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Charles Shaw: The Fundamental Unity of All Things

The Fundamental Unity of All Things

While Tibetans struggle for autonomy, their spiritual leader and his ambassador continue to preach a message of universal oneness
By Charles Shaw
See Also… Conscious Choice April 2007 Issue - Features

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the author of 72 books and has been honored with more than 80 awards, honorary doctorates and prizes in recognition of his messages of peace, understanding, universal responsibility and compassion. “His Holiness,” as he is known, is the head of state in exile and the spiritual leader of Tibet.

The Dalai Lama’s spokesperson in the United States is Kasur Tashi Wangdi, head of the Office of Tibet in New York. Were Tibet recognized as a sovereign nation by the U.N., Wangdi would be an Ambassador. Wangdi also serves as an advisor in negotiations between the Dalai Lama’s emissaries and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The PRC denies that Tibet was ever an independent nation. But the uniqueness of the land and the history of its people are undeniable. Tibet is an ancient, spiritual country. Situated on the Himalayan plateau at the base of the highest peaks on earth, 6 million ethnic Tibetans languish under the occupation and administration of the PRC. Living alongside them are roughly 2 million Han Chinese, who came as a labor force in the decades after China took control.

The Chinese government and the Government of Tibet in Exile disagree over the “incorporation” of Tibet into China. While the Tibetan government fights for the right of self-determination for its people, the Dalai Lama offered a plan of shared control — what he calls “the Middle Way.” But after 50 years of Chinese rule, the traditional Tibetan way of life may be irrevocably changed and many believe China will remain in the picture.

In the last 28 years, there have been five rounds of negotiations over the dispute. Wangdi describes the diplomatic atmosphere as “parental,” with the Chinese delegates lecturing the Tibetans and allowing for little, if any, dialogue. The two most recent negotiations seemed to be headed in a more respectful and collaborative direction but going into the 6th Round, Wangdi senses a new force at work, and a hard road ahead.

“We have not given up hope, but in recent months there has been a hardening of position from the Chinese side. They have made direct attacks on His Holiness, and have tightened control inside Tibet. These are not promising signs but we are not disheartened.”

In the past, Tibet turned to the United States for help, in particular the CIA, which supported the anti-Chinese insurgency from 1948 until 1969 with actions that included a 1959 covert operation to smuggle the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders out of the country. However, since 1969 the American government has officially “supported” the Government in Exile (the State Department provides security for His Holinesses’ visits) but has not worked actively to influence negotiations. The Dalai Lama has said that he felt Tibet was used as a pawn in the Cold War, yet his relationship with the United States has remained strong and he has found tremendous support amongst the American people.

As the Chinese occupation of Tibetan land continues, what does His Holiness think of his own one-time liberators, the Americans, occupying Iraq?

“HH has made his position very clear that he always seeks solutions through non-violent means,” Wangdi said.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama will appear in Chicago on May 6th.


Charles Shaw is National Editorial Director of Conscious Enlightenment publications

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