A Modern Perspective of Buddhism: Analysing Tibetan Buddhism

· Buddhism, Religion, Tibetan Buddhism

The Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet


(First Published in Knol 29.11.08)(Refreshed 05.08.12–updated links 06.08.12)

What comes to mind when Buddhism is mentioned? To the Westerner, i.e. West of Suez and West of the Ural Mountains, including America visions of that benign monk, The Dalai Lama in a yellow robe smiling to all, or visions of the Potala Palace in Tibet representing the Shangri-la of humanity, or the golden temples of Bangkok  or the numerous statues of Buddha in all sizes and in all postures in all of Asia, or the waves upon waves of Buddhists priests protesting in their yellow robes peacefully for the upholding of their human rights, suffering in peace and dignity with their begging bowl. Most view the Dalai Lama as the symbol of Buddhism, and the symbol of Peace and Harmony and representing world Buddhism akin to the Pope symbolizing Catholic Christianity. But that is a misconception and a myth as we investigate the facts of Buddhism. The intention here is not to caste aspersions on the honorable belief in Buddhism, but to express a different perception from a different perception portrayed by the media and other organizations with vested interests. To appreciate this modern perception, all the actual and historical and political  facts that affect the the faith of Buddhism must be considered with an open mind.

To the Asian,  we refer to peoples East of the Ural Mountains and East of Suez stretching from Kazakhstan, to Uzbekistan, to Turkmenistan, to Afghanistan, to Pakistan, to India, to China, to Japan, to Burma, to Thailand, to Cambodia, to Laos, to Vietnam, to the Philippines, they see Buddhism with an entirely different perspective. To them it is their way of life, their custom, their temples, their ritualism in prayer and Buddhist ceremonies, their incense and burning of paper symbols as offerings to the dead, the smell of sandlewood, and smoke, and the bells, and chants, and the prostrations, and the humility of life. Most belong to sects that have nothing to do with the tibetan sects and they owe their loyalties to the head of their sect. Some may have heard of the plight of the Dalai Lama but it does not have much to do with their allegiances to their own sect. Most are not interested in the political strife of the Dalai Lama but are interested in feeding their own sect monks and to help others poorer than themselves. What happens in Tibet and is of not much interest to them as they have woes of their own, the struggle to lead a better Buddhist life to attain Nirvana.

So why is there such a huge gap in the differences in attitudes and perceptions? The West obsessed with Democracy, and Human Rights, attempting to impose their will and concepts on to all foreign cultures and religions and political systems as though the Western system is the only acceptable system for all, while in the East, the people accept their way of life as the way their ancestors have lived, and that evolution is is the hands of the gods. The Asians are patient and long suffering and await the karma that is due them with patience and fortitude. They have realized over the millennia that most violent changes are usually accompanied with death and destruction  like the eruption of a volcano. And that is not the Buddhist way. So we will look at some aspects of Buddhism in the following paragraphs.

Buddhist Organizations and Hierarchy

The following  is an attempt at clearing some of the misconceptions held by most people, especially non-Buddhists. Many people see Buddhism as just one religion and never wonder about their organizational structure nor who is the head of their faith and to whom do owe their allegiance. I hope to be able to discuss some of these complexities.

Buddhist Sects
The Major Sects of Buddhism

Theravada (Hinayana) Buddhism

Signifies: School of the Elders (Small Vehicle)
Four Noble Truths
Sage Buddha

Geographic dominance: Southeast Asia

Mahayana Buddhism

Signifies: Large Vehicle
Four Noble Truths
Divine Buddha

Geographic Dominance: China, Japan, and Korea


Pure Land School
Tian Dai (China) or Tendai (Japan) Buddhism
Confucianism Influence
Chan (China) or Zen (Japan) Buddhism
Daoism Influence

Predominant Rituals:
Teacher-Student dialog

Vajrayana Buddhism

Signifies: Diamond Vehicle
Enlightenment in one lifetime
Tibetan gods and demons
Religious visualizations
Philosophical debate
Tantric Sex

Geographic Dominance: Tibet  [1]

Tibetan Buddhist Sects

Even within the Tibetan sects several different sects evolved after the middle of the 11th Century. These include:
Nyingma, Gatang, Sagya, Gagyu, Gelug Zhigyed, Gynyul, Gyonang, Kodrag and Xainu sects. However, the last five of these sects were weak and had a small following. Consequently, the stronger sects annexed these weaker sects. So these latter five sects disappeared.

