Sunday, July 31, 2011

Prostitutes in Tibetan Monasteries, Nothing New

Comment Board: Subject: Rinpoches and gold and prostitutes Aug 18 2005 05:34 AM


This is true that our Rinpoches are eagerly raising funds to build bigger monasteries with golden Buddhas but with few monks. Even the monks are in robe by the day and found in the brothels by night. They are emulating Tsangyang Gyatso, the 6th Dalai Lama.

There is something fundamentally wrong in Tibetan Buddhist system where they have tulkus and rinpoches who are spoiled rich kids who abuse the money of the dead and the devotees. Khyentse Norbu is an example making films and womanising around the world while enjoying the title of the great Khyentse Tulkus. Who is recognising these fools as tulkus? How many tulkus recognised by some highest lamas in the system are not keeping their vows but abusing money and wealth of the previous lama. If some of the money were spent on building schools and women's education that will be good. What is the religious dept in D-sala doing about this? They issue letter of recommendation to every little group for raising funds for this and for that. Look at the monks from Sera, Drepung Gaden and a nunnery from Kopan all who have become performers and artists. They publicly display mandalas and Tibetan nuns and monks come to dance in world theatres. All to raise money of course. How is the increasing number of monk and nuns performing from Gelukpa monasteries in Nepal and India going to keep the profile of Tsongkhapa's purity of vows and practice?

I thought Gelukpas were the reformists and pure ones but now a days they are running around the world as gypsies. First they come as chanting monks and then they are dancing monks and then they are buying house monks, then they have become landlord monks. Their western nuns have become marriage celebrants; it is absurd that nuns become marriage celebrants. So this 21 century Buddhism in action, of course there are many that are good too. I can see why China is trying to highlight the quality monks rather than building huge numbers like an army. We need good and few monks, but they like numbers don't they, sera 5,500, Drepung 7,700 and so on. Of these how many young good looking boys are sex workers called 'dron-po' (guest) for older geshes and some of the rinpoches too? So do not blame the Chinese or poverty for the sex workers in Shigatse, Tibet had them all along within the monastic compounds. Go to Sera in South India, you will see happening. It is important to see one's own faults before one point finger to the other. The Chinese have brought many things to Tibet. List the all honestly. Tibet has many old mistakes and lists them too. Prostitutes are fact of life as is guest in the monasteries. Wake up!

Posted here:

The Dalai Lama and the proximity to the CIA


He is the epitome of wisdom and gentleness. But apparently the Dalai Lama knew more about the support of violent resistance in Tibet by the U.S. Secret Service, as he has previously admitted. Even money flowed to him.

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetans, has maintained the image of a moral authority in the world for decades,but his image of being pacifist is now threatened to collapse, because a new documentary about the American CIA in Tibet reveals that the highest Tibetans apparently knew more about the support of the American intelligence for violent resistance struggle of the Tibetans in China, than he has so far admitted.

Filmmaker Lisa Cathey has interviewed a CIA veteran who reported on a meeting with the Dalai Lama in 1964. The film, based on interviews with a total of 30 former secret service agents should appear in a few months. Parts of it, however, are already published on the website According to reports, the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" and the TV magazine "Panorama" documents show that the U.S. government the CIA was the Nobel Peace significantly closer than previously known.
The Chinese government is likely to swirl around the CIA connections of the Dalai Lama to be more than right. Beijing is the fascination of the world's top Tibetans have long been a thorn in the side.
Journalists rely on documents of American government, which was released a few years ago, but have not been evaluated media. Accordingly, the Tibet-based program of the CIA to agreements the U.S. government and the Dalai Lama from the years 1951 and 1965. The first contact was by representatives of the Dalai Lama on the U.S. embassy in the Indian capital New Delhi and the U.S. consulate opened in Calcutta.

Also a brother of the Dalai Lama was then auditioned for the U.S. government. Go to the contacts it is explicitly for military assistance. According to the "Süddeutsche Zeitung", the Dalai Lama was in 1958 at the latest information on the education of Tibetan paramilitary fighters by the CIA. This is apparent from an interview that the religious leaders had been a reporter for over a decade ago.
Brand new allegations are not. Already known is that the CIA support for the militant Tibetans has been terminated early 70s, after the government had taken Nixon established diplomatic relations with China. In the late 90's had some books and movies, the connections between the CIA and the Dalai Lama-rayed. In his autobiography of 1991 he had written about the contacts of his brothers to the CIA: "My brothers thought it wise to keep this information from me."

In 1998, a spokesman for the Tibetan government in exile told the newspaper "New York Times" admitted that they did in the 60s will receive $ 1.7 million annually from the CIA. With the money, the training of guerrilla fighters and the conduct of military operations had been financed. Reports, the Dalai Lama have personally received $ 180,000 annually, the spokesman pointed back then though. The "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" encountered during their research but to CIA documents to declare the transfer of this sum as "cash assistance for the Dalai Lama."

and this:

Tibetan Suicide Protests Violate Buddhist Ethics

New America Media, News Report, Yoichi Shimatsu, Posted: Oct 05, 2011

In just this year, five monks have torched themselves in protest at Kirti monastery, in the Aba district of China’s Sichuan Province. Prior to self-immolation, each monk called for Chinese authorities to permit the homecoming of the 14th Dalai Lama. The burnings follow upon earlier suicides by a dozen monks and a nun.

Although the Dalai Lama, for whom these lives were sacrificed, voiced opposition to an act of suicide years earlier, with 17 followers dead and counting, his present silence implies self-immolation is a commendable action.

All religious movements have martyrs who died at the hands of an intolerant foe rather than betray their faith. Deliberate self-sacrifice in religious warfare, as practiced by Muslim suicide bombers, is controversial and opposed by more rationalistic preachers. In totally different circumstances of peace and prosperity on the Tibetan Plateau, the resort to self-immolation raises hard questions about Buddhist attitudes toward suicide.

The infrequent suicidal protests in modern China and Vietnam have been solitary actions and not a policy of Buddhist sects. The most famous incident, broadcast worldwide over television, was the self-torching of 66-year-old Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Duc to confront persecution by the Catholic-run government of South Vietnam. His suicide in 1963 prompted President Ngo Dinh Diem to personal remorse, even if it did not lead to the desired reform.

The Tibetan immolations fail to get across the message. In recent years, Chinese society has developed a phobia toward religious fanaticism, largely due to online images of an alleged Falun Gong member's self-immolation at Tiananmen Square, which the sect claims is a fake, promoting the stereotype of religious extremism as a form of psychosis." Instead of arousing compassion for their cause, human torching led to ostracism.

End of Boyhood
A troubling question concerns the age of the suicide victims- all young, some still teenagers, rather than elderly men past the prime of life. With Tibet prospering and monks having the chance to study in India, why would anyone so young throw away a promising future? As told to me by an ethnic Tibetan detective in Aba county, a police raid on Kirti monastery in the wake of the 2008 riots resulted in the seizure of rifles, ammunition and a trove of pornographic DVDs. The community of 2,000 monks, as provincial officials discovered to their shock and dismay, had been tolerating the banned traditional practice of pedophilia.

Tibetan families tend to nervously laugh off the molestation issue since monasteries are respected institutions. The psychological effects of sexual abuse under a monastic seniority system are undoubtedly similar to the lifelong trauma experienced by some victims of the Catholic priesthood. Aggressive acts against minors have likely contributed to the depression and low self-esteem that allowed some youngsters to be manipulated into volunteering for suicide.

Morality and Law

Sichuan police officers and paramedics intervened in every immolation event, dousing the gasoline flames and rushing the patient to a hospital and later to a morgue. In this year's first case, the police arrested three older monks who had encouraged a novice to suicide. If found guilty for prompting the victim's death, they will be sentenced for murder.

The ethical argument for the state to intervene against religion-sanctioned suicide, which is today universally upheld, was first formulated by Augustine, the bishop of Hippo in 4th century North Africa. As social pessimism gripped the collapsing Roman empire, the Catholic theologian criticized rival Gnostic bishops for urging suicide as a release from the material world, which in their cosmology is a prison confining the free soul. Augustine, an advocate of separation of religion and state, nevertheless called on the Roman governor to arrest the offending prelates since the suicides were not actually voluntary and therefore unlawful. Augustine, whose reasoned arguments were later twisted by the medieval church for repressive purposes, explained that spiritual experience requires the care and maintenance of the body. A similar doctrine of reasonableness toward biological necessity was developed a millennium earlier by Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, whose "middle way" opposed excessive asceticism and mortification of the flesh.

Buddhism subdivided into three major movements: Hinayana, based on the exemplary life of the Buddha; Mahayana, incorporating pre-Buddhist divinities and rites; and Vajrayana, practicing anti-dogmatic rituals. Tibetan Buddhism is a branch of Vajrayana, also called Tantrism, which emerged as a distinct school in the 8th century along the Silk Road.

Bodily Consumption

Early Tantric practioners, who assailed the constrictive rules of orthodox Buddhism, pushed the boundaries with sexual rituals and marathon meditation for attainment of visions. In consecrations more literal than the Christian communion with bread and wine, Vajaryana devotees ingested morsels of flesh (hair and nails) and body fluids from their teachers to symbolize the transmission of teachings. These ritualized feasts were a faint echo from the pre-Buddhist past when divinities were appeased with burnt offerings of sacrificial victims.
Sacrifice of one's body by fire is, therefore, seen as the ultimate tribute to a higher cause. This sort of primitivist thinking puts extreme Tantrism and Gnosticism into the category of heresy against the rigorous logic and progressive outlook of original Buddhism and early Christianity.

