Will the Dalai Lama ever return to Tibet?
A paean to the Dalai Lama on his 80th birthday on July 6, the tussle between realpolitik, idealism, fight for justice and an unwavering hope for peace run through the book. The collection of speeches is historically textualised by Sofia Stril-Rever, a scholar of Tibetan history who has long served as the Dalai Lama’s French translator.
It chronicles how the last surviving Buddhocracy of the world with the Dalai Lama at the helm continues its fight. Stonewalled, without an army of his own, the exiled Tibetan leader knows that his only weapons in the non-violent struggle were truth, courage and justice.
On March 10 every year since 1961, to commemorate the macabre invasion of Tibet by the Chinese Army, the spiritual leader delivers a speech extolling the world’s consciousness for justice. Every speech is a heartfelt call to recognize the truth and the factual reality of Tibet’s history and situation; a cry for help, a plea for justice, and a pledge of determination to withstand the worst and to overcome.
Most poignant among the speeches, which spanned over five decades, was the one the Dalai Lama delivered in 2011, where he relinquished his leadership to a democratically elected government-in-exile. Making tacit statements with strong political and spiritual references, he appealed to the “humane” consciousness of the Chinese government.
“This Earth belongs to humanity, and the People’s Republic of China belongs to 1.3 billion citizens, who have the right to know the truth,” he said.
Taking on the iron-fisted censorship, lack of democracy and human rights, the Dalai Lama said that words need to be backed by action for the world to believe that the efforts made by Beijing to resolve the Tibetan issue needed to be grounded in reality.
This speech revealed, in a way, the Dalai Lama’s maturity and progressiveness. After his first meeting with Jawaharlal Nehru in 1959, the then Indian prime minister had famously quipped: “They (Tibetans) were rather difficult people to help, for they were so ignorant of the modern world and its ways! The Dalai Lama was probably the best of them… but even he was naive and incalculable.”
The book also brings to the fore how the Dalai Lama, as a political leader, adapted and democratized the Tibetan struggle. In his 2011 speech, the spiritual leader goes on to admit how “conservative views” on the 17-Point Agreement with China in the 1950s had hampered a resolution of the conflict.
Fifty-four years could be a blip in the long struggle for Tibetans, but the agenda has been set by the Dalai Lama for future generations. His principled stand for a non-violent struggle to find a middle path for justice has found resonance around the world. The spiritual leader still stands tall as his moral victories make him stand above politics.
Whether the issues relating to Sino-Indian ties or the overt interest that the US lays on the issue to corner Beijing, it is clear that the past, present and future are firmly under the guidance of the Dalai Lama.
The book, however, only makes a passing reference to the succession plan after the Dalai Lama’s departure, though the spiritual leader has floated the idea of a woman successor. what remains to be seen is the future course of this struggle. Will the Dalai Lama ever return to Tibet? That only time will tell.