It is essential to remember that within Tibet there exist 3 active sects of Buddhism having their own independent hierarchy and they are each self-contained in their customs, rituals, and traditions. The Gatang Sect was merged with the more powerful and aggressive sect the Gelug Sect. [2]

The Nyingma Sect is commonly known as the Red Sect and is the oldest and thus has incorporated many of the finer attributes of their earlier Bon religion. It ws founded in the 11th Century. Nyingma means ancient, and they adhere to the Tantric traditions of Buddhism. This sect has followings in China, Bhuttan, Nepal, India, Belgium, Greece, France, and America.

The Sagya Sect was founded in 1703 and is referred to as the Stripe Sect. The paint their monasteries with red, white a d black stripes symbolizing Buddha’s Wisdom, the Goddess of Mercy and the Diamond Hand of Buddha. An eminent monk, Gonggar Zhaxi was honoured by the Ming Emperor Yongie with the honorary title of “Mahayana Prince of Dharma” who represents the head of the Sagya Sect.

The Gagyu Sect was founded in the 11th Century and concentrates on Tantric Buddhism and believes in the oral transmission of Tantric tenets. Gagyu means “passing down orally.” As their monks wore white robes, this sect is known as the White Sect.

The Gelug Sect founded in 1409 is known as the Yellow Hat Sect. This Gelug sect was formed by Zongkapa a monk. He had observed that upper echelons of Buddhist monks led a decadent life and were involved in political and economic power struggles and not following the tenets/commandments of Buddhism and changes were needed. Gelug means commandments. Zongkapa constructed the Gandain Monastery  and established the Gelug Sect that adhered strictly to the Commandments of Buddhism. [3]

Early Tibetan ties with China [4]

Historical evidence shows that during the Tang dynasty, 618-907 the Emperor Taizong cemented his ties with the Tubo King, Songtsen Gampo of Tibet by marriage. The Emperor’s daughter, princess Wenzheng was wed to King Songtsen Gampo. This strengthened both rulers to combine forces against the proliferation of regional War Lords who took the law into their own hands.

Princess Wenzheng was trained in all the Royal protocols of the Imperial courts of Beijing. And as the Tangs were Buddhists, the Princess introduced Buddhist customs and rituals to the Tibetan King’s household much to the dislike of the Bon Sharmans who challenged her influence wherever possible.

Princess Wenzheng was determined to play her role as a Royal Buddhist Princess. She arrived in Tibet with a fully trained staff from Beijing well familiar with Court procedures, and Buddhist rituals. Among her retinue were ceremonial artisans, court scribes, craftsmen, tailors, religious elders, all trained and accustomed to the ceremonial rituals of the Tang Emperors. This introduced pomp and ceremony and ritualistic exhibitionism to the previously dull Tibetan customs. In her personal ambitions to create an Imperialistic life-style in Tibet for the Tibetan King and herself did she invariably sowed the seeds of “imperialistic ambitions for future leaders of Tibet, i.e. the ambitions of the Gelug hierarchy today?

This royal marriage ensured the close ties between the two entities.  There was harmony, diplomatic ties, and it promoted active trade between Tibet and China. The customary rituals of offering tributes, and the exchange of gifts with the Emperor of China continued. Tributes were the symbol of the acceptance of The Emperor of China’s dominance.

Some years later there was another Tang Princess who was married to another Turbo King to further strengthen their mutual ties of the two distant parts of the country.

However, in 838 two Bon priests assassinated the Buddhist Tubo King and declared that Bon was the only acceptable religion in Tibet. The Buddhists were persecuted and killed and were forced to go into hiding. However, trade between Tibet and China continued  between the periods of 907 ad 1279.

Meanwhile, Buddhism cunningly incorporated some of the more essential elements of the Bon religion into their rituals and customs, creating the “unique” Tibetan Buddhism a hybrid between Buddhism and Bon including shamanism unlike any other Buddhist sects in the rest of the Buddhist world. Tibetan Buddhism is thus often referred as “Lamaism” for this very reason. This differentiation is often unappreciated by non-Buddhists.

