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A Brilliant Spiritual Leader But A Poor Political Strategist: The Dalai Lama Turns 77

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By Priyanka Mittal:

As thousands of Tibetans joyously celebrated and blew traditional horns in honour of his holiness, on 6th July when the 14th Dalai Lama turned 77, a few questions definitely lingered behind those smiles. So who was exactly happy that day? Was the celebration dedicated to the man himself or the holy institution that thousands look up to as the absolute symbol of faith and hope?

Through his journey which started at an early age of fifteen, he has emerged as one of the greatest spiritual leaders in the history of the world, but not so much when it comes to being a political strategist. A correspondent for the New York Times had once said, “The Dalai Lama is a great and charismatic spiritual figure, but a poor and poorly advised strategist.” He showed utmost courage by taking on one of the world’s most powerful countries but his Hollywood strategy put him on the back foot.

He joined forces with Hollywood to generate support for the Tibetan cause in America and Western Europe which at that time made sense but using the same, rather than focusing on back-channel diplomacy with Beijing made no sense politically. Simply engaging in talks with Beijing and canvassing support for a pro-Tibet idealist movement just did not work for him. There was lack of any kind of direct action from his end. His policy reminds us of simpler time which appeared to be extremely mellow in front of the aggressive strategies adopted by the totalitarian regime of the Chinese in their dealings.

His ideas were creative but lacked pragmatism and applicability with a view of the situation in hand. China has asked the Tibetan representatives to present their own version of Tibet which included demands for a new self-governing territory comprising areas inhabited by ethnic Tibetans which is quite a share of the entire Chinese territory, restrictions on non-Tibetans entering the Tibetan areas and power on all issues inside the Tibetan, barring defence and foreign relations.

This dream of free Tibet should have been a moderate one, as it would be considered absolutely irrational to expect success in bringing about such a drastic territorial change without being pointed a finger at, for trying to split the country which is exactly what ensued. It is speculated that if left in China’s hands, they will patiently wait for the Dalai Lama to die and then name a domicile successor to serve their own interests, and the road for Tibetans might end there forever.

In midst of power plays and trying to pull Tibet out of Chinese hands we forget that our expectations are pointed at the wrong person. Why should he be expected to play saint at one moment and a political shrewd at the other? It is but his sincerity, genuineness and never to be missed twinkle in his eye which makes him who he is in the first place, so blaming him for not being something he is not seems absurd. Thousands of people all over the world look up to him as being the irreplaceable guide of hope and revival with many putting him on, an almost god like pedestal. For Tibetans, he remains an unshakeable symbol of truth and faith and their world revolves around his words of wisdom.

He has done all within his capacity, in the way that his heart seemed it to be dignified. At this point, one of his quotes comes to my mind, “Our purpose in life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”His tryst with time has shown how he has stood by his own profound words by dedicating his life to doing what he considers closest to his heart; serving the people.

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  1. Adarsh Mittal

    Well analysed!! Not easy to be a Guru and a politician at the same time.

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