Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Dalai Lama – Hail the Neo-Medieval Tibetan Dictator

Here in New Zealand we have ‘a thing’ for Tibet, far out-weighing out respective countries historic relations.

This may down to simply one person, Sir Edmond Hillary, more likely though, the affinity small isolated countries have for one another.

There is also a great deal of good will towards Tibet’s spiritual leader, the estranged Dali Lama.

The ‘good press’ he receives amongst the New Zealand public are largely founded on two factors…..

1.) The sympathy vote. Tibet was a utopia in the mountains until the evil-doing Chinese Red-Army arrived, bent on some ethic cleansing Asia style.
2. ) Asian religions are docile, less dogmatic than those we have here. Religion ‘Tibetan Style’ is some-what the equivalent of a cuddly serene ‘house-hold cat’.

Sorry to spoil the party here fellas, these widely-held views are a misinformed load of crap.

Forget what you have seen in Hollywood movies, read in books by ex SS officers, take-off those rose-tinted glasses one second.

Here’s the reality check.

Until the Chinese invaded Tibet 90% of the population lived-lives the equivalent of medieval serfs (called tralpa) who lived at the mercy of the ruling classes, and the aristocratic Dali Lama sat pretty, high-up in his 1,000 room palace.

Here’s how the arable land in Tibet was distributed, last time The Dalai Lama was in power: 30.9 percent was owned by government officials, 29.6 percent by nobles, and 39.5 percent by monasteries and upper-ranking lamas. Zip for the plebs, who mostly worked without pay.

Let’s make no mistake about this – the conditions in 1950’s Tibet were nothing but dire.

No sanitation, no public education (95% illiteracy), no infra-structure, no health system (average life span of 35), no public electricity.

A squalid, cruel, dysfunctional, feudal, theocracy.

In this imaginary Shangri-La, slavery was still being practiced in 1950, so if you were short of a dozen workers for your next harvest, you simply purchased them from the neighbour. In fact it wasn’t unusual for a Tibetan landlord to have a few thousand slaves.

Human beings were given away as presents.

To the majority of these subsistence-living serfs, the Chinese were looked upon as liberators not invaders & not surprisingly angry crowds soon turned the tables on the deposed aristocrats & monks the moment they got a chance.

But in an amazing re-write of history, the oppressors who had to flee Tibet, sometimes chased by angry crowds, now have the audacity to paint themselves as the oppressed!

Strangely, I haven’t seen any ‘Free Tibet’ propaganda, or any of the raft of Hollywood stars, mention a return to the Tibetan tradition of slavery, or any seeing any references in their propaganda about Tibetan plebeians actually welcoming the Chinese?

Key to this mythical utopia at the top of the world, was the brand of Buddhism lead by the Dali Lama that perpetuated this set twisted social system. The poor at the bottom were taught that they had brought their troubles upon themselves because of their wicked ways in previous lives. Hence they had to accept the misery of their present existence as a karmic atonement and in anticipation that their lot would improve in their next lifetime. The rich and powerful treated their good fortune as a reward for, and tangible evidence of, virtue in past and present lives.

For those not familiar with Buddhism in Tibet the following photo may come as a shock and wake-up call. What you see are the skins of humans. This macabre religious practice involved the landowners ‘sacrificing’ a slave or two as a ‘gift’ to the Dalai Lama in return for his blessing. The smaller skins are those of children - peeled alive.

So, utopia existed only for the ruling elite, with a little assistance of their private police-force, the ruling class & church, acting as the sole arbiters of justice in pre-Chinese Tibet.

In one case a staving villager had both eyes gouged-out for stealing two sheep from a local monastery. Amputation was the standard punishment, for a whole range of innocuous crimes. Judicial mutilation, whippings etc were formalized under the 13th century Tibetan legal code & still administered in 1950.

The statutory code of old Tibet that divided the population was divinely inspired, dividing people-up into three classes and nine ranks. Those belonging to the highest rank, like the rich or royalty were worth more than say a farm worker. The equation to ‘value’ a human was based on the weight of a dead-body – the highest ranks being calculated in the corpses weight in gold, and the lower classes in straw. So the rich could literally get away with murder and rape & a poor servant lose an arm for stealing a chicken.

I wonder again if the New Zealand public and those in the west would be keen to see a return to the good old days in Tibet where the rich lamas & land-owners used their ‘death squads’ to quell any dissent to their nepotistic rule?

And who was the biggest despot in this tyranny?

Yep you guessed it, that all round good guy, Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dali Lama.

It was him that had the most to lose when The Chinese arrived, and the corrupt social-order he lauded over began eroding.

For starters the Chinese began distributing the land by need, and organising egalitarian communes, where everyone benefited, villages not longer starved whilst the rich & religious hierarchy grew fat on their toil. For the first time, the land they had worked-on for centuries as virtual slaves, was theirs to reap the benefits. Herds that were once the provision of nobility and ‘the church’ , were turned over to the collectives of poor shepherds.

Over time there was schooling for everyone, not just the elite and the lamas.

There was health-care for the entire population, and as a result Tibetans now live to an average age of sixty - some 25 years longer than under the rule of the neo-medieval religious dictator.

Sanitation, electricity, running water all the things we take for granted, and were all but non-existent before China’s annexation, appeared for the first time.

The so called oppressors, started educating everyone, putting roads in, building hospitals etc – again, all the things missing from the magical days high-up in the Himalayas so cherished by liberals.

Ironically the Chinese also improved human-rights. Tibetans now have equal rights in politics, the economy, education, military etc.

It’s fair to indicate the Chinese regime did some terrible things in Tibet, the fifties & sixties being a torrid age of failed reforms in China, but this is not excuse to romanticise the pre-invasion feudal mountain regime as being some ideal existence, now lost to its people.

As hard as it is to swallow & however much as we hate the Chinese regime here in ‘the west’, their illegitimate invasion etc - the truth is for the majority of Tibetans - life is actually better & fairer under their rule.

And let’s not forget the issue of religious freedoms in Tibet, monks being tossed-out of monasteries etc. The sort of thing, we hear all the time from the media and vested interest groups, all of it rabidly anti-Chinese.

Specifically lets highlight the oppression undertaken by the Dalai Lama against fellow Buddhists.

For hundreds of years a section of Buddhists have been worshipping a deity called ‘Dorje Shugden’. The ‘all round nice guy’ 14th Dalai Lama viewed worship of Dorje Shugden to be in conflict to his supreme rule. It wasn’t right for Tibetans to be worshipping anyone but him. So in 1996 he outlawed the centuries old worship of Dorje Shugden and declared its followers as heretics and reaffirming himself as a reincarnated living God. The Tibetan Government in exile, puppets of The Dalai Lama, passed laws banning the worship of Shugden and uttering it’s widely practiced prayer became illegal. Buddhist monks who still maintained a belief in Shugden were tossed out of monasteries and on to the streets.

The Dalai Lama talks about freedom for his people in Tibet - at least autonomy within the Peoples Republic of China - but is perfectly happy employing the same draconian injustices, denying basic human rights to Dorje Shugden practitioners.

Never let it stray from your mind, The Dalai Lama’s cause for a ‘free’ Tibet is a definition of freedom we in New Zealand would see as dictatorial, privative and discriminatory.

The ordinary Tibetans who still view him as a living-God and call for his return, only do so, in terms of spiritual leadership. Few if any Tibetans want a return to the social order he represented and abused, like men forced to live in manacles.

Given what you now know about the real history of Tibet, do we really want to support a cause which would see the return to powers of a religious neo-medieval dictator and his rich cronies?

I say, no.
Footnote: My research on this article came about by accident. For the record, I am a member (should that now be was?)of a Free Tibet group – yes, I too believed what I was feed. So I’m far from being an apologist for the Chinese Government, I decry their brand of politics. I first came across an article about pre-annexation Tibet on the internet and was shocked at what I read. Surely this could not be right? Slavery? Barbarism? These things were not what happened? But the more I dug, the more it became reality. One thing was for sure, the mysticism of the Dalai Lama fascinated early explorers as well. Eighty per cent of these early accounts, photos etc focused on either the religious aspects of Tibet, or the stark landscape. Very little was said about the day to day life of the peasants. But, from what was written – it was not a great existence for ‘joe-bloggs’ in the fields. What I have presented here, is the most dramatic excess’s of their lives. It was done deliberately in a provocative way so you too will do your own research into this subject and not just believe what you are told is gospel. In other-words don’t make the mistake I did. And remember the current Dalai Lama, had his chance to introduce reforms like a fair penal-code, when he was in power – and didn’t. The current Dalai Lama was a slave-owner. Democracy was never a part of historic Tibet. Footnote: I am going to do a part two on this.


