Monday, October 27, 2008
Reflecting Upon ‘Freedom In Exile’
I’m a little behind the times. I am only just completing reading the Dalai Lama’s autobiography, Freedom in Exile, which came out in 1990. I think it should be required reading for anyone interested in modern history and human rights, which ideally would be all of us. Some things occurred to me in reflecting upon this powerful book:
~~The brutality of the Chinese Communists towards the Tibetan people, all the way back to the 1950’s, is staggering, and, while I knew there were abuses, I had no idea of the extent of them, which amounts to a holocaust.
~~Western ‘enlightened’ democracies, including the United States, turned their heads away from the problem decade after decade and allowed the decimation of the Tibetan countryside and the genocide against the Tibetan people to continue unabated.
~~While there has been some media coverage of the Tibetan situation, particularly the protests around the Olympics, I am frankly shocked that it has not been more comprehensive and urgent.
~~The United States Constitution advocates freedom of religion for all peoples, not just for Christians.
~~The People’s Republic of China is the increasingly powerful country which holds most of our national debt, and which is swiftly buying up interests in Africa.
~~Perhaps the most astonishing and moving thing of all in reading this powerful book is the extraordinary peacefulness and love towards the Chinese with which this Tibetan monk, the 14th Dalai Lama, writes of the atrocities committed against his fellow countrywomen and men. Where does he get this ‘peace that passeth all understanding’? How deep within must he go, with what rigorous religious training and practice, is he able to achieve this? With what exceptional Grace (though I’m not sure this is a Buddhist term!) does he come to this exceptional place of peace and love within himself?
I think of my own struggles with judging other human beings. For some reason, while I find it relatively easy to feel unconditional love for a friend who lives on the street and struggles with a crack addiction, I find it virtually impossible to feel this same love for a prosperous Dallasite who tells a racist joke at a cocktail party. But, as a friend reminds me, the latter is also a virulent kind of poverty of the spirit. And who am I to judge that as a worse sin than my own?
When I read passages like the following, I realize what an extraordinary human being the 14th Dalai Lama is. I hope and pray that I will never be tempted to the hatred which he could so easily employ, but doesn’t. From his Tibetan Government in Exile in India, he continues to put forth an agenda of nonviolence and what would seem to be an extremely optimistic Five Point Peace Plan for reconciliation between Tibet and the Chinese (first presented to the U.S. Congress in 1987.)
“Chairman Mao once said that political power comes from the barrel of a gun. He was only partly right: power that comes from the barrel of a gun can be effective only for a short time. In the end, people’s love for truth, justice, freedom and democracy will triumph. No matter what governments do, the human spirit will always prevail.”
~~(p. 263, Chapter 15, ‘Universal Responsibility and the Good Heart,’ Freedom In Exile, The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama.)