Should the Dalai Lama go to the Beijing Olympics?

Yesterday the Times of India asked me to comment on the possibility of the Dalai Lama going to the Beijing Olympics and of course, journalism being what it is in India, outrageously misquoted me. I said that the Dalai Lama should go to the Olympic, because if he did, the people of China would embrace His presence and that could start a non confrontational political dialog that could give some kind of autonomy to Tibet. Of course the Times of India misquoted me as saying that his presence at the Olympics would ’embarrass’ the people of China into provoking a dialog. A little bit of difference between embarrass and embrace, wouldn’t you say ?


I aspire to be Buddhist in nature, and desire to learn from the wisdom of the Buddhist traditions that have been accumulated over the centuries in Tibet. I too fear the loss of that path of Wisdom through the modernization and repression of the Tibetan culture. However, in all my interactions with the people of China through my visits there, I have found a great warmth and curiosity towards India ,and a yearning to learn more about us and our culture. I found far more warmth towards us in China than I find towards China here in India. A large part of that warmth comes from the understanding that Buddhism came to Chine from India and influenced the way Chinese culture developed. And therefore a commonality and kinship with the Indian culture is felt in China. So if the Chinese people themselves are curious and respect the Buddhist traditions (even though they may not officially follow Buddhism) then why this aggression towards Tibet and the Dalai Lama ? Well, partly of course the party line and actions of the government and those of the people are not the same. It’s like saying every American believes in what George Bush and his government do But also the Chinese people feel cornered on this issue. In my conversation with the people on the streets (who were surprisingly aware of the world perception of China), they did not deny that their Government often will not tell them the entire truth of the situation – but want to understand why the world feels that Tibet which (to them) historically can be seen as part of an ancient Chinese empire should be considered an independent nation.
The Dalai Lama has often himself said that the answer lay in peaceful political dialog with the Chinese government. But at the Beijing Olympics the Dalai Lama’s presence will also be very public and give a chance for the people of China to see the compassionate side of Buddhism.

26 Responses to “Should the Dalai Lama go to the Beijing Olympics?”

  1. Dev says:

    Dear Shekhar,
    Again a wonderful post. I completely agree with you. You are very right in saying that Chinese consider us much more like them than what many Indians perceive of them. I have some friends from China/HongKong and I see absolutely no enmity in them towards Indians. They always club Indians and Chinese together in many cultural parameters.
    And, yes, they are very curious about India ..but in a very pleasant, rather than threatening, way. They see success of India as complementing China’s success rather than threatening it.Infact they see both China and India as joint partners in challenging the economic supremacy of the US in the coming decades.
    But, unfortunately, as you mentioned, most of our Indian brethren do not reciprocate the same warmth and trust. Some of my Indian friends, who are otherwise liberal and unbiased, do not want to believe Chinese and always see them with prejudiced eyes.
    I think your views regarding Dalai Lama’s visit are on spot. Let’s hope Dalai Lama goes to Beijing olympics.
    Regards
    Dev

  2. :) says:

    hi shekhar !
    i guess politics and politicians the world over are a ruthless lot……..always in contrast to the masses of each country which at best WOULD be compassionate and at worst, completely unaware of ( or uninterested in ) what is going on in their country outside of their lives.
    its true that the buddhist people are so peace loving and non interfering, that when they are the chosen targets of oppression by the chinese,its a wake up call to the rest of the world to take action.
    shekhar, when you said the people of china would embrace the dalai lama’s presence it was a point of view in true good faith……..but what if they read it as a lack of vehement opposition to the stand they have taken against tibet ? after all, the participants who have boycotted the games for the cause of tibet would also be left confused by such a stand by the dalai lama ?
    hey…….on a lighter note……..that confusion between ‘ embarass ‘ and ‘ embrace ‘….have you not heard people who are non english speakers and are attempting at the language, say something like ‘itna ’embracing’ laga ki kya bataaye ? ‘ ha ha ! maybe you ran into one of those ūüôā ?

  3. Horst Vollmann says:

    Dear Shekhar:
    Even if Tibet in the early going could be seen as an ancient Chinese empire, the picture of when Tibet was officially declared Chinese territory is rather muddled. No matter what the Chinese version is Tibet was always an autonomous entity, economically and spiritually and was proud of their self rule till 1959 when China finally saw fit to end such independence at the cost of brutally destroying an ancient Tibetan culture. There is no doubt that the Dalai Lama would have been killed had he not fled to India. Only since a few decades has his fame made him untouchable.
    Why was China so harshly destroying an age old culture and thus the happiness of millions of Tibetans? It couldnít have been the economic importance of Tibet whose 2007 GDP translates into 1/17th of 1 percent of Chinaís GDP of the same year. There are mineral deposits under the Tibetan Plateau worth $ 130 billion. Could this have played a role? I still doubt it. If the Chinese people you describe as warm and understanding knew the whole truth (which of course will never happen) there would be little chance that they will raise their voices in protest. They donít live in a democracy.
    The Dalai Lama going to the Olympics would be a wonderful idea. I honestly believe that inviting him may be Chinaís best chance to demonstrate to the world how evolved they have become. The Dalai Lama would certainly not make political hay for himself or Tibet, he would rather ask the world to show compassion for China who is still reeling from this terrible tragedy. In a speech in Berlin today he reiterated that the many Tibetan flags that were waved by Germans should not be considered a symbol against China or for separatism. All he was asking for is a religious and cultural autonomy within a strong China that could help Tibetans economically. He made it clear that he supported China and he expressed a heartfelt appeal to cease all demonstrations against this country to show their respect for, and solidarity with China.
    Would all the good will, engendered for and by the Chinese last beyond the dousing of the Olympic flame? One can only hope that this is so. I sure would like to send my positive vibes.
    With best regards.
    Horst

  4. AJ says:

    Shekhar,
    Did you think about making movie based on Team of Rivals about The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln ?
    Steven Spielberg is thinkin …
    I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a similar thing as GANDHI… love that film.

  5. justbe says:

    why just dalai lama..even You can go to support the righteous cause if You feel so!
    …live out the luxury and a sense of responsibility of being shekhar kapur!!
    Visit and tell us your inner experience how you felt about china which once was an appreciator of naturalness of life, of Tao. Also go to Tibet from beijing by train, the highest railway that the chinese have made (www.tibettraintravel.com)
    and You never know this traveling of yours may inspire You to make a sensitive film. good luck: )

  6. Arun Bose says:

    Dear Sekhar,
    Iím an admirer of your writing and the basic issues on which you breathe your day.
    Now on this issue, I have a genuine feeling that Dalai Lama should visit the China and be a part of Olympics. That would definitely make the common man in China understand the meaning of Buddhism and the sense of love to fellow beings. That can definitely trigger the talks. I guess itís the political scene that makes things worst universally, whether it be Indo-Pak issue or Palestine-Israel issue or Tibet-China issue. Normally common men pan nation have neutral feeling to anything like this, unless it directly hitting them or a political campaign is made on it. Tibet is anytime for Tibetans, so definitely China needs to accept it. But that can be done though a peaceful talk. That can happen only when the seeds of brotherhood can be sown on both sides. Dalai Lamaís visit to China can help it.
    Arun

  7. justbe says:

    and incidentally it just erupted in my mind that the Tibet issue might just become a WATER issue(as Brahmputra’s comes via in Tibet now China) and this have that link to the script of PAANI that you are developing in which you are anticipating wars and major conflicts over the issue of paani in future which actually might happen soon!!!!

  8. koizen says:

    Dalai Lama of late talks less of spirituality and more of politics!

  9. brahmastra says:

    Dear Shekhar,
    That was a great post. As you mentioned, the root of most conflict lies with the governments of various countries who do not have the unanimous support of their peoples. This is very true in the case of China.
    Even in ancient China, the Empire annihilated their own Shaolin clans because they were threatened by their religion. The rulers in China seem to be genetically allergic to Buddhism. I think the Han clan of China have been at odds with the government and at the receiving end.
    This blog post gives some good details of the Chinese situation:
    http://vajrapani.sulekha.com/blog/post/2008/04/china-an-enemy-that-we-need-to-understand.htm

  10. DQ says:

    Hiya Shekhar…
    Where was dalia lama so many years?
    he had a good life no matter what, the intelligent were quite, the monks were following the lama…
    Dalia lama travelled globally, could he not make his presence and his gentle ways make the world wake up to the needs of free tibet?
    Is this the right method of invoking/provoking?
    Blood shed still occurs?
    SO?
    Do I understand that if olympics never came to china tibet would never be free???
    Am I confused or its time for this gentleman to retire gracefully, he did not serve his purpose well!!!
    I have had buddhist friends/chinese friends…am not against these simple people, I do not agree to dalia lama and his method of dealing with free tibet…
    Before he retires he wants to do something good and free tibet???
    Allow me to say, No matter what he did have a fantastic journey of life in the name of buddhism!!
    Smiles…..