The Buddha opposed suicide, considering it a self-deceptive escape from the human condition of suffering and therefore undeserving of karmic merit. In only two rare cases did he exonerate - but not endorse - euthanasia by monks who were physically incapable of caring for themselves due to chronic illness and advanced age.

The Buddhist Eight-fold Path explains that a troubled world can be positively influenced only through clarity of mind, considerate behavior and ethical relationships. Suicide is off the moral map, since it leads nowhere but back to suffering by others. To young Tibetans and the Buddhist community, the Dalai Lama should therefore be teaching not why to die but how to live.

Yoichi Shimatsu, former associate editor with Pacific News Service, is a Hong Kong-based journalist who produced the video documentaries "Flight of the Karmapa" and "Prayer Flags." He has worked in the Aba Tibetan autonomous district in China’s Sichuan Province as an environmental consultant.
Ed. Note: An earlier version of this article left out reference to allegations disputing the authenticity of images involving the self-immolation of members of Falun Gong. The current version has been revised to offer a more accurate reflection of the issue.

The Punk Monks of Tibet By Chris Kavanagh

My recent post discussing the Dalai Lama reminded me of an interesting article I read a number of years ago about a rather unusual category of monks that existed in the monasteries of Tibet- the Ldab Ldob (dabdos) or, as they have also been called, ‘Punk monks’. These monks, who were an established and accepted part of the monastic community earned the moniker ‘punk because there time in Tibetan monasteries was spent engaging in violent duels, competing in intermonastery sporting events and rather infamously kidnapping young boys for sexual pleasure.

As such, they don’t just contradict the romanticised image of Tibetan monastic life but they grab that image, beat it senseless, steal all of its belongings then kick into a ditch and tell it not to come back and bother them again. They also illustrate how the real situation is often far more interesting and complex than any simplistic fantasy version can be.

The article discussing them was titled ‘A Study of the Ldab Ldob‘ and appeared in the Central Asiatic Journal back in 1964, it was written by the famous anthropologist and scholar of Tibet Melyvn C. Goldstein. Goldstein got his information about the dabdos from a small group of five Tibetan informants: two members of the aristocracy who had frequent dealings with the dabdos, a divination specialist, a member of a dabdos’ sporting society and one of the Dalai Lama’s dancing troop. Goldstein is careful to point out the limitation of his sources at the start of his article yet despite the small sample his informants were a varied and well informed bunch and the information he collected proved to be remarkably consistent with that gathered in later research (see for instance this later biography of a dabdo).

Also to Goldstein’s credit is the fact that he tested the reliability of the information he had collected during his interviews by occasionally relating false summaries to his informants to see if they would correct or challenge his errors- he reports that they always did. This simple test is a good example of how a responsible researcher should operate; critically testing the reliability of the information he is gathering rather than simply assuming it to be correct. So take note any future or current researchers or interviewers!
Based on his interviews Goldstein explained that the dabdos presented a potential channel in Tibet for those who entered the monastic setting and enjoyed the advantages of monkhood but were somewhat deviant and unsuited to a typical monastic lifestyle. Thus becoming a dabdo presented an officially sanctioned path for those of a more aggressive and unruly temperament and as a result the dabdos came to comprise about 10 per cent of the monastic community in the larger monasteries. As mentioned in the previous article discussing the Dalai Lama, the political situation in Tibet prior to the Chinese invasion was not as unified as is commonly portrayed. The larger monasteries operated, by and large, as independent political entities and thus the dabdos populations occasionally functioned for monasteries as a kind of standing army that could be called into service as required.
Diagrams of dabdos weapons

The dabdos despite being a violent and unruly lot and having a reputation for breaking their vows still remained an officially sanctioned group and as such they dressed like monks but with the additional feature that they also carried at least one weapon- with the most common being a sharpened ‘key’ or a curved blade attached to a leather strap which was thrown or used like a dagger at close range (see the schematic images to the right).

Something else which distinguished dabdos from other monks was their participation in sporting competitions. Many dabdos trained for and took part in sporting competitions and games. The most famous of these was the Mchong intermonastery competition in Lhasa held every few years between the large monastaries of Sera and Drepung. These competitions required the construction of a special sloped runway and had to be sanctioned by the abbots and officials from both monastaries (involving an official written guarantee that no fighting would be permitted). At the events the dabdos would be arranged into two teams of twenty or so competitors, who would be paired by size and strength, and would then face each other in a series of athletic challenges including a number of long jump and rock tossing events.

The events, at least in Lhasa, were attended by all of the officials from the two monasteries (except the abbots), government officials, traders and interested laymen. The dabdos who were competing dressed in distinctive costumes and were awarded white ceremonial scarves if they proved victorious. During the year the monks competing also had groups of lay people who would come and train with them throughout the year to prepare them for the tournament. Goldstein’s account of these competitions make them sound like some sort of bastard offspring between the Olympics and the Oxford-Cambridge Varsity competitions.

Amongst Tibetans the reputation of the dabdos did not derive from their taking part in games and competitions however instead their infamy largely extended from their fighting prowess and their reputation for brawling. As Goldstein explains:

More important than sports, the Ldab Ldobs love fighting, either among themselves or with laymen. Within the monasteries the Ldab Ldobs have a loose hierarchy which is based on their success as fighters. A Ldab Ldob renowned as a great fighter has achieved the most highly sought after honor that a Ldab Ldob can acquire. In fact a Ldab Ldob who does not fight, or cannot win fights, is a Ldab Ldob in dress only.

Dabdos often established their reputations by taking part in challenge matches both between fellow dobdos from the same monastery and rival dobdos from other monasteries. These matches were often vicious and occasionally ended in mutilation and death but much like combat sports today they were also often between dabdos who bore no personal grudge towards each other which resulted in the challengers ‘burying the hatchet’ as soon as the contest had ended.
Dabdos didn’t just fight other dabdos however they also fought with lay people and in a twist, which will be surprising to most, the most common reason for such fights was due to their “general propensity for homosexuality, and from this, their most infamous characteristic of ‘kidnapping’ young boys, and even adults, for homosexual practices”. The stories Goldstein relates of Tibetan school children banding together after classes to defend themselves with pen knives and barrages of rocks from gangs of marauding dabdos may seem fantastical and certainly don’t accord with the romantic images associated with Tibetan monks in the West but there is every indication that the dabdos penchant for young boys was a widely acknowledged problem in Tibetan society.
With all their negative attributes it might seem surprising that the dabdos were tolerated in Tibetan monasteries at all but Goldstein argued that in actual fact the dabdos were “the backbone of the monastery” and to support this he identified several prominent roles they played in Tibetan monastic life:

1. As discussed, the dabdos provided a sanctioned route for those who are unsuited to monastic life but did not wish to leave the privileges of monk hood behind. This also served to effectively convert potential anti-monastic elements of society into pro-monastic elements who were, in their own way, devoted to defending monastic life and its institutions.

2. They provided a source of physical labour typically performed the majority of manual labour in the monastery-repairing the buildings, building houses, transporting goods and making the tea! They served as a protective force and even occasionally as a quasi ‘police force’ for monasteries- policing religious festivals and processions and acting as bodyguards during official trips.
They provided an outlet for the inevitable youthful exuberance that accompanied monastic communities which had significant populations of young men. It is also notable that had a retirement age and typically by the age of 40 even the most infamous ‘punk monks’ would leave behind their violent past and assume more mainstream roles in the monastic community.

It’s hard to fault this analysis when the brute fact remains that dabdos remained tolerated and accepted in Tibetan monastic communities for centuries despite their far from ideal behaviour. Yet it should also be noted that many of the well known sayings presented in Goldstein’s articles make it clear that the dabdos themselves recognised that their actions were deviant and that their primary function in monastic life was to act as a support to the more pious monks in the community:

Even if the Buddha appeared in the sky,
we would not know how to have faith,
Even if the intestines of a sentient being were falling out,
we would not know how to have compassion.
… (We Ldab Ldob’s) are the outer walls,
(The other monks) are the inner treasures.

Goldstein’s article goes in to all of the aspects discussed above in much greater detail and is worth a read- especially if your only exposure to Tibetan Buddhism is the Dalai Lama’s speeches and that film about Tibet with Brad Pitt. And on the topic of the Hollywood portrayals I can’t help thinking how different Chow Yun-Fat’s portrayal of a Tibetan fighting monk would have been if it had incorporated some of Goldstein’s research… maybe Hollywood’s not quite ready for the real dabdos yet.

Rape. Torture. Slaves. All in Shangri-la

Tibetan Buddhism  by mbplee aka elle
 Regeneration of the Buddhist Priesthood in Tibet

I have often wondered about the regeneration of the Tibetan priesthood, because I had always thought that the priests observed celibacy. Buddhist priests I have observed are always single, and the nuns too are always single and I had assumed that they practised celibacy as in the Catholic faith. In Buddhism, in order to achieve Nirvana, one can infer that a celibate lifestyle is critical to leaving behind the world of material or emotional attachment. It is therefore necessary for monks and nuns to renounce certain human desires in their vows of devotion to their beliefs. Celibacy is but one of the two hundred and fifty-three vows undertaken by the novice monks and nuns. But in Tibet, this would eventuate in the di-population of Tibet as there are predominantly more Buddhist monks and nuns than anywhere else in the world.

It is not uncommon when monks spot some young, intelligent, and curious boy from among the peasant families or the serfs, to induce or persuade their parents to allow such boys to be novice priests. Most peasants or serfs would look upon such a vocation as an honour and privilege to the family. Their son would have a good life, provided for and clothed for the rest of his life and highly respected within the community. The family would be proud for such an honour and will also be relieved of having to feed another mouth. Such chosen families would be willing participants for such a future for their sons or daughters. But, their son, once accepted as a novice monk will be bonded for his life to the monastery. Dependant upon the monasteries and the priests involved, most of these boys will have escaped a life of poverty and servitude, but will now lead a life of humility and denial, and also suffer harshness and deprivations of another kind in within the monasteries.