It was in the 8th Century when Songtsen Gampo conquered Shang Shang and united Tibet and who declared Buddhism as the state religion. Bon priests attempted to use their influence on royalty and politicians and eventually the Tubo King banned the Bon because of the disharmony they were creating. Finally the assassination of the Bon leader Lang Darma saw the decline of the Bon and the ascendancy of Lamaism. The bon eventually adapted and introduced some reforms that allowed them to survive and exist with the Buddhists. Today there exists 3 Bon sects in Tibet. [4]

Buddhism’s Doctrine of Inner Tranquility

Buddhism’s doctrine of seeking to perfect oneself by righteous living and seeking inner peace and tranquillity in order to reach nirvana is not borne out by the activities and behaviour of Buddhists worldwide. Buddhists portray themselves as free from doctrinal fanaticism, nor free of the violent and exploitative pursuits so characteristic of other religions. But this has not proven to be true in actuality.

In Sri Lanka there is a legendary and almost sacred recorded history about the triumphant battles waged by Buddhist kings of yore. During the twentieth century, Buddhists clashed violently with each other and with non-Buddhists in Thailand, Burma, Korea, Japan, India, and elsewhere. In Sri Lanka, armed battles between Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamils have taken many lives on both sides.

In South Korea, in 1998, thousands of monks of the Chogye Buddhist order fought each other with fists, rocks, fire-bombs, and clubs, in pitched battles that went on for weeks. They were vying for control of the order, the largest in South Korea, with its annual budget of $9.2 million, its millions of dollars worth of property, and the privilege of appointing 1,700 monks to various offices. The brawls damaged the main Buddhist sanctuaries and left dozens of monks injured, some seriously.

Squabbles between or within Buddhist sects are often fueled by the material corruption and personal deficiencies of the leadership. For example, in Nagano, Japan, at Zenkoji, the prestigious complex of temples that has hosted Buddhist sects for more than 1,400 years, “a nasty battle” arose between Komatsu the chief priest and the Tacchu, a group of temples nominally under the chief priest’s sway. The Tacchu monks accused Komatsu of selling writings and drawings under the temple’s name for his own gain. They also were appalled by the frequency with which he was seen in the company of women. Komatsu in turn sought to isolate and punish monks who were critical of his leadership. The conflict lasted some five years and made it into the courts.

Is Tibetan Buddhism different?

Many Tibetan Buddhists insists that, before the Chinese exercised control in 1959, old Tibet was a spiritually oriented kingdom free from the egotistical lifestyles, empty materialism, and corrupting vices that beset modern industrialized society. Western news media, travel books, novels, and Hollywood films have portrayed the Tibetan theocracy as a veritable Shangri-La. The Dalai Lama himself stated that “the pervasive influence of Buddhism” in Tibet, “amid the wide open spaces of an unspoiled environment resulted in a society dedicated to peace and harmony. We enjoyed freedom and contentment.”

A closer study of the history of Old Tibet shows a different picture.  “Religious conflict was commonplace in old Tibet,” writes one western Buddhist practitioner. “History belies the Shangri-La image of Tibetan lamas and their followers living together in mutual tolerance and non-violent goodwill.  Old Tibet was much more like Europe during the religious wars of the Counterreformation.”  In the thirteenth century, the Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan created the first Grand Lama, who was to preside over all the other lamas as might a pope over his bishops. Several centuries later, the Emperor of China sent an army into Tibet to support the Grand Lama, an ambitious 25-year-old man. [5]

Altan Khan the Buddhist usurper Ruler of Mongolia

Since the time of Chinggis Khaan aka Genghis Khan, (c 1155-1227) it was decreed that only men of royal lineage were permitted to be rulers of Mogolia. Altan Khan was a cruel and ruthless usurper and believed that he could gain legitimacy to be ruler by using Buddhism.

