Courtesy Reuters

Tibetans Plan for Tomorrow

The Thirteenth Dalai Lama, a year prior to his death in 1933, composed a Last Testament in response to petitions by his Ministers for perpetual guidance.[i] It was a legacy of leadership, prescribing a course by which Tibet might avoid international pitfalls which he even then foresaw. The Dalai Lama described his time as one beset by "Five Kinds of Degeneration." Among the worst of calamities, he said, "is the manner of working among the red people" (i.e. the Communists). Referring to the ills which had befallen their co-religionists in Mongolia, he warned the Tibetans it "may happen that here, in the center of Tibet, the religion and the secular administration may be attacked both from the outside and from the inside." His Testament continues: "Tibet is happy, and in comfort now; the matter rests in your hands. All civil and military matters should be organized with knowledge; act in harmony; do not pretend to do what you cannot do. . . . High officials, low officials, and peasants must all act in harmony to bring happiness to Tibet. One person alone cannot lift a heavy carpet; several must unite to do so."

The Thirteenth Dalai Lama left a society whose happiness was not so much marred by its forbidding isolation as by social injustice and political fragmentation. Tibetans were driven by sectional and tribal loyalties into semi-autonomous political regions. Religious-secular dichotomy split Tibet into two realms of power. In feudal pattern, vast estates were held by nobility and monastery. The populace was uninformed and apathetic to civic responsibility. Formal education was scarce and where it was available was doctrinally religious, preparing for the eternity of the Buddhist cycle rather than the life of this world. As such it furnished barren ground for cultivating a public service. The political establishment serving the Dalai Lama comprised a charming but untrained gentry, powerful monks and court favorites. Some were by nature able administrators; some were inept and venal.

A chaotic political system tempts the foreign

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