Monastic estates are also constantly on the look out to recruit young persons from among the peasants to serve in their monastery as soldiers, or ritual dance performers, or for their requirements as domestic help. They will entice such recruits by persuading the parents that such children will be well cared for and will be respected members of the monastery, thus persuading them to give up their children willingly. Such recruitment is not so dissimilar to that practised by the Christian churches in medieval times. Outside of the serfs and the peasants, there was a small middle class Tibetan families who were members of the merchant class, or shopkeepers, and small traders. There were also a small number of independent farmers who subsisted on small plots of land as the free peasantry. These farmers were usually poor and struggled in that environment as independents.

Despite the vows of celibacy, there have been reports of rampant sex among abstemious monks practised within the Gelugpa sect. It was also common for some of the senior monks to take advantage of their position and authority to share the privileges of “Wisdom Consorts” by informing the women that by sleeping with the monks, they would gain “the means to enlightenment”. These women could be nuns or lay women of the order. No doubt pregnancies often resulted in such experiences. Break of the vows of celibacy could mean that it might require several incarnations to achieve nirvana. Yet it has also been said that Buddha himself reached nirvana after he had had experience of such a nature. Thus celibacy was by no means strictly observed among Buddhist monks.
The life of serfs was dismal and there were no laws to protect their rights. Because of the harshness of life in that period, most serfs were glad to have found shelter and food for their families from their lords and masters. In Tibet, only a handful of established warlords, retired Generals, or a few senior and influential monks and their monasteries owned all to the land, including the serfs and slaves attached to that estate. Ninety-five percent of Tibetans were serfs on these manorial estates. The serfs were treated little better than slaves. Monasteries owned large tracts of the fertile land in order to support and feed all the monks. This feudal system was similar to that in Europe in the middle ages, but lasted to the end of the Twentieth Century. Serfs were under a life bond to work on the Lord’s land or the monasteries’ land without pay, to repair the Lord’s houses, transport his crops, collect his firewood, and herd his animals. All this labour provided without pay or reward.

A Tibetan lord would often take his pick of females in the serf population, if we are to believe one 22-year old woman, herself a runaway serf: "All pretty serf girls were usually taken by the owner as house servants and used as he wished." They "were just slaves without rights." (15) Serfs needed permission to go anywhere. Landowners had legal authority to capture and forcibly bring back those who tried to flee. A 24-year old runaway serf, interviewed by Anna Louise Strong, welcomed the Chinese intervention as a "liberation." During his time as a serf he claims he was not much different from a draft animal, subjected to incessant toil, hunger, and cold, unable to read or write, and knowing nothing at all. He tells of his attempts to flee:

The first time [the landlord's men] caught me running away, I was very small, and they only cuffed me and cursed me. The second time they beat me up. The third time I was already fifteen and they gave me fifty heavy lashes, with two men sitting on me, one on my head and one on my feet. Blood came then from my nose and mouth. The overseer said: "This is only blood from the nose; maybe you take heavier sticks and bring some blood from the brain." They beat then with heavier sticks and poured alcohol and water with caustic soda on the wounds to make more pain. I passed out for two hours. (16)

In the Dalai Lama's Tibet, torture and mutilation -- including eye gouging, the pulling out of tongues, hamstringing, and amputation of arms and legs -- were favored punishments inflicted upon thieves, runaway serfs, and other "criminals."

Michael Parenti is an internationally known author and lecturer. He is one of the nation's leading progressive political analysts. Parenti received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University in 1962. He has taught at a number of colleges and universities, in the United States and abroad.

Some monasteries had their own private prisons, reports Anna Louise Strong. In 1959, she visited an exhibition of torture equipment that had been used by the Tibetan overlords. There were handcuffs of all sizes, including small ones for children, and instruments for cutting off noses and ears, and breaking off hands. For gouging out eyes, there was a special stone cap with two holes in it that was pressed down over the head so that the eyes bulged out through the holes and could be more readily torn out. There were instruments for slicing off kneecaps and heels, or hamstringing legs. There were hot brands, whips, and special implements for disembowling.

The Red Thread, Book Reviews

The Red Thread: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality

Bernard Faure / Author Princeton University Press $90 (324p) ISBN 978-0-691-05998-3

This book opens with an intriguing question: Why have so many prominent Buddhist leaders in recent times (e.g., roshi Richard Baker, Osel Tendzin, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche) been involved in scandals of excess, especially sexual? Faure's answer is that behind such ""antinomianism"" there is a deep-seated ambiguity in Buddhism, rooted in the pivotal place that desire (the ""red thread"" of the title) holds in the Second Noble Truth. The author, a religion professor at Stanford, finds this ambiguity at its height in the Mahayana tradition, particularly in its notion of the Two Truths (bodhisattva-ultimate and lay-conventional), and most especially and predictably in Tantric Buddhism. But more telling, perhaps, is the evidence in the canonical and extra-canonical stories of Gautama himself, as well as in the ostensibly rigorist Vinaya (monastic discipline) of the more conservative Theravada school. Though the book is informative and at times entertaining with its numerous anecdotes and stories from Buddhist tradition, the warning to the reader in the introduction is well founded: the thesis and line of argumentation tend to get lost, sometimes hopelessly, in the veritable barrage of source material, most of which is far more illustrative than probative and is thus ultimately distracting. (Dec.)

The Red Thread - Faure, Bernard



Is there a Buddhist discourse on sex? In this innovative study, Bernard Faure reveals Buddhism's paradoxical attitudes toward sexuality. His remarkably broad range covers the entire geography of this religion, and its long evolution from the time of its founder, Xvkyamuni, to the premodern age. The author's anthropological approach uncovers the inherent discrepancies between the normative teachings of Buddhism and what its followers practice.

Framing his discussion on some of the most prominent Western thinkers of sexuality--Georges Bataille and Michel Foucault--Faure draws from different reservoirs of writings, such as the orthodox and heterodox "doctrines" of Buddhism, and its monastic codes. Virtually untapped mythological as well as legal sources are also used. The dialectics inherent in Mahvyvna Buddhism, in particular in the Tantric and Chan/Zen traditions, seemed to allow for greater laxity and even encouraged breaking of taboos. Faure also offers a history of Buddhist monastic life, which has been buffeted by anticlerical attitudes, and by attempts to regulate sexual behavior from both within and beyond the monastery. In two chapters devoted to Buddhist homosexuality, he examines the way in which this sexual behavior was simultaneously condemned and idealized in medieval Japan.

This book will appeal especially to those interested in the cultural history of Buddhism and in premodern Japanese culture. But the story of how one of the world's oldest religions has faced one of life's greatest problems makes fascinating reading for all.

The two faces of the Dalai Lama


The two faces of the Dalai Lama - An Icon of Light with a Shady Side by Tilman Müller

“Stern”, one of the biggest German Magazines, published a quite well researched title story on the XIV. Dalai Lama. ("Stern" No 32, July 30, 2009) Although the Tibetan leader did announce officially his political retirement, this article has not lost its actuality.

The two faces of the Dalai Lama The soft Tibetan and his undemocratic Regime

An Icon of Light with a Shady Side

by Tilman Müller and Janis Vougioukas

When visiting Germany this week, the Dalai Lama will again be lauded as a messiah. The head of Tibetans is regarded as a symbol of tolerance. But critics in his exile community fail in demanding religious freedom and democracy.

He always comes in a large convoy like a president, bodyguards surrounding him, movie stars and managers forming honour guards. Politicians in charge hurry to welcome him. The scene may be the same this week in Frankfurt [Germany], just as it was in Nuremberg last year. The Dalai Lama greeted the crowds with his lovely child-like waving of hands. But his speech in the town hall made people halt their breath, as reported by a local newspaper next day.

He catered the elect audience saying he saw Nuremberg already on photographs when he was still a child: “very attractive with generals and weapons“ and with “Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering“.

Some of the auditors seemed to be “embarrassed”, some were “alienated for a second“. Nuremberg's chief mayor Ulrich Maly calls it a “moment of shock“. The special guests tried to get him self afterwards out of the affair by stating that as a child he wasn't able to foresee the Nazi catastrophe.

If the Pope had given himself room for such statements in the city of the Reichsparteitage [NSDAP party summits] and the race laws, there would have been a loud outcry in the republic [of Germany]. But the head of Tibetan Buddhists is willingly excused for such words although His Holiness has enough reason to critically think about Nazi history. He who bears the title of the "Ocean of Wisdom" always had a very close relationship to his teacher Heinrich Harrer, a famous alpinist and author ("Seven years in Tibet"). Harrer had been a snappy Nazi who for a long time tried to hide the fact that he used to hold the rank of SS-Oberscharführer [Senior Squad Leader of the Schutz-Staffel (SS) or Protective Echelon of Adolf Hitler]. The Tibetan court used to have close ties with the NS-regime.

SS-expeditions were welcomed to Lhasa with full mark of respect. Until today, His Holiness never distanced himself from these inglorious relationships. But this is not the only dark chapter in his story of success.

The Dalai Lama smiles away all doubts. Almost everywhere he receives the same god-like veneration. In the West he appears as the super idol of the new age but in the Himalayans he governs like a medieval potentate. A gentle do-gooder who can show a surprisingly intolerant yes dictator-like behaviour. His people's sad fate, suppressed by Beijing and expulsed, hides the inner problems of the Dalai Lama-regime.

