The Shadow of the Dalai Lama – Part II – 16. Tactics, Strategies, Forgeries, Illusions

© Victor & Victoria Trimondi







From a western point of view, religion and politics have been neatly and cleanly separated from one another since the modern era (18th century). In this sense a clear distinction is drawn here between the spread of Tantric Buddhism and the question of Tibet’s international legal status. However, for an ancient culture like the Tibetan one, such a division is just not possible. In it, all levels — the mystic, the mythic, the symbolic, and the ritual — are addressed by every political event. From a Tibetan viewpoint it is thus completely logical that the liberation of the Land of Snows from the claws of the Chinese dragon be blown up into an exemplary deed that should benefit the whole planet. “To save Tibet means to save the world!” is a widespread slogan, even among committed Westerners.


Just like the teachings of the Buddha, the political issue of Tibet at first evoked little resonance among the western public. Those who broached the topic of the fate of the Tibetan people in American and European governmental circles generally encountered rejection and disinterest. But this dismissive stance changed in the mid-eighties. With increasing frequency, His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama was officially received by western heads of state who had previously refused to be in public contact with him for fear of Chinese protests.


The “Tibet Lobby”

Since 1985 the so-called Tibet lobby has been at work in numerous countries. This is a cross-party collection of parliamentary representatives who in their respective parliaments advocate a Tibet resolution that morally condemns China for its constant human rights abuses and “cultural genocide”. A recognition of Tibet as an autonomous state is not linked to such resolutions. At the Tibet Support Groups Conference in Bonn (in 1996), Tim Nunn from England gave a paper on the methods (the upaya) of successful lobbying: well-groomed appearance, diplomatic language, proper dress, skilled presentation, and the like. Mr. Nunn was able to point to successes — 131 members of the British Lower House had engaged themselves for the cause of the Land of Snows in London (Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung, 1996, pp. 77ff.).


In the USA the lawyer Michael van Walt van Praag has successfully argued the interests of the Tibetan government in exile to both Senators and Congressmen. He succeeded in getting a resolution on Tibet passed in the U.S. Senate. One of his greatest political successes was when in 1991 the Kundun was permitted to take his place in the rotunda and address the American House of Congress. Afterwards he met with President George Bush. Bush signed an official document in which Tibet was described as am “occupied country”. Since 1990 The Voice of America has begun broadcasting programs in Tibetan. A new broadcaster, Free Asia, which also has a Tibet department, has recently been approved by Congress. As of 1997, the State Department appointed a “special representative for Tibet” who is supposed to have the task of negotiating between the Kundun and China.


In early September 1995, the Dalai Lama smilingly embraced Senator Jesse Helms, renowned for his ultra-conservative stance. This was a high point in the thoroughgoing reverence the Republicans have shown him.


The Democrats barely acknowledged such conservative solidarity, since it was they who smoothed the way for the “liberal” god-king to reach a broad public. The American President, Bill Clinton, and his Vice-president, Al Gore, were initially reserved and ambivalent towards the Dalai Lama, whom they have met several times. The American government’s position is expressed unambiguously in a statement from 1994: „Because we do not recognize Tibet as an independent state, the United States does not conduct diplomatic relations with the self-styled the ‘Tibetan government-in-exile’“ it says there (Goldstein, 1997, p. 121).


But after several meetings with President Clinton and his wife Hillary the god-king was able to make a lasting impression on the presidential couple. Clinton committed himself as never before to resolving the question of Tibet. One of the major points of his trip to China (in 1998) was to encourage Jiang Zemin to take up contact with the Dalai Lama. Every western head of state who visits the Middle Kingdom now reiterates this, which has led to success: in the meantime the two parties (Beijing and Dharamsala) confer constantly behind closed doors.


In 1989 the Fourteenth Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel peace prize. The fact that he received this high accolade has less to do with the political situation in Tibet than, above all, the bloody events in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, where numerous Chinese students protesting against the regime lost their lives. The West wanted to morally condemn China and the Tibet lobby was successful in proposing an honoring of His Holiness as the best means of doing so.


From now on the god-king possessed an international prominence like never before. The Oslo award could almost be said to have granted him a passport and access to the majority of world heads of state. There was hardly a president who still in the face of Chinese protests refused to officially receive the god-king, at least as a religious representative. In Ireland, France, Liechtenstein, Austria, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Russia, the USA, Canada, England, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Israel, Japan, Taiwan, Gabun, Australia, New Zealand, several South American countries — everywhere the “modest monk” was honored like a pontiff.


In 1996 the lobbyists succeeded in maneuvering Germany into a spectacular confrontation with China through the passing of a resolution Tibet in the Bundestag (the German lower house). The resolution was supported by all parties in parliament, be they green, left, liberal, or conservative. The paradoxical side to this move was that both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese were able to profit from it whilst the naïve Germans had to pay up. This coup represents the Kundun’s party’s greatest political success in the West to date. On the other hand, the Chinese succeeded in inducing the intimidated German federal government into continuing to grant China the much desired Hermes securities formerly refused them. For Beijing, with this agreement in hand, the question of Tibet in its relations with Germany was resolved for now. Even if we cannot speak of a direct cooperation here, according to the cui bonum principle the two Asian parties profited greatly by drawing an essentially uninvolved nation into the conflict.


The media management of the Kundun’s followers is by now perfect. Numerous offices in all countries, above all the Tibet Information Network (TIN) in London, supply the press with material about the serious shortcomings in the Land of Snows, life in the community of Tibetan exiles, and the activities of the god-king. There is successful cooperation with Chinese dissidents. Reports from Beijing, which admittedly can only be treated with great caution but nonetheless include much important information, are uniformly dismissed by Dharamsala as communist propaganda. This one-sidedness in the assessment of Tibetan affairs has in the meantime also been adopted by the western press corps.


For example, when at the invitation of the Chinese the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, visited Lhasa as the first western head of government and afterwards announced that the situation in the Tibet capital was by no means so criminal as it was portrayed to be by the Dalai Lama’s office, he was lambasted in the media, who declared that he was prepared to sell his morals for financial considerations. But when he was there, the former American President Jimmy Carter, renowned for his great commitment to human rights, also gained the same impression (Grunfeld, 1996, p. 232).


The issue of Tibet has become an important means of anchoring Tantric Buddhism in the West. As a political issue it appears in the West to be completely divorced from any religious instrumentalization. The Kundun appears in public as a campaigner for peace, a democrat, a humanist, as an advocate of the oppressed. This skillfully adapted western/ethical “mixture” gains him unrestricted access to the highest levels of government. Although some politicians may see a confirmation of their ideals in the (ostensible) behavior of the Dalai Lama, fundamentally it is probably power-political motives which determine Western policy on Asia. The West’s relationship with China is namely extremely ambivalent. On the one hand there is a hope for good economic and political ties to the prospering country with its unbounded markets, on the other a deep-seated fear of a future Chinese superpower. The political situation in Tibet and the circumstances of the Tibetans in exile afford sufficient grounds to be employed as an argument against a potential Chinese imperialism.


The “Greens”

In Germany the issue of Tibet was first taken up by green politicians, primarily by the parliamentary representatives Petra Kelly and Gert Bastian. Their pro-Tibetan intervention is still marked by a continuing success. “Major entertainers and environmentalists”, wrote the Spiegel magazine, “have found a common denominator in their commitment to the kingdom on the roof of the world. Hollywood meets Robin Hood — Tibet’s Buddhism is the common denominator” (Spiegel, 16/1998, p. 109). Petra Kelly’s selfless engagement was later interpreted as a form of “engaged Buddhism” whose principle concerns were said to include the defense of human rights, ecological responsibility, and sexual equality. [1] The Kundun cleverly co-opted all these western demands and suddenly (at the end of the eighties) appeared on the political stage as a spearhead of the global ecological movement.


„Green politics” and environmental issues have in the meantime attained a central place within the political propaganda of the Tibetans in exile. There are hundreds of conferences such as the one introduced by His Holiness in 1993 under the title of „Ecological responsibility: A dialog with Buddhism”. The Kundun is a member of the ecologically oriented Goal Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival. In 1992 he visited the Greenpeace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior. And at the „global forum” in Rio de Janeiro the Dalai Lama had far-reaching things to say about the earth’s problems: „This blue planet of ours is a delightful habitat. Its life is our life; its future our future. Indeed, the earth acts like a mother to all. Like children, we are dependent on them. ... Our Mother Earth is teaching us a lesson in universal responsibility”, the god-king announced emotionally. (


Since the late eighties it has become normal at international environmental meetings all around the world to describe the Tibet of old as an ecological paradise, where wild gazelles and “snow lions” eat from the monks’ hands, as the Dalai Lama’s brother (Thubten Jigme Norbu) put it at a Tibet conference in Bonn (in 1996). For thousands of years, it says in edifying writings, the Tibetans have revered plants and animals as their equals. “Historical” idylls such as the following are taken literally by innocently trusting Westerners: „The Tibetan traditional heritage, which is known to be over three thousand years old[!], can be distinguished as one of [the] foremost traditions of the world in which … humankind and its natural environment have persistently remained in perfect harmony” (Huber, 2001, p. 360).


What glowed in the past should also shine in the future. Accordingly many western followers of the Kundun imagine how the once flourishing garden will bloom again after his return to the Land of Snows. His Holiness is also generously accommodating towards this image of desire and promises to found the first ecological state on earth in a “liberated” Tibet — for many “Greens” a glimmer of hope in a world that constantly neglects its environmental responsibilities.


Today, among many committed members of the international “ecological scene”, being green, environmentally friendly, nature-loving, vegetarian, and Tibetan Buddhist, are all but identical. But is there any truth in such an equivalence? Was the Tibet of old really an “earthly garden of paradise”? Is the essence of Tantric Buddhism pro-nature and animal-loving?


Tibetan Buddhism’s hostility towards nature

No complicated research is required to establish that the inhabitants of the Tibet of old, like all highlands peoples, had an ambivalent relationship with nature, in which fear and horror in the face of constant catastrophes (turns in the weather, cold, famines, accidents, illnesses) predominated. Nature, which was (and often still is) in fact experienced animistically as being inhabited by spirits, was only rarely a friend and partner; instead, most of the time it was a malevolent and destructive force, in many instances a terrifying demoness. We have presented some of these anti-human nature spirits in our chapter on Anarchy and Buddhism. Using violence, trickery, and magic they have to be compelled, tamed, and not unrarely killed.


In a comprehensive study (Civilized Shamans), the Tibet researcher Geoffrey Samuel has demonstrated that the violent subjugation of a wild nature is a drama constantly repeated within the Tibetan monastic civilization: beginning with the nailing down of the Tibetan primeval earth mother, Srinmo, by King Songtsen Gampo so as to erect the central shrines of the Land of Snows over her wounds, the construction of every Lamaist temple (no matter where in the world) was and is prefaced by a ritual that refreshes the dreadful stigmatization of the “earth mother”. Srinmo is undoubtedly the (Tibetan) emanation of “Mother Earth” or “Mother Nature” whom the Dalai Lama so emotionally pleads to rescue at international ecology congresses ("the earth acts like a mother to all”). It was the Kundun himself — if we take his doctrine of incarnation literally — who in the form of Songtsen Gampo many centuries ago nailed down “Mother Earth” (Srinmo). He himself laid the bloody foundations (the maltreated body of Srinmo) upon which his clerical and andocentric system rests. It is he himself who repeats this aggressive “taming act” at every public performance of the Kalachakra ritual: before a sand mandala is created, the local nature spirits (some interpreters say the earth mother Srinmo) are nailed to the ground with phurbas (ritual daggers).