  11. DQ says:

    ***Typo
    Quite….quiet!

  12. mehul says:

    I think it is quite an interesting thing to note that Dalai Lama’s main motive for tibet is similar to that of Mahatma Gandhi, however, there is a stark difference in their approach, where Bapu stayed with his destitutes in the similar conditions Dalai Lama is living a luxuries life out of his own country…travels all over the world…why is he not staying in Tibet…is he afraid of being unjustly prosecuted…wouldn’t it be a point proven if that happens…Buddhism as a belief has many followers…but sometimes it jst looks incredulous to see that their spiritual leader is not strong enough to get them what they deserve.
    Probably that is developing the frustration in Tibetans and provoking acts of vandalism like it happened during the torch relay. would like your comment on any of this?

  13. mehul says:

    I quite agree with DQ, Great words won’t get him a free tibet…it will take a huge sacrifice with someone like him. Oh well.. oh and don’t know if you’ve already read Mr Bachchan’s blog… Man how people suck up to him…I posted your blogs id to him…let’s see if he reads it and understands the purpose of blogs..and not let his convert into a fan mail..and course your mate Aamir is putting him self in soup by owning a dog named Shahrukh ha haha..so funny man.
    Mr. Bachchan http://blogs.bigadda.com/ab/
    Mr. Aamir Khan http://202.87.41.148/digital/AamirKhan/login_chk.php?topicid=402

  14. Harb says:

    He SHOULD know better.

  15. shekhar says:

    i think we are forgetting that the Dalai Lama as a young man was forced to flee Tibet in the face of the Chinese occupation. I do not believe that was an easy decision to travel on foot and horseback across the Himalayas into India, not even knowing whether he would be accepted here. Finally Nehru did allow the Dalai Lama to establish an organization here. Why did he flee ? The common perception is that the Chinese were keen to eradicate the Buddhist culture as the primary culture in favour of communism. The stories I have heard of Monastries being burnt down and Monks tortured at that time are horrendous – but then it is what I have heard. I personally have no knowledge, and I know that the Western press eyed China with huge suspicion and looked down upon the nation. But I would welcome anyone to enlighten us on that if she/he has the knowledge.
    In any case the China in the mid 50’s is not the China of today. The people are different and the Government of China is far more open. It is even difficult to imagine the incidents of Tianamen Square in the bustling, consumeristic, entreprenuerial metropolis’s of China today. I believe it is time to raise the issue of Tibet on a more non confrontational way now.
    I think that a completely free Tibet is not a possibility right now. But I would be in favour of the protection of the Buddhist way of life and it’s Wisdom in Tibet. In whatever way it can be done. I think there is a vast store house of Buddhist Wisdom that will be greatly beneficial to the human race
    shekhar
    shekhar

  16. DQ says:

    Hiya Mehul…
    Lol Yes i landed in amitabhs blog…seemed like stardom drama…not much sense beyond….clearing his name, and so on and so forth…
    Here I felt, Shekhar had something beyond his personal stardom/success…
    Aamir too i know of lol…Guess all kinds everywhere…we choose what we need dont we?
    Have a lovely day…
    Cheers!

  17. Koizen says:

    I mentioned earlier that Dalai Lama is known more for political things then spiritual.
    1st why would India give asylum to a Dalai Lama?
    Because of him we had war with China!
    Let me tell you guys in future something is going to happen….
    A new Lama will come from India and the problem will be like those Tibetans population will increase. You will find difficult to remove that belief and as if India has less problems this will be bigger problem.
    Why can Dalai Lama take refuge in Nepal, Bangladesh, or heh heh heh Pakistan? why India?

  18. DQ says:

    Trying to understand and appreciate your wisdom here Shekhar
    .
    .
    But
    .
    .
    ye say..
    I believe it is time to raise the issue of Tibet on a more non confrontational way now.
    Why do we take action so late?
    .
    Why do we need to see blood shed before we help someone?
    .
    why did the stronger countries not get together and do something about it…long back and even now what do they do? Watch the gore in cnn/bbc feeling sorry and showing sorry sights there, monks beaten etc? Make it a political issue once again!!!!Mental masterbation at peak huh!!!
    .
    Where are all the intellectual, common, rich, tibetans, why have they not done something unitedly from their ends, gradually building up a stronger leader or methods?
    .
    Why wait for olympics?
    .
    Why should I feel sorry for dalia lama? He got shelter, he lived happily…others have suffered…should he not have awakened the countries and the places he visited?
    .
    He had enough people to reach out to from hollywood to politicians etc…
    .
    I mean why try to cover up a weakness…it leads nowwhere…
    .
    Wisdom one side….
    reality, action, balance, preparation, vision, planning, strategy and justice and assertiveness one side!!!
    And then real wisdom is when you use all these qualities to achieve your target…
    No I am not convinced!!!
    Pardon me..thats me!!!
    Yes we need wisdom of buddhism…for the way we are becoming morons and animals…we need some tender religion to take a hold of suffering…
    But then this does not permit one to look for pity/or we give pity…when he has failed to really lead….
    .
    His very words on tv…i am going to retire and i want to see tibet free!!!
    .
    Excuse me, this zeal and fervour should have been years back…do i say more?
    Adieu