Here [in Germany] people attracted by him fill stadiums like coming to see a pop star. In Nuremberg 7,000 people listened to him, in Hamburg two years ago 30.000 and Frankfurt Commerzbank-Arena expects 40.000 visitors these days. The tickets range from € 10 to € 230 and usually are booked one year in advance. In conjunction with his huge events, there came up a unique spiritual supermarket. 728 German and 908 English books from and about the Dalai Lama are listed with amazon, 13,200 videos at youtube, almost 8 million entries in google. The son of Tibetan peasants is the most popular of all living noble laureates.

Members of all religions and also atheists come like pilgrims to his one-man-shows. "We had direct eye-contact", a young woman in the German city of Moenchengladbach shouted out over-happily and immediately promised to stop smoking henceforth. "He makes me feel good", a woman in Boston says in excitement and puts it into a nutshell, "it's his aura, this simpleness".

Just in Europe and the US, the birthplaces of the Age of Enlightenment, this Buddhist messiah formed new strongholds of his religion and he also finds favour with the usually critical-thinking generation of 68 [the left wing student protest movement in Europe] In 1971, Stern Magazine [The magazine where this article was published] celebrated him as the "saint on the mountain", Spiegel Magazine romanticised him to be a "god to touch" two years ago.

The head of the powerful German publishing house Springer, Mathias Döpfner, ex-porn queen Dolly Buster, German football star Mehmet Scholl, former economy minister Otto Graf Lambsdorff, and the inventor of the famous Love Parade Dr. Motte venerate Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.

Where does that huge excitement come from? Christianity is loosing prestige and believers. That left a vacuum giving Buddhism a space to develop in the west as some kind of wellness-religion. And the peaceful calmness of the Dalai Lama makes you feel comfortable in the rough daily rat-race. His positive charisma seems to ban all fear of crisis. On top of this, there arose a Tibet romanticism in the West transfigurating the snow land on the roof of the world where the Dalai Lama had been born in 1935 in a hut with juniper rain-pipes.

The Asia expert Orville Schell, president of the New York Center of Sino-American Relations, explained the development of the Tibet-Myth from its remote position for centuries in innumerable works. The lack of knowledge gave birth to fantasies. It all started back in 1933 with James Hilton's novel "Lost Horizon", first published in German titled "Irgendwo in Tibet - Somewhere in Tibet". The action was set in the sunshine paradise Shangri-La where no one had to work and everyone is living in eternal peace. The dream factory of Hollywood later on could use all these fantasies, creating a symbiosis of Tibet and pop culture, and created a monument for Tenzin Gyatso with the movie "Kundun". "Because Tibet has always been so inaccessible, it existed in western imagination rather as a dream than as reality. It was supposed to be a country we could project our post-modern longings to", Schell says.

"I am for you whatever you want me to be for you", the Dalai Lama says and in that way, alpinist Reinhold Messner regards him as "a fighter for environment protection". German movie director and Oscar prize winner Florian Henckel von Donnermarck appreciates that "he makes happiness one of his religion's core principals." Actress Uma Thurman expects absolution for making the bloodthirsty violent movie "Kill Bill": "The Dalai Lama would die laughing" if watching the movie. And the Dalai Lama takes part in that game, he is open to all directions at one's will.

He is a perfect tool for presidents and heads of government as even George W. Bush looks peaceful when being with him. The hyper active Nicolas Sarkozy looks gentle, and boring Roland Koch [prime minister of the German state of Hessen] at least seems to have some esprit. Especially with conservative and right-wing politicians this game of mutual instrumentalisation works especially well. The Dalai Lama had strong sympathy for the Austrian right-wing Jörg Haider and visited him several times in his Austrian state of Kaernten.

Although the head of Tibetans is already 74, he is touring the West so intensively only for a relatively short time now. In June 1979, he visited Mont Pèlerin at Lake Geneva giving his first public teaching to a greater audience in the west. "There was not much interest regarding the Dalai Lama and we couldn't even get police protection for him," one of the then organizers, today living in Switzerland, tells us.

In the meanwhile, the Dalai Lama became popular to the world but isn't it anymore to all the monasteries. "There had been a break in our community about ten years ago," a former companion says. In the first line it was about a protective saint the brotherhood is not allowed to worship anymore. But basically this religious quarrel is a struggle for power with intrigues, slandering, and intimidation continued until today. Out of fear of repression the confidant of the Dalai Lama asks to stay anonymous. The "Tibetan Community of Switzerland", an organisation strongly devoted to the Dalai Lama called on all Tibetans in Switzerland having passed their 18th birthday to "immediately" stop the worship of the Tibetan protective deity Dorje Shugden and to sign an 8-point-agreement: "Those few Tibetans publicly and for no reason criticising the Dalai Lama are regarded to be Chinese collaborators by us."

This strategy of "either being with me or against me" and the rigid tone absolutely don't fit to the gentle manner in which the "Übervater" [super-father] is usually presenting himself to the West. His royal court in Dharamsala still follows the feudalist structure of the old Tibet and is ruled by oracles and rituals that do not have much in common with western tolerance and transparency. The Dalai Lama's sudden prohibition of the protective deity Shugden who had been worshipped since the 17th century and is one out of hundreds of saints in the Tibetan Buddhist canon in 1996 deeply alienated many religious Tibetans. For them it is incomprehensible and outsiders hardly can grasp how rigorous it is enforced. About one third of the 130,000 exile Tibetans are supposed to have worshipped Shugden before the ban. Today there are only a few thousand to openly show their connection to the cult. There are no independent estimations regarding the 5 million Tibetans inside China.

The journalist Beat Regli in 1998 for the first time showed emotional pictures of that imminent conflict in the Indian exile communities in Swiss television [Schweizer Fernsehen, SF - Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden]. Highly aged monks regretted crying that they didn't already die before the prohibition of Shugden. A desperate family whose house had been set alight is presented as well as wanted posters denouncing Shugden followers and a Dalai Lama uncompromisingly defending his ban. "Wrong, wrong" he sounds off in a cold and sharp way nobody in the west has ever expected from the ever smiling noble laureate.

In Dharamsala this quarrel is continuing to the present day. Monks not following the Dalai Lama's order report of massive discrimination. Relatives and friends are put under pressure and vendors put posters on their shop's doors saying "No Entrance" for Shugden-believers.

In southern Indian city of Mundgod, Ganden Shartse monastery last year celebrated the inauguration of a new prayer hall. "It was supposed to become a great feast" one monk present at the time remembers. He is afraid to say his name. The Dalai Lama himself came and with him a number of other high ranking dignitaries. But almost everything talked about in the speeches and lectures was the old controversial topic of Dorje Shugden. Shortly afterwards the monks are said to have been told to sign a declaration stating they were no longer praticing Shugden. The monastery's administration even erected a man-high wall through the monastic yard.

In the meanwhile the dispute was handed over to the court. Dorje Shugden Society filed a complaint at New Delhi's High Court in order to check whether this "religious discrimination" is acceptable under Indian law. A decision is expected for the end of this year. Dalai Lama says Shugden worship is harmful to his life and to the "cause of Tibet" with no further statements available. His opposition suspects that Shugden, who is also exhorted as an oracle, was prohibited for being a concurrence to the Dalai Lama's state oracle.

The Tibetan Governement-in Exile (TGE) nevertheless rejects all accusations. "There are only very few of those people left and they are completely financed by PRC. They are the only ones still talking about this topic," TGE's prime minister Samdhong Rinpoche says. Being paid by the Chinese is the worst accusation for any Tibetan.

The Tibetan refugee's capital is situated in the small town of Mc Leod Ganj, next to the district capital Dharamsala and twelve hours by bus from New Delhi. The Dalai Lama and members of his closest staff moved into the former residence of the British administration in 1960 with thousands of devotees following him. Among many Indians of that region, Mc Leod Ganj is known as "Little Lhasa". It is a tiny place with two dusty one way roads winding up the mountain.

About 600,000 enlightenment-tourists come here every year. Loud music flows from cafés and bars into the valley and little stands with religious kitsch stand side by side along the roads, one of them even offering "monk's fashion". Young Tibetans here wear Jeans and T-Shirts whereas the western tourists usually dress like actors in biblical movies. Little Lhasa has become the "Ballermann" [an area with lots of clubs, bars, and discotheques in Palma de Mallorca famous among German tourists to the Spanish island] for spiritual seekers.

The small government district is a short way down the hill with tiny ministries, a parliament, and a library. The Dalai Lama again and again underlines that Tibetans in exile have built up a democratic system. There is a parliament with 43 to 46 seats. All sessions are recorded on DVD and then sent into the refugee settlements. On a theoretical basis the parliament may decide against the Dalai Lama. "But this never happened," says the parliament's president Penpa Tsering. "Everyone has great confidence into His Holiness. He sees the Tibetan question from many different angles, receives lots of information and is very, very logical."

For a long time, His Holiness' family members held high positions. Since 2001 the prime minister is elected directly. In 2006's elections, he received more than 90% of the votes and thus was confirmed in office. The main goal of Little Lhasa's political structure is to confirm the Dalai Lama's decisions and to solidify his power. Parties are absolutely irrelevant and the separation of state and church is not mentioned in the exile Tibetan Charta although it avows itself to the "ideals of democracy" in nice sounding words.

