Tibetans torn between spiritual authority and political necessity

Many Tibetan youths are distancing themselves from the non-violent precepts of Buddhism preached by the Dalai Lama and now believe that Tibet's independence from China must be won by taking up arms.


Dharamsala in northern India is home to the Tibetan government-in-exile and its head, the 14th Dalai Lama. It’s a place where Buddhism is the main religion. According to Tibetan tradition, the Dalai Lama makes no political or spiritual decisions without first consulting his state oracles, mediums who can communicate with the gods.

In the small monastery of Neshung, Tibetans fall over each other to ask the oracle whether their long, forced exile will soon end. The ritual is always the same. The monks start by calling up the spirits. The medium goes into a trance and his sacred words are scrupulously recorded and translated by the monks. And when the oracle faints, the ceremony is over.

For the members of the Tibetan parliament in exile, the spiritual authority cannot be questioned. “The concept of a protecting deity is to help you in achieving things where humans are not able to under certain circumstances,” explains the parliament spokesperson.


Generational conflict


But for some time now, the impatience and anger of the younger generation has been gaining ground in the community. This Tibetan youth see the oracles’ predictions as an excuse to take away responsibility from the government-in-exile.


Many Tibetan youth are ready to take up arms, believing that the freedom of Tibet will only be achieved at the cost of human lives. They refute the choice of the current government-in-exile, whose allegiance to Buddhism and non-violence necessitates a refusal to go to war, even to save Tibet.  

This cultural and generational fracture represents a major challenge today for the keepers of the sacred teachings of the Buddha.

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