The equation of nature with the feminine principle is an archetypical move that we find in most cultures. The Greek Gaia and Tibetan Srinmo are just two different names for the same divine substance of the earth mother. In European alchemy, nature is the starting point (the prima materia) for the magic experiments and likewise a principium feminile. We have examined the close interconnection of alchemy and Tantrism in detail and proved that in both systems the feminine principle is sacrificed for the benefit of a masculine experimenter. By adopting for ourselves the tantric way of seeing things in which everything is linked to everything else, we were able to recognize the nailing down of Srinmo (the symbol-laden primal event of Tibetan history) as the historical predecessor of the “tantric/alchemic female sacrifice”. Songtsen Gampo sacrificed the “earth mother” so as to acquire her energies for himself, just as every tantra master sacrifices his karma mudra so as to absorb her gynergy.


In recent decades numerous books have appeared that address the disrespect, enslavement, and dismemberment of nature by the modern scientific world view and technology. Many of the analyses, especially when they are the work of feminist authors, indicate that the destruction and control of nature are to be equated with the superiority of the masculine principle over the feminine, of the god over the goddess, in brief with the supremacy of patriarchy. This critical view of the history of oppression and exploitation of the scientific age has largely obscured the view of atavistic religions’ hostility towards nature, especially when these come from the east, like Tibetan Buddhism.


But Buddhist Tantrism, we would like to unreservedly claim, is hostile to nature and therefore ecologically hostile in principle, because it destroys the natural, sensual, and feminine sphere so as to render it useful for the masculine. Further, in the performance of his enlightenment rituals, every tantra master burns up all the natural components of his own human body and, parallel to this (on a macrocosmic level), the entire natural universe. From a traditional viewpoint nature consists of a checkered mixture of the different elements (fire, water, earth, air, ether). In Tantrism, however, fire destroys the other elementary constituents. In the final instance it is the “fiery” SPIRIT which subjugates everything else, but NATURE in particular. Let us recall that Avalokiteshvara, the incarnation father of the Dalai Lama, acts as the “Lord of Fire” and the Bodhisattva of our age.


Nor were the centers of civilization in former Tibet at all environmentally friendly. The Lhasa of tradition, for instance, capital of the Lamaist world, could hardly be described as an exemplary ecological site but rather, as a number of world travelers have reported, was until the mid-twentieth century one of the dirtiest cities on the planet. As a rule, refuse was tipped unto the street. The houses had no toilets. Everywhere, wherever they were, the inhabitants unburdened themselves. Dead animals were left to rot in public places. For such reasons the stench was so penetrating and nauseating that the XIII Dalai Lama felt sick every time he had to traverse the city. Nobles who stepped out usually held a handkerchief over their nose.


It is even more absurd to describe the Tibetan monastic society as a vegetarian culture. The production and consumption of meat have always been counted among the most important branches of the country’s economy (not least because of the climatic conditions). It is indeed true that a devout Tibetan may not kill an animal himself, but he is not forbidden from eating it. Hence the slaughter is performed by those of other faiths, primarily Moslems. The Kundun is also a keen meat eater, albeit, if one is to believe him, not out of enthusiasm but rather for health reasons. Anyone who is also aware of the great contempt Buddhism in general shows for being reborn as an animal can only wonder at such eco-paradisiacal-vegetarian retrospection now on offer in the “scholarly history” of the exiled Tibetans.


But by now the Tibetans in exile themselves gladly believe in such ecological fairytales. For them it is alone the brutal Chinese (whose behavior towards Mother Earth is no better nor worse than any other capitalist country, however) who are the villains and stand accused (in this instance rightly) of destroying the ancient forests of the country and because they pay high prices for aphrodisiacs won from the bones of the snow leopard. But there are also some factual objectors to the opinion that the Tibet of old was an eco-paradise. The Tibetans were never more ecologically aware than other peoples, writes Jamyan Norbu, co-director of the Tibetan Culture Institute in Dharamsala, and warns against dangerous myth making (Spiegel, 16/1998, p. 119).


Petra Kelly and Gert Bastian

In this section, which we introduced with the two German “Greens”, Petra Kelly and Gert Bastian, we would like to draw attention to some interesting speculations in the Buddhist scene concerning the reunification of Germany. The Dalai Lama rarely becomes directly and openly involved in world politics aside from the issue of Tibet unless calling for peace in general. There are nevertheless numerous occult rumors in circulation among his followers that suggest him to be the political director of the world who holds the strings from “another dimension” in his hands. For example, there has been talk that the fall of the Berlin Wall was to be attributed to him. Among other things, the fact that at the exact point where the first break in the wall was created (a scene broadcast all around the world) there stood a graffiti reading Long Live Dalai Lama is offered as proof of this.


In fact, six months before the German reunification the Kundun had stood praying before the “wall of shame” with a candle in his hand. The pacifist, opponent of atomic energy, environmentalist and committed campaigner for the freedom of Tibet, Petra Kelly, had been able to motivate him to cross the East German border together with his entire retinue in December 1989. After the candle ceremony mentioned, the group were ferried to a Round Table discussion with citizens’ rights groups by the GDR state security service (the infamous Stasi, or secret police). [2]


The first break in the “fall of the wall” of Berlin.

See the graffiti “Long live Dalai [Lama]”


Petra Kelly later described the situation as a political vacuum in which the democratic opposition presented the vision of transforming the former GDR into a non-aligned state without a military or nuclear weapons that would align itself with neither capitalist nor communist ideas. The Dalai Lama was assured that he would be the first guest of this new state and that Tibet’s autonomy would be recognized as the first act of foreign affairs. The German participants in this conversation regarded themselves as a kind of provisional government. All were said to have been deeply moved by the presence of His Holiness. “Only six months later, on 22 June 1990", writes Stephen Batchelor, “his prayer was answered when Checkpoint Charlie was 'solemnly dismounted'" (Batchelor, 1994, p. 378).


The Dalai Lama as a political magician who brought down the Berlin Wall with his prayers? Such conceptions lay the foundations for a “metapolitics” in which international events are influenced by symbolic actions. Petra Kelly probably thought along these lines; her extraordinary devotion to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause is otherwise hard to comprehend.


The pacifist was certainly uninformed about the Kalachakra Tantra’s aggressive/warlike core, the androcentric sexual magic of Tibetan Buddhism, and the dark chapters in the Tibetan and Mongolian history. Like thousands of others, she followed His Holiness’s charm and messages of peace and was blind to the gods of the Vajrayana’s obsessions with power at work through him. As she and her de facto, Gert Bastian, visited Dharamsala in 1988, they were both, despite having an eagle eye for every minor infringement of democracy in the German Federal Republic, “enormously impressed by the extremely democratic discussions” that had taken place in the parliament of the Tibetans in exile. This was a total misassessment of the situation — as we have already shown at length and as anyone who has the smallest insight into the inner political affairs of Tibetans in exile knows, their popular representation is a farce (Tibetan Review, January 1989, p. 15). But not for Petra Kelly — following her visit to Dharamsala she was so completely entranced by the Kundun’s charm and humane political mask that the issue of Tibet became for her the quintessential “moral touchstone of international politics” (Tibetan Review, July 1993, p. 19). In concrete terms, that meant the politicians our world stood at a threshold: if they supported the Dalai Lama they would be following the path of morality and virtue; if they turned against the Kundun or simply remained passive, then they would be steering down the road to immorality!


The green politician Petra Kelly completely failed to perceive the religiously motivated power politics and the tantric occultism of Dharamsala. Like many other women she became a female chess piece (a queen) in the Kundun’s game of strategy, one who opened doors to the German parliament and the upper political ranks for him.


The illusory world of interreligious dialog and the ecumenical movement

Although dominated by culturally fixed images and rituals like every other religion, Tibetan Buddhism initially presents itself as a tradition that is tied to neither a culture, a society, nor a race. We hear from every lama that the teachings of the Shakyamuni Buddha consist exclusively in the experiences of each individual. Anybody can test their credibility in his or her own religious practices. Being of another non-Buddhist confession is no obstacle to such sacred exercises.


This, in the light of the tantric ritual system and the “baroque” Tibetan pantheon feigned, purist and liberal basic attitude allows His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama to present himself as being so tolerant and open minded that he has been celebrated for years as the “most open minded and liberal ecclesiastical dignitary” on the planet. His readiness to engage in dialog has all but become a catchphrase.


In now presenting the Kundun’s interreligious activities, we always have clearly in mind an awareness that at heart the entire Lamaist system is and wants to be incompatible with other faiths. Let us review the reasons for this once more, summarized in seven points. Tantric Buddhism, especially the Kalachakra Tantra and the associated Shambhala myth, includes:


  1. The extermination of those of other faiths
  2. A warlike philosophy of violence
  3. Foundations for a neofascist ideology
  4. Contempt for the person, the individual (in favor of the gods), and especially for women (in favor of the tantra masters)
  5. The linking of religious and state power
  6. World conquest and the establishment of a global Buddhocracy via manipulative and warlike means


In the face of these points the Kundun’s ecumenical activity remains a lie for as long as he continues to abide by the principles of the tantric ritual system and the ideological/political fundamentals of the Shambhala myth (and the associated grasp for the world throne). It is nonetheless of important tactical significance for him and has proved to be an excellent means of spreading the ideas of Lamaism all over the world without objection.


This indirect missionary method has a long tradition in Tibetan history. As Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) won the Land of Snows over to Tantrism in the 8th century, he never went on a direct offensive by openly preaching the fundamentals of the dharma. As an ingenious manipulator, he succeeded in employing the language, images, symbols, and gods of the local religions as a means of transporting the Indian Buddhism he had brought with him. The tribes to whom he preached were convinced that the dharma was nothing more than a clear interpretation of their old religious conceptions. They did not even need to give up their deities (even if these were most cruel) if they were to “convert” to tantric Buddhism, since Padmasambhava integrated these into his own system.


Even the Kalachakra Tantra, based on a marked and pervasive concept of the enemy, recommends the manipulation of those of other faiths. Surprisingly, the “Time Tantra” permits the performance of non-Buddhist rites by the tantra master. But there is an important condition here, namely that the mystic physiology of the practicing yogi (his energy body) with which he controls the entire occult/religious event remain stable and keep strictly and without deviation to the tantric method (upaya). Then, it says in the time doctrine, “no form of religion from the way of one’s own or a foreign people is corrupting for the yogis” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra II, p. 177). With this permission, the way is free for one to externally appear tolerant and open minded towards any religious direction without conflicting with the power-political goals of the Kalachakra Tantra and the Shambhala myth that want to elevate Buddhism to be the sole world religion. In contrast, the feigned “religious tolerance” becomes a powerful means of surreptitiously promoting one’s own fundamentalism.


Where does this leave the ecumenical politics of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama? Interreligious discussions are one of the Kundun’s specialties; there is not a major world ecumenical event of significance where his negotiating presence is not evident. He is one of the presidents of the “World’s Parliament of Religions” in Chicago. The god-king tirelessly spreads the happy message that despite differing philosophies all religions have the same motive, the perfection of humans. „Whatever the differences between religions,” he explained in Madras in 1985, „all of them want man to be good. Love and compassion form the essence of any religion and these alone can bring people together and provide peace and happiness to humanity” (Tibetan Review, January 1985, p. 9).