Altan Khan invited Sonam Gyatsho, the 3rd Dalai Lama to instruct and convert Mongols on Buddhism and to convert them by choice or by force, thus ensuring a large Buddhist support. Sonam Gyatsho, the 3rd Head Lama of the Gelug sect then proclaimed that Altan Khan was in fact the reincarnation of Kublai Khan and thus his legitimacy to be ruler of Mongolia was confirmed. Altan Khan honoured the 3rd Head Lama of the Gelug sect as the “ Dalai Lama” and posthumously awarded the title to his two predecessors, making Sonam Gyatsho the 3rd Dalai Lama. Altan Khan then made every effort to whip out shamanism and in 1578 passed a law to ban it. [6]

His two previous lama “incarnations” were then retroactively recognized as his predecessors, thereby transforming the 1st Dalai Lama into the 3rd Dalai Lama. This 1st (or 3rd) Dalai Lama seized monasteries that did not belong to his sect, and is believed to have destroyed Buddhist writings that conflicted with his claim to divinity. The Dalai Lama who succeeded him pursued a sybaritic life, enjoying many mistresses, partying with friends, and acting in other ways deemed unfitting for an incarnate deity. For these transgressions his priests murdered him. Within 170 years, despite their recognized divine status, their high priests or other courtiers killed five Dalai Lamas.

For hundreds of years competing Tibetan Buddhist sects engaged in bitterly violent clashes and summary executions. In 1660, the 5th Dalai Lama was faced with a rebellion in Tsang province, the stronghold of the rival Kagyu sect with its high lama known as the Karmapa. The 5th Dalai Lama called for harsh retribution against the rebels, directing the Mongol army to obliterate the male and female lines, and the offspring too “like eggs smashed against rocks…. In short, annihilate any traces of them, even their names.”

In 1792, many Kagyu monasteries were confiscated and their monks were forcibly converted to the Gelug sect (the Dalai Lama’s denomination). The Gelug school, known also as the “Yellow Hats,” showed little tolerance or willingness to mix their teachings with other Buddhist sects. In the words of one of their traditional prayers: “Praise to you, violent god of the Yellow Hat teachings/who reduces to particles of dust/ great beings, high officials and ordinary people/ who pollute and corrupt the Gelug doctrine.”  An eighteenth-century memoir of a Tibetan general depicts sectarian strife among Buddhists that is as brutal and bloody as any religious conflict might be.  This grim history remains largely unvisited by present-day followers of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. [5]

In establishing the Chinese Emperor’s recognition of the title of Dalai Lama this is as far as I can ascertain. The Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, was born in 1617 in Lhoka Chingwar Taktse, south of Lhasa to Dudul Rabten and Kunga Lhanzi.

In 1649, Sunzhi, the Manchu Emperor of China, invited the Dalai Lama to Peking. When he reached the Chinese province of Ningxia, the emperor’s minister and military commander who came with three thousand cavalry to escort the Tibetan leader greeted him. The emperor himself traveled from Peking and greeted him at a place called Kothor. In the Chinese capital, the Dalai Lama stayed at the Yellow Palace, built for him by the emperor. This showed great respect and honour for the Dalai Lama.  When the emperor officially met the Dalai Lama, the two of then exchanged titles. In 1653, the Dalai Lama returned to Tibet. This is a full acknowledgement and recognition for the Dalai Lama.

Gushir Khan died in 1655, as did Sonam Choephel, the Desi. The Dalai Lama appointed Gushir Khan’s son Tenzin Dorjee as the new Mongol king, and Drong Mey-Pa Thinley Gyatso succeeded the latter to the post of Desi. When the Manchu Emperor died in 1662, his son, K’ang-si, ascended the Manchu throne. In the same year the Panchen Lama died at the age of ninety-one. In 1665, after a petition from Tashilhunpo monastery, the Dalai Lama recognized a boy from Tsang region as the reincarnation of the late Panchen Lama and gave the boy the name of Lobsang Yeshi.

