and with more or less success establishing and encouraging a “competing Lamaism” or “alternative Lamaism” directed against the politics of the Dalai Lama. The most powerful incarnation supported by China is undoubtedly the young Eleventh Panchen Lama, about whom we will come to report later. On January 17, 2000, the South China Morning Post reported that the Chinese had discovered a reincarnation of Reting Rinpoche who had died in February 1997. The two-year-old boy was given a Buddhist name and ordained in front oof a staute in the Jokhang Temple (in Lhasa). The ceremony took place in the presence of Chinese party officials. Reting Rinpoche is considered to be one of the few lamas who in the event of the Dalai Lama’s death could assume the regency until his reincarnation came of age. It is obvious that the “China-friendly Lamaism” is setting a completely new tone in the relationship between the two powers (China and the Tibetans in exile).


China is waiting for the charismatic leader to die, and the Dalai Lama has had to think seriously about the issue of succession, not just of his own reincarnation, but also the individual who as regent will represent his state and religion whilst he is still a minor. The successful and purposeful policy of integration which the Kundun has been pursuing for years within the context of the individual schools makes it possible that upon his death a Kagyupa hierarch could also take on the task of representing all the sects just as the chief of the Gelugpas (the Dalai Lama) de facto does. At any rate these are speculations being discussed in the Western press. Time Magazine says of Ugyen Trinley, “He has the potential to become a leading figure for the next generation, just as the Dalai Lama is for the current one. … What counts today is one who embodies the Tibetan religious identity and the national claims – and can be a focus for Western sympathy. If the Karmapa continues to show the courage and charisma which he has shown up until now, then he could make an excellent symbol of the resistance to the occupation of Tibet by China” (January 24, 1999; retranslation).


The current incarnation issue bring the undisguised power interests of all involved out into the light of day. [8] And these have a long tradition. For example, the power political competition between the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and the Sixteenth Karmapa is the reason why the rumor has persisted in western Kagyupa circles that the Kundun used magic practices to murder the Karmapa (Tibetan Review, August 1987, p. 21).


This “accusation of murder” calls to mind not just the Tibetan civil war but also another mysterious incident. After the death of the Fifteenth Karmapa (in 1922), a powerful Gelugpa minister wanted to push through the recognition of his own son as the next incarnation of the Kagyupa hierarch against the will of the Red Hats. This autocratic decision was ratified by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama and the monks of the Tsurphu monastery were forced against their will to accept the Yellow Hats’ boy. But it did not take long before the child inexplicably fell to his death from the roof of a building. There was never an explanation of the “accident”, at any rate it was of benefit to the genuine candidate of the Red Hats, who was now recognized as the Sixteenth Karmapa.


Incidentally, the official chronicles of the Gelugpas accuse the tenth incarnation of Shamar Rinpoche, of having incited the Nepalese to war against Lhasa in the 18th century. Thereupon his assets were either seized or razed to the ground. A subsequent reincarnation of the great abbot was not accepted by the Yellow Hats. „Merit was becoming less and less!”, the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa has commented upon this period. „There was much political interference. Black was becoming white. The real was becoming unreal. At that time it was not practicable to have any Sharmapa recognized or enthroned. Everything was kept secret” (Nesterenko, 1992, p. 8). Not until the year 1964, following a lengthy meditation and on the basis of dreams, did the Fourteenth Dalai Lama permit the official reinstatement of the Shamarpa lineage. The Kundun should have known that according to his own doctrine history repeats itself and that old conflicts do not just flare up afresh, rather, the laws governing incarnation determine that time and again the same individuals stand opposed to one another (in this case the Shamarpa versus the Dalai Lama).


Accordingly the relations between the god-king and the Nepalese are very tense once again. Nepal has over many years established good contacts with its neighbor, China, and currently (1998) has a “communist” government. Tibetan refugees are constantly expelled from the country. In the past there were several armed conflicts between the Royal Nepalese Army and Tibetan underground fighters (ChuShi GangDrug).


Accusations against The Dalai Lama and the Gelugpas of imposing their will upon the “red sect” (the Kagyupa) and attempting to split them are also heard from government circles in the kingdom of Bhutan. The so-called “Switzerland of the Himalayas” and its ruling house (who today are in cooperation with the Shamarpa) traditionally belong to the Kagyupa school, and have therefore had in part very serious disputes with Lhasa for hundreds of years. The Yellow Hat monasteries and their abbots, which have been tolerated in the country as refugee settlements since the sixties, are accused by the Bhutanese of nothing less serious than the politically motivated murder of the Prime Minister, Jigme Dorji, (in 1964) and a long-planned revolt in order to seize control of the country.


In this, the “Yellow Hats” are supposed to have attempted to liquidate the Bhutanese heir to the throne. Alongside one of the king’s mistresses who was under the influence of the Gelugpas, the Dalai Lama’s brother, Gyalo Thondrup, is also supposed to be involved in this assassination attempt, discovered before it could be carried through. In the light of such accusations it is immediately apparent why the Bhutanese have backed Shamar Rinpoche’s decision in the dispute about the new Karmapa, and reject Ugyen Trinley, the candidate of Situ Rinpoche ratified by Dharamsala, as a marionette of the Dalai Lama.




[1] We are obviously dealing with a Buddhaization of a Vedic myth of origin here, according to which the universe arose from the self-dismemberment of the first human, Prajapati.

[2] The philosophers and theologists of the European Middle Ages developed a “two body theory” of sacred kingship. The scholars drew a distinction between the mortal and mundane body of a king and an eternal royal meta-body.  This was fundamentally independent of its human appearance.  After the death of the body which had served as his residence he withdrew from this so as to then be reincarnated in the succesor of the old king. This model corresponds broadly with the Tibetan Buddhist doctrine of incarnation.

[3] The mchod-yon relation to China is also interpreted as the relation pertaining between the sun and the moon by the Lamaist side.  Hence we can read in a text from the 17th century that the potentates from Beijing and Lhasa stood opposed to one another as sun and moon, where the Dalai Lama occupied the throne of the sun (Klieger,1991, p. 45).  As the moon the feminine and thus subordinate role is assigned to the Emperor in this classification.

[4] In the Tibetan Review, the public relations advertisement for the West, even the shallow dualism „Tibet — good and China — bad” is seen as a problem in one article: „Tibet is the embodiment of the powers of the holy; China is the embodiment of the powers of the demonic; Tibetans are superhuman, Chinese are subhuman. In this Orientalist logic of oppositions, China must be debased in order for Tibet to be exalted; in order for there to be a spiritual and enlightened Orient, there must be a demonic and despotic Orient „ (Tibetan Review, May 1994, p. 18).

[5] Following the Dalai Lama the second highest authority in the Gelugpa sect.

[6] Sera is the monastery to which the regent belonged.

[7] As we have already mentioned, such “treasures” (terma) are understood to be secret doctrines hidden by dakinis or the “founder of the religion”, Padmasambhava. Many years later they are discovered by chosen individuals and then put into practice.

[8] Tangible material interests also play their role in the “Karmapa affair”.  The assets of the Rumtek monastery, the main western monastery of the Karmapa, are being claimed by Dharamsala (i.e., by the Kundun) because it is an object of contention between Situ and Shamar Rinpoche who both lay claim to the monastery for their respective candidates.


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