Are Buddhsist Racist

Read my one & only interview in the New Statesman

What is Racism?


Race can be defined as:

"A classification system used to categorise humans into distinct populations or groups by anatomical, cultural, ethnic, genetic, geographical, historical, linguistic, religious, and/or social affiliation.”


Racism can be defined as:

“The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.”


When a group of people are labeled according to a certain religious belief or affiliation and their access to public services, jobs, livelihoods and social freedoms are denied or restricted on the basis of this belief or affiliation this is racism.

Politician or Monk?

There have been a few criticisms over some of the conclusions drawn in this publication claiming that the Dalai Lama is just a simple Buddhist monk and not a politician. They cite his various statements in 2011 about devolving his power to the Tibetan government as proof of this.

In May 2011 the CTA changed the Charter of the Tibetans in Exile so that all political powers that had previously resided with the Dalai Lama were now transferred to the members of the CTA - this was under the direct guidance of the Dalai Lama and according to his wishes.

However in a statement on July 6th 2012 the CTA said:

"the situation of the Tibetan administration in exile remains in conformity with the wishes and successive advices of His Holiness. However, the Tibetan people both in and out of Tibet still haven’t stopped feeling uneasy and discomforted by the fact that His Holiness no longer exercises direct political and administrative leadership over them."

Although the Dalai Lama does not exercise 'direct political and administrative leadership' the question remains whether he exercises that same control indirectly. In order to answer that question we need to consider how Tibetans traditionally view the Dalai Lama and how he is presented to the political world.

The Dalai Lama is considered by Tibetans to be the incarnation of their patron deity, Chenrezig. He is therefore considered to be, "free from human errors, all-knowing, all-powerful", according to Sir Charles Bell (Portrait of a Dalai Lama).

It seems to be stretching one's imagination to consider that in just 3 short years the Tibetan population would change their view of the Dalai Lama's role simply because of a change in the Charter of the Tibetans in Exile.


High Profile Politician

dalai lama politicianIt is also worth considering that despite supposedly retiring from a political life to concentate solely on a spiritual life the Dalai Lama pushes very hard to coerce political leaders to meet him wherever he goes and speaks frequently about political matters.

In fact a key part of his Norway trip was a visit to the Parliament in Oslo where he made several statements more akin to a politican than a spiritual leader.

For instance whilst saying, "Since 2011 I have completely retired from political responsibility", he went on to talk about how he admires the European Union's spirit of political co-operation, he spoke about Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Communist Party in China, encouraging the EU to express support for him, and discussed Wen Jiabao's ideas of political reform for China.

If we consider the example of Pope Benedict XVI - who resigned from the spiritual role of Pope on 28th February 2013. It would then appear quite strange if he continued travelling the world having highly publicised meetings with other spiritual leaders wouldn't it?

Although the Dalai Lama devolved his political powers to the CTA in 2011 he has continued to travel the world meeting politicians wherever possible. Any time the leaders of a country refuse to meet with him for fear of upsetting trade relations with China there is outrage.

On June 7th 2014 the Tibetan government website carried as their main article the call from the US for China to engage in talks on the future of Tibet stating, "The US has urged China to engage in unconditional talks with His Holiness the Dalai Lama or his representatives". Why would someone with no political responsibility engage in talks with the Chinese government about the future of Tibet? And why would their respresentatives?

It's therefore quite obvious to even the casual observer that the Dalai Lama still undertakes a significant political role. Whereas the Charter of the Tibetans in Exile may not explicitly state this anymore it is without doubt that he continues to exercise political and administrative leadership over the Tibetans, albeit slightly more indirectly than before.


dalai lama politician

The Dalai Lama is pictured above on June 5th 2014 being presented with documents from the Tibetan government for his blessing.

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