Yet (he says) for the sake of quality one should not gloss over the differences between the religious approaches. It is not at all desirable that we end up with a uniform, overarching religion; that can not be the goal of the dialog. One should guard against a “religious cocktail”. The variety of religions is a outright necessity for the evolution of humankind. “To form a new world religion,” the Kundun says, “would be difficult and not particularly desirable. But since love is essential for all religions, one could speak of a universal religion of love. Yet with regard to the methods for developing love and for attaining salvation or permanent liberation the religions differ from one another ... The fact that there are so many different depictions of the way is enriching” (Brück and Lai, 1997, p. 520). In general, everyone should stick with the religion he or she was born into.


For him it is a matter of deliberate cooperation whilst maintaining autonomy, a dialog about the humanity common to all. In 1997 the god-king proposed that groups of various religious denominations undertake a pilgrimage to the holy places of the world together in order to learn from one another. The religious leaders of the world ought to come together more often, as “such a meeting is a powerful message in the eyes of millions of people” (Tibetan Review, May 1997, p. 14).



In the meantime, exchange programs between Tibetan Buddhist and Christian orders of monks and nuns have become institutionalized through a resolution of the Dalai Lama, with all four major lines of tradition among the Tibetans (Nyingmapa, Sakyapa, Kagyupa, and Gelugpa) participating. In the sixties, the American Trappist monk and poet, Thomas Merton (1906-1968), visited the Kundun in Dharamsala and summarized his experience together as follows: “I dealt primarily with Buddhists ... It is of incalculable value to come into direct contact with people who have worked hard their whole lives at training their minds and liberating themselves from passions and illusions” (Brück and Lai, 1997, p. 49).


In 1989 the god-king and the Benedictine abbot Thomas Keating led a gathering of several thousand Christians and Buddhists in a joint meditation in the West. The Kundun has visited Lourdes and Jerusalem in order to pray there in silent devotion. There is also very close contact between the Lutheran Church and the Council for Religious and Cultural Affairs of H.H. the Dalai Lama. At the so-called Naropa Conferences in Boulder, Colorado, topics such as “God” (Christian) and “Emptiness” (Buddhist), “Prayer” (Christian) and “Meditation” (Buddhist), “Theism” and “non-Theism”, the “Trinity” and the “Three Body Theory” are treated in dialog between Christians and Buddhists.


The comparison between Christ and Buddha has a long tradition (see Brück and Lai, 1997, pp. 314ff.). There are in fact many parallels (the virgin birth for example, the messianism). But in particular Mahayana Buddhism’s requirement of compassion allows the two founding figures to appear as representatives of the same spirit. Avalokiteshvara, the supreme Bodhisattva of compassion is thus often presented as a quasi-Christian archetype in Buddhism and also prayed to as such. This is naturally of great advantage to the Kundun, who is himself an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara and can via the comparison (of the two deities) lay claim to the powerful qualities of Christ’s image.


But His Holiness is extremely cautious and diplomatic in such matters. For a Buddhist, the Dalai Lama says, Christ can of course be regarded as a Bodhisattva, yet one must avoid claiming Christ for Buddhism. (Incidentally, Christ is named in the Kalachakra Tantra as one the “heretics”.) The Kundun knows only too well that an open integration of the archetype of Christ into his tantric pantheon would only lead to strong protests from the Christian side.


He must thus proceed with more skill if he wants to nonetheless integrate the Nazarene into his system as Padmasambhava once incorporated the local gods of Tibet. For example, he describes so many parallels between Christ and Buddha (Avalokiteshvara) that his (Christian!) audience arrive at the conclusion that Christ is a Bodhisattva completely of their own accord.


Just how successful the Kundun is with such manipulation is demonstrated by a conference held between a small circle of Christians and himself (in 1994), the proceedings of which are documented in the book, The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus. In that the god-king repeatedly and emphatically stressed at this meeting that he had not the slightest intention of letting Buddhism monopolize anybody or anything, he in fact had the opposite effect. The more tolerant and respectful towards other religions he showed himself to be, the more he convinced his listeners that Buddhism was indeed the one true faith. With this Catch 22, the Dalai Lama succeeded in emerging at the end of this meeting as a Buddhist super monk, who in himself combined all the qualities of the three most important Christian monastic orders: „He [the Dalai Lama] brings three qualities to a spiritual discourse,” the chief organizer of the small ecumenical event, a Benedictine, says, „traits so rare in some contemporary Christian circles as to have elicited grasps of relieved gratitude from the audience. These qualities are gentleness, clarity, and laughter. If there is something Benedictine about him, there is a Franciscan side as well and a touch of the Jesuit” (Dalai Lama XIV, 1997, pp. 16–17). The Kundun appeared to the predominantly Catholic participants at this interreligious meeting to be more Christian than the Christians in many points.

Richard Gere: “Jesus is very much accepted by the Tibetans, even though they don’t believe in an ultimate creator God. I was at a very moving event that His Holiness did in England where he lectured on Jesus at a Jesuit seminary. When he spoke the words of Jesus, all of us there who had grown up Christians and had often heard them before could not believe their power. It was  ...” Gere suddenly chokes with emotion. For a few moments he just stares into the makeup mirror, waiting to regain his compusere. “When someone can fill such words with the depth meaning that they are intended to have, it’s like hearing them for the first time.” (Schell, 2000, p. 57)

Although the Dalai Lama indignantly rejects any monopolization of other religions by Buddhism, this is not at all true of his followers. In recent times an ever-expanding esoteric literature has emerged in which the authors “prove” that Buddhism is the original source of all religions. In particular there are attempts to portray Christianity as a variant of the “great vehicle” (Mahayana). Christ is proclaimed as a Bodhisattva, an emanation of Avalokiteshvara who sacrificed himself out of compassion for all living creatures (e.g., Gruber and Kersten, 1994).


From the Tibetan point of view, the point of ecumenical meetings is not encounters between several religious orientations. [3] That would contradict the entire tantric ritual system. Rather, they are for the infiltration of foreign religions with the goal (like Padmasambhava) of ultimately incorporating them within its own system. On rare occasions the methods to be employed in such a policy of appropriation are discussed, albeit most subtly. Two conferences held in the USA in 1987 and 1992 addressed the central topic of whether the Buddhist concept of upaya ("adroit means”) could provide the instrument “for more relaxed dealings with the issue of truth in dialog (between Christians and Buddhists)” (Brück and Lai, 1997, p. 281) “More relaxed dealings with the issue of truth” — that can only mean that the cultic mystery of the sexual magic rites, the warlike Shambhala ideology, and the “criminal history” of Lamaism is either not mentioned at all at such ecumenical meetings or is presented falsely.


An 800-page work by the two theologists Michael von Brück and Whalen Lai (Buddhismus und Christentum [Buddhism and Christianity]) is devoted to the topic of the encounter between Buddhism and Christianity. In it there is no mention at all of the utmost significance of Vajrayana in the Buddhist scene, as if this school did not even exist. We can read page after page of pious and unhurried Mahayana statements by Tibetan lamas, but there is all but nothing said of their secret tantric philosophy. The terms Shambhala and Kalachakra Tantra are not to be found in the index, although they form the basis for the policy on religions of the Dalai Lama whom the authors praise at great length as the real star of the ecumenical dialog. We can present this “theologically” highbrow book as evidence of the subtle and covert manipulation through which the “totalistic paradigm” of Tibetan Buddhism is to be anchored in the west.


Only at one single incriminating point, which we have already quoted earlier, do the two authors let the cat out of the bag. In it they recommend that American intellectuals who feel attracted to Chinese Hua-yen Buddhism should instead turn to the Kundun as the only figure in a position to be able to establish a Buddhocracy: “Yet Hua-yen is no longer a living tradition. ... That does not mean that a totalistic paradigm could not be repeated, but it seems more sensible to seek this in the Tibetan-Buddhist tradition, since the Tibetan Buddhists have a living memory of a real 'Buddhocracy' and a living Dalai Lama who leads the people as a religious and political head” (Brück and Lai, 1997, p. 631). The authors thus believe, despite pages of feigned ecumenical Christianity, that a “totalistic paradigm” could be repeated in the future and recommend the god-king from Dharamsala as an example. They thus clearly and openly confirm the Buddhocratic vision of the Kalachakra Tantra and the Shambhala myth, of which they themselves have not breathed a word.


The Kundun even seems to have succeeded in gaining access to the “immune” Judaism. After the Dalai Lama’s visit to Jerusalem (in 1996), groups were formed in Israel and the USA in which Jewish and Buddhist ideas were supposed to be brought together. A film has been made about the fate of the Israeli writer Rodger Kamenetz, who converted to Buddhism after he had visited the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala and then set about reinterpreting his own religious roots in Buddhist terms. The so-called Bu-Jews (Buddhist Jews) are the most recent product of the Kundun’s politics of tantric conquest. They are hardly likely to be aware of the interlinkage between Tantric Buddhism and occult fascism that we have described in detail.


Islam (The Mlecchas)

In contrast Islam is proving more difficult for His Holiness than the Jews and Christians: “I can barely recall having a serious theological discussion with Mohammedans”, he said at the start of the eighties (Levenson, 1992, p. 288). This is only all to readily understandable in light of the apocalyptic battle between the Mlecchas (followers of Mohammed) and the Buddhist armies of the mythical general, Rudra Chakrin, prophesied in the Shambhala myth. A foretaste of this radical confrontation, which according to the Kalachakra prophecy awaits us in the year 2327, was to be detected as the Moslem Taliban in Afghanistan declared in 1997 that they would destroy the 2000-year-old statues of Buddha in Bamyan because Islam prohibited human icons. This could, however, be prevented under pressure from the world public who reacted strongly to the announcement. (We would like to mention in passing that the likenesses of Buddha carved into the cliffs of Bamyan, of which one figure is 60 yards high, are to be found in a region from which, in the opinion of reliable investigators like Helmut Hoffmann and John Ronald Newman, the Kalachakra Tantra originally comes.)


However, after being awarded the Nobel peace prize, the Kundun in his function as a world religious leader has revised his traditional reservation towards Islam. He knows that it is far more publicity-friendly if he also displays the greatest tolerance in this case. In 1998, he thus encouraged Indian Muslims to play a leading role in the discourse between the world religions. In the same, conciliatory frame of mind, in an interview he earlier expressed the wish to visit Mecca one day (Dalai Lama XIV, 1996b, p. 152). [4]


On the other hand however, His Holiness maintains very close contact with the Indian BJP (Bhatiya Janata Party) and the RSS (Rashtriya Svayam Sevak Sangh), two old-school conservative Hindu organizations (currently — in 1998 — members of the governing coalition) who proceed with all vigor against Islam. [5]


An honest renunciation of Tantric Buddhism’s hostility toward Islam could only consist in the Kundun’s clear distantiation from all the passages from the Kalachakra tradition that concern this. To date, this has — as far as we know — never happened.


In contrast, already today there are radical developments in the Buddhist camp that are headed for a direct confrontation with Islam. For example, the Western Buddhist “lama”, Ole Nydhal (a Kagyupa), is strongly and radically active in opposition to the immigration of Moslems to Europe.


