The Dalai Lama: A Marxist Buddhist?

Whilst teaching in Sikkim, the Dalai Lama once again expressed his view that he is a ‘Marxist Buddhist’:

As usual, people are charmed by the Dalai Lama and don’t really check the substance of what he’s saying, but there are a lot of contradictions inherent  in the Dalai Lama’s statement of being a ‘Marxist Buddhist’. It reveals his synthesis of politics and religion. Marxism is politics and Buddhism is religion. They are like fire and water and do not mix – or rather they are like fire and gunpowder, because their mixing is extremely destructive as we have seen in the case of the politicisation of the Dorje Shugden issue where the state has over-reached its boundaries and had a Deity banned in Tibetan society,  causing much suffering of the pure spiritual practitioners who practise this Deity and who have been ostracised as a result.

Buddhism and Marxism are contradictory

Karl Marx
Karl Marx: religion is escapism?

Karl Marx’s belief was that religion was a symptom of a sick society, an expression of economic injustice.  As the

Wikipedia article ‘Criticism of religion’ says:

According to Karl Marx, religion is a tool utilized by the ruling classes whereby the masses can shortly relieve their suffering via the act of experiencing religious emotions. It is in the interest of the ruling classes to instill in the masses the religious conviction that their current suffering will lead to eventual happiness. Therefore as long as the public believes in religion, they will not attempt to make any genuine effort to understand and overcome the real source of their suffering, which in Marx’s opinion was their capitalist economic system

According to Marx, religion was escapism.  How, then, would Marx view the Dalai Lama, a religious leader?  no doubt as a purveyor of illusion!  It’s therefore very strange that the Dalai Lama claims to be a Marxist Buddhist when the two are seen to be contradictory.  Marxism is a flawed political system whereas the flawless teachings of Buddha reveal an unmistaken path to permanent freedom from suffering, so how could the Dalai Lama marry these disparate systems together?

Furthermore,  Marx’s beliefs are the antithesis of old Tibet, which was a feudal society where ordinary people were serfs and the monks were the ruling class who meted out barbaric punishments and death sentences contrary to Buddha’s teachings. This cruelty is well documented.

It is therefore somewhat strange that the Dalai Lama should declare himself to be Marxist, as feudal Tibet, a system he was part of, goes against the equality that Marx espoused. Furthermore, how can the Dalai Lama claim to subscribe to the same system as Chairman Mao who destroyed Tibet and caused him to flee to a foreign country? How could their ideologies be the same? I’m wondering what the average Tibetan who was displaced would think about the Dalai Lama claiming kinship with Chairman Mao! Actually, the Dalai Lama expressed great admiration for Mao.

Do Marxism and Buddhism have any commonality?

There do appear to be superficial similarities, in the way in which both systems espouse the equality of living beings, but their function and purpose are completely different.  Marxism’s aim is to release people from the illusions of religion and the evils of the capitalist economic system, which is seen to be the cause of their suffering, whereas Buddhism aims to release all living beings from suffering permanently by helping them develop wisdom and compassion.  Marxism is a worldly medicine for what it sees as the ills of society, which have external causes,  whereas Buddhism espouses the development of the mind as a permanent solution to all suffering and sees the main cause of suffering as internal.  From this viewpoint, could Buddhism and Marxism really be much more different?

If the Dalai Lama really is a Marxist, he must believe that the capitalist system is the cause of suffering in this world, but Buddha never said that; Buddha instead claimed that ignorance is the main cause of suffering and its cure is wisdom.   Marxism would do away with the very religion that is the source of this wisdom.

It says much about the Dalai Lama’s confusion that he would see Buddhism and Marxism to be so similar that he could declare himself a ‘Marxist Buddhist’ and this confusion explains why the Dalai Lama has taken to mixing two incompatible systems to the detriment of Buddhist teachings in this world.


6 thoughts on “The Dalai Lama: A Marxist Buddhist?

  1. I think, Dalai Lama did not do the same mistake like this blogger to know about Marx specially on his position pertaining Religion and taken a shortcut like reading a quotation from WIKIPEDIA, It appears, Dalai Lama went reading through Marx’s text original, not second hand Marxism nor even out of context quotation.

    Another important issue: Dalai Lama is talking about “”sense of the oneness of human beings,”, a feeling or project of Oneness. What was Marx’s position on that? For that matter Young Hegelian Marx’s predecessor Hegel’s position on that? We have to examine that thoroughly. Only then we might come to a conclusion that “Do Marxism and Buddhism have any commonality?” or not. Can there be any commonality at all etc. We must have to re-read, re-examine those things putting aside what Marxism says/claims in the name of Marx so far.

  2. Marx himself considered Buddhism a philosophy, and not a religion. And the Dalai Lama has criticized aspects of feudal Tibetan society. So I’m sorry to say that your argument falls apart.

  3. buddhism is ancient communism. there are ” ‘N’ number of commonalities between buddha and marxs , only difference being the epoch. time and the given situations are the difference. dalai lama is regarded as a tibetan buddhist head for tantrayana sect of buddhism and a politician struggling for his survival. he call himself ”a half marxist and a half buddhist ”must be understood in this context.

  4. Don’t express your view without knowing exact point .. you may had read many books about Marxim n bhuddism but all of them where also part of people’s view .. Everyone got different views …

  5. Mahayana Buddhism view of reality is not compatible with Marx’s socialism which is based on materialism. People confuses egalitarian with socialism, and Marx didn’t invent “egalitarian” in fact he criticized it.

  6. Quite so, Mahayana Buddhism and Marxism are incompatible which makes the Dalai Lama’s statement completely absurd.

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