The Shadow of the Dalai Lama – Part II – 14. China’s metaphysical rivalry with Tibet

© Victor & Victoria Trimondi







The Central Asian power which for centuries engaged the Tibetan Buddhocracy in the deepest rivalry was the Chinese Empire. Even if the focus of current discussions about historical relations between the two countries is centered on questions of territory, we must upon closer inspection regard this as the projected object of the actual dispute. Indeed, hidden behind the state-political facade lies a much more significant, metaphysically motivated power struggle. The magic/exotic world of Lamaism and the outflow of the major and vital rivers from the mountainous countries to the west led to the growth of an idea in the “Middle Kingdom” that events in Tibet had a decisive influence on the fate of their own country. The fates of the “Land of Snows” and China were seen by both sides as being closely interlinked. At the beginning of the twentieth century, leading Tibetans told the Englishman, Charles Bell, that Tibet was the “root of China” (Bell, 1994, p.114). As absurd as it may sound, the Chinese power elite never completely shook off this belief and they thus treated their Tibetan politics especially seriously.


In addition the rulers of the two nations, the “Son of Heaven” (the Chinese Emperor) and the “Ocean Priest” (the Dalai Lama), were claimants to the world throne and made the pretentious claim to represent the center of the cosmos, from where they wanted to govern the universe. As we have demonstrated in the vision guiding and fate of the Empress Wu Zetian, the Buddhist idea of a Chakravartin influenced the Chinese Empire from a very early stage (700 C.E.). During the Tang dynasty the rulers of China were worshipped as incarnations of the Bodhisattva Manjushri and as “wheel-turning kings” (Chakravartin).


Besides, it was completely irrelevant whether the current Chinese Emperor was of a more Taoist, Confucian, or Buddhist inclination, as the idea of a cosmocrat was common to all three systems. Even the Tibetans apportioned him this role at times, such as the Thirteenth Dalai Lama for example, who referred to the Manchu rulers as Chakravartins (Klieger, 1991, p. 32).


We should also not forget that several of the Chinese potentates allowed themselves to be initiated into the tantras and naturally laid claim to the visions of power articulated there. In 1279 Chögyel Phagpa, the grand abbot of the Sakyapa, initiated the Mongolian conqueror of China and founder of the Yuan dynasty, Kublai Khan, into the Hevajra Tantra. In 1746 the Qian Long ruler received a Lamaist tantric initiation as Chakravartin. Further it was an established tradition to recognize the Emperor of China as an emanation of the Bodhisattva Manjushri. This demonstrates that two Bodhisattvas could also fall into earnest political discord.


Tibetan culture owes just as much to Chinese as it does to that of India. A likeness of the great military leader and king, Songtsen Gampo (617–650), who forged the highlands into a single state of a previously unseen size is worshipped throughout all of Tibet . It shows him in full armor and flanked by his two chief wives. According to legend, the Chinese woman, Wen Cheng, and the Nepalese, Bhrikuti, were embodiments of the white and the green Tara. Both are supposed to have brought Buddhism to the “Land of Snows”. [1]


History confirms that the imperial princess, Wen Cheng, was accompanied by cultural goods from China that revolutionized the whole of Tibetan community life. The cultivation of cereals and fruits, irrigation, metallurgy, calendrics, a school system, weights and measures, manners and clothing — with great open-mindedness the king allowed these and similar blandishments of civilization to be imported from the “Middle Kingdom”. Young men from the Tibetan nobility were sent to study in China and India. Songtsen Gampo also made cultural loans from the other neighboring states of the highlands.


These Chinese acts of peace and cultural creativity were, however, preceded on the Tibetan side by a most aggressive and imperialist policy of conquest. The king was said to have commanded an army of 200,000 men. The art of war practiced by this incarnation of the “compassionate” Bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara, was considered extremely barbaric and the “red faces”, as the Tibetans were called, spread fear and horror through all of Central Asia. The size to which Songtsen Gampo was able to expand his empire corresponds roughly to that of the territory currently claimed by the Tibetans in exile as their area of control.


Since that time the intensive exchange between the two countries has never dried up. Nearly all the regents of the Manchu dynasty (1644–1912) right up to the Empress Dowager Ci Xi felt bound to Lamaism on the basis of their Mongolian origins, although they publicly espoused ideas that were mostly Confucian. Their belief led them to have magnificent Lamaist temples built in Beijing. There have been a total of 28 significant Lama shrines built in the imperial city since the 18th century. Beyond the Great Wall, in the Manchurian — Mongolian border region, the imperial families erected their summer palace. They had an imposing Buddhist monastery built in the immediate vicinity and called it the “Potala” just like the seat of the Dalai Lama. In her biography, the imperial princess, The Ling, reports that tantric rituals were still being held in the Forbidden City at the start of the twentieth century (quoted by Klieger, 1991, p. 55). [2]


If a Dalai Lama journeyed to China then this was always conducted with great pomp. There was constant and debilitating squabbling about etiquette, the symbolic yardstick for the rank of the rulers meeting one another. Who first greeted whom, who was to sit where, with what title was one addressed — such questions were far more important than discussions about borders. They reflect the most subtle shadings of the relative positions within a complete cosmological scheme. As the “Great Fifth” entered Beijing in 1652, he was indeed received like a regnant prince, since the ruling Manchu Emperor, Shun Chi, was much drawn to the Buddhist doctrine. In farewelling the hierarch he showered him with valuable gifts and honored him as the “self-creating Buddha and head of the valuable doctrine and community, Vajradhara Dalai Lama” (Schulemann, 1958, p. 247), but in secret he played him off against the Panchen Lama.


The cosmological chess game went on for centuries without clarity ever being achieved, and hence for both countries the majority of state political questions remained unanswered. For example, Lhasa was obliged to send gifts to Beijing every year. This was naturally regarded by the Chinese as a kind of tribute which demonstrated the dependence of the Land of Snows. But since these gifts were reciprocated with counter-presents, the Tibetans saw the relationship as one between equal partners. The Chinese countered with the establishment of a kind of Chinese governorship in Tibet under two officials known as Ambane. Form a Chinese point of view they represented the worldly administration of the country. So that they could be played off against one another and avoid corruption, the Ambane were always dispatched to Tibet in pairs.


The Chinese also tried to gain influence over the Lamaist politics of incarnation. Among the Tibetan and Mongolian aristocracy it was increasingly the case that children from their own ranks were recognized as high incarnations. The intention behind this was to make important clerical posts de facto hereditary for the Tibetan noble clans. In order to hamper such familial expansions of power, the Chinese Emperor imposed an oracular procedure. In the case of the Dalai Lama three boys were to always be sought as potential successors and then the final decision would be made under Chinese supervision by the drawing of lots. The names and birth dates of the children were to be written on slips of paper, wrapped in dough and laid in a golden urn which the Emperor Kien Lung himself donated and had sent to Lhasa in 1793.


Mao Zedong: The Red Sun

But did the power play between the two countries over the world throne end with the establishment of Chinese Communism in Tibet? Is the Tibetan-Chinese conflict of the last 50 years solely a confrontation between spiritualism and materialism, or were there “forces and powers” at work behind Chinese politics which wanted to establish Beijing as the center of the world at Lhasa’ expense? “Questions of legitimation have plagued all Chinese dynasties”, writes the Tibetologist Elliot Sperling with regard to current Chinese territorial claims over Tibet, „Questions of legitimation have plagued all Chinese dynasties”, writes the Tibetologist Elliot Sperling with regard to current Chinese territorial claims over Tibet, „Traditionally such questions revolved around the basic issue of whether a given dynasty or ruler possessed 'The Mandate of Heaven’. Among the signs that accompanied possession of The Mandate was  the ability to unify the country and overcome all rival claimants for the territory and the throne of China. It would be a mistake not to view the present regime within this tradition” (Tibetan Review, August 1983, p. 18). But to put Sperling’s interesting thesis to the test, we need to first of all consider a man who shaped the politics of the Communist Party of China like no other and was worshipped by his followers like a god: Mao Zedong.