The Fifth Dalai Lama was a great scholar, well versed in Sanskrit. He wrote many books, including one on poetry. He also established two educational institutions, one for lay officials and another for monk officials, where they were taught Mongolian, Sanskrit, astrology, poetry, and administration. He was a man of few words, but what he said carried conviction and influenced rulers beyond the borders of Tibet. In 1682, at the age of sixty-five he died before completing the construction of the Potala Palace, however, not before entrusting the responsibility of the construction to Sangya Gyatso, the new Desi with the advice to keep his death secret for the time being. [9]

The Gelug Sect became unique sect because of its early historical support received by the early Chinese Emperors who gave sustenance and protection to the Buddhist monks in Tibet. It began in the Tang Dynasty, 1618-907 when it was actually the Tang Princess who introduced Buddhism to the turbo Kings of Tibet. She also sowed the seeds of grandeur and opulence in the hearts of the Tibetan hierarchy.Later, in the Yuan Dynasty of Kublai Khan, and his Buddhist leanings, the bonds between Tibet and Beijing grew with Tibet paying annual tributes to the Emperor of China. And the conferment of the title of Dalai Lama, The Ocean of Wisdom, crowned the Head lama of Tibet of the Gelug sect. But we must bear in mind that the Dalai Lama is the head of the Gelug Buddhist sect, and has no powers over any other Buddhist sect of which there are many.

A Brief perspective of Tibetan Buddhism with respect to the World Buddhist sects and populations

Tibetan Buddhism is but a tiny representation of Buddhism or Lamaism. Even just looking at Chinese Buddhism that has a complex admix of other ancient cultures with different quantities of mixes, like Shamanism, Taoism, Confucius philosophy, that often it is impossible to differentiate one school from another. This is one of the main reasons that a census of the religious followings in China is so inaccurate. The philosophies and rituals of Shamanism, Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism is to intertwined that in the peoples minds it is a fusion of religions. Most are today strongly influenced by Buddhist traits.

There can be very few of the Gelug sect hierarchy left in Tibet.

The Organization and hierarchy of the different Buddhist sects (examples)

Each Buddhist sect have their own hierarchy and recognize only their own hierarchy.

With the Gelug sect this is their hierarchy:

The Yellow Hat, “Gelug”  Tibetan Buddhist Sect Hierarchy

(1)    The Dalai Lama is the highest ranking position in this  “Gelug,” Yellow Hat Buddhist sect. The Dalai Lama possesses greater temporal jurisdiction than the Panchen Lama.
(2)    Next in order of rank is the Panchen Lama who in theory has equal power.
(3)    Next in rank are the Bodhisattvas, those monks who have undergone intense ethical and spiritual discipline. These three ranks constitute form the Tibetan Buddhist higher order of the clergy and will be the rulers of the Yellow Sect. [15]
(4)    The rest of the clergy, in descending order, is ranked in order of their training and learning of the teachings of Buddhism, the first being the abbots.
(5)    Next comes the religious mendicant,
(6)    Then comes the Priests, and finally
(7)     The novice monk. All of these last four orders vow celibacy and will live in the monasteries.

The Black Hat “Karma Kagyu” Buddhist Sect in Tibet

This Karma Kagyu sect owes no allegiance to the Gelug sect and have their own religious head.

The 17th Karmapa Trinlay Thaye Dorje, the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Karmapa was the first incarnate lama (tulku) in Tibet. The present 17th Karmapa was found and recognized as the genuine Karmapa reincarnation by H.H. Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, second to the Karmapa in the Karma Kagyu Lineage. [16]

System of Organization of the Hoa Hao Buddhist in Vietnam

(This is to show the independence of each and every Buddhist sect from one another)

There is no allegiance nor loyalty to the Tibetan Buddhist sects and is completely independent of other sects.

The Hoa Hao Buddhist Community is administered by a system of Administrative Committees set up at each hamlet, village, district and province. At the top of the hierarchy is the Central Council of Administrators. The Hamlet Administrative Committee is composed of several subcommittees. From this centralize-decentralize system, Hoa Hao Buddhist leaders are able to keep close contact with the masses. All activities and instructions are effectively managed. The communication channel from the central council to the grass-roots subcommittee level is free flowing. The guiding principle of Hoa Hao organization and management can be described as Focused Democracy.

