Tibet and the attraction of Buddhism

Nathan Newman nnewman at ix.netcom.com
Thu Jul 2 09:26:33 PDT 1998

-----Original Message----- From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood at panix.com> To: LBO-talk at lists.panix.com <LBO-talk at lists.panix.com>

>What is it about Tibet and the Dalai Lama? Why are it and he such
>obsessions among otherwise nonpolitical types? And is he really the
>innocent that Richard Gere and Patti Smith would have us believe? Can
>anyone elighten me?

My view of the Dalai Lama predates some of the present hype due to religion classes I had back in college by Robert Thurman, one of the Dalai Lama's top US spokesman and now head of Tibet House in NYC. The appeal of the Dalai Lama I think is two-fold beyond the obvious "safeness" of his cause. First, the Dalai Lama is a strong spokesperson for peace in areas beyond his own cause. He does not promote a narrow nationalism for Tibet but ties it strongly to the broader present global concerns of peace and justice (even if the pre-China Tibet can be justly condemned in many aspects). By doing this, the Dalai Lama has supported many progressive campaigns around peace and has garnered recipricol support.

And as a religious figure, one should not discount the religious attaction of him as a figure. Tibetan Mayahana Buddhism is extremely attractive for many people (including myself at one point). Unlike some forms of Buddhism that emphasize individual enlightenment and navel-gazing, Tibetan-based Buddhism, known as Mayahana Buddhism, emphasizes social enlightenment where it is the responsibility of the enlightened, boddhisatvas, to help the rest of humanity both economically and spiritually. The religion does not divide the world into the saved and the damned, or the enlightened and the unenlightened, but only into the enlightened and the to-be-enlightened.

Whatever the drawbacks to Tibetan society in economic and social practice, the spiritual basis of encompassing spiritual possibility and openness does have real attractions.

--Nathan Newman

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