According to Tibetan reports, the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese was presaged from the beginning of the fifties by numerous “supernatural” signs: whilst meditating in the Ganden monastery the Fourteenth Dalai Lama saw the statue of the terror deity Yamantaka move its head and look to the east with a fierce expression. Various natural disasters, including a powerful earthquake and droughts befell the land. Humans and animals gave birth to monsters. A comet appeared in the skies. Stones became loose in various temples and fell to the ground. On September 9, 1951 the Chinese People’s Liberation Army marched into Lhasa.


The Panchen Lama, Mao Zedong, the Dalai Lama


Before he had to flee, the young Dalai Lama had a number of meetings with the “Great Chairman” and was very impressed by him. As he shook Mao Zedong by the hand for the first time, the Kundun in his own words felt he was  “in the presence of a strong magnetic force” (Craig, 1997, p. 178). Mao too felt the need to make a metaphysical assessment of the god-king: “The Dalai Lama is a god, not a man”, he said and then qualified this by adding, “In any case he is seen that way by the majority of the Tibetan population” (Tibetan Review, January 1995, p. 10). Mao chatted with the god-king about religion and politics a number of times and is supposed to have expressed varying and contradictory opinions during these conversations. On one occasion, religion was for him “opium for the people” in the classic Marxist sense, on another he saw in the historical Buddha a precursor of the idea of communism and declared the goddess Tara to be a “good woman”.


The twenty-year-old hierarch from Tibet looked up to the fatherly revolutionary from China with admiration and even nurtured the wish to become a member of the Communist Party. He fell, as Mary Craig puts it, under the spell of the red Emperor (Craig, 1997, p. 178). “I have heard chairman Mao talk on different matters”, the Kundun enthused in 1955, “and I received instructions from him. I have come to the firm conclusion that the brilliant prospects for the Chinese people as a whole are also the prospects for us Tibetan people; the path of our entire country is our path and no other” (Grunfeld, 1996, p. 142)


Mao Zedong, who at that time was pursuing a gradualist politics, saw in the young Kundun a powerful instrument through which to familiarize the feudal and religious elites of the Land of Snows with his multi-ethnic communist state. In a 17-point program he had conceded the “ national regional autonomy [of Tibet] under the leadership of the Central People's Government”, and assured that the “existing political system”, especially the “status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama”, would remain untouched (Goldstein, 1997, p. 47).


The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

After the flight of the Dalai Lama, the 17-point program was worthless and the gradualist politics of Beijing at an end. But it was first under the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” (in the mid-sixties) that China’s attitude towards Tibet shifted fundamentally. Within a tantric conception of history the Chinese Cultural Revolution has to be understood as a period of chaos and anarchy. Mao Zedong himself had– like a skilled Vajra master — deliberately evoked a general disorder so as to establish a paradise on earth after the destruction of the old values: “A great chaos will lead to a new order”, he wrote at the beginning of the youth revolt (Zhisui, 1994, p. 491). All over the country, students, school pupils, and young workers took to the land to spread the ideas of Mao Zedong. The “Red Guard” of Lhasa also understood itself to be the agent of its “Great Chairman”, as it published the following statement in December 1966: “We a group of lawless revolutionary rebels will wield the iron sweepers and swing the mighty cudgels to sweep the old world into a mess and bash people into complete confusion. We fear no gales and storms, nor flying sands and moving rocks ... To rebel, to rebel, and to rebel through to the end in order to create a brightly red new world of this proletariat” (Grunfeld, 1996, p. 183).


Although it was the smashing of the Lamaist religion which lay at the heart of the red attacks in Tibet, one must not forget that it was not just monks but also long-serving Chinese Party  cadres in Lhasa and the Tibetan provinces who fell victim to the brutal subversion. Even if it was triggered by Mao Zedong, the Cultural Revolution was essentially a youth revolt and gave expression to a deep intergenerational conflict. National interests did not play a significant role in these events. Hence, many young Tibetans likewise participated in the rebellious demonstrations in Lhasa, something which for reasons that are easy to understand is hushed up these days by Dharamsala.


Whether Mao Zedong approved of the radicality with which the Red Guard set to work remains doubtful. To this day — as we have already reported — the Kundun believes that the Party Chairman was not fully informed about the vandalistic attacks in Tibet and that Jiang Qing, his spouse, was the evildoer. [3] Mao’s attitude can probably be best described by saying that in as far as the chaos served to consolidate his position he would have approved of it, and in as far as it weakened his position he would not. For Mao it was solely a matter of the accumulation of personal power, whereby it must be kept in mind, however, that he saw himself as being totally within the tradition of the Chinese Emperor as an energetic concentration of the country and its inhabitants. What strengthened him also strengthened the nation and the people. To this extent he thought in micro/macrocosmic terms.


The “deification” of Mao Zedong

The people’s tribune was also not free of the temptations of his own “deification”: “The Mao cult”, writes his personal physician, Zhisui, “spread in schools, factories, and communes — the Party Chairman became a god” (Li Zhisui, 1994, p. 442). At heart, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution must be regarded as a religious movement, and the “Marxist” from Beijing reveled in his worship as a “higher being”.


Numerous reports of the “marvels of the thoughts of Mao Zedong”, the countless prayer-like letters from readers in the Chinese newspapers, and the little “red book” with the sacrosanct words of the great helmsman, known worldwide as the “ bible of Mao “, and much more make a religion of Maoism. Objects which factory workers gave to the “Great Chairman” were put on display on altars and revered like holy relics. After “men of the people” shook his hand, they didn’t wash theirs for weeks and coursed through the country seizing the hands of passers by under the impression that they could give them a little of Mao’s energy. In some Tibetan temples pictures of the Dalai Lama were even replaced with icons of the Chinese Communist leader.


In this, Mao was more like a red pontiff than a people’s rebel. His followers revered him as a god-man in the face of whom the individuality of every other mortal Chinese was extinguished. “The 'equality before god'", Wolfgang Bauer writes in reference to the Great Chairman Mao Zedong, “really did illuminate, and allowed those who felt themselves moved by it to become ‘brothers’, or monks [!] of some kind clothed in robes that were not just the most lowly but thus also identical and that caused all individual characteristics to vanish” (Bauer, 1989, p. 569).


The Tibetans, themselves the subjects of a god-king, had no problems with such images; for them the “communist” Mao Zedong was the “Chinese Emperor”, at least from the Cultural Revolution on. Later, they even transferred the imperial metaphors to the “capitalist” reformer Deng Xiaoping: “Neither the term 'emperor' nor 'paramount leader' nor ‘patriarch’ appear in the Chinese constitution but nevertheless that is the position Deng held ... he possessed political power for life, just like the emperors of old” (Tibetan Review, March 1997, p. 23).


Mao Zedong’s “Tantrism”

The most astonishing factor, however, is that like the Dalai Lama Mao Zedong also performed “tantric” practices, albeit à la chinoise. As his personal physician, Li Zhisui reports, even at great age the Great Chairman maintained an insatiable sexual appetite. One concubine followed another. In this he imitated a privilege that on this scale was accorded only to the Chinese Emperors. Like these, he saw his affairs less as providing satisfaction of his lust and instead understood them to be sexual magic exercises. The Chinese “Tantric” [4] is primarily a specialist in the extension of the human lifespan. It is not uncommon for the old texts to recommend bringing younger girls together with older men as energetic “fresheners”. This method of rejuvenation is spread throughout all of Asia and was also known to the high lamas in Tibet. The Kalachakra Tantra recommends “the rejuvenation of a 70-year-old via a mudra [wisdom girl]" (Grünwedel, Kalacakra II, p. 115).