1. ELECTIONS: From the hamlet level, Hoa Hao faithful elect their representatives to the Administrative Committees. The Administrative Committees elect the Central Council of Administrators from the hamlets, villages, districts and provinces.
2. LEADERSHIP: The Administrators are elected according to their virtues and qualifications. A democratic style election ensures fairness and selection of the most able candidate for the job. Each Board of Administrators consists of 10 to 15 members. The Central Council of Administrators has 23 members. Aside from the Central Council of Administrators, the Supervisory Council is setup to act as a check and balance entity. The Supreme Head of the Church is Prophet Huynh Phu So, the Founder of Hoa Hao Buddhism. [17]

Author’s comments on Sect alklegiance ad hierarchy

It can be observed here that each sect or school of Buddhism has their own independent leaders and hierarchy. Each following their own interpretations of the teachings of Buddha. What I am attempting to highlight is the common misconception that the Dalai Lama speaks for the Buddhist communities of the world somewhat like the Pope in the Vatican. He does not. The Dalai Lama only speaks for the Yellow Hat, “Gelug” Tibetan Buddhist sect and their numbers at a guestimate are about 80,000 members maximum giving it a generous estimate. The following discussion will illustrate the facts.

A Realistic Perspective of Lamaism in World Buddhism and Chinese Politics

The total population of old Tibet was:
The population in Tibet was only about “one million in 1950” and, according to the Tibet the autonomous regional bureau of statistics, [11] Remembering that Tibet had 4 major sects, the total reprensation of the Gelug sect, of which the Dalai Lama is the head, at most is 60% of Tibetans. According to the official figures, over 80,000 Tibetans loyal to the Dalai Lama led by their religious and temporal leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, have fled the Chinese asserting their authority on Tibet, freeing Tibet from the old repressive feudal system of their country and established a free open Tibet like the rest of China. China decided to end the repressive and subversive activities in Tibet, instigated by the CIA, to sabotage China’s authority.

It is interesting to note that Tibet’s ethnic population grew to 2.8415 million in 2007, a rise of 180 percent over 1950, with Tibetans population making up 92 percent of the total population in the autonomous region. The Tibetans currently has a lifespan average of 67 years, as against 35.5 years in 1959.

Population stagnated in old Tibet

Historical records stored in the files of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Archives are stunning: A small number of local officials, aristocrats and high Lamas, who made up five percent of the population in Tibet then, owned almost all the land, pastures, mountain woods and most of the livestock. Of the 1 million people in Tibet in 1950, some 900,000 did not have roofs to shelter themselves. Of the 20,000 residents in the city proper of Lhasa, there were more than 1,000 paupers and beggars sleeping in the open all year round.

So 900,000 Tibetans were mainly serfs and had no previleges. This means that the 80,000 Tibetan refugees who fled to Dharamsala, India were Gelug sect higher ranking monks and the ruling classes of Tibet, leaving behind mostly the serfs of Tibet and a few of the other Buddhist sects.

Population grew very slowly in old Tibet as commoners could not have any social security guarantee, a host of historical records once again proved. In more than two centuries before 1950, the population in Tibet stood still at about one million, and the official Tibetan census in 1953 only recorded a population of 1.14 million.

Population grows rapidly when the PRC government introduced equal benefits to the serfs in the new Tibet. Schools, medical clinics, hospitals, housing, an income, and freedom to move and seek employment, job creation, was all provided by the new PRC administration. It is doubtful whether the 900,000 slaves and serfs, now free, will ever wish for the old serfdom system to ever return to Tibet.

Tibet autonomous region has adopted its unique family planning policy in accordance with its specific local conditions. Since 1984, the regional government has advocated and carried out the policy of two children per couple with an adequate, proper interval among Tibetan cadres, workers and staffers, and urban and rural residents and on a voluntary basis. Yet, the farmers and herders, who make up 80 percent of the population in Tibet, have not practiced family planning.

Chinese central authorities have stepped up its support to local finances in Tibet since the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951 and particularly after the democratic reform of 1959. In 2007, the proportion of its income of subsidies from the central government was highest among the provinces and autonomous regions across the country. The rapid population growth in Tibet is also ascribed to special preferential policies granted by the central and autonomous regional governments and an enormous input to improve the production and livelihoods of locals.

Based on sample surveys of latest changes in the population, the total population in Tibet reached 2.8415 million by the end of 2007, a rise of 180 percent over 1950, in which Tibetans’ population rose 92 percent whereas the Han Chinese increased merely by 5 percent.

China has conducted four censuses in Tibet since its peaceful liberation in 1951, which show Tibetans population constitute 96.6 percent of the total population in Tibet, and so Tibetans remain the most populous ethnic group in the autonomous region.