As problematic as we perceive fundamentalist Islam to be, we are nonetheless not convinced that the Kalachakra ideology and the final battle with the Mlecchas (Mohammedans) prognosticated by the tantra can solve the conflict at the heart of the struggle between the cultures. A contribution to an internet-based discussion rightly described the idea of a Shambhala warrior as the Buddhist equivalent to the jihad, the Moslem “holy war”. Religious wars, which have the goal of eliminating the respective non-believers, have in fact, and for the West unexpectedly, become a threat to world peace in recent years. We return to this point in our conclusion, especially the question of whether the division of humanity into two camps — Buddhist and Islam — as predicted in the Kalachakra Tantra is just a fiction or whether it is a real danger.



Up until well into the eighties, the encounter with nature religions played a significant role for the Dalai Lama. There was at that stage a lot of literature that enthusiastically drew attention to the parallels between the North American culture of the Hopi Indians and Tibetan Buddhism. The same terminology was even discovered, just with the meanings reversed: for example, the Tibetan word for “sun” was said to mean “moon” in the language of the Hopi and vice versa, the Hopi sun corresponded to the Tibetan moon (Keegan, 1981, unnumbered). There are also said to be amazing correspondences among the rituals, especially the “fire ceremonies”.


For a time the idea arose that the Dalai Lama was the messiah announced in the Hopi religion. In the legend this figure had been a member of the “sun clan” in the mythical past and had left his Indian brothers so as to return in the future as a redeemer. “They wanted to tell me about an old prophecy of their people passed on from generation to generation,” His Holiness recounted, “in which one day someone would come from the east. ... They thought it could be me and had come to tell me this” (Levenson, 1992, p. 277).


In France in 1997 an unusual meeting took place. The spiritual representatives of various native peoples gathered there with the intention of founding a kind of international body of the “United Traditions” and presenting a common “charta” to the public. By this the attendees understood a global cooperation between shamanistic religions, still practiced all over the world, with the aim of articulating common rights and gaining an influence over the world’s conscience as the “circle of elders”. The Dalai Lama was also invited to this congress, organized by a Lamaist monastery in France (Karma Ling). Just how adroitly the organizers made him the focal figure of the entire event, which was actually supposed to be a union of equals, is shown by the subtitle of the book subsequently published about the event, The United Traditions: Shamans, Mecidine Men and Wise Women around the Dalai Lama. The whole scenario did in fact revolve around the Dalai Lama. Siberian shamans, North, South, and Central American medicine men (Apaches, Cheyenne, Mohawks, Shuars from the Amazon, and Aztecs), African voodoo priests (from Benin),Bon lamas, Australian Aborigines, and Japanese martial artists came together for an opening ceremony at a Vajrayana temple, surrounded “by the amazing beauty of the Tibetan décor” (Eersel and Grosrey, 1998, p. 31). The meeting was suddenly interrupted by the cry, “His Holiness, His Holiness!” — intended for the Dalai Lama who was approaching the meeting place. The shamans stood up and went towards him. From this point on he was the absolute center of events. There were admittedly mild distantiations before this, but only the Bon priests dared to be openly critical. Their representative, Lopön Trinley Nyima Rinpoche, strongly attacked Lamaism as a repressive religion that has persecuted the Bon followers for centuries. In answer to a question about his attitude to Tibetan Buddhism he replied, “Seen historically, a merciless war has in fact long been conducted between us two. … Between the 7th and the 20th century a good four fifths of Tibet was Buddhist. Sometimes this also meant violence: hence, in the 18th century, with the help of the Chinese, the Gelugpa carried out mass conversions in the border regions of Tibet which had long been inhabited by the Bon” (quoted by Eersel and Grosrey, 1998, p. 141). Still today, the Bonpos are disadvantaged in many ways: “You should be aware, for instance, that non-Buddhist children do not see a penny of the money donated by international aid organizations for Tibetan children!” Nyima Rinpoche protested (quoted by Eersel and Grosrey, 1998, p. 132).


But the Kundun knows how to deal with such matters. The next day he lets the Bon critic sit beside him, and declares the Bonpos to be “Tibet’s fifth school”. In his pride, Nyima Rinpoche forgot about any criticism or the history of the repression of his religion. The Dalai Lama takes the African voodoo representative, Daagpo Hounon Houna, in his arms and has a photo taken. The two book authors comment that, “Back home in Africa this picture will certainly receive great symbolic status” (Eersel and Grosley, 1998, p. 132). Then the Kundun says some moving words about “Mother Earth” he has learned from the New Age milieu and which as such do not exist in the Tibetan tradition: “These days we have too little contact to Mother Earth and in this we forget that we ourselves are a part of nature. We are cildren of nature, Mother Earth, and this planet is our only home” (quoted by Eersel and Grosrey, 1998, p. 180). Let us recall that before the start of every Kalachakra ritual the earth spirits are nailed down with a ritual dagger. The Dalai Lama goes on to preach about the variety of races and the equality of the religions of the world. And he has already won the hearts of all. It is naturally his congress, he is the axis around which the “circle of elders” revolves.


Roughly in the middle of the book we suddenly learn that the delegates were invited in his name  and that “without the support and the exceptional aura of His Holiness” nothing would have been possible (Eersel and Grosrey, 1998, p. 253). Even the high priest from Benin, who smuggled the remains of an animal sacrifice into the ritual temple that was, however, discovered and removed, accepts the Tibetan hierarch as the central figure of the meeting, saying “I therefore greet His Holiness the Dalai Lama around whom we have gathered here” (Eersel and Grosrey, 1998, p. 199). One of the organizers(Jean-Claude Carrière) sums things up: “That was actually the motor of this meeting. Here for the first time peoples, some of whom have almost vanished from the face of the earth, were asked to speak (and act) and they have recognized the likewise degraded, disowned, and exiled Dalai Lama as one of their own. It is barely imaginable how important it was for them to be able to bow before him and present him with a gift” (Eersel and Grosrey, 1998, p. 254). Tibetan Buddhism is becoming a catch-all for all religions: “If the meeting of the United Traditions took place in a Buddhist monastery, it is surely because the spirit of the Way of Buddha, as embodied by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, encourages such meetings. His presence alongside the elders and the role of unifier which was accorded him on the Day of the United Traditions, is in the same category as the suggestions that he made in front of the assembled Christians in 1994 …” (Eersel and Grosrey, 1998, p. 406). Thus Lamaism plays the tune to which those attending dance: “A more astonishing vision, in which we here, borne along by the songs and drums of the Tibetans, begin to ‘rotate’ along with the Asian shamans, African high priests, American and Australian men and women of knowledge” (Eersel and Grosrey, 1998, p. 176).


This meeting made two things apparent: firstly, that the traditions of the native peoples are fundamentally uninterested in a process of criticism or self-criticism, and secondly, that here too the Dalai Lama assumes spiritual leadership as a “king shaman”. A line from the joint closing prayer typifies the androcentric spirit of the “circle of elders”: “God our Father, we sacrifice and dedicate to you our Mother the Earth” (Eersel and Grosrey, 1998, p. 413). This says it all; even if a few women participate the council of elders remains a “circle of patriarchs”, and the female sacrifice which we have identified as the central mystery of Tantric Buddhism also essentially determines the traditional systems of ritual of the shamans gathered in France.


The occult scene and the New Age

What then is the relationship like between the Dalai Lama and the so-called esoteric scene, which has spread like a bomb all over the West  in recent years? In relations with various traditional occult sects (the Moonies, Brahmakumaris, Scientologists, Theosophists, Roerich groups) who in general do not enjoy a good name in the official press His Holiness is often more tolerant and intimate than the broad public realizes. We have already reported extensively about his connection to Shoko Asahara’s AUM sect. He also maintains lively contact with Theosophists of the most diverse schools. A few years ago His Holiness praised and introduced a collection of Madame Blavatsky’s writings with a foreword.


But it is his relationship with the religious subculture that became known worldwide as the New Age Movement which is of decisive significance. Already at the start of the seventies the youth protest movement of 1968 was replaced by the spiritual practices of individuals and groups, the left-wing political utopia of a classless society by a vision of the “community of the holy”. All the followers of the New Age saw themselves as members of a “soft conspiracy” that was to prepare for the “New Age of Aquarius” and the appearance of messianic saviors (often from non-European cultures). Every conceivable school of belief, politico-religious viewpoint and surreal fantasy was gathered up in this dynamic and creative cultural current. At the outset the New Age movement displayed a naive but impressive independence of the existing religious traditions. It was believed one could select the best from all cultic mysteries — those of the Indians and American Indians, the Tibetans, Sufis, the Theosophists, etc. — in order to nonchalantly combine it with one’s own spiritual experiences and further develop it in the sense of a spiritual and peaceful global community. Even traditionally based gurus from the early phase like Rajneesh Baghwan from India or the Tibetan, Chögyam Trungpa, were able to accept this “spiritual liberalism” and combined their hallowed initiation techniques with all manner of methods drawn from the modern western tradition, especially with those of therapeutic psychology. But after only a few years of creative freedom, the orthodox ecclesiastical orientations and atavistic sects who put this “mystic-original potential” to use for their own ends, indeed vitally needed it for their own regeneration, prevailed in the New Age movement.


Buddhism was intensively involved in this process (the incorporation of the New Age) from the outset. At first the influence of Japanese Zen predominated, however, two decades later Tibetan Lamaism succeeded in winning over ever more New Age protagonists. The fact that since the 19th century Tibet has been the object of western fantasies, onto which all conceivable occult desires and mystic hopes have been projected, certainly helped here. The Theosophic vision of omnipotent Mahatmas who steer the fate of the world from the heights of the Himalayas has developed into a powerful image for non-theosophical religious subcultures as well.


For the Fourteenth Dalai Lama the New Age Movement was both the primary recruiting field for western Buddhists and the gateway to mainstream society. The double character of his religion, this mixture of Buddhocratic officialese and the anarchistic drop-out that we have depicted earlier, was of great advantage to him in his skilled conquest of the spiritual subculture. Then the “children of the Age of Aquarius”, who conceived of themselves as rebels against the existing social norms (their anarchic side) and were not infrequently held up to ridicule by the bourgeois public, also on the other hand battled fiercely for social recognition and the assertion of their ideas as culturally acknowledged values. A visit by the Dalai Lama lent their events considerable official status, which they would not otherwise have had. They invested much money and effort to achieve this. Since the Dalai Lama was only very rarely received by state institutions before the late eighties but nonetheless saw extended travels as his political duty, the material resources of the New Age scene likewise played an important role for him. “He opens Buddhist centers for New Age nouveau riche protagonists”, wrote the Spiegel, “whose respectability he cannot always be convinced about” (Spiegel 16/1998, p. 111). Up until the mid eighties, it was small esoteric groups who invited him to visit various western countries and who paid the bills for his expenses afterwards — not the ministers and heads of state in Bonn, Madrid, Paris, Washington, London, and Vienna.


Such an arrangement suited the governments well, since they did not have to risk falling out with China by committing themselves to a visit by the Dalai Lama. On the other hand, the exotic/magic aura of the Kundun, the “living Buddha” and “god-king”, has always exercised a strong attraction over Society. Hardly anyone who had a name or status (whether in business, politics, the arts, or as nobility) could resist this charming and “human” arch-god. To be able to shake the hand of the “yellow pontiff” and “spiritual ruler from the roof of the world” and maybe even chat casually with him has always been a unique social experience. Thus, on these somewhat marginalized New Age trips, time and again “secret” meetings took place “on the side “ with the most varied heads of state and also very famous artists (Herbert von Karajan for example), who let themselves be enchanted by the smile and the exoticism of the Kundun. Countless such unofficial meetings laid the groundwork for the Kundun’s Great Leap into the official political sphere, which he finally achieved at the end of the eighties with the Tibet Lobby and the award of the Nobel peace prize (1989).


Since then, it has been the heads of state, the famous stars, the higher ranks of the nobility, the rectors of the major universities, who receive the Tibetan Kalachakra master with much pomp and circumstance. The intriguing, original but naive New Age Movement no longer exists. It was rubbed out between the various religious traditions (especially Buddhism) on one side and the “bourgeois” press (the so-called “critical public”) on the other. For all the problems this spiritual heir and successor to the movements of 1968 had, it also possessed numerous ideas and life practices which were adequate for a spiritually based culture beyond that of the extant religious traditions. But the bourgeois society (from which the “Children of the Age of Aquarius came) had neither recognized nor acted upon this potential. In contrast, the traditional religions, but especially Buddhism, reacted to the New Age scene with great sensitivity. They had experienced the most dangerous crisis in their decline in the sixties and they needed the visions, the commitment, and the fresh blood of a young and dynamic generation in order to survive at all. Today the New Age is passé and the Kundun can distance himself ever further from his old friends and move over into the establishment completely.


In the following chapter we shall show just how decisive a role the Kundun played in the conservative process of resorption (of the New Age). He succeeded, in fact, in binding the intellectual and scientific elite of the New Age Movement to his own atavistic system. These were both young and elder western scientists trained in the classic disciplines (nuclear physics, chemistry, biology, neurobiology) who endeavored to combine their groundings in the natural sciences with religious and philosophical presentations of the subject, whereby the Eastern-influenced doctrines became increasingly important. This international circle of bold thinkers and researchers, who include such well-known individuals as Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, David Bohm, Francisco Varela, and Fritjof Capra, is our next topic. A further section of the New Age scene now serve as his dogsbodies through their commitment to the issue of Tibet, and are spiritual rewarded from time to time with visits from lamas and retreats.


Modern science and Tantric Buddhism

In 1939 in a commentary on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the great psychologist Carl Gustav Jung wrote to the effect that to practice yoga on the 5th Avenue or anywhere else that could be reached by telephone would be a spiritual joke. Jung was convinced that the ancient yoga practices of Tibetan Tantrism was incompatible with the modern, scientifically and technologically determined, western world view. For him, the combination of a telephone and Tibet presented a paradox. “The telephone! Was there no place on earth where one could be protected from the curse”, a west European weary of civilization asks in another text, and promptly decides to journey to Tibet, the Holy Land, in which one can still not be reached by phone (Riencourt, 1951, pp. 49-50). Yet such yearning western images of an untouched Tibet are deceptive. Just one year after Jung’s statement (in 1940) the Potala had its own telephone line.


But there were also other voices in the thirties! Voices that dared to make bold comparisons between modern technical possibilities and the magic powers (siddhis) of Tantrism: Evans-Wentz, for example, the famous translator of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, enthuses about how “As from mighty broadcasting stations, the Great Ones broadcast over the earth that Vital Spirituality which alone makes human evolution possible” (Evans-Wentz, 1978, p. 18). These “Great Ones” are the Maha Siddhas ("Grand Sorcerers”) who are in hiding in the Himalayas (in Shambhala) and can with their magic reach out and manipulate every human brain as they will.


In the last thirty years Tibetan Buddhism has built up a successful connection to the modern western age. From the side of the “atavistic” religion of Tibet there is no longer any fear of contact with the science and technology of the West. All the information technologies of the Occident are skillfully and abundantly employed by Tibetan monks in exile and their western followers. There are countless homepages preaching the dharma (the Buddhist teaching) on the internet. The international jet set includes lamas who fly around the globe visiting their spiritual centers all over the world.


But Tibetan Buddhism goes a step further: the monastic clergy does not just take on the scientific/technical achievements of the West, but attempts to render them epistemologically dependent on its Buddhocratic/tantric world view. Even, as we shall soon show, the Kundun is convinced that the modern natural sciences can be “Buddhized”. This is much easier for the Buddhists than the Moslems for example, who are currently pursuing a similar strategy with western modernity. The doctrine of Mohammed is a revelatory religion and has been codified in a holy book, the Koran. The Koran is considered the absolute word of God and forms the immutable foundation of Islamic culture. It proves itself to be extremely cumbersome when attempts are made to subsume the European scientific disciplines within this revelatory text.


In contrast, Tibetan Buddhism (and also the Kalachakra Tantra) is based upon an abstract philosophy of “emptiness” which as the most general of principles can “include” everything, even western culture. “Everything arises out of shunyata (the emptiness)!” — with this fundamental statement, which we still have to discuss, the Lamaist philosophical elite gains access to the current paradigm discussion which has had European science holding its breath since Heisenberg’s contribution to quantum theory. What does this all mean?


„Paradigms gain their status,” Thomas Kuhn writes in his classic work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, „because they are more successful than their competitors in solving a few problems that the group of practitioners has come to recognize as acute.” (Kuhn, 1962, p. 23). In his statement, Kuhn takes a scientific paradigm dispute (between “theories”) as his starting point, but at the same time opens the door for articles of faith, since in his investigation a paradigm does not need to explain all its assumptions. In very general terms, we can thus understand the basic foundations of a human culture, be they of a scientific or a religious nature, as a paradigm. The dogma as to whether it is a god or a goddess who stands at the beginning of creation is thus just as much a paradigm as René Descartes’ assumption of the separation of the thinking mind (res cogitans) from extended matter (res extensa), or the principle of natural causation of Newtonian physics. Just like the believers in the tantric Shambhala myth, traditional Christians who accept the doctrinal status of the Apocalypse of St. John interpret human history according to an eschatological, intentional paradigm. In both systems, all historical events are directed towards a final goal, namely the coming of a messiah (Christ or Rudra Chakrin) and the staging of a final battle between believers and unbelievers. The future of humanity is thus fixed for all time. In contrast, western historicism sees history purely as the interplay of various causes that together produce an open-ended, undecided future. It thus follows a causal paradigm. A democracy holds the principle of the freedom and equality of all people as its guiding paradigm, whereas a theocracy or Buddhocracy recognize the omnipotence of a god or, respectively, Buddha as the highest principle of their system of governance.


New paradigms first come to the fore in a society’s cultural awareness when the old dominant paradigmatic fundamentals come into crisis. The western world is currently being shaken by such a paradigmatic crisis. According to contemporary critics, the scientific “Age of Reason” in alignment with the ideas of René Descartes and Isaac Newton is no longer able to cope with the multiplex demands of a postmodern society. Neither is the mechanistic world view with the causal principle of classical physics sufficient to apprehend the complexity of the universe, nor does western “rationalism” help meaningfully organize human and natural life. “Reason” for instance, as the undisputed higher principle reigned over the emotions, intuition, vision, religiousness, erotic love, indeed even over humanism. The result has been a fundamental crisis of meaning and epistemology. Citing Oswald Spengler, some commentators talk of the Fall of the West.


Hence proposals for the new, “postmodern” paradigms of the third millennium have been discussed everywhere in recent years at conferences and symposia (not least in New Age circles). For example, rather than trying to explain nature through linear-causal models, as in Newtonian physics, one can consider holistic, synchronic, synergetic, ecological, cybernetic, or micro/macrocosmic structures.


Such new models revolutionize perception and thought and are easier to name than to put into socially integrated practice. For a paradigm shapes reality as such to conform with its foundations, it “objectifies” it, so to speak, in its image; in other words (albeit only after it has been culturally accepted) it creates the “objective world of appearances “, that is, people perceive reality through the paradigmatic filter of their own culture. A paradigm shift is thus experienced by the traditional elements of a society as a kind of loss of reality.


For this reason, as the foundations of a culture paradigms are not so easily shaken. In order to abandon the “outdated” Newtonian world view of classical physics, for example, the reality-generating bases of its thinking (above all the causal principle) would have to be relativized. But this — as Kuhn has convincingly argued — does not necessarily require that the new (postmodern, post-Newtonian) paradigm deliver an updated and more convincing scientific proof or a rational explanation, rather, it is sufficient for the new world view to appear better in total than the old one. To put it bluntly, this means that it is the most powerful and not necessarily the most reasonable paradigm that after its cultural establishment becomes the best and is thus accepted as the basis of a new culture.


Hence every paradigm change is always preceded by a deadly power struggle between various world views. Deadly because once established, the victorious paradigm completely disables its opponents, i.e., denies them any paradigmatic (or reality-explaining) significance. Ptolemy’s cosmological paradigm ("the sun rotates around the earth”) no longer has, after Copernicus ("the earth orbits the sun”), any reality-generating meaning. Thus, in the Copernican era the Ptolemaic views are at best considered to still be imaginary truths but are no longer capable of explaining reality. To take another example — for a Tibetan lama, what a positivist scientist refers to as reality is purely illusory (samsara), whilst the other way around, the religious world of the lama is a fantastic, if not outright pathological illusion for the scientist.


The crisis of western modernity (the rational age) and the occidental discussions about a paradigm shift primarily have nothing to do with Buddhism, they are a cultural event that arose at the beginning of the twentieth century in scientific circles in Europe and North America and a result of the critical self-reflection of western science itself. It was primarily prominent representatives from nuclear physics who were involved in this process. (We shall return to this point shortly.) Atavistic religious systems with their questionable wisdoms are now pouring into the “empty” and “paradigmless” space created by the self-doubt and the “loss of meaning “ of the modern western age, so as to offer themselves as new paradigms and prevail. In recent decades they have been offering their dogmas (which were abandoned during the Enlightenment or “age of reason”) with an unprecedented carefree freshness and freedom, albeit often in a new, contemporary packaging.


The Fourteenth Dalai Lama is just one of many (coming from the East) who present themselves and their spiritual meaning to the West as its savior in great need, but he is particularly adroit at this. Of course, neither the sexual magic doctrines of the Kalachakra Tantra nor the military ideology of the Shambhala myth are to be found in his public teachings (about the new paradigm), just the epistemological discourse of the two most important Buddhist philosophical schools (Madhyamika and Yogachara) and the compassionate, touching ethic of Mahayana Buddhism.


One must, however, admit without reservation that the Buddhist epistemological doctrine makes its entry into the western paradigm discussion especially easy. No matter which school, they all assume that an object is only manifest with the perception of the object. Objectivity (reality) and subjective perception are thus inseparable, they are in the final instance identical. This radical subjectivism necessarily leads to the philosophical premise that all appearances in the exterior world have no “inherent existence” but are either produced by an awareness (in the Yogachara school) or have to be described as “empty” (as in the Madhyamika school).