Mao also knew the secret of semen retention: “He became a follower of Taoist sexual practices,” his personal physician writes, “through which he sought to extend his life and which were able to serve him as a pretext for his pleasures. Thus he claimed, for instance, that he needed yin shui (the water of yin, i.e., vaginal secretions) to complement his own yang (his masculine substance, the source of his strength, power, and longevity) which was running low. Since it was so important for his health and strength to build up his yang he dared not squander it. For this reason he only rarely ejaculated during coitus and instead won strength and power from the secretions of his female partners. The more yin shui the Chairman absorbed, the more powerful his male substance became. Frequent sexual intercourse was necessary for this, and he best preferred to go to bed with several women at once. He also asked his female partners to introduce him to other women — ostensibly so as to strengthen his life force through shared orgies” (Li Zhisui, 1994, pp. 387-388). He gave new female recruits a handbook to read entitled Secrets of an Ordinary Girl, so that they could prepare themselves for a Taoist rendezvous with him. Like the pupils of a lama, young members of the “red court” were fascinated by the prospect of offering the Great Chairman their wives as concubines (Li Zhisui, 1994, pp. 388, 392).


The two chief symbols of his life can be regarded as emblems of his tantric androgyny: the feminine “water” and masculine “sun”. Wolfgang Bauer has drawn attention to the highly sacred significance which water and swimming have in Mao’s symbolic world. His demonstrations of swimming, in which he covered long stretches of the Yangtze, the “Yellow River”, were supposed to “express the dawning of a new, bold undertaking, through which a better world would arise: it was”, the author says, “a kind of cultic action” which he “... completed with an almost ritual necessity on the eve of the 'Cultural Revolution'" (Bauer, 1989, p. 566).


One of the most popular images of this period was of Mao as the “Great Helmsman” who unerringly steered the masses through the waves of the revolutionary ocean. With printruns in the billions (!), poems such as the following were distributed among the people:


Traveling upon the high seas we trust in the helmsman

As the ten thousand creatures in growing trust the sun.

If rain and dew moisten them, the sprouts become strong.

So we trust, when we push on with the revolution,

in the thoughts of Mao Zedong.


Fish cannot live away from water,

Melons do not grow outside their bed.

The revolutionary masses cannot stay apart

From the Communist Party.

The thoughts of Mao Zedong are their never-setting sun.

(quoted by Bauer, 1989, p. 567)


In this song we encounter the second symbol of power in the Mao cult alongside water: the “red sun” or the “great eastern sun”, a metaphor which — as we have already reported — later reemerges in connection with the Tibetan “Shambhala warrior”, Chögyam Trungpa. „Long life to Chairman Mao, our supreme commander and the most reddest red sun in our hearts”, sang the cultural revolutionaries (Avedon, 1985, p. 349). The “thoughts of Mao Zedong” were also “equated with a red sun that rose over a red age as it were, a veneration that found expression in countless likenesses of Mao’s features surrounded by red rays” (Bauer, 1989, p. 568). In this heliolatry, the Sinologist Wolfgang Bauer sees a religious influence that originated not in China but in the western Asian religions of light like Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism that entered the Middle Kingdom during the Tang period and had become connected with Buddhist ideas there (Bauer, 1989, p. 567). Indeed, the same origin is ascribed to the Kalachakra Tantra by several scholars.


Mao Zedong as the never setting sun


Mao Zedong’s theory of “blankness” also seems tantric. As early as 1958 he wrote that the China’s weight within the family of peoples rested on the fact that “first of all [it] is poor and secondly, blank. ... A blank sheet of paper has no stains, and thus the newest and most beautiful words can be written on it, the newest and most beautiful images painted on it” (quoted by Bauer, 1989, pp. 555-556). Bauer sees explicit traces of the Buddhist ideal of “emptiness” in this: “The 'blank person', whose presence in Mao’s view is especially pronounced among the Chinese people, is not just the 'pure', but also at the same time also the 'new person’ in whom ... all the old organs in the body have been exchanged for new ones, and all the old convictions for new ones. Here the actual meaning of the spiritual transformation of the Chinese person, deliberately imbuing all facets of the personality, bordering on the mystic, encouraged with all the means of mass psychology, and which the West with horror classifies as 'brainwashing', becomes apparent” (Bauer, 1989, p. 556).


As if they wanted to exorcise their own repellant tantra practices through their projection onto their main opponent, the Tibetans in exile appeal to Chinese sources to link the Cultural Revolution with cannibalistic ritual practices. Individuals who were killed during the ideological struggles became the objects of cannibalism. At night and with great secrecy members of the Red Guard were said to have torn out the hearts and livers of the murdered and consumed them raw. There were supposed to have been occasions where people were struck down so that their brains could be sucked out using a metal tube (Tibetan Review, March 1997, p. 22). The anti-Chinese propaganda may arouse doubts about how much truth there is in such accounts, yet should they really have taken place they too would bring the revolutionary events close to a tantric pattern.


A spiritual rivalry between the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and Mao Zedong?

The hidden religious basis of the Chinese Cultural Revolution prevents us from describing the comprehensive opposition between Mao Zedong and the Dalai Lama as an antinomy between materialism and spirituality — an interpretation which the Tibetan lamas, the Chinese Communists, and the West have all given it, albeit all with differing evaluations. Rather, both systems (the Chinese and the Tibetan) stood — as the ruler of the Potala and the regent of the Forbidden City had for centuries — in mythic contest for the control of the world, both reached for the symbol of the “great eastern sun”. Mao too had attempted to impose his political ideology upon the whole of humanity. He applied the “theory of the taking of cities via the land” and via the farmers which he wrote and put into practice in the “Long March” as a revolutionary concept for the entire planet, in that he declared the non-industrialized countries of Asia, Africa, and South America to be “villages” that would revolt against the rich industrial nations as the “cities”.


But there can only be one world ruler! In 1976, the year in which the “red pontiff” (Mao Zedong) died, according to the writings of the Tibetans in exile things threatened to take a turn for the worse for the Tibetans. The state oracle had pronounced the gloomiest predictions. Thereupon His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama withdrew into retreat, the longest that he had ever made in India: “An extremely strict practice”, he later commented personally, “which requires complete seclusion over several weeks, linked to a very special teaching of the Fifth Dalai Lama” (Levenson, 1992, p. 242). The result of this “practice” was, as Claude B. Levenson reports, the following: firstly there was “a major earthquake in China with thousands of victims. Then Mao made his final bow upon the mortal stage. This prompted an Indian who was close to the Tibetans to state, 'That’s enough, stop your praying, otherwise the sky will fall on the heads of the Chinese'" (Levenson, 1992, p. 242). In fact, shortly before his death the “Great Chairman” was directly affected by this earthquake. As his personal physician (who was present) reports, the bed shook, the house swayed, and a nearby tin roof rattled fearsomely.


Whether or not this was a coincidence, if a secret ritual of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama was conducted to “liberate” Mao Zedong, it can only have been a matter of the voodoo-like killing practices from the Golden Manuscript of the “Great Fifth”. Further, it is clear from the Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s autobiography that on the day of Mao’s death he was busy with the Time Tantra. At that time [1976], the Kundun says. „I was in Ladakh, part of the remote Indian province of Jammu and Kashmir, where I was conducting a Kalachakra initiation. On the second the ceremony’s three days, Mao died. And the third day, it rained all morning. But, in the afternoon, there appeared one of the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen. I was certain  that it must be a good omen” (Dalai Lama XIV, 1990, 222)


The post-Maoist era in Tibet

The Chinese of the Deng era recognized the error of their politics during the Cultural Revolution and publicly criticized themselves because of events in Tibet. An attempt was made to correct the mistakes and various former restrictions were relaxed step by step. As early as 1977 the Kundun was offered the chance to return to Tibet. This was no subterfuge but rather an earnest attempt to appease. One could talk about everything, Deng Xiaoping said, with the exception of total independence for Tibet.


Thus, over the course of years, with occasional interruptions, informal contacts sprang up between the representatives of the Tibetans in exile and the Chinese Party cadres. But no agreement was reached.