In 1990, the independent Tibetan newspaper "mang-tso" (democracy) was published for the first time and quickly became the most important piece of media for Little Lhasa's refugee community. "We wrote on election fraud, corruption, and everything else existent in every other country as well," says Jamyang Norbu, then editor-in-chief. "Mang-tso" was uncomfortable and its editors didn't allow themselves to be intimidated when some of them received death threats and the paper boys were threatened in the streets. In 1996, the situation got even worse, shortly after the newspaper published an article on the Aum sect which was responsible for poisonous gas attacks on Tokyo's metro in 1995 killing 12 and leaving hundreds injured. The terrorist sect's leader, Shoko Asahara on several occasions met the Dalai Lama. Even weeks after the first assault, Dalai Lama called him a "friend, yet not a perfect one." Only later he went on distance to the sect. "Reporters Without Boarders" then said that due to that article "the religious authorities immediately put 'mang-tso' under pressure." It had to close down; that was the end of "democracy".

Criticism or public debates are not welcomed in Little Lhasa. Dalai Lama prefers to ask gods and demons for advice. His Holiness' official state oracle is called Thubten Ngodup, born in 1958. He is living in Nechung monastery right behind the parliament.

For centuries now, the Dalai Lamas seek oracle advice in all important religious and political decisions. After his predecessor had died, Thubten Ngodup became the Dalai Lama's official fortune-teller in 1987. It is said that he became aware his qualification in various dreams and visions for the first time. Another hint for his supernatural skills was his oftentimes bleeding nose.

Whenever the Dalai Lama has a question, Thubten Nodup would put on his 40-kg ritual garment. Incense would be burnt and his assistants would put a huge crown on his head. Then the oracle would start dancing to the music of horns and cymbals until he would enter a trance murmuring words only well-trained ears can understand. Dalai Lama strongly believes in his predictions. Looking back he found out that "the oracle was always right," he once said.

This is not what democracy looks like and yet there is not much criticism regarding his way of governing for reasons of solidarity with a suppressed people facing the super power China. Drawn out of his country, the Tibetan head has to see the cruel injustice happening there and the old culture slowly being destroyed.

The communist leaders in Beijing try to defame the Dalai Lama by calling him "wolf in monk's robes" or "devil with a human face and a beast's heart". At the same time, Chinese security forces suppress even the slightest move towards freedom on the Tibetan plateau. So one doesn't have to wonder for most Westeners stepping on the side of the weak.

But Tibet never was the paradise it is in western imagination. When the Chinese marched into it in 1950, it was stuck up in the medieval era with monks and aristocrats sharing the power. Most people were slaves, serfs, or under debt bondage. The system was protected by a brutal religious police with whips and bars and many monasteries had their own prisons. Even the Dalai Lama's friend Heinrich Harrer was shocked: "The monks' rule in Tibet is unique and may only be compared to a strong dictatorship. They are suspicious of any influence from the outside that may endanger their power. They are intelligent enough not to believe in their unlimited power but they will immediately punish anyone who dares to doubt it." Harrer reports of a man who stole a golden butter lamp from a temple. At first his hand were publicly amputated and then "his mutilated body was sewn into a wet yak skin. They let it dry and then threw it down a ravine."

After the occupation, the Chinese presented themselves as the Tibetan people's liberators and destroyed the monasteries. And they built up a new system of suppression. They oftentimes point out that despite of his peace messages the Dalai Lama supports the armed resistance in his homeland, himself being supported by "foreign imperialists". In deed the Dalai Lama's two elder brothers built up connections with the US intelligence agency. During several years, CIA trained about 300 Tibetans in guerrilla war techniques at Camp Hale in the Rocky Mountains. In a full moon night in October 1957, the first Tibetan elite soldiers jumped out of a B-17 without nationality marking over Tibet. For the case of being caught by the Chinese, each of them carried a small container of cyanite.

These Tibetan agents also protected the Dalai Lama's flight to India permanently being in contact with the CIA via Morse messaging. Later on, the US financed the formation of a Tibetan rebel army in the Nepalese kingdom of Mustang. The programmes were stopped when the US intensified their trading with China in the early 1970s.

Regarding Buddhism rather as an esoteric cult than as a religion, many of the Dalai Lama's followers are astonished when hearing of their idol working hand in hand with the US intelligence agencies. Or when they hear that Buddhism spread in Asia as with much bloodshed as Islam did in Arabia or as the Christian crusades. Again and again Tibetan monasteries had brutal fights against each other. Buddhism is not necessarily more tolerant than other religions. In an interview with "Playboy" magazine, Dalai Lama called homosexual practices "misconduct". The teachings also condemn "having oral or anal sex with your wife or another female partner". Similar passages had been deleted from his "Ethics for a New Millennium" on his publisher's advice.

Dalai Lama is in favour of harmony. But he will have to face the confrontation as there is growing criticism in his own exile community. "His Holiness is living in a bubble without contact to the outside world," says Lhasang Tsering, a long term activist. He is now running a bookstore in Little Lhasa. "Religion and politics should finally be separated."

This is also what Jamyang Norbu is stipulating. "Dalai Lama is not a bad person", says "mang-tso's" former editor-in-chief. "But he begins to be a hindrance to our development. We don't have democracy. Many things today are even worse than in 1959. Then we had three political powers: Dalai Lama, the monasteries, and the nobility." Today the only leading figure left is the Dalai Lama.


________________________________________ German Source:

Not so "Zen" Hidden Side of the Dalai Lama, Book Review


French researcher Maxime Vivas presents real Tibet in new book "Not So 'Zen': The Hidden Side of the Dalai Lama"


French researcher Maxime Vivas presents real Tibet in new book "Not So 'Zen': The Hidden Side of the Dalai Lama"

Maxime Vivas: Pas si Zen: La face cachée du Dalaï-lama ( @, 2011-08-12

PARIS, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- A French writer says a visit to Tibet makes it obvious that the culture there is not being destroyed and there is freedom of religion.

"The signs are written in Tibetan. The temples and monasteries are full and people do pray in the streets. Religion is omnipresent," French writer and Tibet researcher Maxime Vivas told reporters Thursday.

Such things would be impossible, Vivas said, if the Tibetan culture was being destroyed and the freedom of religion restricted.

Vivas, who spoke at a press briefing on his new book "Not So 'Zen': The Hidden Side Of The Dalai Lama," talked about the purpose of writing the book and a real Tibet in his observation.

It's been awhile since news reports about Tibet in France were almost all in the same key, said Vivas, who also is a journalist. His confusion and curiosity concerning Tibet prompted him to travel to Tibet in the summer of 2010 with a number of other French journalists.

As soon as Vivas returned from the trip, he started independent research on Tibet and the Dalai Lama.

Seeking to paint a true picture of Tibet, he had read a plenty of documents and gathered opinions of all sides. And the result of his research has given birth to his new book, which will be released Aug. 18.

Vivas enumerates in his book a large quantity of words of the Dalai Lama and his supporters, many of which are self-contradictory. He said he intends to use their own words to kill their lies.

Meanwhile, Tibet under the Dalai Lama's reign was no paradise at all, Vivas said, citing words from the Dalai Lama's memoirs to prove that the peasants back then were deprived of all human rights and had to do very heavy work. Even a slight show of disobedience would subject them to cruel punishment.

"The Dalai Lama said that he had been forced to leave Tibet before he could have time to carry out social reforms, but according to his memoirs, at that same period, he had time to think about building a new palace in addition to the Potala Palace," Vivas said.

Editor: Bi Mingxin Eingestellt von Gedanken über unsere Zeit um 10/07/2011 10:54:00 PM

Another View on Whether Tibetan Buddhism is Working in the West



by Tara Carreon

A former American convert to Tibetan Buddhism for over 20 years speaks her mind. Her viewpoint is that, although American Tibetan Buddhists have made the decision to adopt traditional Tibetan Buddhist beliefs because they seem authoritative and reliable, this decision has been a mistake. First, she finds that Tibetans themselves suffer from ethnocentrism and cultural arrogance that blinds them to the virtues of Western culture and predisposes them to favor all things Tibetan. Second, she finds American students far too willing to abandon the advantages of our intellectual training and democratic culture of equality in favor of medieval concepts still espoused by Tibetans due to their cultural backwardness. The solution, this student says, is to abandon Tibetan cultural belief systems, stripping Buddhism to its core values of straightforward inquiry and insight into appearance and emptiness, supplementing these values with Western virtues of optimism, creativity, and the scientific method. Such a change in spiritual approach can lead to real cause for optimism and freedom from outmoded notions that merely lead to psychological subjugation.


I'm writing this article from the viewpoint of having spent the last 26 years immersed in Buddhism, 22 of those in Tibetan Buddhism. For virtually all of that time, I was extremely devout, did my practice compulsively, and usually held monthly pujas in my home, to which other students were publicly invited. I hosted scores of lama events, helped raise many thousands of dollars, sewed clothes and cooked meals for my teacher, typed transcripts of tapes, and even edited an entire book of teachings. I traveled to India and Nepal. I helped build a traditional four-story Tibetan temple in Ashland, Oregon, one of the biggest and most authentic temples in the West. I received the entire transmission of Nyingma teachings from beginning to end, including the Dzogchen Trekchod and Togyal teachings, and at the end, my teacher declared that I needed no further teachings, and should simply practice what he had taught me.