Amanda said...

This is very interesting. Do you have any citations or bibliography?


Anonymous said...

Not everyone is taken in by this imposter.

eruvande said...

I agree that Tibet does not need to return to theocracy.

But I have been there, and every Tibetan I met was very anxious to get rid of the Chinese...not only to regain a lost way of life, but to gain some measure of autonomy. Indeed, the Tibetan government in exile has committed to democracy if it ever returns to power, and I think enough of the Tibetans on the ground are into that that the government wouldn't be able to easily snatch it away.

In addition, Tibetans face plenty of oppression from the Chinese occupation. Again, I've seen it. Horrible things do happen under theocracy, but remember that China does have a powerful propaganda machine.

In short, I think it's a mistake to view any invading country as a liberator.

Josh said...

I find this post very intriguing, but I feel the need for some references. A little bit of Googling hasn't revealed much except for people making similar claims without evidence. There are a few links provided in places, but all the ones I've found so far are dead. Wikipedia, of course, has nothing on the issue.

For example, that's clearly a picture of human skin, and almost definitely children's. But the picture provides no evidence that they were skinned alive, or even that they died of anything other than natural causes to be skinned later.

I'd very much like to read more about this though.

Tenzin said...

I don't know about the children's skins either, but I have also heard from Tibetans that much of what you are saying about the serfdom of Tibetans was true.

I can also attest from experience that the Dalai Lama has theocratically banned the practice of an well loved religious practice, and that its followers are persecuted. More and more evidence of this is coming to light. Check out: and and for more about all this.

This persecution has been hidden for many years, and when practitioners first drew attention to it, they were vilified by press who could not understand that the Dalai Lama could behave this badly. However, that is now changing, and this year there has been a lot more press coverage to show the ban and persecution.

for some of this coverage.

Thanks for your article. Hope you find some of these references interesting.

Canterbury Atheists said...

Gidday there,

I am going to research the issue of the skinning further and gather more info on this, along with human sacrifices – so give me time to get to the library, search the net and send emails. This is a subject in itself. One thing I will say is we need to view even grim practices like this, against the brand of Buddhism adhered to. To sacrifice ones child to a living-God could be seen as furthering the victims chances at a better life next time round.

Robert Ekvall (American Missionary and Anthropologist) reported human sacrifices and he was in Tibet between 1923-1938.

Sir Charles Bell (traveled extensively 1905-1920 ish and published the first book on Tibetan language) reported seeing two children ‘slain for the purposes of a religious ritual’.

So one thing is for sure human-sacrifice were happening last century, how prevalent this practice was, I have yet to ascertain.

If anyone can add to the issues of human sacrifice in Tibet - then please add to this.



Anonymous said...

And that man got the nobel peace price.
Paul, please keep investigating.

Anonymous said...

and just in case the Dalai Lama ever denies his knowledge of the idea of having the plebs regard their terrible lives as a deserved consequence of past negative actions, here's a video and transcript of him actually saying it:

and here is the link to the google translated version:

This section here is the relevant bit, but it's a bad translation:
"A poor Tibetans had little reason to change its rich Gutsherrn to envy or anzufeinden, because he knew that all the seeds from his previous life reaps. We were simply happy."

A better translation is this:
"The poor tibetan had little reason to be jealous of or be angry with his rich feudal lord, because he knew that everybody is reaping the seeds sown in previous lives. We were simply happy."

Josh said...

In a fairly amazing coincidence I stumbled upon a podcast on this very issue today:

Jackie said...


Sprynne said...

Thanks for making your investigations public, It is always good to read both the sides of the argument. But I have two points to make.

1. Human sacrifice is very prominent in most cultures. Please explain your reason to find it really shocking as you dont seem to have a very recent concrete evidence for this practise in Tibet.
the same can be said about serfdom, it existed everywhere. i mean EVERYWHERE.

2. Isnt your talking about "sanitation, longevity etc" sounding a little bit like "White man's burden" (Kipling)? How do YOU know that that's what is good.
Thanks again, hoping to learn more about this argument.

Canterbury Atheists said...