The Communist Party of China guaranteed the freedom of religious practice, albeit with certain restrictions. For example, it was forbidden to practice “religious propaganda” outside of the monastery walls, or to recruit monks who were under 18 years old, so as to protect children from “religious indoctrination”. But by and large the Buddhist faith could be practiced unhampered, and it has bloomed like never before in the last 35 years.


In the meantime hundreds of thousands of western tourists have visited the “roof of the world”. Individuals and travel groups of exiled Tibetans have also been permitted to visit the Land of Snows privately or were even officially invited as “guests of state”. Among them has been Gyalo Thondup, the Dalai Lama’s brother and military advisor, who conspired against the Chinese Communists with the CIA for years and counted among the greatest enemies of Beijing. The Chinese were firmly convinced that the Kundun’s official delegations would not arouse much interest among the populace. The opposite was the case. Many thousands poured into Lhasa to see the brother of the Dalai Lama.


But apparently this “liberal” climate could not and still cannot heal the deep wounds inflicted after the invasion and during the Chinese occupation.


Up until 1998, the opposition to Beijing in Tibet was stronger than ever before since the flight of the Dalai Lama, as the bloody rebellion of October 1987 [5] and the since then unbroken wave of demonstrations and protests indicates. For this reason a state of emergency was in force in Lhasa and the neighboring region until 1990. The Tibet researcher Ronald Schwartz has published an interesting study in which he convincingly proves that the Tibetan resistance activities conform to ritualized patterns. Religion and politics, protest and ritual are blended here as well. Alongside its communicative function, every demonstration thus possesses a symbolic one, and is for the participants at heart a magic act which through constant repetition is supposed to achieve the expulsion of the Chinese and the development of a national awareness among the populace.


The central protest ceremony in the country consists in the circling of the Jokhang Temple by monks and laity who carry the Tibetan flag. This action is known as khorra and is linked to a tradition of circumambulation. Since time immemorial the believers have circled shrines in a clockwise direction with a prayer drum in the hand and the om mani padme hum formula on their lips, on the one hand to ensure a better rebirth, on the other to worship the deities dwelling there. However, these days the khorra is linked — and this is historically recent — with protest activity against the Chinese: Leaflets are distributed, placards carried, the Dalai Lama is cheered. At the same time monks offer up sacrificial cakes and invoke above all the terrible protective goddess, Palden Lhamo. As if they wanted to neutralize the magic of the protest ritual, the Chinese have begun wandering around the Jokhang in the opposite direction, i.e., counterclockwise.


Those monks who were wounded and killed by the Chinese security forces whilst performing the ritual in the eighties are considered the supreme national martyrs. Their sacrificial deaths demanded widespread imitation and in contrast to the Buddhist prohibition against violence could be legitimated without difficulty. To sacrifice your life does not contradict Buddhism, young monks from the Drepung monastery told western tourists (Schwartz, 1994, p. 71).


Without completely justifying his claims, Schwartz links the circling of the Jokhang with the vision of the Buddhist world kingship. He refers to the fact that Tibet’s first Buddhist ruler, Songtsen Gampo, built the national shrine and that his spirit is supposed to be conjured up by the constant circumambulation: „Tibetans in succeeding centuries assimilated Songtsen Gampo to the universal [!] Buddhist paradigm of the ideal king, the Chakravartin or wheel-turning king, who subdues demonic forces and establishes a polity committed to promoting Dharma or righteousness” (Schwartz, 1994, p. 33).


A link between the world ruler thus evoked and the “tantric female sacrifice” is provided by the myth that the living heart of Srinmo, the mother of Tibet, beats in a mysterious lake beneath the Jokhang where it was once nailed fast with a dagger by the king, Songtsen Gampo. In the light of the orientation of contemporary Buddhism, which remains firmly anchored in the andocentric tradition, the ritual circling of the temple can hardly be intended to free the earth goddess. In contrast, it can be assumed that the monk’s concern is to strengthen the bonds holding down the female deity, just as the earth spirits are nailed to the ground anew in every Kalachakra ritual.


After a pause of 25 years, the Tibetan New Year’s celebration (Monlam), banned by the Chinese in 1960, are since1986 once more held in front of the Jokhang. This religious occasion, which as we have shown above is symbolically linked with the killing of King Langdarma, has been seized upon by the monks as a chance to provoke the Chinese authorities. But here too, the political protest cannot be separated from the mythological intention. „Its final ceremony,” Schwartz writes of the current Mönlam festivals, „which centres on Maitreya, the Buddha of the next age, looks forward to the return of harmony to the world with the re-emergence of the pure doctrine in the mythological future. The demonic powers threatening society, and bringing strife and suffering, are identified with the moral degeneration of the present age. The recommitment of Tibet as a nation to the cause of Buddhism is thus a step toward the collective salvation of the world” (Schwartz, 1994, p. 88) The ritual circling of the Jokhang and the feast held before the “cathedral” thus do not just prepare for the liberation of Tibet from the Chinese yoke, but also the establishment of a worldwide Buddhocracy (the resurrection of the pure doctrine in a mythological future).


Considered neutrally, the current social situation in Tibet proves to be far more complex than the Tibetans in exile would wish. Unquestionably, the Chinese have introduced many and decisive improvements in comparison to the feudal state Buddhism of before 1959. But likewise there is no question that the Tibetan population have had to endure bans, suppression, seizures, and human rights violations in the last 35 years. But the majority of these injustices and restrictions also apply throughout the rest of China. The cultural and ethnic changes under the influence of the Chinese Han and the Islamic Hui pouring in to the country may well be specific. Yet here too, there are processes at work which can hardly be described (as the “Dalai Lama” constantly does) as “cultural genocide”, but rather as a result of the transformation from a feudal state via communism into a highly industrialized and multicultural country.


A pan-Asian vision of the Kalachakra Tantra?

In this section we would like to discuss two possible political developments which have not as far as we know been considered before, because they appear absurd on the basis of the current international state of affairs. However, in speculating about future events in world history, one has to free oneself from the current position of the fronts. The twentieth century has produced unimaginable changes in the shortest of times, with the three most important political events being the collapse of colonialism, the rise and fall of fascism, and that of communism. How often have we had to experience that the bitterest of enemies today become tomorrow’s best friends and vice versa. It is therefore legitimate to consider the question of whether the current Dalai Lama or one of his future incarnations can with an appeal to the Shambhala myth set himself up as the head of a Central Asian major-power block with China as the leading nation. The other question we want to consider is this — could the Chinese themselves use the ideology of the Kalachakra Tantra to pursue an imperialist policy in the future?


The Kalachakra Tantra and the Shambhala myth had and still have a quite exceptional popularity in Central Asia. There, they hardly fulfill a need for world peace, but rather –especially in Mongolia –act as a symbol for dreams of becoming a major power. Thus the Shambhala prophecy undoubtedly possesses the explosive force to power an aggressive Asia’s imperialist ideology. This idea is widespread among the Kalmyks, the various Mongolian tribes, the Bhutanese, the Sikkimese, and the Ladhakis.


Even the Japanese made use of the Shambhala myth in the forties in order to establish a foothold in Mongolia. The power-hungry fascist elite of the island were generous in creating political-religious combinations. They had known how to fuse Buddhism and Shintoism together into an imposing imperialist ideology in their own country. Why should this not also happen with Lamaism? Hence Japanese agents strove to create contacts with the lamas of Central Asia and Tibet (Kimura, 1990). They even funded a search party for the incarnation of the Ninth Jebtsundampa Khutuktu, the “yellow pontiff of the Mongolians”, and sent it to Lhasa for this purpose (Tibetan Review, February 1991, p. 19). There were already close contacts to Japan under the Thirteenth Dalai Lama; he was advised in military questions, for example, was a Japanese by the name of Yasujiro Yajima (Tibetan Review, June 1982, pp. 8f.).


