Tag Archives: buddhism

Will India ever learn its lessons? China has again shown that it is not be trusted. It pretends to shake your hand and then slaps you in the face. At the same time that President Xi came to visit India, Chinese soldiers willfully made an incursion in Indian territory.

Did you know that the Chinese have used the Tibetan plateau to point their nuclear missiles at North Indian cities (exactly 90 IRBM -US Senate Foreign Committee report). More than that, India could never see that Tibet was the ideal buffer between her and China, if denuclearised and demilitarised, as the Dalai-lama has proposed in the European Parliament of Strasbourg. And Nehru’s betrayal of Tibet will come back to haunt India, as it did recently, when the Indian occupation of Kashmir was equaled with the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The Chinese killed 1,2 million Tibetans and wiped out in 45 years a wonderful 2000 year old civilisation. On the other hand, in Kashmir, there has been no genocide, only war casualties and India is fighting to retain what has been hers for 5000 years.

Tibet and China, the natural brothers

Did you know that Tibetan medicine is one of the greatest surviving natural medical systems of the world, along with Ayurveda ? Tibetan medicine strives to keep in balance within the body the subtle flow of energy, or Nyipa sum, which is made out of the five elements: air, fire, water, earth and space. And as in Ayurveda, 95% of Tibetan medicine is based on herbs, and precious metals, which are used for the seven kinds of precious pills known as Rinchen rilpo. The methods of diagnosis differ though from Ayurveda – and thereby lies the genius of Tibetan medicine – as the observation of the tongue, along with questioning and palpation, is the principal tool of diagnosis. Tibetan medicine always treats the cause or the root of the disease and illness and not the symptoms. The school of medicine began to flourish 1,200 years ago when Tibet drew on medicinal knowledge from China, Persia and India, buts its origins are shrouded in mystery and many of its secrets have been passed on by word of mouth or are buried in Tibetan writings. The four main medical ‘Tantras’, said to be taught by Buddha himself and written down in Sanskrit more than 800 years ago, are still used by Tibetan doctors today.

And what about Tibetan spirituality ? It is probably one of the finest in the world and as in Tibetan medicine, the emphasis is on self development. There are two ways to create happiness, says Tibetan spirituality: the first is external. By obtaining better clothes, better shelter, and better friends, we can find a certain measure of happiness and satisfaction. The second is through mental development, which yields inner happiness. However, these two approaches are not equally viable, as external happiness cannot last long without its counterpart…. “But, if you have peace of mind, emphasizes His Holiness the Dalai-lama, you can find happiness even under the most difficult circumstances”. The Dalai Lama also reminds us that developing peace of mind means paying attention to our daily attitudes and choices as well as taking the time to meditate and be prayerful.

Tibetan Buddhism helps us too in preparing for a good death by coming to terms with negative emotions – such as anger, attachment, hatred and jealousy – that restrict our freedom, block our joy and cause us to experience suffering.

Reading the remarkable Tibetan Book of Living and Dying makes it easier to overcome your own fear of dying and helps you take the responsibility to prepare for your death. It also helps you prepare yourself for the death and dying of your dear and loved ones. Tibetan spirituality could also offer a word or two of advice to terrorists who blow themselves up or ram planes against buildings: “There is no such thing as a doomed soul in Buddhism. But there is such a thing as a prolonged period of suffering over many lives brought on by negative karma. Karma truly means cause and effect, says again the Dalai-lama.’ The terrorists, by killing so many people, are creating a negative karma that keeps them in hell for a long time through many lifetimes of suffering.” And indeed, If you see the Dalai lama today, he radiates so much peace and compassion.