Average lifespan increased by 31.5 years to a new life expectancy of “67 years in Tibet today” instead of 35.5 years in 1959.

The Tibet autonomous region has also been listed as one of the provinces or autonomous regions with relatively more centenarians.

All Tibetan families have their fixed shelters except for those in a few pasture areas. Comfortable housing projects launched since 2006 have enable some 114,000 households with more than 570,000 farmers and herders moving into their new homes.

Annual income of farmers and herders in Tibet has kept up an annual growth rate of 10 percent in the past three decades of reform and opening-up. The 2007 per-capita income of farmers and herders was 2,788 yuan and that of urban residents reached 11,131 yuan in 2007.  Previously these people managed to only earn their keep as serfs. [11]

Today, the Tibetan language is still taught in Schools but Mandarin is also taught alongside it, increasing educational and job opportunities for the Tibetans. The Tibetan culture is being fostered and not repressed in any form, contrary to accusations. The biggest loss to Tibet of any traditions would be the loss of the Gelug Sect ritualisms, but this has been brought about by the Gelug sect followers abandoning their base voluntarily and seeking a new base in Dharamsala, India. So the Dalai Lama has himself removed his influence from Tibet by desertion of his native land.

Buddhism (traditional Chinese: 漢傳佛教; simplified Chinese: 汉传佛教; Pinyin: fójiào) refers collectively to the various schools of Buddhism that have flourished in China proper since ancient times. These schools integrated the ideas of Confucianism, Taoism and other indigenous philosophical systems so that what was initially a foreign religion (the buddhadharma) came to be a natural part of Chinese civilization, albeit with a unique character. Buddhism has played an enormous role in shaping the mindset of the Chinese people, affecting their aesthetics, politics, literature, philosophy and medicine.
At the peak of the Tang Dynasty’s vitality, Chinese Buddhism produced numerous spiritual master

Looking at a few statistics  and its Perspective

Maximum total world Buddhists are  690 m to 1,512 million [12]
China’s (PRC) Buddhist population range from 278 m to 1057 million. [12]
Taiwan’s Buddhist population is about 22 million [12]
Tibet’s total pre-1950 was about 1 million with 900,000 serfs living in abject poverty.
The remaining 100,000 ethnic Tibetans were monks and the ruling classes of Tibet.
Of this number 80,000 (mostly Gelug sect members) fled to Dharamsala, India. Assuming the last 20,000 represent the other 3  Buddhist sects.

I am attempting to get the Tibetan Buddhist problem into perspective. The amount of publicity regarding the Dalai Lama is out of proportion with the facts. Many people have the impression that the Dalai Lama speaks with the authority equivalent to that of the Pope in the Vatican. He does not. He only represents the Gelug sect in Tibet and with a generous estimate there could be 80,000 followers maximum in 1950. But let me look at the facts, looking at the situation with the most favourable circumstances in favout of the Gelug sect, the Dalai Lama’s sect.

I will assume that the whole of Tibet was of the Gelug sect (which is not possible), i.e. in 1950 there were 1 million Tibetans. [11]
That the minimum number of Buddhists in China in 1950 was 278 million. [12]
That the minimum number of Buddhist in the world in 1950 was 690 million. [12]

This means the Dalai Lama was speaking for 0.36 % of the Buddhist population of China, or
this means the Dalai Lama was speaking for 0.14 % of the Buddhist population of the world.
Yet he captured world headlines.

Did any one wonder why the Buddhists in Sri Lanka, or Thailand, or Vietnam, or Cambodia, or China, or Japan, did NOT join in all the demonstrations and protests over the Dalai Lama’s problems in Tibet and the Olympic demonstrations? Not even today have they come out in droves to back his movement! It is not their problem. The revolt and subversion against China is confined to the “Gelug Tibetan Buddhist Sect” and the Dalai Lama backed by the CIA. I hope this perspective is fully aired here.

Minorities in China-1964

There exists many minorities, of which Tibetans are one. It is not generally percieved that monorities are persecuted, in fact they are valued for their cultural contributions to the nation and are appreciated by the majority of the peoples. However, as in any nation if any group agitates or attempts to subvert the authority of the central government, and to defy that government, there will not be any government that would tolerate this act especially if the agitation was instigated by foreign powers. In the case of Tibet and Taiwan, there has been clear evidence of the CIA meddling in their affairs. Most other minorities exist in peace and harmony and we have not evidence of harassment or persecution.