In line with the worldwide renaissance in all religions and their fundamentalist strains it can therefore not be excluded that Lamaism also regain a foothold in China and that after a return of the Dalai Lama the Kalachakra ideology become widespread there. It would then — as Edwin Bernbaum opines — just be seeds that had been sown before which would sprout. „Through the Mongolians, the Manchus, and the influence of the Panchen Lamas, the Kalachakra Tantra even had an impact on China: A major landmark of Peking, the Pai t’a, a white Tibetan-style stupa on a hill overlooking the Forbidden City, bears the emblem of the Kalachakra Teaching, The Ten of Power. Great Kalachakra Initiations were also given in Peking.”  (Bernbaum, 1980, p. 286, f. 7) These were conducted in the thirties by the Panchen Lama.


Taiwan: A springboard for Tibetan Buddhism and the Fourteenth Dalai Lama?

Yet as a decisive indicator of the potential “conquest” of China by Tibetan Buddhism, its explosive spread in Taiwan must be mentioned. Tibetan lamas first began to missionize the island in 1949. But their work was soon extinguished and could only be resumed in 1980. From this point in time on, however, the tantric doctrine has enjoyed a triumphal progress. The Deutsche Presse Agentur (dpa) estimates the number of the Kundun’s followers in Taiwan to be between 200 and 300 thousand and increasing, whilst the Tibetan Review of May 1997 even reports a figure of half a million. Over a hundred Tibetan Buddhist shrines have been built. Every month around 100 Lamaist monks from all countries visit Taiwan “to raise money for Tibetan temples around the world” there (Tibetan Review, May 1995, p. 11).


Increasingly, high lamas are also reincarnating themselves in Taiwanese, i.e., Chinese, families. To date, four of these have been “discovered” — an adult and three children — in the years 1987, 1990, 1991, and 1995. Lama Lobsang Jungney told a reporter that “Reincarnation can happen wherever there is the need for Buddhism. Taiwan is a blessed land. It could have 40 reincarnated lamas.” (Tibetan Review, May 1995, pp. 10-11).


In March 1997 a spectacular reception was prepared for the Dalai Lama in many locations around the country. The political climate had shifted fundamentally. The earlier skepticism and reservation with which the god-king was treated by officials in Taipei, since as nationalists they did not approve of a detachment of the Land of Snows from China, had given way to a warm-hearted atmosphere. His Holiness was praised in the press as the “most significant visionary of peace” of our time. The encounter with President Lee Teng-hui, at which the two “heads of government” discussed spiritual topics among other things, was celebrated in the media as a “meeting of the philosophy kings” (Tibetan Review, May 1997, p. 15). The Kundun has rarely been so applauded. “In fact,” the Tibetan Review writes, “the Taiwan visit was the most politically charged of all his overseas visits in recent memory” (Tibetan Review, May 1997, p. 12). In the southern harbor city of Kaohsiung the Kundun held a rousing speech in front of 50,000 followers in a sport stadium. The Tibetan national flag was flown at every location where he stopped. The Taiwanese government approved a large sum for the establishment of a Tibet office in Taipei. The office is referred to by the Tibetans in exile as a “de facto embassy”.


At around the same time, despite strong protest from Beijing, Tibetan monks brought an old tooth of the Buddha, which fleeing lamas had taken with them during the Cultural Revolution, to Taiwan. The mainland Chinese demanded the tooth back. In contrast a press report said, “Taiwanese politicians expressed the hope [that] the relic would bring peace to Taiwan, after several corruption scandals and air disasters had cost over 200 people their lives” (Schweizerisch Tibetische Freundschaft, April 14, 1998 - Internet).


The spectacular development of Lamaist Buddhism in Nationalist China (Taiwan) shows that the land could be used as an ideal springboard to establish itself in a China freed of the Communist Party. Ultimately, the Kundun says, the Chinese had collected negative karma through the occupation of Tibet and would have to bear the consequences of this (Tibetan Review, May 1997, p. 19). How could this karma be better worked off than through the Middle Kingdom as a whole joining the Lamaist faith.


The Fourteenth Dalai Lama and the Chinese

The cultural relationships of the Kundun and of members of his family to the Chinese are more complex and multi-layered than they are perceived to be in the West. Let us recall that Chinese was spoken in the home of the god-king’s parents in Takster. In connection with the regent, Reting Rinpoche, the father of the Dalai Lama showed such a great sympathy towards Beijing that still today the Chinese celebrate him as one of their “patriots” (Craig, 1997, p. 232). Two of His Holiness’s brothers, Gyalo Thundup and Tendzin Choegyal, speak fluent Chinese. His impressive dealings with Beijing and his pragmatic politics have several times earned Gyalo Thundup the accusation by Tibetans in exile that he is a traitor who would sell Tibet to the Chinese (Craig, 1997, pp. 334ff.). Dharamsala has maintained personal contacts with many influential figures in Hong Kong and Taiwan since the sixties.


Since the nineties, the constant exchange with the Chinese has become increasingly central to the Kundun’s politics. In a speech made in front of Chinese students in Boston (USA) on September 9, 1995, His Holiness begins with a statement of how important the contact to China and its people is for him. The usual constitutional statements and the well-known demands for peace, human rights, religious freedom, pluralism, etc. then follow, as if a western parliamentarian were campaigning for his country’s democracy. Only at the end of his speech does the Kundun let the cat out of the bag and nonchalantly proposes Tibetan Buddhism as China’s new religion and thus, indirectly, himself as the Buddhist messiah: “Finally it is my strong believe and hope that however small a nation Tibet might be, we can still contribute to the peace and the prosperity of China. Decades of communist rule and the commercial activities in recent years both driven by extreme materialism, be it communist or capitalist, are destroying much of China's spiritual and moral values. A huge spiritual and moral vacuum is thus being rapidly created in the Chinese society. In this situation, the Tibetan Buddhist culture and philosophy would be able to serve millions of Chinese brothers and sisters in their search for moral and spiritual values. After all, traditionally Buddhism is not an alien philosophy to the Chinese people” (Tibetan Review, October 1995, p. 18). Advertising for the Kalachakra initiation organized for the year 1999 in Bloomington, Indiana was also available in Chinese. Since August 2000 one of the web sites run by the Tibetans in exile has been appearing in Chinese.


In recent months (up until 1998), “pro-Chinese” statements by the Kundun have been issued more and more frequently. In 1997 he explained that the materialistic Chinese could only profit from an adoption of spiritual Lamaism. Everywhere, indicators of a re-Buddhization of China were already to be seen. For example, a high-ranking member of the Chinese military had recently had himself blessed by the Mongolian great lama, Kusho Bakula Rinpoche, when the latter was in Beijing briefly. Another Chinese officer had participated in a Lamaist event seated in the lotus position, and a Tibetan woman had told him how Tibetan Buddhism was flourishing in various regions in China.


"So from these stories we can see”, the Dalai Lama continued, “that when the situation in China proper becomes more open, with more freedom, then definitely many Chinese will find useful inspiration from Tibetan Buddhist traditions” (Shambhala Sun, Archive, November 1996). In 1998, in an interview that His Holiness gave the German edition of Playboy, he quite materialistically says: “If we remain a part of China we will also profit materially from the enormous upturn of the country” (Playboy, German edition, March 1998, p. 44). The army of monks who are supposed to carry out this ambitious project of a “Lamaization of China” are currently being trained in Taiwan.


In 1997, the Kundun wrote to the Chinese Party Secretary, Jiang Zemin, that he would like to undertake a “non-political pilgrimage” to Wutaishan in Shanxi province (not in Tibet). The most sacred shrine of the Bodhisattva Manujri, who from a Lamaist point of view is incarnated in the person of the Chinese Emperor, is to be found in Wutaishan. Thus for the lamas the holy site harbors the la, the ruling energy of the Chinese Empire. In preparing for such a trip, the Kundun, who is a consistent thinker in such matters, will certainly have considered how best to magically acquire the la of the highly geomantically significant site of Wutaishan.


The god-king wants to meet Jiang Zemin at this sacred location to discuss Tibetan autonomy. But, as we have indicated, his primary motive may well be an esoteric one. A “Kalachakra ritual for world peace” is planned there. Traditionally, the Wutai mountains are seen as Lamaism’s gateway to China. In the magical world view of the Dalai Lama, the construction of a sand mandala in this location would be the first step in the spiritual conquest of the Chinese realm. Already in 1987, the well-known Tibetan lama, Khenpo Jikphun conducted a Kalachakra initiation in front of 6000 people. He is also supposed to have levitated there and floated through the air for a brief period (Goldstein, 1998, p. 85).


At the end of his critical book, Prisoners of Shangri-La, the Tibetologist and Buddhist Donald S. Lopez addresses the Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s vision of “conquering” China specifically through the Kalachakra Tantra. Here he discusses the fact that participants in the ritual are reborn as Shambhala warriors. “The Dalai Lama”, Lopez says, “may have found a more efficient technique for populating Shambhala and recruiting troops for the army of the twenty-fifth king, an army that will defeat the enemies of Buddhism and bring the utopia of Shambhala, hidden for so long beyond the Himalayas, to the world. It is the Dalai Lama’s prayer, he says, that he will some day give the Kalachakra initiation in Beijing” (Lopez, 1998, p. 207).


The “Strasbourg Declaration” (of June 15, 1988), in which the Dalai Lama renounces a claim on state autonomy for Tibet if he is permitted to return to his country, creates the best conditions for a possible Lamaization of the greater Chinese territory. It is interesting in this context that with the renouncement of political autonomy, the Kundun at the same time articulated a territorial expansion for the cultural autonomy of Tibet. The border provinces of Kam and Amdo, which for centuries have possessed a mixed Chinese-Tibetan population, are now supposed to come under the cultural political control of the Kundun. Moderate circles in Beijing approve of the Dalai Lama’s return, as does the newly founded Democratic Party of China under Xu Wenli.


Also, in recent years the numerous contacts between exile Tibetan politicians and Beijing have not just been hostile, rather the contacts sometimes awake the impression that here an Asian power play is at work behind closed doors, one that is no longer easy for the West to understand. For example, His Holiness and the Chinese successfully cooperated in the search for and appointment of the reincarnation of the Karmapa, the leader of the Red Hats, although here a Kagyupa faction did propose another candidate and enthrone him in the West.


Since Clinton’s visit to China (in 1998) events in the secret diplomacy between the Tibetans in exile and the Chinese are becoming increasingly public. On Chinese television Clinton said to Jiang Zemin, “I have met the Dalai Lama. I think he is an upright man and believe that he and President Jiang would really get on if they spoke to one another” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, July 17, 1998). Thereupon, His Holiness publicly admitted that several “private channels” to Peking already existed which produce “fruitful contacts” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, July 17, 1998). However, since 1999 the wind has turned again. The “anti Dalai Lama campaigns” of the Chinese are now ceaseless. Owing to Chinese interventions the Kundun has had to endure several political setbacks throughout the entire Far East. During his visit to Japan in the Spring of 2000 he was no longer officially received. Even the Mayor of Tokyo (Shintaro Isihara), a friend of the religious dignitary, had to cancel his invitation. The great hope of being present at the inauguration of the new Taiwanese president, Chen Shui-Bian on May 20, 2000, was not to be, even though his participation was originally planned here too. Despite internal and international protest, South Korea refused the Dalai Lama an entry visa. The Xchinese even succeeded in excluding the Kundun from the Millennium Summit of World Religions held by the UN at the end of August 2000 in New York. The worldwide protests at this decision remained quite subdued.


The Fourteenth Dalai Lama and communism

The Kundun’s constant attestations that Buddhism and Communism have common interests should also be seen as a further currying of favor with the Chinese. One can thus read numerous statements like the following from His Holiness: „The Lord Buddha wanted improvement in the spiritual realm, and Marx in the material; what alliance could be more fruitful?” (Hicks and Chogyam, 1990, p. 143);  “I believe firmly there is common ground between communism and Buddhism” (Grunfeld, 1996, p. 188); “Normally I describe myself as half Marxist, half monk” (Zeitmagazin 1988, no. 44, p. 24; retranslation). He is even known to have made a plea for a communist economic policy: “As far as the economy is concerned, the Marxist theory could possibly complement Buddhism...” (Levenson, 1992, p. 334). It is thus no wonder that at the god-king’s suggestion , the “Communist Party of Tibet” was founded. The Dalai Lama has become a left-wing revolutionary even by the standards of those western nostalgics who mourn the passing of communism.


Up until in the eighties the Dalai Lama’s concern was to create via such comments a good relationship with the Soviet Union, which had since the sixties become embroiled in a dangerous conflict with China. As we have seen, even the envoy of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Agvan Dorjiev, was a master at changing political fronts as he switched from the Tsar to Lenin without a problem following the Bolshevist seizure of power. Yet it is interesting that His Holiness has to continued to make such pro-Marxist statements after the collapse of most communist systems. Perhaps this is for ethical reasons, or because China at least ideologically continues to cling to its communist past?


These days through such statements the Kundun wants to keep open the possibility of a return to Tibet under Chinese control. In 1997 in Taiwan he explained that he was neither anti-Chinese nor anti-communist (Tibetan Review, May 1997, p. 14). He even criticized China because it had stepped back from its Marxist theory of economics and the gulf between rich and poor is thus becoming ever wider (Martin Scheidegger, speaking at the Gesellschaft Schweizerisch Tibetische Freundschaft [Society for Swiss-Tibetan Friendship], August 18, 1997).


Are the Chinese interested in the Shambhala myth?

Do the Chinese have an interest in the Kalachakra Tantra and the Shambhala myth? Let us repeat, since time immemorial China and Tibet have oriented themselves to a mythic conception of history which is not immediately comprehensible to Americans or Europeans. Almost nobody here wants to believe that this archaic way of thinking continued to exist, even increased, under “materialistic” communism. For a Westerner, China today still represents “the land of materialism” vis-à-vis Tibet as “the land of spirituality”. There are, however, rare exceptions who avoid this cliché, such as Hugh Richardson for example, who establishes the following in his history of Tibet: “The Chinese have ... a profound regard for history. But history, for them was not simply a scientific study. It had the features of a cult, akin to ancestor worship, with the ritual object of presenting the past, favorably emended and touched up, as a model for current political action. It had to conform also to the mystical view of China as the Centre of the World, the Universal Empire in which every other country had a natural urge to become a part … The Communists … were the first Chinese to have the power to convert their atavistic theories into fact” (quoted by Craig, 1997, p. 146).


If it was capable of surviving communism, this mythically based understanding of history will hardly disappear with it. In contrast, religious revivals are now running in parallel to the flourishing establishment of capitalist economic systems and the increasing mechanization of the country. Admittedly the Han Chinese are as a people very much oriented to material things, and Confucianism which has regained respectability in the last few years counts as a philosophy of reason not a religion. But history has demonstrated that visionary and ecstatic cults from outside were able to enter China with ease. The Chinese power elite have imported their religious-political ideas from other cultures several times in the past centuries. Hence the Middle Kingdom is historically prepared for such ideological/spiritual invasions, then up to and including Marxist communism it has been seen, the Sinologist Wolfgang Bauer writes, “that, as far as religion is concerned, China never went on the offensive, never missionized, but rather the reverse, was always only the target of such missionizations from outside” (Bauer, 1989, p. 570). Nevertheless such religious imports could never really monopolize the country, rather they all just had the one task, namely to reinforce the idea of China as the center of the world. This was also true for Marxist Maoism.


Let us also not forget that the Middle Kingdom followed the teachings of the Buddha for centuries. The earliest evidence of Buddhism can be traced back to the first century of our era. In the Tang dynasty many of the Emperors were Buddhists. Tibetan Lamaism held a great fascination especially in the final epoch, that of the Manchus. Thus for a self-confident Chinese power elite a Chinese reactivation of the Shambhala myth could without further ado deliver a traditionally anchored pan-Asian ideology to replace a fading communism. As under the Manchus, there is no need for such a vision to square with the ideas of the entire people.


