Saturday, March 1, 2014

Who Could Say Anything Bad About The Dalai Lama?

This guy?  I love this guy.

The Dalai Lama.  

Now there's a name that'll turn some heads.  The Dalai Lama is that guy who everybody loves.  He's the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.  His deep Buddhist wisdom will blow your mind.  He is the living re-incarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Despite the fact that the Chinese came in and crushed his country, he keeps going, always smiling, showering everybody with the sheer godlike beauty of his very presence.

And you know, before the Chinese came, Tibet was this shimmering oasis in the modern world, a Buddhist paradise of freedom, love and equality.
Nobody could say a bad word about the Dalai Lama.  Could they?


Let's do a little thought experiment, shall we?  

If somebody could say a bad word about the Dalai Lama, what might it be?

The Dalai Lama and the AEI

Do you remember something called the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)?  Let me refresh your memory.

The AEI is a public policy think-tank located in Washington, DC, with pronounced right-wing leanings.  It has been the home of the neoconservative movement for the past 40 years, and has had tremendous influence, especially with Republican presidential administrations.  

People who have been associated with the AEI throughout their careers include a rogue's gallery of war criminals and right wing madmen, such as Dick Cheney, George HW Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Newt Gingrich, Irving Kristol, Richard Perle and Antonin Scalia. 

Generally speaking, the AEI is a cheerleader for the most relentless and extreme forms of capitalism - almost always in favor of eliminating worker's rights, environmental controls, and any limit on offshoring of labor.  

Unfettered free trade has been the AEI's motto since the beginning, with disastrous effects on the working people of the United States.  They've also long been one of the driving forces in the push to privatize Medicare.

They are Global Warming apologists and deniers, which makes sense when you consider that they receive funding from major oil companies, especially ExxonMobil.     

Back in the early 2000s, AEI fellows Richard Perle and Michael Ledeen were the leading voices calling for the American invasion of Iraq.  Remember that little adventure?  Let's sum it up, if we can.  

We needed to invade Iraq because Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction.  We knew they did, even though inspectors from the United Nations said they didn't.  See, because we always know better.

So we invaded.  And hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people died.  And in the end, there weren't, ah, any Weapons of Mass Destruction anywhere in the country.  

Hmmm.  Sorry about that.

I think we can all agree that the AEI is, at the very least, a haven for some very bad people.  It may in fact be the seat of Satan's kingdom on Earth, and a cover facade for the stairway leading down to the Gates of Hell.  

This past February, on the 19th and 20th, the Dalai Lama was the esteemed guest of the AEI at their headquarters on 17th Street in downtown Washington.

His Holiness was there to chat with the folks in charge, break bread, and give a few talks to the troops.  A puff piece about the visit in Vanity Fair strove to make it all seem just fine, and to some extent gloss over the AEI's history.  

But it still raises the question:  Why would the peace-loving Dalai Lama visit a group of people who are so violent in their intentions?

The Dalai Lama and the CIA

You probably don't need me to refresh your memory about the CIA.  The United States Central Intelligence Agency is our government's main spy organization, and has been involved in torture, coups, clandestine invasions, assassinations, drug-trafficking, mind-control experiments, disappearances, and all manner of crimes against humanity since its inception.

The CIA's reputation precedes it.  Even writing those three letters here on Thee Optimist gives me the willies.  

Something you don't know about the CIA is that the Dalai Lama was a CIA asset for 20 years, and may still be.  Beginning in the 1950s and continuing into the 1970s, the Dalai Lama personally received $15,000 a month from the CIA.

During those years, $15,000 was a very nice yearly salary, and His Holiness got that every month.  

What?  The Dalai Lama got money...

Yes.  From the CIA.  

But the CIA are...

Yes.  They are bad.  And they gave him a lot of money. 

His Tibetan government in exile received an additional $1.7 million a year from the CIA.  No one disputes this.  Not even the Dalai Lama himself. 

Now, why would the CIA pay the Dalai Lama all that money?  

Why does anybody pay money to anyone?  Presumably, in exchange for some service.

Indeed, once the payments were publicized, the Dalai Lama’s organization issued a statement admitting that it had received millions of dollars from the CIA during the 1960s to send armed squads of exiles into Tibet to undermine the Chinese.

This seems rather a violent response from a bunch of Buddhists.  But then again, maybe not so extreme since the Chinese did invade Tibet and demolish that peaceful and equality-loving kingdom to dust.


The Myth of Tibet

People in America love Tibet.  

In particular, we love to kid ourselves about how Tibet was a bastion of Buddhist peace and equality, until the Chinese communist hordes rode in and imposed their backward economic model and their totalitarian government upon an otherwise enlightened people.

It makes a nice story.  One which bears no resemblance to reality, but a nice story nonetheless.  

The Chinese entered Tibet in 1951, soon after China had completed its communist revolution.  In 1959, they began a crackdown against the Tibetans, involving the seizure of land from large landowners, which was then redistributed to the peasant class.  

They also outlawed serfdom, slavery, and the other vestiges of feudalism that existed in Tibet right up through the 1950s. 

But why would it fall to the Chinese to outlaw serfdom and slavery in Tibet?

Because the fact is, Tibet under the Dalai Lama and his forebears was a viciously unequal society in which a small handful of Buddhist leaders and secular business people and traders controlled all the wealth, and subjugated the vast majority of people to their rule.

The rural peasantry lived under serfdom relations similar to medieval Europe.  Serfs lived in grinding poverty, and performed all the farming and physical labor for the manor lords, many of whom were Buddhist lamas.

According to some sources, the manor lords took the most attractive peasant girls to come and, eh, serve up at the mansion. 

There was also a class of outright slaves, who lived in worse conditions than the serfs.  Both slavery and serfdom were hereditary, meaning you were born into them and couldn't escape.  

Far from being a mitigating factor in all this, Tibetan Buddhism served as a foundation and a rationalization.  For example, Tibetan Buddhism has a strong focus on re-incarnation.  And when you re-incarnate, you are punished or rewarded for your deeds in past lives.

So, if you woke up in this life as a landless serf or slave, that must mean you were bad in past lives, and are being punished in this one.  No matter how bad it gets for you, you deserve it.      

This is the social structure that the Chinese crushed.  Considering that they had just had a communist revolution themselves, they could hardly be expected to do otherwise.  

And this is your 14th Dalai Lama, ladies and gentleman: 

- A man who was born into wealth and privilege in what was at that time, one of the most unfair and unequal societies in the modern world.

- A man who has spent a significant portion of his adult life on the payroll of the CIA, and who sent armed troops into Tibet at their behest.

- And a man who voluntarily and cheerfully consorts with war criminals and Global Warming deniers at the American Enterprise Institute. 

If someone could say anything bad about the Dalai Lama, it would be this: you are who you hang out with.  


  1. You can't create change if you don't take it into the lion's den. I would expect those spiritual leaders that could make an appearance in the darker places would do so. Where was the Pope when the AEI met? Where was the Pope when Cheney revealed himself as Darth Vader?

    As for CIA assets, we were in a cold war with the communists and that included the Chinese. The leader of Tibet is obviously someone to be cultivated and he probably saw value in it as well.

    I don't think anyone every bought into what you claim to be the myth of Tibet. Its history is public knowledge and nobody including the Dalai Lama has denied it. However, an occupation is no better and even Buddhists have a right to resist.

    Perhaps you have confused Buddhism with pacifism? You have an idea about what Buddhists are and are not but you forget that many of the greatest warriors on Earth were Buddhist. The Shaolin schools came from the direct influence of Bohdidharma, first patriarch of Zen and those roots influenced warriors across the planet to this very day. Why would you think of Buddhists as pacifists just because they don't always choose to fight?

    Some people talk about him eating meat and other seeming incongruities but if you don't understand Buddhism you won't understand why he and many other Buddhists do a lot of things...and it takes a lot more than reading a sutra or a history book to understand Buddhism.

    Understanding Buddhism is much more than an intellectual exercise whereby you can vomit memorized nonsense and then criticize it like you actually know something.

    Fact is that he is a political leader as well as a spiritual leader and no truly awakened Buddhist sees him as anything more than a man on the Way, flaws and all.

    Some people get it and waste no time with worship and others don't and are lost to it.

    Christians, Buddhists, you name it... the same pitfalls of misunderstanding await those that study the appearances rather than learn the actual practice as it is meant to be learned and understood....easy to criticize when your understanding is superficial.

  2. Hi Ted,

    Sorry I hurt your feelings.

    In my experience, very few Westerners know anything about the history of Tibet, and any time I mention the Dalai Lama has been (and may still be) a CIA asset, people become angry and refuse to believe it.

    Later, after they look it up themselves, they'll often say to me, "You know? I like him anyway."

    That's fine. I was just poking some light into a darkened corner, seeing what was crawling around in there.