Chinese Nationalities and Their Populations

(Minorities Shown Left to Right Descending by Population)
Minority         Population     Minority     Population        Minority     Population        Minority     Population
Han          1,136,703,824       Zhuang     15,555,800          Manchu     8,846,800          Hui            8,612,000
Miao               7,383,600       Uygur         7,207,000           Yi                 6,578,500         Tujia          5,725,000
Mongolian     4,802,400      Tibetan       4,593,100           Bouyei        2,548,300         Dong         2,506,800
Yao                   2,137,000      Korean        1,923,400           Bai               1,598,100         Hani          1,254,800
Li                       1,112,500       Kazakh       1,110,800            Dai              1,025,400         She                634,700
Lisu                     574,600       Gelao            438,200            Lahu               411,500        Dongxiang     373,700
Wa                      352,000       Shui               347,100            Naxi               277,800         Qiang             198,600
Du                       192,600       Xibe               172,900            Mulam          160,600         Kirgiz             143,500
Daur                   121,500        Jingpo           119,300             Salar               87,500         Bulang             82,400
Maonan              72,400        Tajik                33,200             Pumi              29,700         Achang             27,700
Nu                        27,200        Ewenki           26,400             Jing                 18,700        Jino                  18,000
De’ang                 15,500        Uzbek              14,800            Russian           13,500         Yugur               12,300
Bonan                  11,700        Menba               7,500            Oroqin               7,000         Drung                5,800
Tatar                      5,100        Hezhen             4,300            Gaoshan            2,900         Lhoba                2,300

China has some other unclassified or unspecified Nationalities numbering some 1,072,642 people. In the 1953 census 41 minority nationalities were specified. In the 1964 census, there were 183 nationalities registered, among which the government recognized only 54. Of the remaining 129 nationalities, 74 were considered to be part of the officially recognized 54, while 23 were classified as “other nationalities” and the remaining 32 were classified as “indeterminate.” [18]

So the range of minorities is wide, with differing customs, religions, and traditions. Tibets are a very tiny monority of the total population but seem to expect special previleges. Here the diversities and complexities of ethnic minorities are clearly displayed.


1.   The Major Sects of Buddhism:  http://www.gkindia.com/worldreligions/themajorsects.htm
2.    Buddhist Sects and Characteristics: http://www.china.org.cn/china/tibet_democratic_reform/content_17357478.htm
3.    Tibet Buddhist Sects:  http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=221catid=6subcatid=34
4.    Tibetan Buddhism:  https://mbplee.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/tibetan-buddhism-serfdom-to-emancipation/
5.    Friendly Feudalism: http://www.michaelparenti.org/Tibet.html
6.    Tibetan Buddhism:  http://www.tengerism.org/lamaism.html
7.    The Fourteen Dalai Lamas of Tibet:  http://www.thingsasian.com/stories-photos/2758
8.    China’s Metaphysical Rivalry with Tibet:  http://www.iivs.de/~iivs01311/SDLE/Part-2-14.htm
9.    The Dalai Lamas: http://www.iivs.de/~iivs01311/SDLE/Part-2-14.htm
10.   Mongols play role in Dalai Lama’s origins by Dr Carolyn Hale: http://www.iivs.de/~iivs01311/SDLE/Part-2-14.htm
11.   Population rises by 180% in Tibet: http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90776/90882/6405229.html
12.   Buddhism by Country:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_by_country
13.   Tibetan Community at Dharamsala, India: http://www.iisd.org/50comm/commdb/desc/d46.htm
14.   Tibetan Buddhism (Ranking): http://www.culturopedia.com/Religions/tibetan.html
15.   Tibetan Buddhism: http://www.culturopedia.com/Religions/tibetan.html
16.   The Karma Kagyu School of Buddhism:  http://www.karmapa.org
17.    Phat Giao Hoa Hao Sect in Vietnam (organization): http://www.sacred-texts.com/asia/rsv/rsv13.htm
18.    China Nationalities:  http://www.paulnoll.com/China/Minorities/China-Nationalities.html
19.    The Dalai Lama: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalai_Lama

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