The Panchen Lama

Perhaps the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet is not even needed at all for the Time Tantra to be able to spread in China. Perhaps the Chinese are already setting up their own Kalachakra master, the Panchen Lama, who is traditionally considered friendly towards China. „Tibetans believe,” Edwin Bernbaum writes, „that the Panchen Lamas have a special connection with Shambhala, that makes them unique authorities on the kingdom. (Bernbaum, 1980, p. 185). In addition there is the widespread prophecy that Rudra Chakrin, the doomsday general, will be an incarnation of the Panchen Lama.


As we have already reported, the common history of the Dalai Lama and the ruler from Tashi Lunpho (the Panchen Lama) exhibits numerous political and spiritual discordances, which among other things led to the two hierarchs becoming allied with different foreign powers in their running battle against one another. The Panchen Lamas have always proudly defended their independence from Lhasa. By and large they were more friendly with the Chinese than were the rulers in the Potala. In 1923 the inner-Tibetan conflict came to a head in the Ninth Panchen Lama’s flight to China. In his own words he was „unable to live under these troubles and suffering inflicted on him by Lhasa (Mehra, 1976, p. 45). Both he and the Dalai Lama had obtained weapons and munitions in advance, and an armed clash between the two princes of the church had been in the air for years. This exhausted itself, however, in the unsuccessful pursuit of the fleeing hierarch from Tashilunpho by a body of three hundred men under orders from Lhasa. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama was so enraged that he denied the Buddhahood of the fleeing incarnation of Amitabha, because this was selfish, proud, and ignorant. It had, together „with his sinful companoins, who resembled mad elephants and followed wrong path,” made itself scarce (Mehra, 1976, p. 45).


In 1932 the Panchen Lama is supposed to have planned an invasion of Tibet with 10,000 Chinese soldiers to conquer the Land of Snows and set himself up as its ruler. Only after the death of the “Great Thirteenth” was a real reconciliation with Lhasa possible. In 1937 the weakened and disappointed prince of the church returned to Tibet but died within a year. His pro-China politics, however, still found expression in his will in which he prophesied that “Buddha Amitabha’s next incarnation will be found among the Chinese” (Hermanns, 1956, p. 323).


In the search for the new incarnation the Chinese nation put forward one candidate and the Tibetan government another. Both parties refused to recognize the other’s boy. However, under great political pressure the Chinese were finally able to prevail. The Tenth Panchen Lama was then brought up under their influence. After the Dalai Lama had fled in 1959, the Chinese appointed the hierarch from Tashilunpho as Tibet’s nominal head of state. However, he only exercised this office in a very limited manner and sometimes he allowed to be carried away to make declarations of solidarity with the Dalai Lama. This earned him years of house arrest and a ban on public appearances. Even if the Tibetans in exile now promote such statements as patriotic confessions, by and large the Tenth Panchen Lama played either his own or Beijing’s part. In 1978 he broke the vow of celibacy imposed upon him by the Gelugpa order, marrying a Chinese woman and having a daughter with her.


Shortly before his death he actively participated in the capitalist economic policies of the Deng Xiaoping era and founded the Kangchen in Tibet in 1987. This was a powerful umbrella organization that controlled a number of companies and businesses, distributed international development funds for Tibet, and exported Tibetan products. The neocapitalist business elite collected in the Kangchen was for the most part recruited from old Tibetan noble families and were opposed to the politics of the Dalai Lama, whilst from the other side they enjoyed the supportive benevolence of Beijing.


As far as the Tibetan protest movement of recent years is concerned, the Tenth Panchen Lama tried to exert a conciliatory influence upon the revolting monks, but regretted that they would not listen to him. “We insist upon re-educating the majority of monks and nuns who become guilty of minor crimes [i.e., resistance against the Chinese authorities]" he announced publicly and went on, “But we will show no pity to those who have stirred up unrest” (MacInnes, 1993, p. 282).


In 1989 the tenth incarnation of the Amitabha died. The Chinese made the funeral celebrations into a grandiose event of state [!] that was broadcast nationally on radio and television. They invited the Fourteenth Dalai Lama to the burial which took place in Beijing, but did not want him to visit Tibet afterwards. For this reason the Kundun declined. At the same time the Tibetans in exile announced that the Panchen Lama had been poisoned.


The political power play entered a spectacular new round in the search for the eleventh incarnation. At first it seemed as if the two parties (the Chinese and the Tibetans in exile) would cooperate. But then there were two candidates: one proposed by the Kundun and one by Beijing. The latter was enthroned in Tashi Lunpho. A thoroughly power-conscious group of pro-Chinese lamas carried out the ceremonies, whilst the claimant designated by the Dalai Lama was sent home to his parents amid protests from the world public. At first, Dharamsala spoke of a murder, and then a kidnapping of the boy.


All of this may be considered an expression of the running battle between the Tibetans and the Chinese, yet even for the Tibetans in exile it is a surprise how much worth the Chinese laid on the magic procedure of the rebirth myth and why they elevated it to become an affair of state, especially since the upbringing of the Dalai Lama’s candidate would likewise have lain in their hands. They probably decided on this course out of primarily pragmatic political considerations, but the magic religious system possesses a dynamic of its own and can captivate those who use it unknowingly. A Lamaization of China with or without the Dalai Lama is certainly a historical possibility. In October 1995 for example, the young Karmapa was guest of honor at the national day celebrations in Beijing and had talks with important heads of the Chinese government. The national press reported in detail on the subsequent journey through China which was organized for the young hierarch by the state. He is said to have exclaimed, “Long live the People’s Republic of China!” (Tibetan Review, November 1994, p. 9).


What a perspective would be opened for the politics of the Kalachakra deities if they were able to anchor themselves in China with a combination of the Panchen and Dalai Lamas so as to deliver the foundations for a pan-Asian ideology! At last, father and son could be reunited, for those are the titles of the ruler from Tashilunpho (the father) and the hierarch from the Potala (the son) and how they also refer to one another. Then one would have taken on the task of bringing the Time Tantra to the West, the other of reawakening it in its country of origin in Central Asia. Amitabha and Avalokiteshvara, always quarreling in the form of their mortal incarnations, the Panchen and the Dalai Lama, would now complement one another — but this time it would not be a matter of Tibet, but China, and then the world.


The Communist Party of China

The Communist Party of China’s official position on the social role of religion admittedly still shows a Marxist-Leninist influence. “Religious belief and religious sentiments, religious ceremonies and organizations that are compatible with the corresponding beliefs and emotions, are all products of the history of a society.


The beginnings of religious mentality reflect a low level of production... “, it says in a government statement of principle, and the text goes on to say that in pre-communist times religion was used as a means “to control and still the masses” (MacInnes, 1993, p. 43). Nevertheless, religious freedom has been guaranteed since the seventies, albeit with some restrictions. Across the whole country a spreading religious renaissance can be observed that, although still under state control, is in the process of building up hugely like an underground current, and will soon surface in full power.


All religious orientations are affected by this — Taoism, Chan Buddhism, Lamaism, Islam, and the various Christian churches. Officially , Confucianism is not considered a faith but rather a philosophy. Since the Deng era the attacks of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution upon religious representatives have been self-critically and publicly condemned. At the moment, more out of a bad conscience and touristic motives than from religious fervor, vast sums of money are being expended on the restoration of the shrines destroyed.


Everyone is awaiting the great leap forwards in a religious rebirth of the country at any moment. “China’s tussle with the Dalai Lama seems like a sideshow compared to the Taiwan crisis” writes the former editor of the Japan Times Weekly, Yoichi Clark Shimatsu, “But Beijing is waging a political contest for the hearts and minds of Asia's Buddhists that could prove far more significant than its battle over the future democracy in Taiwan” (Shimatsu, HPI 009).