  19. DQ says:

    I have written Utter crap…
    Shekhar please personally muth le lena aap isseh…
    aapke liye nahi hai wo…
    Kabhi kabhi insaan kya likh deta hai aur na jaane…dusra kya samaj jaaye…
    ta!

  20. ruchi says:

    i feel Dalai Lama knows better, who are we to judge or mis judge him or any one else. i feel he know the situation of tibet and its people better then any body else. do any has courage to do what he did?????

  21. shekhar says:

    dn’t worry about it DQ, all of us do this – and often ! shekhar

  22. Ritu Chandra says:

    DQ(and others who think Dalai Lama has fallen short in his role as a leader),
    Your viewpoint is interesting. The other day I met someone who was voicing the same opinion. Dalai Lama is at fault because he is not doing enough for the Tibetean cause.
    My question.. What do you want him to do? Pick up a gun and kill the Chinese? Organise the Tibeteans into an army and attack China? What can he do. Being a sucker for vintage film music, his situation reminds me of a song from an old V Shantaram film ‘Yeh kahani hai diye ki aur toofan ki’. China is the roaring tornado and Tibet, the tiny peace-loving nation that never fought a war a small earthen lamp in it’s path. The fact that they are keeping their head over water itself is a huge acheivement.
    I think it is purely because of the Dalai Lama that Tibet and it’s problems are known to the outside world. It is his personality and charisma that has brought visibility to the Tibetan struggle. Let me tell you one thing… once the current Dalai Lama goes, the Tibetean issue will cease to be on the world radar. I think that itself is a huge huge contribution from Dalai Lama to the cause.
    At the end of the day, we have to remember Dalai Lama is a spritual leader first and political leader later. And he has been a role model for the sprituality his religion teaches. He has not let the political aspect corrput it. He still approaches every situation with simplicity, humility and compassion which is the foundation of Buddhism.
    I have never personally come in touch with the Dalai Lama but I know people who have attended his lectures and have come back with a renewed optimism and innocence. I know it’s slightly off-topic but I would be curious to know if anyone on this forum has met Dalai Lama and what their impressions were. Shekhar you being a celebrity must have met him. I would be interested to know your impressions (if they are not too politically incorrect for a celebrity blog!)
    Coming back to the central issue of whether he should go to China or not. Well, Shekhar, I think TOI misquoted you appropriately. The Dalai Lama can go there to ’embarass’ the chinese certainly. I genuinely don’t think they will ’embrace’ him :)!
    Here in NYC where I work, I know a lot of Chinese around the place. None of them seems to be an admirer of the Dalai Lama. But I might be wrong, my sample space is small.
    The power equations of Chinese control of sub-continental water supply, is a fantastic conspiracy theory that I have been introduced to on this forum. But, seeing the way things are going, it might just be reality down the ages. Move over US, China is the next superpower. If we need to trample over a handful of Tibeteans. So be it!
    Warm Regards,
    Ritu
    P.S Shekhar apologies for such a long post. This has become almost as big as your blog entry!