We are dealing here with two epistemological schools of opinion which are also not unknown in the West. The Buddhist Madhyamika philosophy, which assumes the “emptiness” (shunyata) of all being, could thus win for itself a substantial voice in the Euro-American philosophical debate. For example, the thesis of the modern logician, Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), that all talk of “God” and the “emptiness” is nothing more than “word play”, has been compared with the radical statement of the Madhyamika scholar, Nagarjuna (2nd to 3rd century), that intellectual discourse is a “word play in diversity” (Brück and Lai, 1997, p. 443). [6]


Further, the Yogachara school ("everything is awareness”) is presented as a Buddhist witness for the “quantum theory” of Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976). The German nuclear physicist introduced the dependence of “objective” physical processes upon the status of an (observing) subject into the scientific epistemological debate. Depending upon the experimental arrangement, for example, the same physical process can be seen as the movement of non-material waves or as the motion of subatomic particles (uncertainty principle). Occult schools of all manner of orientations welcomed Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle as a confirmation of their proposed spiritualization (subjectification) of all being and celebrated his observations as a “scientific” confirmation of their “just spirit” theories. ("Reality is dependent on the observing subject”).


Even the Fourteenth Dalai Lama speaks nonchalantly about Heisenberg’s theory and the subjectivity of atomic worlds: „Thus certain phenomena in physics”, we hear from the man himself, „are sometimes described as electromagnetic waves and on other occasions as particles. The description of the phenomenon thus seems to be very dependent upon the describer. Thus, in science we also find this concrete relationship to spirit, to the observing spirit which attempts to describe the phenomenon. Buddhism is very rich regarding the description of the spirit ... „ (Dalai Lama XIV, 1995, p. 52).


Surprisingly, such epistemological statements by the Kundun, which have in the meantime been taken up by every esoteric, are taken seriously in scientific circles. Even eminent authorities in their subject like the German particle physicist and philosopher Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker who was one of the leading theoretical founding fathers of the atomic bomb are enthusiastic about the self-assurance with which the god-king from Tibet chats about topics in quantum theory, and come to a far-reaching conclusion: „I [von Weizsäcker] therefore believe that modern physics is in fact compatible with Buddhism, to a higher degree than one may have earlier imagined” (Dalai Lama XIV, 1995, 11).


On the other hand, in a charming return gesture the Kundun describes himself as the „pupil of Professor von Weizsäcker. ... I myself regard ... him as my teacher, my guru” (Dalai Lama XIV, 1995, p. 13), and at another point adds, “The fact is that the concepts of atoms and elementary particles is nothing new for Buddhism. Since the earliest times our texts speak of these and mention even more subtle particles. ... After numerous conversations with various researchers I have realized that there is an almost total correspondence between that which I from a Buddhist standpoint refer to as the subtle insubstantiality of material phenomena, and that which the physicists express in terms of constant flux and levels of fluctuation” (Levenson, 1992, pp. 246-247). In the cosmogony of the Kalachakra Tantra there is talk of “space particles” that contain the core of a new world after the destruction of a universe. One could see a parallel to the atomic structure of matter here.


It is somewhat bold of the Dalai Lama to describe a passage from the Kalachakra Tantra, where one can read that after the fiery downfall of the Buddhist universe “galactic seeds” remain, as an anticipation of western nuclear science. This would imply that centuries ago Buddhism had formulated what is now said by the elite of western science. The atomic theory of the Greek philosopher Democritus (around 460–370 B.C.E.), who lived 1500 years before the Kalachakra Tantra was written, has much more right to this status. At any rate such retrospective statements by the Kundun have the job of presenting his own (Buddhist) system as earlier, superior and more comprehensive than western culture. They are made with the power-political intention of anchoring the atavistic Kalachakra doctrine (the textbook for his tantric conquest of the world) as the paradigm for the new millennium.


The issue with such outwardly harmless conclusions by the Kundun ("The Kalachakra Tantra already knew about particle physics”) is that they are thus part of a sublime power strategy on a spiritual level, not necessarily whether or not they are true. (We recall once more Kuhn’s thesis that a paradigm need not be rationally proven, but rather solely that it must have the power to prevail over its opponents).


And the Dalai Lama has success with his statements! It surprises ones afresh every time with what self-assurance he and his lamas intervene in the current crisis in western thought with their epistemological models and ethical (Mahayana) principles and know how to sell all this as originality. In this way the great Tibetan scholars of past centuries are evaluated by the Dalai Lama’s American “mouthpiece”, Robert Thurman, as more important and wide-reaching than their European “colleagues”. They were “Hero Scientists: they have been the quintessential scientists of that non materialistic civilization [of Tibet]" (quoted by Lopez, 1998, p. 81). As “psychonauts”, in contrast to the western “astronauts”, they conquered inner space (quoted by Lopez, 1998, p. 81). But the “guiding lights” of modern European philosophy like Hume and Kant, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein, Hegel and Heidegger — Thurman goes on to speculate — will prove in a later age to have been the line holders and emanations of the Bodhisattva of science, Manjushri (Lopez 1998, p. 264). Ex oriente lux is now also true for the science of the occident.


In this, it is all too often overlooked from a western side that alongside the dominant materialist and mechanistic world view (of Newton and Descartes) there is an accompanying and unbroken metaphysical tradition in Europe which has been constantly further developed, as in German Idealism with all its variations. The classic European question of whether our world consists of mind and subjectivity rather than of matter and extended bodies has today been skillfully linked by Eastern-oriented philosophers to the question of whether the world conforms to the Buddhist epistemological paradigm or not.


The paradigmatic power struggle of the lamas is not visible from the outside but is rather disguised as interdisciplinary dialog, as in the annual “Mind and Life” symposia, in which the Dalai Lama participates with well-known western scientists. But is this really a matter of, as is constantly claimed, a “fruitful conversation” between Buddhism and contemporary science? Can Tibetan culture really, as is claimed in the Tibetan Review, offer answers to the questions of “western epistemologists, neurologists, physicists, psychoanalysts and other scientists”? (Tibetan Review, August 1990, p. 10).


We are prepared to undeservedly claim that a “rational” and “honest” discourse between the two cultures does not nor ever has taken place, since in such encounters the magic, the sexual magic practices, the mythology (of the gods), the history, the cosmology, and the political “theology” of Buddhist Tantrism remain completely omitted as topics. But together they all constitute the reality of Tibetan culture, far more than the epistemological theories of Yogachara or the Madhyamika philosophy, or the constant professions of love of Mahayana Buddhism do. That which awaits humanity if it were to adopt the paradigm of Vajrayana, would be the gods and demons of the Tibetan pantheon and eschatology and cosmogony laid out in the Kalachakra Tantra and the Shambhala myth.


Buddhist cosmogony and the postmodern world view

In every paradigmatic conflict, the determination of a cosmogony has pride of place. What does our world look like, is it round or quadratic, a disc or a sphere, a center or part of the periphery, is it the result of a big bang or the seven-day work of a demiurge? The Orientalist John Wanterbury from Princeton fears for example that Islamic fundamentalism could lead to a “new age of flat earthism”. By “flat earthism” he means that the people from the Moslem cultures will start to believe again that the Earth is a disc (as the Koran teaches) and that every dissident opinion will be condemned as heresy. Should the Kalachakra Tantra and the Buddhist cosmology of Abhidharma associated with it become firmly paradigmatically established, we face something similar: a universe with Mount Meru in the middle, surrounded by the twelve continents and the planets orbiting it.


Such a model of the world contradicts the scientific discoveries of the West far more than the Ptolemaic system supplanted by Nicholas Copernicus, in which the sun circles the Earth. But how does His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama react to the incompatibility of the two world systems (the Buddhist and the western one)? He appears in this case to be prepared to make a revision of the tantric cosmology. Also with the justification that everything arises from the emptiness, we may read that „I feel that it is totally compatible with the basic attitude of Buddhism to refute the literal interpretation of Abhidharma that says the earth is flat, because it is incompatible with the direct experience of the world as being round.” (Hayward, 1992, p. 37)


This statement is, however, in stark contradiction to the doctrine of the Kalachakra Tantra, the entire cosmogonic design of which is aligned with the Abhidharma model. Yet more — since the microcosmic bodily structure of the tantra master simulates the macrocosmic world with Mount Meru at its center and the surrounding continents and oceans, a change in the tantric cosmology means that the mystic body of the Dalai Lama (as the supreme Kalachakra master) must also be transformed. This is simply inconceivable, since our modern cosmology rejects any anthropomorphic form of outer space! Also, with a fundamental rejection of the Abhidharma, the whole Kalachakra system would lose its sense as the synchronic connection between the yogi’s body and the cosmic events of Buddhist “evolution”. Consequently, up until now all the schools of Tibetan Buddhism have stuck strictly to the traditional cosmogony (and its correspondence in the mystic body). Besides the sand mandala of the Time Tantra (which also represents the Buddhist universe) Tibetan monks far more frequently construct the so-called Meru mandala. This, as its name suggests, is a likeness of the Buddhist cosmos in miniature with the world mountain Meru as its central axis.


When the Dalai Lama, who institutes no fundamental changes in the ritual system of Tantric Buddhism, says in public that the cosmology of the Abhidharma is in need of revision, then this definitely does not seem to be intended sincerely. More likely one must be prepared for his radical subjectivist epistemology ("everything is awareness, everything arises from emptiness”) to suspend the natural scientific world as illusion (samsara) at any moment and replace it with the fantastic model of the world from the Abhidharma which it is capable of making appear sensible and “rational”. From a tantric point of view, cosmogonies do not possess any objectivity of their own, rather they are ultimately the result of subjective conceptions; this is of course also true of the Copernican system. Kalu Rinpoche, the Kagyu master of the Kalachakra Tantra whom we have already often cited , has clearly expressed this dependency of space upon an appropriate awareness in the following words: “Each of these cosmologies is perfect for the being whose karmic projections lead them to experience their universe in this way. There is a certain relativity in the way in which one experiences the world. ... Hence, on a relative level every cosmology is valid. At an ultimate level, no cosmology is absolutely true. It cannot be universally valid as long as there are beings in fundamentally differing situations” (Brauen, 1992, p. 109). But that also means that the cosmology of the Abhidharma would become obligatory for all should the world be converted to Buddhism after the final Shambhala battle as the Kalachakra Tantra predicts.


The yogi as computer

The Fourteenth Dalai Lama is especially interested in the phenomenon of artificial intelligence. Since the mind is independent of the body in the Buddhist teachings, a pattern of spiritual synapses so to speak, he is of the opinion that it is possible for it to be reborn not just in people but also in machines: „I can’t totally rule out the possibility that,” the god-king says, „that all the external conditions and the karmic action were there, a stream of consciousness might actually enter into a computer. […] There is a possibility that a scientist who is very much involved his whole life [with computers], than the next life [he would be reborn in a computer], same process! [laughter] Then this machine which is half-human and half-machine has been reincarnated.” (Hayward, 1992, p. 152) (Hayward, 1992, p. 152). In answer to a subsequent question by Eleanor Rosch, a well-known cognitive psychologist from California, as to whether a great yogi who stood before the best computer in the world would be able to project his subtle consciousness into it, His Holiness replied enigmatically: „I feel this question about computers will be resolved only by time. We just have to wait and see until it actually happens.” (Hayward, 1992, p. 153).


