In the town of Dalai Lama – 2

Tibetans are somewhat interesting stock of people. They are stereotyped as peace-loving, spiritually oriented, meek and straightforward people. And yes, they are also supposed to invoke sympathy if not pity because they have lost their homeland.

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They are trying to survive in an alien country, with their population fragmented across different provinces while in their own country they are being systematically reduced to minority by immigrant Han Chinese population. They have struggled hard to gather support and keep the movement alive for over two generations now. And they also face many problems. Finance is the least of it. 

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They seem to have devised various ways of mobilising financial support. Many nations and many nationals seem to be providing the funds. Some unscrupulous elements from amongst the Tibetans also seem to have mastered the art of luring the impressionable people and monetising the gathered sympathy. Many have left India and settled in the developed world and send money from there or help their fellow brethren migrate there. Selling Tibetan art and culture is just another way. Finance is therefore not the major bottleneck it seems.

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Major problems afflicting their movement are two – post Dalai Lama future and danger of keeping the Tibetan identity intact in the foreign land, esp when the population is fragmented. 

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Post Dalai Lama future is the imminent issue. Dalai Lama has carried the mantle of Tibetan cause for over half a century very artfully and with dignity. That he has not reached anywhere by and large is a different issue. And what after him? Panchen Lama, the second most revered Lama of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism, and the one who selects the boy reincarnating the Dalai Lama, has been abducted by the Chinese government during very young age. Suspicion is that he is kept in hiding somewhere and is being raised up as per the wishes of the Chinese state. When the time comes, he could very well select the future Dalai Lama from amongst the pro-Chinese Tibetan population from the region under tight grip of China. To obviate this possibility, the present Dalai Lama, the 14th one in the unbroken chain for over many centuries, has given indications that he might very well choose not to be reborn at all. There is another interesting possibility – of two Dalai Lamas, one pro China and other anti China. However, the government-in-exile already exists, pointing towards gradual separation of the political from the spiritual and thus some dilution in the authority of the office of Dalai Lama. No one can predict the future but everybody is seriously apprehensive. The day is not afar.

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Tibetans are settled in various parts of India and there is also a huge expatriate community. It comes with a cost. They are finding it difficult to maintain their separate identity. Inter-racial marriages are not uncommon, their next generation is increasingly being raised up in non-Tibetan neighbourhoods. It’s a real struggle to maintain the cultural identity. 

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They seem to have done commendable job at Macleodganj nonetheless. There is a traditional way of teaching the Tibetan philosophy, traditional art forms of metal work, wood work and thang-ka paintings, as showcased at Norbulingka. They get lavish support from abroad. They have not stopped using Tibetan language for both official as well as mundane purposes yet. Hindi is used but not with acceptance. Social distance is tried to be maintained from the Indians wherever possible but economic interactions can’t be avoided. Many monasteries are built at regular distance with community support which provide focus to community identity as well as some cohesiveness. There are many camps dotting the whole landscape of Kangra valley from Dharmshala to Palampur. Lamas are generated at regular rate from upasaka families, keeping the balanced population. 

But some strains are visible to a keen onlooker. I met some youth interested in finding out Katappa ne bahubali ko kyo maaraa and hotly discussing it, some girls listening to A R Rahman and even one random Lama cozying up with a runaway Tibetan girl in a secluded place in the valley. It’s difficult to remain in a land as interesting as India and not get affected by it. Many Tibetans regularly flock to Delhi, we were told, in the hope of getting a visa to the US. Not sure what’s the truth in it but wheels of modernisation and of human emotions are as ruthless as the relentlessly spinning wheel of dhamma.

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