It may be the result of purely power political considerations that the Chinese Communists employ Buddhist constructions to take the wind out of the sails of the general religious renaissance in the country via a strategy of attack, by declaring Mao Zedong to be a Bodhisattva for example (Tibetan Review, January 1994, p. 3). But there really are — as we were able to be convinced by a television documentary — residents of the eastern provinces of the extended territory who have set up likenesses of the Great Chairman on their altars beside those of Guanyin and Avalokiteshvara, to whom they pray for help in their need. A mythification of Mao and his transformation into a Bodhisattva figure should become all the easier the more time passes and the concrete historical events are forgotten.


There are, however, several factions facing off in the dawning struggle for Buddha’s control of China. For example, some of the influential Japanese Buddhist sects who trace their origins to parent monasteries in China see the Tibetan clergy as an arch-enemy. This too has its historical causes. In the 13th century and under the protection of the great Mongolian rulers (of the Yuan dynasty), the lamas had the temples of the Chinese Buddhist Lotus sect in southern China razed to the ground. In reaction the latter organized a guerilla army of farmers and were successful in shaking off foreign control, sending the Tibetans home, and establishing the Ming dynasty (1368). “This tradition of religious rebellion”, Yoichi Clark Shimatsu writes, “did not disappear under communism. Rather, it continued under an ideological guise. Mao Zedong's utopian vision that drove both the Cultural Revolution and the suppression of intellectuals in Tiananmen Square bears a striking resemblance with the populist Buddhist policies of Emperor Zhu Yuanthang, founder of the Ming Dynasty and himself a Lotus Sect Buddhist priest” (Shimatsu, HPI 009).


Many Japanese Buddhists see a new “worldly” utopia in a combination of Maoist populism, the continuation of Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms, and the familiar values of (non-Tibetan) Buddhism. At a meeting of the Soka Gokkai sect it was pointed out that the first name of the Chinese Premier Li Peng was “Roc”, the name of the mythic giant bird that protected the Buddha. Li Peng answered allegorically that in present-day China the Buddha “is the people and I consider myself the guardian of the people” (Shimatsu, HPI 009). Representatives of Soka Gokkai also interpreted the relationship between Shoko Asahara and the Dalai Lama as a jointly planned attack on the pro-Chinese politics of the sect.


Like the Tibetans in exile , the Chinese know that power lies in the hands of the elites. These will decide which direction future developments take. It is doubtful whether the issue of national sovereignty will play any role at all among the Tibetan clergy should they be permitted to advance into China with the toleration and support of the state. Since the murder of King Langdarma, Tibetan history teaches us, the interests of monastic priests and not those of the people are preeminent in political decisions. This was likewise true in reverse for the Chinese Emperor. The Chinese ruling elite will in the future also decide according to power-political criteria which religious path they will pursue: “Beijing clearly looks to a Buddhist revival to fill the spiritual void in the Asian heartland so long as it does not challenge the nominally secular authorities. Such a revival could provide the major impetus into the Pacific century. Like all utopias, it could also be fraught with disaster” (Shimatsu, HPI 009).


The West, which has not reflected upon the potential for violence in Tantric/Tibetan Buddhism or rather has not even recognized it, sees — blind as it is — a pacifist and salvational deed by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama in the spread of Lamaism in China. The White House Tibet expert, Melvyn Goldstein, all but demands of the Kundun that he return to Tibet. In this he is probably voicing the unofficial opinion of the American government: “If he [the Dalai Lama] really wants to achieve something,” says Goldstein, “he has to stop attacking China on the international stage, he has to return and publicly accept the sovereignty over his home country” (Spiegel 16/1998, p. 118).


Everything indicates that this will soon happen, and indeed at first under conditions dictated by the Chinese. In his critique of the film Kundun, the journalist Tobias Kniebe writes that, “As little real power as this man [the Dalai Lama] may have at the moment — as a symbol he is unassailable and inextinguishable. The history of nonviolent resistance is one of the greatest, there is, and in it Kundun [the film] is a kind of prelude. The actual film, which we are waiting for, may soon begin: if an apparently impregnable, billion-strong market is infiltrated by the power of a symbol [the Dalai Lama] whose evidence it is unable to resist for long. If this film is ever made, it will not be shown in the cinemas, but rather on CNN” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, March 17, 1998). Kniebe and many others thus await a Lamaization of the whole Chinese territory.


A wild speculation? David Germano, Professor of Tibetan Studies in Virginia, ascertained on his travels in Tibet that “The Chinese fascination with Tibetan Buddhism is particularly important, and I have personally witnessed extremes of personal devotion and financial support by Han Chinese to both monastic and lay Tibetan religious figures [i.e., lamas] within the People's Republic of China” (Goldstein, 1998, p. 86).


Such a perspective is expressed most clearly in a posting to an Internet discussion forum from April 8, 1998: “"Easy, HHDL [His Holiness the Dalai Lama]", it says, “can turn the people of Taiwan and China [into] becoming conformists of Tibetan Buddhism. Soon or later, there will be the Confederate Republics of Greater Asia. Republic of Taiwan, People's Republic of China, Republic of Tibet, Mongolia Democratic Republic, Eastern Turkestan Republic, Inner Mongolian Republic, Nippon, Korea ... all will be parts of the CROGA. Dalai Lama will be the head of the CROGA” (Brigitte, Newsgroup 10).


But whether the Kundun returns home to the roof of the world or not, his aggressive Kalachakra ideology is not a topic for analysis and criticism in the West, where religion and politics are cleanly and neatly separated from one another. The despotic idea of a world ruler, the coming Armageddon, the world war between Buddhism and Islam, the establishment of a monastic dictatorship, the hegemony of the Tibetan gods over the planets, the development of a pan-Asian, Lamaist major-power politics — all visions which are laid out in the Kundun’s system and magically consolidated through every Kalachakra initiation — are simply not perceived by politicians from Europe and America. They let the wool be pulled over their eyes by the god-king’s professions of democracy and peace. How and by what means His Holiness seeks to culturally conquer the West is what we want to examine in the next chapter.



[1] This is probably an invented historia sacra, as contemporary documents found in the library of Tunhuang do not say a word about the teaching of the Buddha being the state religion of the time. In the sources, the latter first emerges 150 years later under Trisong Detsen. It is also clear that Songtsen Gampo did not just marry two women, but rather five, from various neighboring states in order to bind these to himself and his dynasty.

[2] This sympathy of the Manchus for the Lamaist teachings was the sole reason why the Buddhist and yet very militant Mongolians remained peaceful for so long and bowed to the Chinese dominance. Shortly before its declaration of independence (in 1911), nobles and high lamas from the country sent a petition to the Russian Tsar, in which among other things it said: “Earlier, we respectfully subjected ourselves to the Manchu Khan because they fostered the Buddhist religion and spread the blessings” (Onon, 1989, p. 10).

[3] It has been adequately proven that the human rights violations exercised out by the Chinese forces of occupation between 1953 and the present day were significant. Monks were beaten, tortured, taken away, and executed, Nuns and girls were violated. During the rebellions villages were bombed and mass executions were carried out. The many and varied methods of torture included skinning alive. The scenes were terrible and are documented in numerous places (see for example, Joseph Campbell, 1973, pp. 509ff.). It is thus not in any way our intention to gloss over or hush up the attacks by the Chinese soldiery. All forms of killing and torture, but especially when it is inflicted on the helpless, must be condemned as strongly as possible. However, the bad politics of the Chinese Communists does not nullify their criticism of repressive social behavior in feudalistic Tibet. But it has led to a situation in which the Tibetans in exile can now offer a distorted history that in no way corresponds to historical reality prior to 1950.

[4] Strictly speaking, we are dealing with Taoist practices here. Nevertheless there are numerous similarities between the two systems, especially with regard to the male practices.

[5] The demonstrators burnt down a police station and a number of automobiles and shops. Between 6 and 20 Tibetans were killed when the police fired into the crowd. Some of the policemen on duty were also Tibetan.


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