His Holiness casually grounds the possibility of taking the computer as a model for the spirit through a reference to an ancient magical practice of Tibetan Buddhism. This is known as Trongjug and involves a yogi transplanting his consciousness into a “freshly” deceased cadaver and then using this reanimated corpse for his own purposes (Evans-Wentz, 1937, p. 184). „In this case”, His Holiness says, „there is a total change of the body. [...] It’s very mystical, but imagine a person, a Tantric practitioner  who actually transfers his consciousness to a fresh corpse. His previous body is dead; it has left and is finished. Now he has entered the new body. So in this case, you see, he has a completely new body but it’s the same life, the same person” (Hayward, 1992, p. 155). Images of this kind can be translated into computer terms without father ado: The “fresh corpse” forms the hardware so to speak, which stores the awareness of the Tantric who uses the dead body for his own ends as software.


In addition, such Tantric Buddhist speculations can lead one to perceive a subjectivity independent of humans in the “Internet” and “cyberspace”, a kind of superconscious. Could not the spirit of the supreme Kalachakra master, independent of a human body, one day control the international network of all computers from the inside? As fantastic and uncanny as it may sound, it is at any rate a theoretical possibility within the tantric system that such a question be answered with a yes. For this reason it is also taken seriously in exile Tibetan lama circles, by the Namgyal institute for example. The Namgyal monks are essentially commissioned to conduct the Kalachakra Tantra and are under the direct authority of the Dalai Lama. This institution can also be described as a kind of Tantric Buddhist “elite university”.


On February 8, 1996, His Holiness’s tantra institute posted a “Curriculum on Cyberspace” online. This document is of interest in as far as it is about the occult relationship between Tantrism, especially the Kalachakra Tantra, and the Internet. We would therefore like to cite several lengthier passages from it: “Cyberspace is a dimension of space sustained by networked computers designed to extend the power of the mind. Remarkably, the Internet often appears almost mystically to have a life of its own that is more than the sum of its parts. Mental projections can of course yield both positive and negative uses and results. Tibetan Buddhism, known for its mastery of the mind, has an area of concentration called ‘tantra’ that specializes in bringing spiritual motivation to the realm of mental projections …” (Namgyal, HPI 012). From this, the authors continue, follows the need to have a Buddhist influence upon the net, to bless it and purify it.


The document continues as follows: the monks of the Namgyal Institute, “the personal monastery of the Dalai Lama, [were asked] to discuss whether the blessing of cyberspace would be possible. They enthusiastically responded, noting that one tantric system in particular, the Kalachakra Tantra, … would be highly appropriate as a blessing vehicle because it especially emphasizes space … Coincidentally, the Kalachakra is also the most widely disseminated of the Tibetan Buddhist tantric systems…” (Namgyal, HPI 012). Cyberspace, we also learn, could be used as the vehicle for a tantric projection (i.e., of the Kalachakra Tantra).


Thus the Namgyal Institute conducted the first Kalachakra cyberspace blessing with a ritual on February 8, 1996: “The actual ceremony took about 30 minutes and consisted of the monks chanting blessing prayers from the Kalachakra Tantra while envisioning space as cyberspace, the networked realm of computers, in their imagination. An image of the Kalachakra mandala, actually a scanned photo of a sand painting made earlier by the monks, was present on a computer as a visual aid … Future cyberspace blessings will likely be offered at other auspicious times …” (Namgyal, HPI 012). It should be obvious that the monks’ prayers contained the constantly recited Mahayana wish to help all living beings. The vision of a global Buddhocracy discussed in the Kalachakra Tantra, however, is not openly mentioned. [7]


There is something both fascinating and frightening about Buddhist theoreticians and even the Dalai Lama depicting Tantrism as the potential awareness of a world-spanning megacomputer. In this an identity of the ADI BUDDHA as a global superbrain is implicit. Does it perhaps have something to do with this Buddhist vision that His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama made himself available for an advertisement by the computer manufacturer, Apple? (Spiegel, 16/1998). [8]


In reading the literature about the structures of consciousness and their relation to computer technology, it is notable that “tantra” and “net” are frequently compared with one another, not just because the Sanskrit word “tantra” can be translated as “something woven” or “network”, but because the two systems are somehow presumed to be fundamentally related. Surprisingly even such a complex thinker as the astrophysicist and systems theorist Erich Jantsch –probably out of ignorance of the matter — has (in the late seventies) equated the principle of “cybernetic leaning processes” with Tantrism (Jantsch, 1982, p. 324).


In October 1987, a small group of well-known Western scientists headed by Francisco Varela traveled to Dharamsala to take part in a several-day seminar on neurobiology, cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence, and evolutionary theory with the Dalai Lama. There were daily meetings with an expert paper and subsequent discussion. The intention behind the whole event was however ultimately directed at just one question — how could the latest discoveries in the most advanced branches of scientific research be derived from Buddhism? After every expert paper one heard, yes, Buddhism already says that too! Admittedly, His Holiness spoke emotionally about a “combination of Western science and Eastern spiritual development”, but at heart it was not about cooperation, but rather the consolidation of the Buddhist paradigm described about. In the meantime such meetings between His Holiness and Western scientists have become institutionalized by Dharamsala and take place annually “Mind and Life”).


Many researchers from the West, starved of mystic experiences for decades, have finally found their spiritual master in the “living Buddha” from Dharamsala. They have become converts to Buddhism like Francisco Varela or the nuclear physicist David Bohm, or, like Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, they fall into a kind of private ecstasy when confronted with the Kundun. Although His Holiness’s “scientific” interventions remain very general and abstract and in fact repeatedly boil down to just a handful of epistemological statements, he is nonetheless treated as a “colleague” by a number of scientists, behind whom the omniscience of a yogi shines forth. „Well, as has often been the case in this conference,Francisco Varela enthuses for example, „Your Holiness, seem to anticipate the scientists’ questions” (Hayward, 1992, p. 230).

Neuroscientists see red over Dalai Lama

Whoever it is who can formulate and consolidate the “scientific” paradigms of an era in human history actually ought to be regarded as the “spiritual ruler” of the era; he represents the force which determines the awareness, the feelings and the thoughts of millions for centuries. Ptolemy, Copernicus, Descartes, Newton, Marx, Freud, and Einstein were such “spiritual giants”. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, a brilliant master of the workings of consciousness, knows full well about this historical force and the power-political significance of the paradigmatic conflict. Likewise, he knows that a “Buddhization” of western science would make him especially powerful in contrast to other religious orientations. The Buddhist epistemological theories furnish the ideal conditions for such a process of appropriation. Both the Yogachara school ("everything is awareness”) and the Madhyamika school ("everything arises from emptiness”) permit (at least in theory) a relativization of the scientific culture of the West and its replacement with the world view of the Kalachakra Tantra.


As subtly, philosophically, and rationally as the tantric world view is discussed among the Western scientific elite, the more spectacular, emotional, and mythical is the spread of Tantric Buddhism among the masses. The Kundun has in the last five years succeeded in engaging the greatest propaganda machine in the world, the Hollywood film industry, for himself and his cause.


Hollywood and Tantric Buddhism

The exotic flair projected by the Tibetan god-king and his lamas with their mysterious doctrine and adventurous history has led to a situation in which Tibet and its religion have increasingly become the stuff celluloid dreams are made of. First of all, the Italian film director, Bernardo Bertolucci, created a somewhat saccharine but highly regarded monument to the religious founder with his work, Little Buddha. The film provided great propaganda value for Tibetan Buddhism because it told the story of the reincarnation of a lama in an American boy and an Indian girl and thus paved the way for the spread of the doctrine in the West.


While we were writing this book two major films about His Holiness appeared. One of them, Martin Scorsese’s Kundun, features the life story of the god-king from his discovery as a boy up until his flight from Tibet (in 1959), the other, Seven Years in Tibet, directed by Jean Jacques Arnaud, is about the adventures of the Austrian mentor of the Dalai Lama and SS member, Heinrich Harrer, with Brad Pitt in the lead role. “Tibet is the flavor of the season! ... In recent months around two million Germans have wanted to see the teenage idol Brad Pitt as the Austrian adventurer and Lama friend, Heinrich Harrer” the Spiegel enthused without once mentioning Harrer’s SS past (Spiegel, 16/1998, p. 110).


Whilst filming, Brad Pitt experienced something like a mystic shiver: “And then they shot this scene where they are saying: 'Give the Dalai Lama the power!' Everybody goes into this chant, and it was like something was going down and God was shining through the clouds. It was heavy” (Newsweek, May 19, 1997, p. 25).


The Italo-American Scorsese was with irresistable, ambiguous humor accepted as a monk by His Holiness. After the filmmaker had visited him in Dharamsala at the end of an exhausting journey, the Kundun bantered that, “Martin seemed at once far calmer. No longer like a hectic New Yorker, but like a Tibetan monk” (Playboy [German edition], March 1998, p. 40).


Scorsese himself is completely convinced that his film, Kundun, has a magic effect on its audience. “Kundun is reminiscent of a filmic prayer — as if you wanted to show what is invisible to the eye: spirituality. Can this succeed in the cinema?”, asks the in spiritual matters otherwise extremely skeptical, even cynical German weekly magazine, Spiegel. “Absolutely”, answered Scorsese, “If you put movements, rhythms, music, faces together in a particular way, then something like a spiritual current can arise from the totality of images” (Spiegel 12/1998, p. 261) This director has made a ritual film, which in his opinion can silently influence people’s awareness (as Tibetan Buddhism would have it): “These rituals which I show in Kundun, for example, I don’t need to explain. They are something wonderful and universal” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, March 14-15, 1998, p. 19).


However, in the USA the film was well received by neither the general public nor the critics. “The devastating reaction of the American mainstream press made me sick”, the director said at the presentation of his missionary work in Munich. (Münchner Abendzeitung, March 19). In total contrast to their American colleagues, numerous German film critics let themselves be completely uncritically drawn into the “spiritual current” of the Kundun. The Bild newspaper, for example, raved: “He recounts his tale almost wordlessly, in magic images. And slowly. So slowly that one soon surrenders to the pull of the images, forgets the passing of time and savors every moment” (Bild, March 19, 1998, p. 6). The Münchener Abendzeitung had this to say: “Scorsese’s film is hypnotic and lucid” (Münchner Abendzeitung, March 19). Even the “sober” German news magazine, Spiegel, had no reservations about letting itself be enchanted and spoke enthusiastically of the “impressive images” with which Scorsese created “the portrait of an exceptional person and a mystic dreamland [of] Shangri La — demanding, strongly emotional cinema” (Spiegel, 16/1998, p. 110). German political and artistic celebrities were out in force at the lavish premiere of the film in Munich.


Scorsese’s film, the screenplay of which was edited by the Dalai Lama himself, is a work of exile Tibetan propaganda which falsifies or distorts recent Tibetan history in numerous scenes. There is no word of the CIA’s assistance in the flight of the Kundun; that his father was poisoned by political factions, that the former regent Reting Rinpoche was brutally strangled in the Potala, that at the time at least 200 monks from the Drepung monastery who wanted to free Reting Rinpoche from prison were killed by the machineguns of the Tibetan army — all these incidents either remained unmentioned or were falsely depicted. Mao Zedong appears as a decadent giant with the aura of a noble-born casino owner. Even in his own autobiography the Kundun writes that he much admired Mao, but in the film he encounters the “Great Chairman” with the constant, almost mistrustful attentiveness of a young, albeit still somewhat inexperienced, spiritual master.