Unfortunately, China does not seem to understand the great value of Tibetan medicine and spirituality. A report by the United States Congress (Resolution Number 63) states that since 1950, when the Chinese invaded this wonderful, peace loving nation, which boasted the highest (although quite feudal) spiritualised society in the world, 1,2 million Tibetans have been killed, either directly: shooting, death squads, torture – or indirectly: concentration camps, prison, or famines. 6254 monasteries, most of them ancient, have been razed to the ground. 60% of religious, historical and cultural archives have been destroyed. A quarter million Chinese troops are occupying Tibet. One Tibetan out of ten is still in jail. There are today In Tibet 7,5 million Chinese settlers for six million Tibetans- in many places such as the capital, Lhassa, Tibetans are outnumbered two to one…

It is not over at all: The summer and autumn of 2001 saw the dismantling of the Serthar Institute, the leading centre for Buddhist scholarship and practice on the Tibetan plateau. Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok founded Serthar Institute in Larung Valley near Serthar town, Karze Prefecture, Sichuan Province in 1980, to meet the pressing need for renewal of meditation and scholarship all over Tibet in the wake of China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-77). This non-sectarian academy of over 8,000 monks and nuns, drew nearly 1,000 Mainland and Overseas Chinese practitioners as students. They were the first group to face expulsion and deportation to their places of origin in June and July 2001. The Chinese- appointed “work teams” next targeted the over 4,000 Tibetan nuns forming Serthar’s affiliated nunnery. The official Beijing directive was to reduce their number to 400 and destroy their meditation huts to ensure the eviction was permanent. According to western monitoring agencies, such as Human Rights Watch, over 1,000 dwellings had been destroyed at Serthar by the beginning of this year, thousands of monks and nuns had been successfully evicted, and Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok is believed to be incommunicado in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan.

Places like the Serthar Institute, house Tibetan treasures – spiritual, medical, cultural and social – which should be conserved, otherwise they will be lost to humanity for ever. “The Chinese should understand that they are destroying the last great living spirituality of their continent. The highlighting of the secrets and the vast knowledge based on the various inner sciences adopted by the Tibetans, goes beyond the research with sophisticated equipment and the Chinese Government should take-up its study in earnest”, says Claude Arpi, the author of the Fate of Tibet (Har Anand, New Delhi). “Above all, he continues, it is ethical learning which did not need the sacrifice of lives. These sacrifices are both in terms of lives lost and pain induced. It is clear that China, which has embarked on a fury of materialistic endeavours, needs spirituality”.

Germans have taken up the language of Sanskrit through their ancient roots and this sets an example for a country like China to take up the wealth of

knowledge that is prevalent in Tibet. Tibet is a land of inner sciences and self development processes which can be learnt through various disciplines. These need to be preserved like treasures for the world before it is too late. Tibet in no way presents any danger to China. The Dalai Lama himself said recently : “I am only asking for the Tibetans that they should have full power in the fields where they are capable of managing their own affairs. In the case of defence or foreign affairs, the Chinese can manage our affairs. We are not asking for a separation from China”.

François Gautier

SRI LANKANS & THE TAMIL PROBLEM

The decision of the Government of India to boycott the recent CHOGM meeting in Sri Lanka, for its violation of Human Rights against the Tamil minority, was welcomed by all. Yet not many know the intricate pattern of the Sri Lanka imbroglio.

There seems to be little doubt that once upon a time, not so long ago, India and Sri Lanka were linked by a small strip of land, which can still be seen today from the air: Adam’s Bridge. Or Rama Setu, a 48km lo,g stretch of underwater causeway, spoken about in the Ramanayama. And this is how the first Tamils, those who settled in the North, came to Sri Lanka (are they the first inhabitants of Sri Lanka and not the Sinhalese? This is another question!). There is also no doubt -and the Sinhalese recognise it- that they are originally Indians, although some say that they came from Gujurat, others from Bengal. Thus it can be established beyond doubt that Sri Lanka and India are one ethnically, although they differ in religion (but the same can be said within India). And throughout the ages, under one form or the other, Ceylon was under the influence of India. That is why, when the British conquered it in the late 18th century, they chose to attach it to their Indian empire. But when they left in 47, in their desire to see that India never dominates too heavily the subcontinent, they facilitated the creation of Pakistan and handed to Sri Lanka its freedom. And India and Sri Lanka seemed to part way for ever, as Tamils and Sinhalese were left to war with each other, until Rajiv sent the IKPF in 1988.