My immersion in Tibetan Buddhism ultimately led to a psychological stalemate between my impulse to be a perfect Buddhist and my inability to see any truly "enlightened" developments in my psyche after these many years of effort. Three years ago I began a radical reevaluation of my relationship with the dharma, and those two other far more troublesome "jewels," the lama and the sangha. At some point, I began to feel that I had been duped, and began to unpack my psychological baggage. I discovered that I was seething with resentment over the years of self-abasement, and humiliated by the fact that I had aided my captors. While this language, and some of the language that I use in my essay below, may seem harsh or accusatory, I believe that I feel about these things just as any other ordinary person would feel after the years of effort turn out to have been invested for no good reason. Additionally, the inner compulsion to perform ritualistic practices in which I had lost faith, and the need to overcome the fear that abandoning these practices would cause me to suffer terrible consequences, has made for many painful days and nights. The process of self-deprogramming has taken me to the edge of despair, and beyond. The truth is that one who delivers their belief into the hands of others risks having to fight to get it back. Having fought that fight, it is my desire to save other people from wasting their time, energy and happiness in what I now view as a bad investment in the realm of faith. I would suggest that sincere spiritual seekers return to themselves and appreciate the good aspects of our own Western culture in order to achieve spiritual satisfaction.


I was inspired to write this article after I read an interview in Tricycle Magazine the other day with Alan Wallace, entitled "Tibetan Buddhism in the West: Is it Working?" The title excited me. Finally, I thought, someone is going to reveal the trouble behind the scenes, and we can start to get these things out into the open. Since I know and like Alan Wallace, and admire him greatly as a translator, I was very interested to hear his views.

Alan left too much unspoken, to say the least. For Alan, it's apparently too delicate to discuss. I can understand why Alan plays it safe, being a professor of Tibetan studies and a recognized spokesperson for Tibetan Buddhism. He has a reputation to cultivate. An academic and a translator, he receives a share of the veneration that is paid to the lamas. On the downside, no one wants to be an accused heretic, like Stephen Batchelor. Like Alan, many Tibetan Buddhists are very careful about what they say. Among those who know, the threat of "samaya injury" from saying the wrong thing has a very chilling effect on speech. More generally, it is no surprise that those on the path of "secret mantra" enjoy playing at having secret information that they are forbidden to disclose. Therefore, Tibetan Buddhists are unable to get their problems into the open where they can examine them in the clear light of day. As always, silence and secrecy breed ignorance and denial.

Alan blames Western students for what I see as the Tibetan failure to adequately communicate the teachings. Granted, Alan is simply repeating what he's been told, and I do not believe he is distorting the message. Real insiders often hear from Tibetan lamas how little they respect Westerners. Sometimes, it seems that beating up on Westerners is one of the Tibetans' favorite pastimes. However, the lamas rarely open themselves to criticism about their own ways. They can even get testy if pressed. Most students don't speak up unless they want to be called heretics, and shunned from their communities forever. Only people who don't have a reputation or position to protect can speak the truth. That virtually precludes people with vested interests in the existing system from saying anything meaningful at all -- at least if it's critical thinking we value. The "authorities" have, and will continue, to report only the "official story."

The Dalai Lama [author's note: "whom I no longer have any respect for whatsoever after reading Victor and Victoria Trimondi's book, "The Shadow of the Dalai Lama" -- 11/13/04] says we should have open dialogue, and hash out our differences. In response to the question: "In your recent book 'Ethics for the New Millennium,' you called for a 'spiritual' and then an 'ethical revolution. Are you willing to emerge as a prophet?," the Dalai Lama replies:

"[T]oday, this is not the business of any one individual. Everywhere there are all sorts of organizations that are concerned with these things. Everyone has the same responsibility now -- I think it's the democratic way. With increased awareness, with a stronger sense of concern, every person must come forward and join together as one body, each one cooperating with every other. There are some individuals -- some intellectuals, some religious persons and quite a few scientists -- who all have real awareness of the critical situation in the world. But one problem is that they each just express their own view and then let a few organizations carry the burden as best they can. Now, if we could more often come together, discuss the problems in depth, make some appeals for positive action or even offer stronger criticism of wrong actions, and even tell the U.N. or some important governments -- then that's the way to have some positive effect."

Robert Thurman, Rolling Stone, May 24, 2001.

This is how we refine our viewpoint through free speech and debate. But while free speech is the soul of democracy, it is very much against the usual Tibetan party line of "shut up and put up." The Tibetans have never known and fundamentally distrust democracy. At the Tibetan temple where I invested 22 years, there were no "members." We weren't allowed to vote on anything, or to elect our "leaders". Theocratic by tradition, Tibetan lamas rule by fiat. Even the Dalai Lama's speech is cautious and diplomatic.

At the start of the interview, Alan tells us what Tibetan lamas think about Westerners. The lamas' complaint is so familiar it invokes a yawn: Westerners in "a consumer society, a business-oriented society" become "dilettantes ... dabbling in one flavor after another, without gaining proficiency in anything." We're "impatient, superficial, and fickle" and "in Tibetan society, fickleness is considered to be one of the worst of vices." This description is more ethnocentric, and less compassionate, than most students would expect of the Dalai Lama's fellow-clerics. However, if you spend enough time with Tibetans, you'll learn they feel quite superior. Tibetan lamas are comfortable sitting on thrones, eating good food, and having people serve them. And it seems that many Western Tibetan Buddhists are more than willing to intern as domestic servants and handymen. Having come from a prosperous Western tradition that is in stark contrast to the Tibetan lifestyle, Western students are willing to disavow it all to become members of the enlightenment club. Or perhaps they have been dying for an opportunity to serve, to work off their "White Man's Burden" with a little self-abasement.

Alan continues to faithfully communicate the sad fact that the "finest lamas" are quite disgusted with us. "The finest lamas are now refusing even to come to the West, because they figure they could be spending their time either teaching Tibetans in Asia, or they could simply go into retreat and meditate." The lamas believe that "devoting time to people with such fickleness and so little faith is time not very well spent." This is rather snitty. Westerners are the only eager consumers of mystical practice, and even minority Americans aren't attracted. (When was the last time you saw a group of African-Americans at an empowerment?) Young Tibetans want jobs and secular education, not trinkets and blessings. Alan's comment presumes that the great lamas have "bigger fish to fry." The fact is, that due to the financial support they have received from Westerners (and the Taiwanese), they can afford to remain esconced in relative splendor in Kathmandu and Bhutan. Now let us take each of Alan's comments in turn.

First, to self-slander our culture as merely a consumer and business-oriented society, ignores the fact that our country is the most religiously tolerant nation in the world. In cities across the nation, people from every faith live and worship down the street from each other, which would be impossible in their respective countries of origin. The combination of government-protected freedom of religion, plus tax incentives and an actual interest in Buddhism, makes our country a place where Tibetans are quite eager to live. They recognize that in addition to religious freedom, having a refrigerator, a warm place to sleep, and clean water, have spiritual as well as worldly advantages. While lamas often criticize the "material" Western lifestyle, waxing eloquent about how their own people live happily on little, due to their religious faith, most are eager to secure residence, land, cars and temples. There is every evidence that the lamas seek in America exactly what they had in Tibet -- wealth and leisure -- remembering always that according to a helpful doctrine, seeking leisure to pursue the spiritual path is an unimpeachable motivation. The complaint that we shop for Dharma is rather disingenuous. The lamas themselves turned the Dharma into a traveling show, selling tickets to empowerments with vague promises of spiritual benefit, revealing only after the fact in empowerments, students take on weighty "samaya" commitments that obligate them to eternal fealty to their initiators. This "bait and switch" method always evokes a certain number of grumbles in the crowd of newbies, but the eager smiles of older students are usually sufficient to overcome most objection. After all, who can resist getting conked on the head with religious objects by a wise old lama on a throne, while young acolytes circulate holding incense and other magical items? And you get a knotted red string to wear around your neck as a token of your commitment! Increasingly, you pay hundreds of dollars for the privilege of attending an empowerment, for which all are presumptively qualified, who have the ability to pay. There is no question of qualification or readiness, or spiritual sincerity. The students manning the door want to see real dollars, not earnest entreaties. Possibly we should blame Americans for this venality. Probably not. The teachers chose the teachings, the place and the time. The students came, paid money, and listened. According to Alan, however, they blundered. Somehow, the criticism seems unwarranted.

Tibetan lamas are equally vulnerable to criticism on grounds of "fickleness." Tricycle has reported enough about "competing tulkus," "the Shugden schism" and countless other instances of petty clerical infighting to establish that if fickleness is a vice, Tibetan clerics are ridden with it. Gossip is a staple in Tibetan Buddhist circles. In our center, we were always getting the word from the top about "Who's hot, and who's not." The list of disgraced students and rival lamas grew over time, until one day I found my own name added to the list. I think "fickleness" usually occurs when two lamas vie for the attentions of a single wealthy donor.

Alan suggests that if the supply of sincere students dries up, the lamas will go away. I suspect that those lamas who would leave have already departed. And what did they expect from us, anyway? Did the lamas really expect students to learn Tibetan, memorize rituals, join the clergy en masse, and build large temples everywhere? If they want that type of performance they need to stick with their own people. Do Christian missionaries pack up and leave when their prospective converts don't learn all the hymns? Put simply, this is a harsh, judgmental response that does too little to honor the sincerity of students who often surrender family and livelihood to the pursuit of Tibetan Buddhism. Does it seem compassionate to write off an entire culture as fickle, and return to the mountain fastness to engage in "more productive" contemplation? But Alan delivers this harsh declaration without blinking. You can see that, by controlling entry and status into the lofty world of lamas and their "entourages," Tibetans can induce Westerners like Alan to tacitly adopt their own prejudice. You might start to think that one can get approval from Tibetans by criticizing Westerners.

Make no mistake about it, the lamas are sure they know best, and will likely not be impressed with your own speculations or reflections about spirituality. In this regard, Alan warns us that in seeking to ascertain spiritual truth, "one extreme is ... individualism."

