or watch on our server:
By: Tenzin Choje
A minister of the parliament holds immense responsibilities. The words that they speak and the way that they behave represent the character of the government that they are part of. However, this is not so for the parliamentarians of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). When the reporters of France 24, an international French news station interviewed members of the Tibetan parliament about their stance on Nechung’s predictions which should have been an opportunity to garner support for the Tibetan cause and to create greater understanding and appreciation of the Tibetan culture, those interviewed were not only evasive about the question, but also rude and unbecoming of leaders expected to lead the Tibetans out of decades of despair. One of them even taunted the reporter who asked the question, deflecting the question entirely!
The reporters approach a member of the Tibetan parliament, who is a monk, and asks him about Nechung, trying to get a clear picture of how the parliament accepts Nechung’s advice. “Do you believe in the predictions of the oracle?” Like a deer caught in headlights, he looks at the camera,video is that it shows his eyes wide in shock, mouth gaping, while repeating “This one, I don’t know.” His last words to the crew was, “You ask another” before beating an escape.
The next two parliamentarians that were interviewed were not helpful either. One waved both hands in front of him saying “We don’t know anything about Nechung”. This itself is shocking as Nechung has long been regarded as a key decision maker and an important member of the Tibetan Parliament by the Dalai Lama’s own definition. His colleague in black glasses, who was listening with folded arms, attempts to be more helpful by pointing the camera crew to a Geshe (learned scholar), “Geshe La will be able to help you. You should ask him.”
At this point, the narrator points out that questions are unwelcomed, and that the spiritual authority is not questioned.
“Ah, yes yes yes, I’m monk!” the Geshe declared, while bursting into laughter with other members of the parliament joining him in a haughty laugh, as if it was funny, cultural joke that the reporters did not get. He was, in actuality, taunting the reporter and ridiculing and intimidating them from asking further.
The narrator proclaims, “Finally, a parliamentary spokesperson answers our question”, indicating that they have been quite unsuccessful in finding one that would take them seriously. One of them who finally does, Penpa Tsering explains the concept behind protective deities, where they are relied upon to achieve things where humans are not able to under circumstances.
Another bespectacled parliament member chimes in. “We cannot decide, so then we will ask him, in which way we should go, so he will give us the guidelines, the true guidelines. The right way.” The reporter interjects. “The right way?” in which he responds in a schoolboy-ish manner, “Yeah, yeah. The right way. We’re very very sure what he says about it ”. The reporter asks for an affirmation again, “Are you very sure?” and a very nonchalant “Sure, sure, sure,” was uttered, before the member of the parliament digs into his beverage, as though the interview was disrupting his breakfast and he was hungry.
Representatives of the Tibetans?
The members of the parliament are supposed to be the most learned of the land, the cream of the crop, voted in by those who believe in their abilities as they represent the society that voted them in. However, as we can observe from this video, the tone, the mannerisms and body language that these members of the parliament show to the TV reporters are far from what is considered polite. When the question on Nechung was posed to them, instead of replying the question in a dignified, professional matter like their counterparts would in other countries, these members of parliament shrugged the question off rudely and avoided it all together, without even providing a proper response.
The fact is that they represent the Tibetan people when they talk on this interview that is aired on French National TV. The reporters are requesting for an official statement on Nechung. How is it proper for a parliamentary member who represents the people to shrug off questions pertaining to official matters in this way? In any of the G7 countries (U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan), such a member of the parliament would be questioned, criticized and held responsible for his behavior by the people, but why is such unprofessional behavior allowed in the Tibetan cabinet? Is this the way the members of the parliament, the representatives of the people should be behaving? No, but the reason why they are still members of the parliament is because CTA is not a truly democratic government. These ministers have absolute power, which is why they can make statements and act in ways that they do not need to be accountable for. The reason for this is that most of the Tibetans are not even aware that such behavior is unacceptable. It is not so much of what they said, it is the way that they said it: the Tibetan members of parliament show a very nonchalant, uncaring, flippant and blatant indifference towards the welfare of the Tibetans as well as the matters of the state. The question that needs to be asked is whether such behavior reflect the necessary caliber of leaders required for the Tibetans to navigate the complex issues with China, not to mention taking the Tibetan society into a competitive modern world should they gain the independence they seek.
One can see how in the middle of the video, the monk attempts to intimidate the reporters by calling himself a monk and laughing at that statement together with the rest of the parliamentarians present. One may ask, is this how a monk should behave? Even in normal society, those who were ordained are being shown respect, and at all times show restraint in their actions and speech. In addition to that, laypersons are expected to show respect and restraint towards monks. Not this one, as the monk jokes about his robes and monkhood as if it was a very funny insider joke that only members of the parliament would understand. This shows how disrespectful they are towards a monk despite supposedly being Buddhists, and they are the ones that are governing a Buddhist government. They do not care at all of the people that they are supposed to represent and they do not need to be held accountable for their actions. The statements and attitudes that they show are not too different from those from 3rd world countries, where the ruling party can say whatever they want, and they will not be held accountable for whatever damage that the statement has incurred and anyone who disagrees or questions their statements will be rubbed off by the ruling government. In fact, the CTA has already done something of a similar nature by firing the Director of Radio Free Asia, Nagpo Jigme for expressing views that contradict the CTA.