One has to go back a long time to understand what decisive factors shaped the psyche of the island’s two communities. And this decisive factor bears the names of two of the world greatest religions: Buddhism and Hinduism. The first one, Buddhism, is a gentle, peaceful creed, that teaches non-violence and brotherhood, even to enemies. Unfortunately, Ceylon, often called the “isle of beauty”, has always been too tempting a prey for sea-faring invaders. And indeed, successive colonisers, from Arabs to Africans, from Portuguese to Dutch and finally, British, preyed on the tiny, defenceless island. In the name of Buddhism and because, the Sinhalese are by nature a fun-loving, gentle people, not only did they hardly resist these invasions, but often, many of their women, mingled freely with the foreign intruders. The result can clearly be seen today on the faces of many Sinhalese women folk, with their African-curled hair, Arabic features and fair skinned faces. As a result, the Sinhalese slowly lost their sense of identity, their feeling of being a collective being, to the point that when the British came, they collaborated wholehearted with them and had to be handed back their independence on a platter, for want of a real freedom movement. Today, democracy and western institutions are just a flimsy cloak that the Sinhalese wear. Lurking underneath the pleasant, sometimes servile attitude towards Westerners, is a sense of hopelessness and a terrible violence. And in reality, since independence, Sinhalese politicians must have been some of the least farsighted of the entire subcontinent: nothing is made in Sri Lanka, everything has to be imported and only tea, tourism and Western grants help the country survive.

On the other hand, Hinduism with its strict caste hierarchy, which forbids much contact with outsiders, particularly sexual contact with foreigners, protected Sri Lankan Tamils from mingling with their invaders. Thus they preserved their identity, their racial purity and their culture. Sinhalese live an easier life in the South, which was always more fertile than the arid North. As a result, Tamils have often been better at studies and more hard- working, (although one should not generalise). This was quickly noticed by the British, who often gave Tamils preference for jobs and university grants, thus angering the Sinhalese, who after all were the majority community.

It is this deep-rooted resentment of the Sinhalese towards the Tamil community which is the cause of most of the troubles. When the British left, the Sinhalese quickly moved in to correct what they saw as an unbalance: they set on depriving the Tamils of most of the rights they had acquired under the British and proceeded to establish a Sinhalese-dominated Ceylon. And every time a Sinhalese politician tried to give the Tamils their just share of power, he quickly had to backtrack under Sinhalese resentment. For years, the Tamils bore the brunt of Sinhalese persecution. But one day, too much became too much and Tamil armed groups started springing up to defend their people. To cut short a long story, the LTTE finally emerged as the most ruthless and sole militant organisation. For those who remember the Tamil Tigers in their early years: young, bright, soft spoken university students, there was no doubt that they had started with a genuine aspiration to secure their just rights. But violence breeds its own violence and soon the Tigers lost all sense of measure and restraint, eliminating ruthlessly all what they think stands in the way of their freedom. Killing Rajiv Gandhi was one of their biggest & most tragic mistakes and they finally paid that karma by being themselves ruthlessly wiped out by the Sinhalese, & Prabhakaran murdered in cold blood.

But the elimination of the LTTE does not solve the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka, as they continue to face discrimination & violence there. Only India has the power and the muscle to impose to Sri Lanka a just solution, which will give the Tamil minority an autonomy which will stop short of total independence. But is the will there? Manmohan Singh did not go to the CHOGM meet, not out of genuine concern for the Sri Lankan Tamils, but just to placate his DMK ally,who in turn has often used the Sri Lankan issue to whip up frenzied violence for purely political reasons.

Why the Muslim invasions of India ?

Nobody will ever be able to estimate the incredible damage done to Indian culture, civilisation, human population and environment, during the Muslim invasions which spanned nearly ten centuries. But it should be interesting to see why these invasions happened, for no civilisation, if its inner core is strong and dynamic, can be trampled upon so mercilessly, as the Arabs trampled India. What ever happened to that great Vedic culture, which gave birth to so many wonderful dynasties, which in turn devised illustrious democratic systems and whose Kshatriyas were supposed to protect the land of Bharat against barbarian invaders?

