Examining Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche's Recent Remarks
Samdhong Rinpoche’s tenure as kalon tripa or prime minister will be up in a few months, but it seems he is determined not to leave without delivering some more of his trademark profundities that earlier caused so much dismay to intelligent and dedicated Tibetans. We all remember his statement to the press that… “the Tibet issue is the internal affair of the PRC“, or that President Obama should not irritate China’s leaders, or that the Chinese high-speed railway would benefit the Tibetan people, or (to The New York Times) that Tibetan political freedom (“separation from China”) was not as important as the spiritual welfare of the Chinese people.
On May 23rd this year in New York City, Rinpoche made a statement that Tibetans advocating independence or calling for genuine democracy in exile society were more dangerous than Shugden practitioners or the Chinese Communists. He tried to leave himself a little wiggle-room from possible criticism by using a number of qualifiers, “..we think” or “..a bit” . But it doesn’t really change the substance and focus of his attack. A video excerpt of the statement (with English sub-titles) is provided below.
In addition to his denunciation about some people being “more dangerous than the Chinese Communists” Rinpoche adds the very provocative charge that Rangzen advocates were going around insulting and denigrating His Holiness. Of course that is an absolute lie. Rangzen advocates have certainly voiced criticism of the Dalai Lama’s giving up Tibetan independence but nowhere have I heard or read any statement from Rangzen advocates that could be construed as abusive or insulting. In making such an inflammatory statement I think Rinpoche is under a definite moral obligation to point out specific instances of such abuse and denigration, name names or cite publications, meetings or conferences where they occurred.
If Rinpoche doesn’t do that then of course his claims are just rabble-rousing of an absolutely sleazy kind. Furthermore if he makes such provocative statements to the public, then it is must lead people to wonder what sort of false and distorted information could he be passing on to His Holiness about Rangzen advocates.
It is rather disturbing to note that just a few weeks ago in Dharamshala at the conclusion of the TYC General Body Meeting, when participants were allowed an audience with the Dalai Lama, someone asked his Holiness his opinion on Samdhong Rinpoche’s statement that people who advocated rangzen were more dangerous than the Communist Chinese and Shugden practitioners. His Holiness is reported to have become extremely disturbed and abruptly walked out of the meeting. I heard that that this incident created a furore in McLeod Ganj and the usual mob (of religious-right yahoos) were declaring that they would beat up the person who posed the question.
The puzzling thing is that His Holiness has till this incident been very understanding with Rangzen advocates. Whatever our criticisms about His Holiness giving up Tibetan independence, we have to appreciate the fact that he has consistently stated that he did not oppose those Tibetans who refused to accept the Middle Way. In fact in his many previous meetings with Tibetan youths and in fact with all sorts of different organizations and people, he has always insisted that Tibetans who believed in Rangzen had the right to their belief, and that people should not consider them against His Holiness or the Tibetan government.
So why this very unusual reaction on the part of His Holiness now?
Earlier in our history Tibetans had been through a similar polarizing period in the fifties when the young Dalai Lama was attempting to cooperate with Communist Chinese and implement their policies in Tibet. At the same time a segment of loyal government officials, the Khampa resistance led by Andru Gompo Tashi, Gyalo Thondup and Shakabpa in Kalimpong, and patriotic and concerned citizens, soldiers and monks, bitterly opposed these policies. They also resented the fact of the Dalai Lama being co-opted by the Chinese.
In such a tense and volatile situation, when everyone was suspicious of everyone else, the Dalai Lama’s Lord chamberlain, Phala, had to assume the very difficult and very dangerous role of a liaison, an intermediary between all these parties. He maintained contacts with Andru Gompo Tashi, loyal government officials and military officers, and even with the two agents sent by the CIA. He attempted to persuade these people that the Dalai Lama and the kashag were not against them. At the same time he made sure that His Holiness understand that the actions of the Khampas and certain loyal officials (which the Chinese were constantly denouncing to the Dalai Lama) were not directed against him personally but were rather being undertaken for his well-being and the freedom of the nation.
Of course, subsequent events turned out tragically. Nonetheless it must be said that it was through the efforts of Kungo Phala and some others, that divergent groups in our society managed in the end to work together, even if only a little while, so that the escape of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government was so miraculously effected under almost impossible conditions.