Let's play that back again. Would it sound different if I told you I was quoting Mao, or an Orwellian Big Brother? Can an American be saying this? Individualism is the basis of our Constitution, of all our civil rights and humanitarian values. Each person's individual buddha nature is the basis of dharma. Is individuality not the beauty of our unique existence in this universe? Why this paranoia about independent thought? Is it really not possible for an individual to realize the truth without a prescription? Buddha, presumably, was an individual, who through the exercise of his own mind, found freedom. Yet Thinley Norbu criticizes Americans for having "freedom habit." Must we choose between Buddhism or freedom? Perhaps in some brand of Buddhism, appropriate to a feudal system, peasants do not ask these questions. Americans, however, would probably choose freedom, thereby choosing, I believe, true dharma as well.

Alan denigrates our ability to think for ourselves, saying that with respect to making spiritual decisions, we will always be like "a kid going into a restaurant and saying, I'll just take what tastes good." This metaphor implies that students are children who just want to eat candy. But this assertion is illogical. We must trust ourselves to make spiritual choices, else we could not even make the first decision to rely upon the doctrine. Alan's view is that although we were smart enough to select the Tibetans to be our teachers, now that we've found our true "parents," the lamas, we will always and forever be children. Thus we can never grow up, and must rely totally on the lamas. Says Alan: "That's the core issue in Buddhism." I strongly disagree. The core issue in Buddhism is not our ignorance, but rather our intelligent, enlightened nature.

While on the subject of being treated like a child, I've often heard the lamas say, "it's time to grow up." This is where they get you coming and going. If you become a high-maintenance disciple, showing lots of devotion, or having many questions, you're called a baby. If you think for yourself, you're a deluded individualist. As in all double-bind situations, the issue isn't whether we are children, but rather, whether the lamas shall tell us who we are. Western students deserve dignity and respect, and they do not receive it from the bulk of lamas. On the other hand, they clearly have not demanded it.

The rest of Alan's interview is full of nice questions about whether Buddhism is working in the West, and how we must make Buddhism work for Westerners, but he gives no answers. So the whole interview basically boils down to "No, Tibetan Buddhism isn't working, because Americans aren't doing it very well." Well, that clearly is the official story.


Am I alone in saying there is a humongous culture clash between Tibetans and Westerners? That's not so embarrassing, is it? So let me ask you another question: Do we live in Tibet or in the West? And if we live in the West, isn't it fair to ask Tibetans to understand our culture somewhat before they criticize us extensively?

At the sound of these words, I can see the true believers heading for the aisles, thinking, "This is effrontery, this is sacrilege; I want nothing to do with it." Which is not a good sign. Cultural isolation crystallized Tibet into a theocratic state of lettered tulkus ruling over a vast illiterate peasantry, creating a culture so unified with its religion that it lacks virtually all secular cultural expression. This "union of Church and State" creates innumerable problems. Western students, who are not serfs or shepherds, should not be dealt with in the same way. Still, in your average Dharma center, the lama's word (or his wife's word) is law. Questioning is disobedience, and disagreement is heresy. If you think I'm exaggerating, I'll give you a list of centers to visit.

Few of us took vows of refuge with various lamas because we longed to chant in a foreign language and bow before enthroned teachers. Those who did should have no complaints. But most people were trying to find some inner peace and self-understanding. If we're not getting that from involvement with the lamas, it isn't sacrilege to say so, and return to our original spiritual concerns. We are entitled to ask, "WHAT IS BUDDHISM?" After 22 years of being a "Tibetan" Buddhist, I'm finding it hard to answer that question. Actually, it would be hard for any Tibetan Buddhist to answer this question. Tibetans have little need for the Buddha, who has been eclipsed by Padmasambhava, the Karmapa, or whatever tulku-dynasty is revered by the sect. So Tibetan Buddhists know about as much about the Buddha as Mormons know about Jesus Christ (not much).

If you learn Tibetan Buddhism, you learn more about Tibet than about Buddha. As long as we believe that the colorful and exciting Tibetan culture is Buddhism, we will be unable to find true Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is not working for us because we are unable to find its essence in the complex and colorful Tibetan way of life. Tibetan symbols do not speak to us, nor do we learn from reciting a sadhana in a foreign language. (It took the Catholics until the 1960's to stop saying the Mass in Latin, though, so this folly is equally the result of our own cultural absurdity).

There's no question but that, if you become a Tibetan Buddhist, you get a lot of stuff. You get a red string tied around your neck right off the bat. You get sacred practices, protector deities, mantras and visualizations. But what are we surrendering? I would suggest we are surrendering something very valuable -- our belief in objective, empirical reality, as revealed through scientific knowledge. We take this belief for granted of course, because it is second nature. But if you become a Tibetan Buddhist, this sense of reality can begin to slip away, little by little, replaced by a patchwork of myth, fantasy, and what passes for meditation.

From the viewpoint of an educated American, Tibetan culture is anachronistic: young Tibetans are dazzled and overwhelmed by our modern world. The older lamas are bemused by our culture, and turn away from it too quickly to learn much about us. They live, psychologically, on a flat earth, without the benefit of scientific knowledge. Often their lectures are rather quaint, as they present fallacious arguments to support the doctrine. Many are sweet, sincere, and so hopelessly out of touch that Steven Segal managed to pass himself off as a tulku. Can we seriously rely on teachings from that culture?

The Tibetans themselves suffered greatly due to their blind faith in a theocratic system that failed utterly to provide two essentials of governance: (1) good foreign relations, and (2) a reliable military. As a result, two million Tibetans have died due to Chinese aggression that has gone basically unredressed by the international community. Tibet was unable to meet the challenge of the twentieth century. It had no independent-thinking intelligencia. But for the efforts of Heinrich Harrer to give the young Dalai Lama an education about the world beyond the walls of the Potala, it is questionable whether Tibet could have fielded even one political leader to explain its situation to the world. None of this is to justify the murderous outrages of the Chinese, whose conduct is so vile as to defy expression. However, Tibet's political leaders owed their constituents a modicum of protection from foreign aggression, at least through diplomatic avenues. Unfortunately, the ingrown monastics of Tibet were unsuited to international political life, and practiced the defense tactics of an ostrich.

Due to what can only be seen as misguided confidence, Tibet's inept leaders wielded political authority nonetheless, leading to a cultural disaster. As the Dalai Lama explained in a recent interview with Robert Thurman, the routine integration of the clergy in the secular economic fabric damages society: "Some Tibetans also say that in the past, the way of life was that the dharma almost served as a livelihood or a routine profession. The Buddhist was not thinking of nirvana, not caring for liberation, just how to make a living. Officials used it for their lives, monks, nuns and lamas for their lives. Inside, in their inner world, they were like ordinary people, lusting and hating. So the dharma became a poison in this way.

When there is too much focus on the Buddhist institution, and the country goes to waste, that's what it means when people say Buddhism ruined the country." (Rolling Stone, May 24, 2001)

Now, in this country, Tibetans are making a similar mistake. In Tibetan Buddhist dharma centers all over America, lamas give orders to a tight hierarchy of appointed followers, who are often chosen for their willingness to donate time, money, real estate and property. Students are encouraged to adopt a medieval mind-set, and to abandon belief in their ability to make their own decisions. Lamas advise on who to marry, when to divorce, what jobs to take or quit. Many students request "divinations" of future events, and even pay money to have monks recite volleys of prayers to "eliminate obstacles."

What is difficult to understand for those who haven't been immersed in Tibetan Buddhism for a long time, is that this religion is obsessed with controlling outcomes by the use of magical invocations. This religious model is most like the Christian feudal religion of medieval Europe, linked to a large agrarian serfdom. This religious model also carries with it a powerful anti-logical seed: the belief that favorable outcomes of desired events are controlled by the intercession of supernatural powers.

The red robes, the chants, the tormas, the deities, the colorful temples, the instruments, the sadhanas, the codes of conduct, the lamas, the teacher-disciple relationship are products of Tibetan culture. These symbols were created by Tibetans and likely can only be understood by Tibetans. We Westerners will never be able to understand these things, or translate them into our culture. Fire pujas, exorcisms, prayers to oath-bound protectors. These practices are beautiful, but non-translatable. Period. We do not need to obtain supernatural aid to make the crops grow and the lambs fat. Reciting long lists of protector deities and invoking their aid does not rank high on my list of contemplative activities. These practices are not only unhelpful for most students; there is substantial evidence that people can develop bizarre habits from long repetition of activities that they do not understand, and are pursuing solely due to "faith" that the practice will produce some magical benefit. The Dalai Lama responded with unusual candor recently when asked, "What prevents people from understanding [the essence of Buddhism]?":

"When people think it's all about doing tantric visualizations and rituals. When I talk about the Buddhist dharma, I'm not talking about just chanting and rituals. If it's thought to be a philosophy, it's not that, either. The dharma, it's just the mind. I'm afraid that among the Tibetans, the Chinese and also some Westerners -- the new Buddhists -- in many cases they consider the practice of Buddhism is simply to recite something and perform some ritual, putting false expectations on the esoteric magic of tantra: 'Oh, if I do this, I may get something amazing!' So they neglect the basic instruments that actually transform our mind. These instruments are the altruistic spirit of enlightenment [bodhicitta], the transcendent attitude, renunciation, the realization of impermanence, the wisdom of selflessness. People who think they have a magic gimmick neglect these things. So their inner world, their inner reality, remains very raw. Sadly, use of ritual can feed that neglect. Knowledge of philosophy can also feed that. It's a great tragedy."


Most of us came to Tibetan Buddhism because it seemed to be a reliable repository of ancient Buddhist wisdom. Along the way we discovered it is actually a vast cultural tapestry with more of the medieval than we originally expected. Assuming there is more here than culture and folklore, can we separate the wheat from the chaff? Can we find the core Buddhism in the midst of the Tibetan glare?

