Saturday, January 15, 2011

Buddhism & Democracy

            Democracy and Buddhism are compatiable, in the sense that both put people's interest above anything else,says one of the panelists at a roundable discussion held at ICT this Firday, on the topic " Electing Leaders without a Territory: Challenges to Tibetan Democracy in Exile." While the 2011 exile Kalon Prime Minister's elections have become the hot topic in Tibet dispora, such a thoughtful discourse by outside observers was timely and appropriate.

              Professor Min ,  one of the two panelists and a Chinese native  looked at the evolution of Tibetan democracy in a different perspective. His deliberations focused on several issues. First of all, he complimented the Middle Way approach by the Dalai Lama as a "great strategy". He contends without Chinese invasion, Tibet wouldn't have embraced democracy and he is in the opinion India gave Dalai Lama democracy. He said when you compare  Indian parliament and Chinese parliament, the former is superior. The Chinese professor also thinks the west also influenced and played a big role in exile Tibetan's evolution and embroilment of democracy.  Interestedly, he noted that the Tibetan democracy is "a revolution from the above", because the Dalai Lama has weakened his own power by bestowing democracy to Tibetan people.

The democratization of Tibetan society and China's fate.

Tibet pursuit of democracy has a big impact in context of China. With Dalai Lama's willingness of remaining under the People's Republic of China, that pushes for national unity and he  hopes that Tibetan will continue to pursue this path. Tibetans are Buddhists and he believes that their way of life are very compatible with democracy. Up to now the Tibetan leadership were in the hands of clergy and monks, he thinks the transfer to a "Harvard educated young scholar" is a big step forward for the democratization of Tibetan society. While speaking how the Chinese can benefit from a vibrant Tibetan democracy that sustain the Buddhistm culture, he says Chinese middle class are seeking morality. The communist Chinese eradicated all religion, Chinese government intercepts God and its followers.So currently there is a  sort of moral renaissance, which  Buddhism provide. Some evidence pointing to this direction are, that some of
Chinese Blockbuster movies are using the frame work for moral revolution. Buddhism is reviving and Creeping into Chinese society, he contends. So he is optimistic for the future of Tibet. but he also pointed out Tibetan people working under the Chinese government have vested interest, that need to be addressed.

Thus the Funda university educated Chinese scholar beguiled the audience with a theoretical lectures on the exile elections. I find it interesting to some of the points he has raised. and but there are few issues, that he addressed, demonstrated his lack of  substantive knowledge of the exile structure and democracy.

The second speaker Nima, who works for the U.S Justice Department and also co founder of  Tibetan political review website. Pitched in his observations of the election of Kalon Tripa as an exciting and meaningful. The speaker elevated and embelished the Tibetan election process. He says while the world sees the  U.S and European financial crisis is a democratic crisis, exile Tibetan embark in  vision of robust democracy. Nima argues that the democratic election of the exile government brings great legitimacy to the exile establishment, particularly this election was a unique and strategically important  on the basis of the following::

1. there was no incumbent,
2. The Dalai Lama announced semi retire or complete retirement
3. Increasing frustration with Chinese among Tibetan youth.

Nima, the Tibetan panelist marvelled at the  active campaigning by candidates, which hither to unknown in Tibet society as well as the active grassroots campaigning. The geographic scope of the debate and campaign stretches over three continent, (America, Europe, Asia) this could possibly have never happened in the history of democratic election. He also said that two candidates have disclosed campaigning fund, which is a important transparency and accountability issues of the highest elected position in Tibetan exile.

He also made a passing remark on the upcoming Northern America MP candidates debate, which is a rare in Tibet society.

The speaker noted that despite of all the fanfare and exciting public  attention, he thinks the PM candidates still lacks as far as policy position is concerned, primarily  due to nonexistence of political parties which voids the policy platform. He  contends even among the public it is more of personality than policy issue that determines their support.  An example he has given where the candidate would say in a vague term " I will further the wishes of HH". which he believes is not a concrete policy.
Other observations he made about on "divide in media', which he didn't elaborate and I couldn't fully understand what he meant by that.


For the fact Tibetans lacking territory of our own, leaves  Tibetan democracy depended on host government. The seize of ballots box in Nepal, and Bhutanese government clamp down from allowing the ballot papers being sent for count in India were testament of Tibetan democracy's vulnerability. Further the speaker thinks
Indian government may become uncomfortable, in face of a high profile election of exile Tibetan leadership. Which I think is possible but unlikely.

Atternony Nima also pointed out the challenges facing within the Tibetan diaspora.

The provincialism, regionalism and factionalism could lead to internal division that weakens the unity of the Tibetan people. Besides the majority of Tibetan in the India subcontinent and those living in the west does not have a uniformity of information access.

      The strength of democracy: 

Ironically, Nima thinks that democracy is a unifying force that can strength solidarity among Tibetan dispora and brings legitimacy to its leaders and system.

A substantive democracy is going to be a fundamental institution and that in turn shape identity, he says.

         Questions from the floor were ranged from concern of damage to Tibetan unity among supporter's differences. Where there any evidence of Chinese government's hand in persuading India in
undermining Tibetan democracy.   Campaign finance transparency, monks getting two votes democratic or undemocratic, to which the Chinese professor responded that Tibetan religious communities are the most important that hold Tibeta society.   Overall, the panel discussion raised important questions and dwelled on pressing issues that present exile democracy faces.

No comments: