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Archive for March, 2008

As you may have noticed, I have been resolutely quiet since the recent uprisings in Tibet took place, and this is partly due to choice, and partly due to illness and technical difficulties. However, I could hardly call my self a Buddhist Blogger if I ignored the obvious struggle in the homeland of one Buddhism’s most recognisable figures.

Any regular reader would have noticed that I am a follower of His Holiness, the 14th Dalia Lama of Tibet. I have read many of his books (four in the last year), and take great inspiration from his life’s work. I am also a big believe in his Philosophy of Non-Violence. I have read many sources on him that all point to the same thing: he is one of the most trustworthy men alive. However, if one is to believe the propaganda of the press, this is not what he is. He has been painted with many brushes by the Chinese government: tyrant, dictator, liar, instigator of violence to name but a few. But this hardly sounds like the work of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
I have recently been watching a series on BBC 4 called “A Year in Tibet”, which follows the lives of ordinary Tibetans under Chinese rule. They range from a successful hotel owner, a Buddhist monastery to a rickshaw driver. To be honest, I am pleasantly surprised as to quality of life of the general Tibetan; in particular the Buddhist Monks (Mao Zedong is apparently famed for saying “religion is poison”). However, not all is a bunch of roses. The health care leaves much to be desired and the rural farming communities are often struggling to make ends meet. I regularly have to remind my self that I have to take what is shown with a pinch of salt, as I believe the Chinese Government have made strict restrictions on what the team were and were not allowed to film. If we were to take this footage as the only evidence of life in Tibet, many people would say “What are they rioting about? Life isn’t so bad”. But all this must be taken in to context.
Tibet has been under Chinese Government rule since 1950, when the Peoples Liberation Army entered the eastern provinces of Tibet. Wikipedia has a very brief timeline of the events that happened (click here for more info). However, the statistics shown make for less comfortable reading. The Dalai Lama, fearing imprisonment or death, left for India to set up the Tibetan Government in Exile and has been fighting his countries corner ever since. This would be a kin to the Queen leaving England and ruling from afar. Moreover, in the past, the Chinese Government was accused of breaking down and destroying Tibetan culture, although recent efforts have been made to reverse this. With all this in mind, it is no wonder Tibetans have a saw spot towards the Chinese Government.

Putting all this together, along with the constant demand from His Holiness for dialogue between the two countries, I feel that a completely Free Tibet is, for the time being at least, a long way off. However, this is not to say that all hope is lost. Let’s not forget that Tibet and China lived peacefully together for nine years, with His Holiness and the Chinese Government making concessions. So maybe a return home for His Holiness isn’t so far fetched even if he is still under rule from Beijing. After all, Britain has rule over The Falklands, and they are further away. None of this however could ever condemn the violence of the last couple of weeks, and I only hope that now the wider community has become involved that both His Holiness and the Chinese Government can agree to talk on the future of both their countries, with a satisfactory conclusion for everyone.

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I have recently been watching a couple of programs that have made me think of reincarnation. The first was David Attenborough’s ‘Life in Cold Blood’. He was talking about several species of animals that had been made extinct by humans, such as Dodo’s and Tortoise’s to name but a few. If taking the concept of reincarnation to the fullest sense, it would be logical that we can also be reborn as an animal. This is something I always thought credible when I was younger, as I often wanted to become a bird. The thought of extinction is terrible when we think in human terms, but when we hear that a species of animal is extinct, few people would be traumatised. However, when we take into context that we may once have been one of that species, everything changes. With every species of animal that goes extinct, we loose another from of reincarnation. I appreciate this is taking it to the extreme, but it is worth bearing in mind.
The second program that reminded me of reincarnation was a documentary on the finding of a Peruvian mummy. I was interested as I went to Peru 4 years ago on an expedition, and wondered what the differences between Egyptian Mummies and Peruvian Mummies were. The mummy had been coated in a primitive varnish to help prevent decay. One of the ingredients was tree resin from a tree found in the south Pacific, almost 1000 miles away. Having studied Egyptology and some of the ancient South American civilizations, I couldn’t help but notice certain similarities. There is no known explanation as to how these similarities occurred 1000 miles apart (that I am aware of), but I did come up with one. Taking the concept of reincarnation again, would it not be possible for, let’s say, an Egyptian priest who was well versed to die and be reborn in another part of the world, say Mexico, and (either unconsciously or not) pass on his knowledge to his new village and so on? It’s a hazy theory at best, but fun to mull over in ones head.

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