Core Buddhism can only be that which is indestructible and not based on form, i.e., that which the Buddha taught that relates to the mind, because only that is universal and (hopefully) can translate from culture to culture. As the Dalai Lama said, "The dharma, it's just the mind."

What did the Buddha teach about the mind? I remember one thing from my studies, and that was first and most importantly, that the Buddha abandoned established religious practices, and looked at mind for himself. This seems like the quintessential "individual" act. The Buddha apprehended the truth of appearance and voidness and taught the Prajnaparamita mind teachings which state that there are no inherently existing self, or objects, that form is emptiness and emptiness is form. The story of the Buddha's life is a story about Indian society, including injunctions to refrain from teaching to "blonde-haired people," and the detailed rules of monastic conduct. These cultural trappings are not worthy of special reverence. Buddha's acts of cultural defiance are far more inspiring: his abandonment of kingship, his rejection of existing doctrine, his transcendence of gurus and asceticism. His self-reliance, in a word.

Like the Buddha, who called everything into doubt, we too should question for our whole life. But the lamas tell you not to follow the Buddha's example, telling you you're arrogant to think that you are like him. They urge you to question for about one minute, then insist that you make up your mind to rely on the lama's authority and abandon questioning for the rest of your life. As a practical matter, such questioning is as bad as none at all.

As history unveils the future of Tibetan Buddhism in this country, we are not going to see a careful translation from Tibet to the West. Tibetan Buddhism is finished for Westerners. Along with Japanese Buddhism, Thai Buddhism, Indian Buddhism, and the rest.

We don't need lamas. We don't need any authority figures. We don't need temples. We don't need a lot of books. We don't need to give anyone money. We don't need someone holding our hand. We have everything we need to realize our true nature already inside us, because we have our minds and individuality. We need to love ourselves, and trust ourselves.


We Westerners and especially we Americans have a hidden dharma tradition to inspire us right here in our own culture. Our aspirations -- to save the planet, feed people, release wrongly imprisoned people, give women the right to vote -- are wholesome. Our belief in principles of equality, fairness, justice, and freedom of speech and belief are all "Buddhist" principles without having that name. As a guide for social governance, the U.S. Constitution is far superior to King Trisong Detsun's code, which provided harsh punishment, even death, for those who violated Buddhist rules. We have a very good understanding of what it means to be a "bodhisattva," but we don't call it that. We call it being a "humanitarian" or a "social activist." If we supplement the core Buddhist teachings with these noble traditions, and unite knowledge of the union of appearance and emptiness with the clear-eyed view of the scientific method, we have a very adequate philosophy of positive development. Once we agree that science provides a better explanation for phenomena than superstitions involving supernatural forces, there is plenty to agree on in this universe. Rather than cleaving to old ways, retaining magical notions as doctrinal elements, a viable religious philosophy joins with the current knowledge of the day to open a way to live creatively and optimistically, thus providing concrete benefit to all.

Some of us might even find that our view of "enlightenment" must embrace more than the Buddha is said to have taught, to encompass all of the fruits of human knowledge, from astrophysics to nanotech, from the genetic origins of life to the ecology of the planet. Medievalism, even of the Buddhist sort, will not serve this quest for integration. Perhaps "enlightenment" itself is evolving. Then again, maybe there's something inherently wise about our "natural" and "ordinary" mind. Someday, if we explore directly for ourselves, we might even be able to take these "mind" teachings out of the realm of philosophy, conjecture and fantasy, into the realm of reality. To do that, we're going to have to work with our culture and knowledge, and test these old ideas against scientific observations of mind. Contrary to what the Tibetans think, that their doctrine has codified absolute and immutable principles, I think rather that they can be improved and developed. Maybe the Tibetans had a much lower expectation about everything than do we Westerners, not only culturally speaking, but also spiritually speaking, and we can do them one better. We can be optimistic about our ability to learn new things based upon new investigations. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly observed that Western science may be able to help fill in gaps in Tibetan Buddhist knowledge of the mind's nature, which however accurate, is fundamentally intuitive, subjective, and unconfirmed by outer observations. Everything from Tibetan descriptions of the states before and after death to the phases of meditative insights, are fundamentally a compendium of traditional lore. Western science has just begun to observe the physically confirmable evidences of mental activity Biofeedback studies of Zen students actually provided fascinating confirmation of the observable effects on brainwave function associated with Zen meditation. In this way, empirical and intuitive knowledge can support each other to establish a solid foundation for human self-improvement, one that does not require vast investments of "faith."


While faith in doctrinal pronouncements is certainly the order of the day in semi-literate feudal cultures, it carries little convincing force for people raised in a rational scientific culture. We are far more likely to feel comfortable in a 747 than flying on a magic carpet, even in the company of a Tibetan lama. There is a fundamental need to rest easy in your beliefs, especially if you are trying to meditate. Dropping conceptual thought is much more difficult if you are uncomfortable with your assumptions about reality. Thus, making a lot of medieval assumptions about reality, cause and effect, and the need to propitiate the protector deities is not necessarily good preparation for non-conceptual meditation of the sort universally practiced by virtually all Buddhists. In this way, the Tibetan Buddhist emphasis on arcane rituals can definitely set an aspiring meditator off their stride, making meditative accomplishments seem all the more difficult. It's like putting on a large weight pack before starting to climb a mountain. Why do it? We will climb higher, and enjoy it more, without this baggage.

Compounding the problem for Westerners trying to develop faith in the Tibetan Buddhist philosophy is the fact that the traditional faith-building exercises do not work for Westerners. The standard prescription for developing faith is to contemplate the virtues of the "lineage gurus" and to develop devotion to one's own guru as the living embodiment of a lineage of wisdom masters going back to Vajradhara, Padmasambhava, or Shakyamuni. The usual practice, of reciting lineage prayers in Tibetan, is about as faith-building as reading the "begats" from Deuteronomy in the original Aramaic. Of course, if I had listened to tales of Guru Rinpoche from the days of childhood while eating tsampa around a yak-dung fire, the effect would likely be otherwise.

Logically, it makes no sense to attempt to invoke strong emotional feelings based on childhood conditioning that does not exist. The heroes of my childhood were Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and other Western culture heroes. No injection of doctrine and myth is going to transfer that type of deep admiration to a Tibetan historical figure, and the attempt to stimulate such emotions is misguided. I can tell you from 22 years of personal experience that, no matter how much Tibetan history you imbibe, and how earnestly you attempt to give rise to the appropriate feelings of reverence and awe, the results will be unsatisfying. You may refine your yearning and obsession to an impressive degree, but nagging doubts will grow in tandem with your efforts to suppress them. Ultimately, the purported "prerequisites" for meditation will eclipse the view of non-duality altogether.


The Tibetans may need to humble themselves. They've entered a new world about which they know nothing. While it's fashionable to attend the chanting exhibitions of the Gyuto "Tantric choir," and there is no doubt the cultural display of old Tibet is charming and beautiful, that culture is of the past. Besides nostalgic yearning, Americans have no need to provide a cultural hothouse in which to preserve a displaced theocratic culture. It will be humiliating for Tibetans to continue to sell their traditions on stage for small change. Better to move on. Old things are lost forever. And often times, this is not a bad thing. Things die so that new things can be born. The Tibetans can let new ideas be born in themselves. Why hold on to old ways that aren't useful or relevant any longer? Indeed, young Tibetans are like young people everywhere. They have no desire to follow the ways of a culture that has left its roots in the distant soil of the Tibetan heartland, particularly if they can actually move to the West. If their religion works for them, great. If they can find adherents who also find value in Tibetan Buddhism, their religion business may also prosper in the marketplace of ideas. I think it likely, however, that Tibetan Buddhism will survive only in stripped-down forms, once the cultish fascination with arcane rituals has dissipated. The Tibetan clerics should prepare for this development. While possibly not as devastating as the failure of the dot.coms and the electricity crisis is for California, the effects will be felt as the West burns through yet another religious fad.


Now that I am no longer a "Tibetan" Buddhist, and have learned to think for myself, and am not hammered down by negative views of myself and the universe, like sin and samsara, etc., the World seems very exciting to me in a way I never knew before. Human beings are marvelous creations, so very intelligent and creative. I think there is tremendous hope all around us and ahead of us. Besides the fact that the world and our minds spontaneously exist without our having labored to create them, which should be enough of a miracle for anyone, there are reasons for optimism about the prospects for a good life for humanity on earth. Slowly, we are all speaking the same language. Since war often is the result of miscommunication, with fuller communication among the nations, war could become obsolete. As war decreases, resources are going to be freed up, which will enable us to improve the lot of people and the planet. As we communicate with each other about our similar needs, and global resource competition meets with a world pool of intellectual capital, standards of living may equalize. Science is allowing us to see the wonder of the universe and of our selves in a way that has never happened before. Our visions are expanding. Someday we'll be able to travel through the universe. And who knows, maybe someday we'll even agree on what it means to meditate, and who we are.

We can open ourselves to a world that will truly inspire us. We should be careful about adopting a world view that equates the outer world with ugliness and evil (samsara), and which urges "retreat" into "meditation" as the only refuge from a doomed existence. Quite simply, we shouldn't use Buddhism to become depressed about the state of the world. We should believe we can make things better for everyone and everything. If everyone can be a bit of an activist, and do their part, I feel sure we can change the world to be a better place for everyone. For me, that's Dharma.

I want to thank my husband, Charles Carreon, who has traveled the Buddhist path with me for almost as long as we have been married, which is 27 years, for his enormous contribution to this article.

AMERICAN BUDDHA by Tara and Charles Carreon