Dr Lobsang Sangay
Head of the Central Tibetan Administration
Dear Dr. Lobsang Sangay,
I am writing to congratulate you on your democratically elected position as the leader of the Central Tibetan Administration. With no disrespect to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I am happy to see that the Tibetan community worldwide finally has someone who is secular to lead them in secular goals, objectives and prospects. It has been over sixty years of exile for the Tibetans who have lost their families, their country and their land. And unfortunately, at this current stage, it does not seem that you will get Tibet back in any form, not even autonomy.
While I am not Tibetan, I have several Tibetan friends all over the world and they have all expressed to me the same sentiment with regard to their sadness and loss over their homeland and that there has been absolutely zero progress towards regaining Tibet’s independence. However, my Tibetan friends will never dare voice this within the Tibetan community for fear that they will be branded as Chinese spies, although they are not. From what I gather, there is no freedom of speech within the Tibetan exile community although it is openly declared that people can speak freely.
As a British citizen, I am taking this opportunity to write to you to share an objective point of view. The Tibetan identity and culture are slowly eroding. The culture in Tibet itself has been taken over by the Chinese government. If you just visited Tibet today, you would see that its whole spiritual history and heart is gone. The feelings of the Tibetans in the refugee camps are resigned, unhappy and angry. The monastic refugee community seems to be in a slightly better state although there is still division in certain monasteries due to the Dorje Shugden issue.
The Dorje Shugden issue is very representative of the focus and narrow-mindedness of some of the members of the CTA, formerly known as the Tibetan Government in Exile. Any government or organisation should never have religious intolerance in any shape, form or manner over the people under their rule. In fact, the CTA should strengthen connections with all the teachers, devotees and practitioners of the Dorje Shugden group as they are powerful, have global influence and connections and are well respected. You should bring them in to help speak on behalf of all Tibetans to bring success to your cause. The CTA should not segregate or ostracise them. It is not logical for any people who are living as refugees to cause further separation among yourselves and lessen your population by something as silly as religious discrimination. Instead, you should be gathering strength in numbers and power.
It is sad to see that this discrimination is coming from the person with the highest authority within your community – the Dalai Lama himself. As someone from a first world country, it is shocking for me to see that the spiritual leader of one of the largest religions in the world has content on his website that speaks out against religious groups and minorities (It can be seen here: dalailama.com/messages/dolgyal-shugden). This is neither accepting nor kind, which are the very qualities that define Buddhism! This is unheard of for any religious leader anywhere in the world – perhaps the only people who continue this kind of dated practice are the Taliban which we have heard terrible things about! I am sure the Dalai Lama is not like this, but please understand that publically posting material like this on his official website creates a very damaging and unkind reputation for His Holiness and for all the people who are his followers and supporters. It would be a great service and benefit to your people and your much respected spiritual leader if you can remove such detrimental content.
China is indirectly doing the Central Tibetan Administration a favour – they have been the target of protests by Tibetans everywhere, so that Tibetans have actually forgotten that up until NOW, the Tibetan government in exile has not done anything for them. At the most basic level of welfare, the Tibetan government has not even provided any good opportunities for their own people to grow and develop after their education. After all, how many successful, well-known Tibetan scientists, business leaders or entrepreneurs are there in the world?
Dr Lobsang Sangay, you are probably the most successful Tibetan on a secular level, having been the first Tibetan to earn an SJD from Harvard Law School. Now you have been elected as the Kalon Tripa, what plans do you have to motivate Tibetans, provide a platform for them to be proud of their culture and unite them? Indeed, I understand you have a lot on your plate but I do hope that under your leadership, your government will no longer have any religious intolerance in any form, as is practised in any other first world nation.
Since you are the political head of the CTA, I suggest that you can improve the situation for the Tibetans worldwide by focusing on the education and qualifications to make Tibetans more successful. I hope you are able to deliver your promise to produce 10,000 Tibetan professionals in 10 years regardless of their religious orientation. If you are able to do this, then when successful Tibetans speak up, the rest of the world will actually listen and do something to help the Tibetan cause. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a Tibetan Richard Gere?
I understand that it is an incredible challenge for you to take over the political leadership from the legendary figure of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama has made the Tibetan issue known to the world although there has still been NO improvement to the Tibetan situation. What will happen after His Holiness passes away? I hope it will not lead to a complete disintegration of the Tibetan identity. What will Tibetans be proud of? Which Tibetans are role models for the second and third generation Tibetans in exile? It is time to focus on the secular image of Tibet. It is time to unite all Tibetans regardless of their religious beliefs.
There is a fast, quick fix that the CTA can immediately implement to make the CTA more credible as a secular administration. Negative references to the Dorje Shugden issue must be removed. The CTA does not need the negative news with regard to the suppression of Shugden practitioners and denial of basic human rights, like travel papers, education, access to basic necessities etc. This issue makes the CTA look superstitious, unfair, backwards and illogical. It is very important NOW for the CTA to distance from the Dalai Lama’s spiritual edicts which were issued previously. I am not personally interested in the Dorje Shugden issue and I don’t understand any of the religious aspects of this issue but this is a something which can seriously damage the CTA’s reputation among Tibetans as well as around the world.
There are more people in the world who do not know about Dorje Shugden than people who do know about these religious issues. It would be much more beneficial for your government NOT to speak so publically about these kinds of issues as it would help to improve your government’s public image. Talking and focusing on these religious aspects makes the CTA look like you have religious intolerance and disrespect the freedom and rights of your own people. This creates a very negative reputation.
Tibetans need to step into the 21st century now and realise that the way forward is the separation of church and state. The Dalai Lama himself has acknowledged this. This is not the time of the Salem witch-hunts or the Spanish Inquisition. It is the time for creating progressiveness and unity among a disheartened, disparate people who desperately need it.
As the head of the CTA, you have the unique opportunity and position to bring the Tibetan people together and into modernity.
I sincerely hope you succeed.
With warmest wishes for your and Tibet’s maturity and progress,