The Dalai Lama

I’ve never been much of an admirer of the Dalai Lama. This is not because he is the leader of a major sect of Tibetan Buddhism, but because I have always wondered what kind of ruler of Tibet he would have been if he were not in exile. Although I cannot condone the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet, I don’t imagine that the theocracy of the Dalai Lamas was exactly a paradise either. Tibet was a backward,  feudal country. I doubt very much of the Dalai Lama would have been a force for democracy or reform.

It would seem that his holiness is an admirer of Marxism. It might seem strange that he would have anything good to say about the ideology of the country that drove him into exile but he seems to feel that Marxism has moral ethics while capitalism is only about profits.

I will quote some of the comments of Mark Stuertz from whom I got this story.

So how can the Dalai Lama possibly square his pleas for nonviolence toward “all sentient beings” with Marxism? His answer: Marxism has moral ethics, as opposed to capitalism, which is all about profits.

Let’s chew on that for a moment. Virtually every socio-political movement has some noble ambition — some set of ethics — that can be teased from its viscera. The Nazi Party platform, for example, contains calls for equal rights, profit-sharing, national health care, pensions, education access, employment opportunities, and the rights of citizens to select political leaders and make laws.

By implication, isn’t the Dalai Lama saying these are sufficient grounds to legitimize, exonerate — even embrace — Nazism? And if not, why not?

It’s one thing to promote cooperation and egalitarianism. It’s quite another to publicly endorse a specific ideology that espouses such goals but consistently delivers a dramatically different outcome. According to The Black Book of Communism, Marxist regimes over the 20th century systematically slaughtered between 85 and 100 million people. Millions more were terrorized, tortured, and enslaved. And these atrocities were not breaches of practical Marxist orthodoxy — they were critical elements of Marxist statecraft. Terror tactics and atrocities, The Black Book’s authors point out, are found in every regime claiming to be Marxist in origin.

The Marxist-Communist record is “the most colossal case of political carnage in history.” It represents the triumph of inhumanity over compassion on an unprecedented scale. How can this Nobel Peace Prize winner embrace a political ideology in theory without any consideration of its effects in practice? Is this mindful?

Buddhism, perhaps more than any of the other major religions, places special emphasis on compassion. It is incumbent upon the Buddhist to strive for mindfulness and compassion in all circumstances. Essential to this striving is the cultivation of an awareness of how ego aggressively disrupts mindfulness and compassion while denying the impermanence of existence. These aggressive disruptions cause suffering.

There is perhaps no other realm that engorges, fattens, and unleashes the aggressiveness of ego and its handmaiden, suffering, quite like the political realm. Yet the Dalai Lama doesn’t seem to consider this. He makes no mention of Marxism’s glaring internal contradictions. He glosses over how it fails to consider humanity as it is: beset with the confusion and ignorance of ego. He disregards the critical component Marxism requires to function successfully: a mythical human, one free of self-interest.

That’s why, for all of its seductive allure — its appeal to ego — Marxism has proved impossible to peacefully implement.

He has more to say and his article is worth reading. I will just add that it is the big ideas, Marxism, socialism, Fascism, etc that have caused so much suffering in the world. That is, the idea that all of society must conform to an ideology that will, of course, make everything perfect for everyone, if only everyone does as they are told. Capitalism may indeed be all about profits, and greed, and so on, but it is also about leaving people alone to make their own lives as they see fit. What people like the Dalai Lama will never see is that that is the morally superior system.

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