This article is one of three I’ve researched on Tibet – using mostly the books from the shelves of The Christchurch Public Library. The reason why I point this out is the information/history of Tibet is freely available to anyone who cares to ignore the rhetoric and sort fact from fiction. Nor am I an apologist for The Chinese administration which as a libertarian I despise with a passion. ‘The Man who would be King’ by Kipling is doubtless based part on the allure and mystery of Tibet targeting a Victorian English readership. I am sure someone could just as easily write a history of Tibet that ‘twinked-out’ the unpalatable bits such as sacrifices and skinning. I decided to focus on these instead. Thanks for your feedback. Paul.

pala said...

dear ´´paul´´ que perfect balance, i applaud the symmetry- the ´´hypocrisy´´ is bilateral in nature, one might spend much time dissecting the ´´hypocrisy´´ intellectually/philosophically multilaterally-but i bet it is fantastic there in new zealand today-and since time in ´´precious´´ hahaa physical ´´shell´´ is limited- although many lives to accomplish enlightend state and that ´´privilege´´-as new zealander, i applaud your precision, pala-je´

pala-je´ said...

dear paul, applause for your ´´perfect balance´´ there in new zealand. i think i palatonically-lov you! i ´´hope´´ that you find time to enjoy this precious incarnation and fortune at being a new zealander to enjoy the heaven sent bounty that appears to be your ´´karma!´´ philosophically yours! hahaaaa pala-jé
a.k.a paula jean kant

Anonymous said...

perfect symmetry paul! enjoy your fortune at this incarnations blessing to be in new zealand! pala-jé

Anonymous said...

Rightly said. Tibet was a medieval place and you might want to check out how the first DL was appointed in the first place. As a puppet emperor with divine powers by the Mongolians to stop the Tibetans from raiding their tea caravans and money. China was always prominent in Tibet until the country disintegrated in the early 20th century. I live in China and nothing disturbs me more than sitting in a hotel bar and being bothered by pissed drunk and obviously pretty wealthy Tibetan monks. Corruption amongst the divine elite has not disappeared and a return of the Hypocritical DL would not improve the lives of the Tibetans a single bit. As a matter of fact the theocratic reach of his clique will only strengthen. Just leave him sitting in India.

Anonymous said...

A respectful response to the blogger:

Sorry, but you are asking people to believe you when you offer no evidence. You list off things you expect your readers to believe because you yourself believe them, not because you offer any credible backing for your claims. It's no different from the arrogance of a missionary who understands only too little about the cultures against which he preaches, and which he seeks to destroy.

(this last fact is no small matter, since your unsubstantiated arguments have the effect of white-washing armed global hegemonies, without ever thinking about why or how.)

The fact is, if you are going to make the kind of damaging and loaded cultural assertions which you do (some of which are justified, but much of which require far more faith than sight from your readers) you are going to need reliable references and citations. (No, it's not just a formality, it allows your readers to see how you are constructing your arguments, and what you are using to prepare them.)

You provide no such citations nor any references (and no, other blogs are not citations... they are blogs. You could never reference them in a history paper.)

That means you expect to be taken as credible while offering no basis for your claims. Creationsits do the same thing everyday. You might not believe in a god, but you certainly believe that your assumptions trump historical research. That reflects very poorly on your argument.

As a secular humanist with no real love for Lamaism, I find your enthusiasm for cultural libel a discredit to secular rhetoric. Even your tone reads more fanatical than philosophical.

Any good secular humanist knows that reliability trumps polemic, and you are basing your polemic on websites and blog-spots. The public library can offer much more substance for your discussion -that is, if you wish your polemic to be taken seriously. Talk to historians, curators, even religious figures with whom you might disagree. THAT is how research is done. (If you cant be bothered to do that, then why engage in the dishonest cultural libel that you have made such a priority?)

Otherwise, you are just leveling a faith-based parable of a hot temper spring-boarding from a thinly-veiled edge of racist entitlement ("faith-based" because you assume your word is greater than the research it makes the effort to neglect.)

The crux of humanist arguments lies in rooting those arguments in reliable research, and understanding the limits and advantages of the frameworks employed in such research. If you won't make the effort to do that, you should not pose as an authority on the subject, and you should think twice bout assaulting other people's cultures.

After all, New Zealand has a pretty checkered, and racially genocidal history. (See "The Great White Flood" By Anna Pattel-Gray, or "Genocide and Settler Society" by A. Dirk Moses... btw. these are "references."). Maybe you should channel your efforts at correcting the real imbalances in your world, rather than pretending to be an authority who must scrutinize them elsewhere.

(FYI, research means being open to data that might contradict your arguments.. blogging is more about never having to question your assumptions.)