Five further film about the Land of Snows were scheduled to appear in 1998/99: about the CIA in Tibet, the terrible yeti in Tibet, the terror in Tibet, a romantic love story in Tibet, the shattered dreams of youth in Tibet. IMAX, a company which produces gigantic 3D movies, has commissioned a film in which a Tibetan mountain-climber under dramatic circumstances unfurls the national flag of the Land of Snows at the highest point in the world (on Mount Everest). (We may recall that Mount Everest is worshipped by the populace as a goddess.) In addition to these feature films there are numerous documentaries, among others one about the “Bu-Jews”, or Jewish people who have decided to follow the Buddhist religious path. Denise Di Novi, whose production company has also conducted a “Tibet project” under the title of Buddha of Brooklyn, informs us that “The tale of the Dalai Lama and the struggle of the Tibetan people is the kind of story that captures the imagination of Hollywood” (Newsweek, May 19, 1997, p. 24). Tibet film scripts are piling up in the editorial offices of the big film companies. “It's as though everybody who carries a camera wants to make a movie on Tibet”, Tenzing Chodak, director of the Tibet Fund, has commented (Newsweek, May 19, 1997, p. 24).


Undoubtedly the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has gained an particularly notable victory in his entry into the Hollywood scene. “Tibet is looming larger than ever on the show business map”, we could read in the Herald Tribune (Herald Tribune, March 20, 1997, p. 1). In August 1996 ,Harrison Ford, Sharon Stone, Steven Segal, Shirley MacLaine, and other superstars queued to shake hands with the “living Buddha” in Los Angeles. Barbara Streisand and Alec Baldwin called upon President Bill Clinton to rebuke China for its human right abuses in Tibet. “Tibet is going to enter Western popular culture as something can only when Hollywood does the entertainment injection into the world system”, writes the journalist Orville Shell, “Let's remember that Hollywood is the most powerful force in the world, besides the U.S. military” (Herald Tribune, March 20, 1997, p. 6). In 1993, 88 of the 100 most-viewed films were made in the USA. Orville Schell, who is working on a book about “Tibet and the West”, sees the Kundun’s Hollywood connection as a substitute for the absent diplomatic corps who would be able to represent the interests of the Dalai Lama internationally: “Since he doesn't have embassies, and he has no political power, he has to seek other kinds. Hollywood is a kind of country in his own, and he's established a kind of embassy there” (Newsweek, May 19, 1997, p. 24).

Orville Schell: “Undeniable, there was something of a craze brewing around Tibet. Like a radioactive core emitting uncontainable energy, Hollywood’s sudden interest was helping to fuel what some observers started to call a Tibet phenomen. Indeed, as the buzz about the film productions increased, media outlets of all kinds soon gravitated to the story, so that everywhere one looked the subject of Tibet had a way of popping up.” (Schell, 2000, p. 34)

The god-king primarily owes it to the actor Richard Gere that he has become a star for America’s famous actors. “For the Tibetan people, Richard Gere, Hollywood, and the films are an absolute stroke of luck!”, His Holiness explained in the German edition of Playboy (Playboy [German edition], March 1998, p. 38). Gere himself was initiated into the Kalachakra Tantra by the Kundun; we do not know to what level. He has spoken very openly about his initiation experiences in the journal Tricycle and also made reference there to the magic power of Tantrism, which drove him to the limits of his own existence (Tricycle 5 (3), p. 54). There is already a poem in which Gere is revered like a Tibetan deity: “The huge head of Richard Gere,” it says in this poem, “ a tsonga blossom in his hair, / comes floating like a Macy's Parade balloon / above the snowdapped summit of sacred Kailash” (Time, vol. 150 no. 15: October 13, 1997). The Dalai Lama, who is fully aware of the great significance of show business, has selected the Hollywood star as his personal pupil and treats him, the actor says, with fatherly severity.


His Holiness does not even shrink from using the world of fashion „to bring Tibet and Buddhism to the notice of the international jet” (Tibet Review, January 1993, p. 7). “Blatant materialism is passé, Lamaism en vogue!”, the Spiegel tells us (Spiegel 16/1998, p. 109). In January 1993 the Kundun was responsible for an issue of the fashion magazine Vogue as Exceptional Editor in Chief. Fashion designers like Anna Sui, Todd Oldham, and Marc Jacobs sell outfits for “ freedom in Tibet”. As a “celebrity cook” the god-king recommends “a likely hit recipe for dumplings” (Spiegel, special issue, 4/1998, p. 133).


An interview with the Kundun that appeared in the March (1998) issue of the German edition of Playboy is a highpoint in his “public relations”. The up-market sex magazine presents His Holiness in the introduction bombastically: “He is goodly, wise, and peaceloving — and is conquering the world [!]: The victory procession of the Dalai Lama leaves even the Pope pale with envy. The Tibetan leader is worshipped like a god in Hollywood at the moment. Now in Playboy he talks more openly than ever. About Buddhism, China, sex, and alcohol” (Playboy [German edition], March 1998, p. 38). Even if a light ironic note is not to be overheard in this presentation, the statement is nonetheless unambiguous: The Dalai Lama is conquering the world (!) and is worshipped like a god in Hollywood, the mightiest center of the industry of the mind.


This Playboy interview has a further symbolic value, especially when we adopt the tantric/magic viewpoint that everything is interconnected. In this light there must be a reason why the pious statements and the photos of His Holiness are printed in the sex magazine together with numerous images of naked women and amid erotic and in places obscene texts. It immediately rouses up the image of a ganachakra with the central guru conducting his sexual magic rites surrounded by his karma mudras (wisdom consorts or Playgirls). When Playboy asks the supreme Tibetan tantra master, “Are you actually interested in the topic of sex?”, the Kalachakra master, initiated into all the secrets of sexual magic, replies, “My goodness! You ask a 62-year-old monk who has been celibate his entire life a thing like that. (laughs out loud) I don’t have much to say about sex...” (Playboy [German edition], March 1998, p. 46).


With equal euphoria and enthusiasm the German news magazine, Spiegel, devoted a cover story to the Kundun in April 1998. The front cover featured the head of a Buddha into which masses of Westerners were pouring. Was this the head of the Kundun, the incarnation of Avalokiteshvara and the time god Kalachakra? The title story of this issue of Spiegel is at any rate to a large extent dedicated to the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism, or rather to what the author (Erich Follath) understands this to be. It begins — coincidentally or not — on page108, the holiest and most magical number in Tantric Buddhism. Follath probably asked the Spiegel editors to make the magic page number the start of his article deliberately, since he is well-informed about the holy number 108. In a travel report on Bhutan he mentions the numeral 108, and since this reference occurs in connection with an event that we have dealt with in detail in our study, we would like to quote the passage. “... half a dozen more lamas are keeping watch here in the Himalayan foothills at the place where the king, Songtsen Gampo, had the first of a total of 108 holy sites constructed in the 7th century: It was supposed to drive out the terrible devil in the form of a woman who at that time was up to her mischief all over the roof of the world, the residence of the gods” (Spiegel, special issue 4/1998, p. 60). The “terrible devil in the form of a woman” is no-one other than “Mother Tibet”, the stigmatized Srinmo, over whose body the sacred landscape of the Land of Snows is raised.


The Dalai Lama’s star is shining brighter than ever before. Nevertheless, since the Shugden rebellion the god-king’s aura has begun to darken, and it is an irony of fate that the serious accusations against him have come from a conservative faction within his own school (the Gelugpas). In addition, the followers of the recalcitrant protective god (Shugden) do not argue like “reactionaries” at all in public, but rather (just like the Kundun) appeal to democratic fundamentals, human rights, and the freedom of opinion. Thus in certain circles the “greatest prince of peace of our times” has overnight become a despot, a political traitor, a nepotist, a hypocrite, even a potential murderer. His accusers do not just abuse him, but rather justify their claims with “hard” facts that are worth checking but for which the “official” West has up until now closed its eyes and ears.


In the ongoing Shugden debate (as of 1998), many previously repressed and unreappraised topics from the history of Tibet and the Tibetans in exile have been brought to the surface. Among other things His Holiness and the government in exile have been accused of constantly defaming Tibetan Opposition figures as Chinese spies (e.g. Dujom Rinpoche) so as to silence them politically; of undemocratic actions against 13 Indian branches of Tibetans in exile and the possible murder of their spokesman, Gungthang Rinpoche; of playing false with the national guerilla army, which is outwardly combated, but covertly supported and built up; of the political murder of opposition politicians (Gongtang Tsultrim); of power-politically motivated jealousy of the Fifteenth Karmapa, the head of the largest Kagyupa lineage; of nepotism and the absolute favoritism of members of the Dalai Lama’s family (the “Yabshi clan”); of misjudging the world political situation, especially in the years of delay in establishing good contacts with Taiwan; of cooperation with the Chinese over the enthronement of the new Karmapa; of secret diplomacy with Beijing in general, through which the country is sold out to China to the benefit of the Lamaist culture. Intrigues play just as major a role in Dharamsala ("little Lhasa”) as in the Lhasa of old. The centuries of struggle between the various sects have also not reached an end in exile, and the competition between the individual regions of the Land of Snows just as little. Corruption and sinister money dealings are everyday events among the Tibetans. Fresh accusations are being made every day. In particular, as a spokesperson for the government in exile laments, the Internet is filled with “an unprecedented amount of literature ... that criticizes the Dalai Lama and belittles the Tibetan Exile Government” (Burns, Newsgroup 1).



[1] The inspiration for “engaged Buddhism” come not from the Dalai Lama but rather from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Theravada monk born in central Vietnam in 1926. The causes of ignorance, egocentrism, violence, war, and environmental degradation were supposed to be overcome through meditation, social commitment and the practice of community with Christian groups all over the world.

[2] This was in the period where the Communist Party (the SED) had already lost control over the country.

[3] Pope John Paul II is also more reserved than progressive on the ecumenical front, despite the spectacular major event with representatives from all religions that took place at his invitation in Assisi on October 25, 1986 and at which the Kundun was also present. Almost ten years after this meeting, upon which many followers of the ecumenical movement had set great hopes, the Pope describes the teaching of Buddha Shakyamuni in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope as atheistic, negative, and unworldly and states that the “doctrines of salvation in Buddhism and Christianity are opposed” (Tibetan Review, June 1995, p. 12).

[4] It will never come to this, since the Muslims are just as well-versed and sensitive as His Holiness in matters concerning occultism and “world domination”.

[5] Members of the RSS were closely involved in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, of whom the Dalai Lama claims he was his greatest non-Buddhist teacher.

[6] With his shunyata doctrine, Nagarjuna, the founding father of Madhyamika, even gained admittance into the discourse of Christian theology, through Abe Masao’s concept of a “self-emptying, self-denying God”, for instance. (Brück and Lai, 1997, p. 448).

[7] As an aside, it must be noted, however, that the blessing of the Internet by the Kalachakra monks has not had the positive effect they intended. In thousands of the contributions that have been transmitted over the net since 1996 the Dalai Lama has for the first time been subject to strong criticism and attack.

[8] Apple ran a campaign under the slogan Think Different that featured living and past celebrities — including (alongside Pablo Picasso, Mohammed Ali, Mahatma Gandhi, Alfred Hitchcock, etc.) the Dalai Lama. Since the god-king’s likeness drew criticism in Asian countries, Apple withdrew the ad. This in its turn led to a spirited discussion on the Internet.


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