  23. Ritu Chandra says:

    (Note : Please ignore the previous version and post this version. There are too many spelling mistakes in the previous one. My generation is hopelessly the spell-check generation!)
    ———————————————–
    DQ(and others who think Dalai Lama has fallen short in his role as a leader),
    Your viewpoint is interesting. The other day I met someone who was voicing the same opinion. Dalai Lama is at fault because he is not doing enough for the Tibetan cause.
    My question.. What do you want him to do? Pick up a gun and kill the Chinese? Organise the Tibetans into an army and attack China? What can he do? Being a sucker for vintage film music, his situation reminds me of a song from an old V Shantaram film ‘Yeh kahani hai diye ki aur toofan ki’. China is the roaring tornado and Tibet, the tiny peace-loving nation that never fought a war, a small earthen lamp in it’s path. The fact that they are keeping their head over water itself is a huge achievement.
    I think it is purely because of the Dalai Lama that Tibet and it’s problems are known to the outside world. It is his personality and charisma that has brought visibility to the Tibetan struggle. Let me tell you one thing… once the current Dalai Lama goes, the Tibetan issue will cease to be on the world radar. I think that itself is a huge huge contribution from Dalai Lama to the cause.
    At the end of the day, we have to remember Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader first and political leader later. And he has been a role model for the spirituality his religion teaches. He has not let the political aspect corrupt it. He still approaches every situation with simplicity, humility and compassion which is the foundation of Buddhism.
    I have never personally come in touch with the Dalai Lama but I know people who have attended his lectures and have come back with a renewed optimism and innocence. I know it’s slightly off-topic but I would be curious to know if anyone on this forum has met Dalai Lama and what their impressions were. Shekhar you being a celebrity must have met him. I would be interested to know your impressions (if they are not too politically incorrect for a celebrity blog!)
    Coming back to the central issue of whether he should go to China or not. Well, Shekhar, I think TOI misquoted you appropriately. The Dalai Lama can go there to ’embarrass’ the Chinese certainly. I genuinely don’t think they will ’embrace’ him :)!
    Here in NYC where I work, I know a lot of Chinese around the place. None of them seems to be an admirer of the Dalai Lama. But I might be wrong, my sample space is small.
    The power equations of Chinese control of sub-continental water supply, is a fantastic conspiracy theory that I have been introduced to on this forum. But, seeing the way things are going, it might just be reality down the ages. Move over US, China is the next superpower. If we need to trample over a handful of Tibetans. So be it!
    Warm Regards,
    Ritu
    P.S Shekhar apologies for such a long post. This has become almost as big as your blog entry!

  24. shekhar says:

    Yes Ritu, I have met the Dalai lama in connection with a film I wanted to make on the Buddha. He was a truly wonderful and warm human being. At first he thought I was making a documentary and talked about Buddha’s relavence in the world today, but when I pushed him further, he spoke much more about the connection between the internal and the external nature of the self, and the words that stuck most in my mind were “formless interconnected nature of all existence”
    I can understand why the Chinese students in the US react this way to the Dalai Lama. It is because the West likes ot beat up China and the Tibet issue is the whip they can most easily use. I think the Chinese community/students probably resent being told what an awful country they are – just as they are emerging as a world power with a new found confidence in themselves, their nation and their culture.
    The Dalai Lama said it again in the UK yesterday. The solution to Tibet is a political one in which Tibet needs to find some kind of autonomy without seperating from the Chinese nation. To protect it’s culture and it’s traditions.
    shekhar

  25. DQ says:

    Hiya Ritu,
    Appreciate your voice out here in the open like any of us.
    Dalia Lama, is a spiritual leader agreed, due to him condition of tibet comes to light agreed!
    Even if guns were not picked to maintain peace, why trigger this situation now? There still is bloodshed?
    Freedom never comes easy theres a price to pay!!!
    Or is it the right time chosen by USA, to raise his voice?
    How have so many issues been solved in palestine and Iraq by powerful countries? Divide and rule or create confusion to make merry and business.
    Why this sudden bout of freedom for tibet at this stage of life?
    Why focus when olympics begin?
    I dont know what others think I voiced myself…he maybe a good spiritual leader, carrying message of peace…but no i still cannot see clarity here, when he suddenly wakes up like this….
    he could have passed on being a spiritual leader, none would have said much, but this freedom issue now that he fights with zeal, means it was in him long enough and now he wants to really stand out to fight for this cause?
    And then I am sure he did not sign any contract with us or tibetans to fight for freedom, hence every tibetan too is responsible.
    .
    .
    And seeing the state of affairs, where so many tibetans get refuge, in so many orders globally…stipends etc…how many would really walk back to that country?
    .
    .
    Tis only the ones who are in china who suffer…
    .
    .
    The entire world should stand up, and this way they could stand up for a good cause in each country…BOYCOTT OlYMPICS!! And believe me this would be a beggining not the end…
    .
    .
    But what say of business???
    HA HAA!!
    Cheers!!
    By the way standing up for rights of seals, was amazing.
    I think Canadian sea food was boycotted!!
    Lucky seals!!

  26. DQ says:

    Psst I have no clue how Seals look like, but i did vote to boycott!!
    Smiles~~~

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