So, if CTA was truly a democratic country, should it not be that they allow others with a differing opinion to voice their opinions too? That is what a democratic country would do, and that is the normal practice of any country that declares them as democratic. The behavior of the CTA is clearly that of an autocratic regime, where nobody is allowed to question the government. Another glaring sign of the CTA’s autocratic regime is the archaic Dorje Shugden ban that was implemented by the Dalai Lama, where anyone that disagrees with the ban will be instantly made a pariah of the Tibetan society. Some of the victims of this ban are Kundeling Rinpoche and Gangchen Rinpoche and these Lamas has been silenced and banned from Dharamsala, merely for their belief in Dorje Shugden.
The topic in question is Nechung. Nechung is a divine being. Bound by oath by Padamasambhava, the 8th century Buddhist saint to protect the Dalai Lama, Nechung can be consulted by both the Dalai Lama and the government to consult on matters that cannot be resolved with ordinary means. As Nechung is a deity, a god, he cannot be contacted through normal means, and a way of contacting him is by him taking trance of an oracle, which has been trained for this purpose. The Dalai Lama himself has complete reliance on Nechung, as he consults this oracle for any decisions that he is unable to make, much like how we would consult a medium for answers. The Dalai Lama even summons Nechung to guide him on demand, in his private quarters. Such is the level of trust that the Dalai Lama has for Nechung. The following video shows the Dalai Lama consulting Nechung for matters of state, despite the fact that he is an unenlightened deity (see below):
or watch on our server:
However, from the video, one can see from the reaction of the members of parliament that they are not convinced at all with what they are saying when they talk about trusting Nechung and his predictions. These members of parliament even say that they do not know what Nechung is, when in fact, they seek audience and advice from him at least once a year, in the presence of the Dalai Lama. This makes the parliament members’ claim that they do not know what Nechung is a blatant lie. To say that you do not know Nechung is to say that you are unaware of what drives Tibetan policies and with that, this parliament has clearly failed their duty as the representative of the public. It is their job to know what affects and influences government policies. They either brush it off fearfully or try to intimidate the questioner, in this case, the reporter, a very rude and backward way of answering a question. The reason why is because nobody is allowed to question the authority of the Dalai Lama and to say that they do not believe in Nechung would mean that they are going against the Dalai Lama’s spiritual authority and decisions, so many of them dodge that question to play on the safe side. But what they say do not match their body language, as it clearly shows in the video that they are not convinced at all with what they spoke of, and are only doing it out of fear. In other words, the Dalai Lama’s ‘advice’ on parliamentary matters must be followed, and most of these decisions would have come from Nechung. So, how can it be that the CTA claims to be democratic but is indirectly ruled by an invisible being, a god that cannot be held accountable for his actions? Jamyang Norbu, a prolific ethnic Tibetan writer, has highlighted very clearly about this problem where there were many inaccuracies with Nechung’s prediction and one of them actually sent more than 700 Tibetan soldiers to their deaths as Nechung sent them off to war with knives and swords against the British pistols and rifles, promising a divine army which never came. He further points out that there is a possibility that consultations with Nechung can be abused or misused so that nobody has to take responsibility if the decision that they make turns out to be wrong. In a way, Nechung becomes a scapegoat if something goes wrong and the CTA can easily say “But we followed Nechung’s guidance!” and they will not need to be held accountable for their wrong decisions (see Jamyang Norbu’s video below):
or watch on our server:
Another interesting thing to note in the video is that it shows very clearly that the Tibetans do not really trust the advice of Nechung but they seem to believe Nechung when he talked about how bad Dorje Shugden is, and they enforce the ban happily, crushing with impunity those who practice Dorje Shudgen. Nechung is the source of the decision that has singlehandedly split the Tibetan Buddhist community. Why is there such a blatant inconsistency on people’s view on Nechung’s advice? Again, this shows the irresponsible, selective and flippant attitude that the parliament members have on Nechung, which the Dalai Lama himself relies on, showing their lack of faith on the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader, indirectly.
So it is understandable on why are the members of parliament are reluctant to talk about Nechung, because it shows how backwards and archaic they are and how much they want to return to old, feudal Tibet, despite the many inaccurate predictions that Nechung has made, even as recently as last year’s warning about natural disaster in India which never happened. On the other hand, they try hard to conceal the fact that they are consulting Nechung, because it would contradict democracy altogether, and it will not look good in front of other more developed countries, such as the G7 group of developed nations. They are blatantly saying one thing and doing another.
The direction of the CTA
After this video, one can safely conclude that there are serious flaws within CTA’s parliament. If what we have seen here in this clip is supposed to be the most educated Tibetans of Dharamsala, representing the population of Tibetans, how can we expect the CTA to take care of the people in Dharamsala and more so, govern Tibet? If they behave in such a disrespectful way towards journalists whom they are supposed to put on their best behavior to, imagine how do they treat their own people? The blatant bullying that is being displayed by the members of parliament to the journalists would be just the tip of the iceberg, and it would be obvious that the oppression that they will impose on those who are under them many times more. With such a parliament, coupled with the inability to move on from an archaic, religious ban turned secular, it is no wonder CTA is unable to achieve self autonomy for the last 50 years or so.