Since the beginning of Human History, all civilisations have gone through the same cycle: birth-rise-peak maturity-decline-death. And so many great civilisations are no more but in the memories of our text-books: Mesopotamia; Egypt; Rome; Great Africa; Greece…Yet, because of its extraordinary spirituality, because of the Dharma stored by its great Rishis, India always had the extra impetus to renew itself, to spring forward again, when it seemed she was on the brink of collapsing. It blossomed thus for at least five millenniums, more than any other civilisation before or ever after. Then India started faltering and Alexander was able to invade her sacred soil and later the Arabs raped her beloved land. Why?

Buddhists believe that each nation, like the human soul, packs karma in each of its lives or cycles. Good karma or Bad karma have one unique characteristics: they are like a tiny seed, bearing their fruits ages or cycles later, often giving the impression to the ignorant mind of total injustice done to innocent souls. Thus the individual who seems to suffer unfair circumstances in this life, may be paying for a bad karma done dozens of lives ago. In the same manner, a nation which appears to suffer inexplicable hardships: persecution, earthquakes, great natural catastrophes, dictatorships, may be amending for a karma accomplished centuries ago. The Tibetan people’s plight seems to be a good example of this phenomenon. Here is one of the most harmless, peaceful, adorable culture on earth, spiritualised on top of that, who suffered and is still suffering the worst ignominies at the hands of the Chinese communists, who have eradicated their culture, razed to the ground hundreds of ancient and marvellous temples, killed either directly or indirectly – concentration camps, torture, famine – more than one million of this adorable people! Why? WHY? The Dalai-Lama, himself, one of the last great spiritual figures of this era, admits that it was because of an ancient “black karma”, bad deeds. Was it feudalism? Was it not opening itself to the world for so long? Or misuse of Tantrism? Who knows and who can judge? But it’s a good bet to say that there is probably NO total injustice in this world. Everything springs from a mathematical, ultra-logical system, where one gets the exact reward one deserves, which bears NO moral connotation like in Christianity.

Thus for India, the Muslims invasions and later the European ones, must be the result of a bad karma. But the difference with Tibet, is that India’s soul is so strong, so old, so vibrant, that she has managed so far to survive the terrible Muslims onslaughts and later the more devious British soul-stifling occupation.
There seemed to be two reasons for the decline of Indian civilisation. The foremost is that in India, Spirit failed Matter. At some point, Her yogis started withdrawing more and more in their caves, Her gurus in their ashrams, Her sannyasins in their forests. Thus slowly, a great tamas overtook matter, an immense negligence towards the material, an intense inertia set in, which allowed for the gradual degradation of the physical, a slackening of the down to earth values, an indifference towards the worldly, which in turn permitted successive invasions, from Alexander to the Muslim and finally the European, the rape the land of the Vedas.

The second reason and the one which has been most commonly invoked, including by Muslim apologists -see beginning of this chapter – because is it so obvious, is the fossilisation of the caste system and the gradual take-over of India by an arrogant Brahmin and kshatriya society. What used to be a natural arrangement – a Kshatriya became a warrior to express heroic tendencies in him developed from countless births on earth- turned-out to be an inherited legacy, which was not merited by chivalrous deeds. A Brahmin who used to deserve his status by his scholarship and piety, and was twice-born in the spiritual sense, just inherited the charge from his father. And the shudras were relegated to a low status, doing the menial chores, when in their heyday, they fulfilled an indispensable role, which granted them recognition from the king himself. Thus Hindu religion lost its immense plasticity, which allowed her to constantly renew herself – and India became ripe for invasions.
And finally, Buddhism and its creed of non-violence, however beautiful and noble, opened India’s gates wide. Buddhists forgot the eternal principle of the Gita: « protecting one’s country from death, rape, mass slaughter, is « dharma »; and the violence you then perform is not only absolved, karma- free, but it also elevates you.
(To be continued)