Monday, September 17, 2007
Looking for the Lama
Bookswap : I come out of Ki Gompa with the monasterys history (bilingual ) and leave a book by Gedun Chopel : Guide to the Sacred Places in India , a pilgrims handbook .. with train maps.
In the mid-70's a Swedish progrock band released a song which no one remembers for it's title, but with a refrain that still brings a whole generation to a standstill, in a variety of reactions .
All together now , in different shades of sentimentality , sobriety and defiance : " Who can you reeeally trust ? "
The title was looking for the Dalai Lama , and few if any reacted - in a time where anti-colonialism was a catchword - to the practice of taking a living Tibetan person and turning him in to a metaphorical tool for internal Western conflicts.
Tibet was at a safe distance , eight years before the supression of the Lhasa revolt and fourteen years before Dalai lama received the Nobel Peace Price. It was partly put there by the agenda of the Swedish left , who averted their eyes to anything but the Indochina war - and kept it averted after the defeat of the US.
The song was about looking for truths , and not leaders - a message that not only had bearing on the generation toting pictures of chairmens and party leaders , but remains valid in a present context , where many look for not the method of Buddhism but the prepared answers. Buddha in a box , retail price.
A long time after the melee of the 70's ( yes, sex was more fun before AIDS) reality will intrude on similar attempts at using the Dalai Lama. Meanwhile there is the real ongoing search for lamas : Tibetans looking for Gedun Choeki Nyima , the Panchen Lama abducted by the Chines government eleven years ago : a dress rehearsal for the grand event to come : the passing of the present Dali Lama. So far the the Panchen Lama rehearsal has not run smoothly . Two years ago I was in Shigatse and could see the Tibetans systematicaly ignoring the Chinese apppointed Panchen (Zuma Panchen , fake Panchen in Tibetan) : lots of pictures of the 9th and 10th , with fresh flowers fruits etc. - and two pictures of Zuma Panchen - with a naked shelf below.It is no coincidence that there has been no serious attempts to establish him in Tashilunpo monastery .
The 10th is obviously hugely popular , in spite of his long time in the People's Congress in Beijing . What Tibetans remember him for is coming back and saying that nothing of what had been gained was worth all the sufferings of the Tibetan people , and the famous letter before that. There is another level though , which links Spiti intimately in to this process : before the great speech and the letter , Panchen Lama made a religious ruling that effectively limited Chinese power. The ruling was that the next re-incarnation of Rinchen Zangpo , one of the most important figures in Tibetan religious history , would be found in the " Western Lands " , i.e. outside Chinese control. This is where he is found now , in the monastery of Ki. The Ki monastery monks have by tradition studied in Tashilunpo (shigatse) monastery , and this link was re-affirmed when the Rinchen Zangpo become head of the commitee to identify the present Panchen Lama. This game will continue : recently the Communist Party declared that all reincarnations are now subject to official state approval , and invalid before that point. Meanwhile the Ki monks will continue to go to Tashilunpo monastery - but now in south India . All major Tibetan monasteries now exist in two mirror versions , one in exile , one under Chinese control. Welcome to the twilight zone of Chinese religious politics..