Courtesy Reuters

Tibet Struggles to Survive

The thirteenth Dalai Lama, Thupten Gyatso, the incarnation of Tibet's patron deity, Chenresi, "the Buddha of mercy," passed on to "the Honorable Field" in 1933, there to await rebirth as the present Dalai Lama in 1935. Toward the end of his long rule he was gravely worried by the communist suppression of Lamaist Buddhism in Mongolia, which for almost four hundred years had been dominated by the Tibetan form of religion. In creating a Mongolian nation on the Soviet pattern in the 1920s and early 1930s, Mongolian Communists destroyed almost all the monasteries which regarded the Dalai Lama in Lhasa as their spiritual leader, reducing organized religion to a few showpiece relics. The Dalai Lama warned his people that "unless we can guard our own country, it will now happen that the Dalai and Panchen Lamas, the Father and the Son, the Holders of the Faith, the glorious Rebirths, will be broken down and left without a name . . . the officers of the state, ecclesiastical and secular, will find their lands seized and their other property confiscated, and they themselves made to serve their enemies, or wander about the country as beggars do. All beings will be sunk in great hardship and in overpowering fear; the days and the nights will drag on slowly in suffering."

A quarter of a century later, his successor, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, fled from tightening Chinese Communist control of Tibet to exile in India. Now the prophecy has been fulfilled. The Tibet that long fascinated the world with its distinctive religion, its unusual religious government, the anachronism of its ways, has disappeared. The Cultural Revolution has brought destruction of even the showpiece relics of Lamaist Buddhism in its homeland. The inaccessibility which heightened the fascination of the high, mostly bleak land behind the Himalayan, Kun Lun and Tahsueh Mountains has been ended with the construction of roads and airports; yet by Chinese policy Tibet remains closed and largely unknown to the outside world.

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