Tibet today it seems almost hopeless. the (‘hinese have a very tight control over the country. But if you look at China. and the whole of Asia. the bigger picture. then you see that all authoritarian countries are changing politically. and have to change. So there is hope for the future.‘
The l4th Dalai Lama bears the weight of history lightly. In person he is relaxed. warm and funny. with that familiar. joyful laugh. But don‘t be misled by this apparent lightness of being; he is no soft— centred New Age mystic.
According to Tibetans who know him well. he is most absorbed. and perhaps happiest. when giving religious teachings. particularly when speaking in his own language. During some of these teachings. allow your mind to wander for a moment and you have lost the thread completely: this highly complex and abstract existential philosophy. with a poetry of its own. demands total concentration. The Dalai Lama is known for his formidable intellect. developed through years of monastic discipline and rigorous training of the mind. He has a particular interest in science. and has initiated and participated in a series of dialogues about the nature of mind and the relationship of mind and body with distinguished scientists and philosophers worldwide.
It is impossible to over-estimate the Dalai Lama‘s significance for Tibetans — as a symbol of Tibetan
‘WE WANT TO WORK
CHINA TO PRESERVE TIBETAN CULTURE '
Realities of Tibet (clockwise from far left): The Dalai Lama; ceremony at Nechung monastery; Saunders and Lumley meet the Dalai Lama; a ‘puja’; prostitutes in Lhasa. Prior to the Chinese invasion prostitution was banned, but now poverty has left some with no other option
identity. an embodiment of hope over despair. a teacher and guide. llis leadership draws together Tibetans inside Tibet — from urban city dwellers who speak Chinese and work in tourist hotels to poverty-stricken herders living in the vast grasslands — and Tibetan exiles. from young scholars. doctors and lawyers in the West to monks living in Indian refugee settlements. During one trip to Tibet. I watched Tibetan pilgrims sobbing as they prostrated themselves before the Dalai Lama’s empty throne in the Norbulingka (summer palace) in Lhasa. and filing reverentially past his former bathroom and toilet with bowed heads.
The continued loyalty of Tibetans to the Dalai Lama is a constant frustration to the Chinese leadership in Beijing. Party leaders. including the former president and party secretary Jiang Zemin. have stated that Tibetan culture. which is inseparable from religion in Tibetan society. must be supportive of (‘hinese ideological and developmental objectives. and religion is often described as an ‘obstacld to this development. (‘hina aims to solve the ‘problems‘ in Tibet by assitnilating it further into ‘the motherland'. While the party sees these policies as ‘civilising‘ Tibetan areas. Tibetans themselves. who are not generally averse to economic development. fear the degradation of their religion and culture. and the loss of their cultural and religious identity.
Want to get your political protest noticed? Get Isobel Losada on the case.
I want to raise the issue of the Dalai Lama and non- violence with the British government. It's a frustrating ride. Well, forgive me. but you'd think an international war on terror would do it. wouldn't you? But no — it seems that Mr Blair hasn't worked out that suppon for the world's leading proponent of non-violence might be a good way forward. Maybe that w0uld demonstrate to terrorists that blowing yourself up and killing people isn't the most evolved way of going about things.
So how to do this? ‘You've got to get it in the tabloids,‘ my builder told me. ‘Get me an oversized picture of the Dalai Lama. and 15 topless women and I'll drive round London with them on the back of a truck.’ ‘Tits for Tibet.‘ That w0uld be different. it would hit the news, and no Tibetan would ever speak to me again. So with London on red alert during the heat of the terrorist scare. we created a 15 metre banner and wrote “REWARD THE DALAI LAMA“ on it. Four men climbed up Nelson's Column and a stunt man jumped with a small parachute. Of course. this was both illegal and highly dangerous — but these were minor details.
The result? Lots of column inches. But now, in London. Tony Blair is shaking hands with the new Chinese prime minister and can't fit in a meeting with the Dalai Lama because his diary is full. There is no hope for us here. If anyone is going to help Tibet escape from the rule of a deranged and distant city — it has to be you. Scotland.
Isabel Losada is author of ‘For Tibet, With Love. A Beginner 's Guide to Changing the World'. She is at Ottakar's, Buchanan Street, Glasgow on 2nd Jun and at Ottakar's, George Street, Edinburgh on 3rd Jun. See City Life (page 700) for further details.
27 May—1t) Juno 200-1 THE LIST 15