The Dalai Lama is someone who advocates non-violence. It is one of the cornerstones of his advocated beliefs and the one quality that most people would readily identify him with. So, the question is, is the Dalai Lama really non-violent? In other words, does his actions match his words with respect to non-violence?
We need to examine the evidence. The first evidence comes from interviews in which the Dalai Lama has expressed admiration for weapons of war
I am a man of peace, but I am fond of looking at picture books of the Second World War. I own some, which I believe are produced by Time-Life. I’ve just ordered a new set. Thirty books.
Q: Really? Why does the Reincarnation of Compassion have such a fascination with one of the most terrible events in human history?
A: Perhaps because the stories are so negative and gruesome, they strengthen my belief in nonviolence. [ Smiles. ] However, I find many of the machines of violence very attractive. Tanks, airplanes, warships, especially aircraft carriers. And the German U-boats, submarines. . . .
Q: I once read that as a little boy in Lhasa, you liked war toys.
A: Yes, very much. I also had an air rifle in Lhasa. And I have one in India. I often feed small birds, but when they come together, hawks spot them and catch them — a very bad thing. So in order to protect these small birds, I keep the air rifle.
Q: So it is a Buddhist rifle?
A: [ Laughs ] A compassionate rifle!
The image of the Dalai Lama with a rifle and a keen interest in pictures of war is certainly a strange one, given his public proclamations about peace.
Recent Wikileaks information has provided a fascinating insight into the Dalai Lama’s mindset before he fled Tibet for India. As this article shows, the Dalai Lama tentatively requested the USA, through his emissary Tsepon Shakabpa, for military support in 1961. Shakabpa requests, in a meeting with Fraser Wilkins, the First Secretary of the US Embassy in New Delhi:
‘If the Dalai Lama left Tibet would the United States be willing to supply the Dalai Lama with military assistance and loans of money?’
And furthermore, the meeting notes go on to say that the Dalai Lama, being the temporal and spiritual leader of Tibet, would
…when the time was ripe want to supply groups with arms so they could rise against the invader
The Dalai Lama is requesting military assistance and supply of arms so that there can be resistance against the Chinese invasion. The Dalai Lama is therefore advocating armed struggle against the Chinese, with the inevitable loss of life that this would involve. We know, in fact, that subsequently there was a Tibetan Guerilla resistance group called Chushi Gangdruk established.
Tibetans were trained in Camp Hale in Colorado and the Dalai Lama received an annual income of $186,000 from the CIA. All of this from the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 1989.
In his acceptance speech for receiving this award, the Dalai Lama said:
…I feel honored, humbled, and deeply moved that you should give this important prize to a simple monk from Tibet. I am no one special. But I believe the prize is a recognition of the true value of altruism, love, compassion, and nonviolence which I try to practice, in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha and the sages of India and Tibet.
When he accepted this award in the name of Mahatma Gandhi and non-violence, the Dalai Lama was fully aware of the military resistance to the Chinese invasion, military support that he himself had requested. He knew that it was, in fact, a violent struggle, not a peaceful one. He also knew about, and was complicit with, other armed conflicts involving Tibetans – for example, Establishment 22’s involvement in a war against Pakistan
Finally, we can consider the Dalai Lama’s message to the armed forces from June 2010:
Naturally, there are some times when we need to take what on the surface appears to be harsh or tough action, but if our motivation is good our action is actually non-violent in nature. On the other hand if we use sweet words and gestures to deceive, exploit and take advantage of others, our conduct may appear agreeable, while we are actually engaged in quite unacceptable violence.
The last sentence is a summary of the Dalai Lama’s position. His conduct appears extremely agreeable as far as the world’s media is concerned, but behind the scenes, in dialogue with the USA, in talks to Tibetans about the Dorje Shugden issue, his words and actions have led to violence.
In summary, although the Dalai Lama publicly condemns violence, it’s clear from a little investigative work and recently released secret documents from the US that he has been involved in supporting armed conflict, and even requested military support from the Americans. It’s important for everyone to understand that the Dalai Lama is actually engaged in unacceptable violence, both in his words and his actions, despite his public endorsement of Gandhi and his policy of ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence.