Dalai Lama Publicly Denounces Ancient Indian Caste System

Dalai Lama Publicly Denounces Ancient Indian Caste System

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The Dalai Lama has spoken out about the discriminating caste system in India, which can be traced back around 2,000 years and is still practiced in some regions today.

The New Indian Express reports that the Tibetan spiritual leader told a group at the Tsuglagkhang Temple Complex in Mcleod Ganj, India, that they should shun the caste system in the interest of unity.

“Too much emphasis on differences – nationality, religious faith. Even within the same religious faith or nationality, we make distinction – wealthy family, poor family,” the Dalai Lama told over 1,000 foreign tourists visiting the temple .

“In India, I think the caste system is very bad. At a young age, they don’t care, but gradually we show our young brothers and sisters the differences of caste system.”

India’s Ancient Caste System

In broad outline, the caste system dictates that marriage only occurs within caste, that it is fixed by birth, and that each caste is associated with a traditional occupation, such as weaving or barbering. Hindu religious principles underlay the caste hierarchy and limit the ways that castes can interact.

A study of genetic populations in India conducted in 2013 revealed that the Indian caste system has been prevalent in the South Asian society for about 2000 years. The researchers discovered that different populations began to intermix in India about 4200 years ago, but stopped intermingling approximately 1900 years ago. These results were supported by clues found in ancient texts which suggest class distinctions have existed since about 3000-3500 years ago. Caste divisions became strong approximately two millennia ago.

Three principal groups of people – priests, nobility, and common people – were identified in the 3500-year-old collection of Sanskrit hymns known as the Rigveda. A fourth group, called the Shudra (the lowest class), was mentioned by 1000 BC. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until 100 BC that the holy text Manusmruti mentioned direct prohibition of marriages across castes. This restriction reflects the results of the genetic analysis.

A 1922 stereograph of Hindu children of high caste, Bombay, India. ( )

The ‘Untouchables’

The caste system is linked to a Hindu belief in the four varnas - ordering and ranking people by their “innate” spiritual purity. At the highest position are the priests, Brahmins. The warriors, Kshatriyas, are next and the Vaishyas, merchants, follow them. The lowest caste belongs to Shurdas (laborers, artisans, and servants doing ritually “unclean” work.) The Shudra caste was once known as the “untouchables” and they were heavily discriminated against – being unable to drink from wells used by higher castes, participate in religious rituals, or even have their shadows fall on Brahmins.

Today, the Indian constitution prohibits the use of “untouchable” to describe members of the Shudra caste or discrimination based on caste. However, it remains important to religious practices and continues to be a divisive area of life in India today.

  • Genetic Study Reveals Origin of India's Caste System
  • Tibet fights to preserve culture through protection of ancient scriptures
  • Chinese Government says they will decide into whom the Dalai Lama will reincarnate

An ‘Untouchable’ woman of Mumbai, according to the Indian Caste System, 1942

Dalai Lama Calls for Caste System to be Discontinued

The Dalai Lama praised India for thousands of years of history which respects all religious traditions.

"India is home to all of the world's major religious traditions and also respects non-believers. This is really wonderful and something to be proud of," he said.

He added that the caste system is the only backwardness left in India and divides it.

“It is high time to give up this old notion of caste system,” he said.

The Dalai Lama added that one way to accomplish this is for children to be taught about inner values and moral principles in schools, instead of a self-centered attitude.

Top image: Images from the manuscript ‘Seventy-Two Specimens of Castes in India.’ ( & )

By April Holloway

Tibetan spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge during a seminar on ‘Social Justice and B R Ambedkar’, in Bengaluru on Tuesday. Photo/PTI

Bengaluru: “India is our guru and we are chelas we are reliable chelas, because we have preserved your ancient knowledge,” the Tibetan spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said earlier today, speaking at the state level seminar on ‘Social Justice and Dr B R Ambedkar in Bengaluru.

The seminar was also graced by Honourable Chief Minister of Karnataka, Shri Siddharamaiah and leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha, Shri Mallikarjuna Kharge along with representatives of the Karnataka government and hundreds of admirers of the Tibetan Buddhist leader. The Social Justice and BR Ambedkar’s seminar was organised by the Social Justice Department of the Karnataka state government to commemorate Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary.

Calling himself the messenger of ancient Indian values and knowledge, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, “I also consider myself as the son of India as every part of my brain cells are filled with ancient Indian knowledge and my body is because of Indian rice and dal.”

On ancient Indian values and knowledge, His Holiness said “it is not ancient, but most relevant,” and that it must be revived in the country. Ancient Indian knowledge and values, along with modern technology, can do great for the country as one can attain mental comfort with ancient knowledge and physical comfort through modern knowledge, he told a rapt Bengaluru audience.

In his speech, His Holiness also stressed the role of education in eradicating social injustice especially caste based discrimination in India. Through education, he said there is “a sense of equality, so that they can build self confidence. Through self confidence, hard work and education once can achieve equality”.

He further protested that deprivation from social justice in the name of caste was not from religion, but it was from existing societal systems like feudal system.

Dalai Lama Publicly Denounces Ancient Indian Caste System - History

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing members of the Youth Buddhist Society of India, Sankisa and students and faculty from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication at his residence in Dharamsala, HP, India on November 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

Dharamshala: His Holiness the Dalai Lama met with delegates of the Youth Buddhist Society of India, Sankisa and a delegation of students and faculty from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Delhi. The Sankisa delegation includes students, teachers, doctors and engineers from 13 states among others.

His Holiness began his talk to them by declaring that his primary commitment is to promote the practice of altruism, the awakening mind of bodhichitta.

“We are encouraged to view all sentient beings as being as dear as our own mother. There are beings in other galaxies with whom we have no direct contact. Here in this world, there are animals, birds, insects, worms and so forth, who it is difficult to help because they have no language. However, we can do something for our fellow human beings, because we can communicate with people who are mentally, physically and emotionally the same as us. Training in compassion brings people peace of mind—it brings happiness.

“When we’re too frustrated, angry or full of fear, we have no peace of mind. Money, fame and power don’t bring peace of mind, but paying attention to compassion does. Young children don’t care about their companions’ faith, nationality or race, so long as they smile and play cheerfully together. That’s the spirit we all need.

“Unfortunately, modern education gives little instruction on how to tackle our disturbing emotions and achieve inner peace. On the other hand, for more than 3000 years the concepts of ‘ahimsa’—restraining from harming others, and ‘karuna’—cultivating a compassionate motivation, have flourished here in India. These practices existed before the Buddha.

“Originally Tibetans were nomads and warriors, but after we encountered Buddhism, we became more peaceful. In the 7th century the Tibetan king decided to model a form of Tibetan writing on the Indian example. Then in the 8th century, another king, despite his close relations with China, chose to introduce Buddhism to Tibet from India.

“He invited a great scholar, a monk who was a philosopher and logician called Shantarakshita from Nalanda University. Shantarakshita recommended that Indian Buddhist literature should be translated into Tibetan, with the result that we have a collection of 300 volumes of scripture. 100 volumes contain records of the Buddha’s words, the remaining 200 or more consist of commentaries by subsequent Indian masters. In the process of translation, the Tibetan language was deeply enriched. Now it is the most accurate medium for explaining Buddhist thought.

“Followers of the Pali Tradition rely on the authority of the Buddha’s words. Followers of the Nalanda Tradition, like us Tibetans, rely on reasoning and logic. We ask “Why? Why did the Buddha teach that? What did he mean?” The Chinese tradition had little interest in logic and analysis. Many Chinese practitioners advocated concentration and non-conceptual meditation. Shantarakshita anticipated tension between that point of view and his logical and analytical approach.

“He advised the Tibetan king to invite his foremost student, Kamalashila to Tibet to debate with the Chinese monks. After defeating the Chinese point of view, Kamalashila emphasized study and analytical meditation. This approach has given us the confidence to engage in fruitful discussions with modern scientists about such topics as cosmology, neurobiology, physics and psychology.”

His Holiness clarified that he is committed to promoting basic human values, to encouraging inter-religious harmony, and to preserving Tibetan knowledge and culture. He quoted a 15th century Tibetan master who declared that until the light of India reached Tibet, despite its being the Land of Snows, it had remained dark. His Holiness added that Tibet’s preservation of the Nalanda Tradition is a real source of pride.

He observed that in past India produced many great scholars and thinkers who developed a rich understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions—knowledge of crucial benefit to many in the world today. Since he believes that India has both the opportunity and ability to combine this ancient knowledge with modern education, he is committed to trying to revive appreciation of it.

In answering the audience’s questions, His Holiness made clear the contribution that ‘ahimsa’ and ‘karuna’ make to fostering religious harmony. Where there is a basic intent to do no harm, there may be argument, but no violence.

He advised that being too self-centred can give rise to anxiety and depression. An effective antidote is to cultivate a sense of altruism, taking the whole of humanity into account. Appreciating the oneness of humanity leads us to recognise our essential equality as human beings. He pointed out that the Buddha opposed caste divisions.

“Today, with the help of technology, the whole of humanity is one community.”

Asked how to better share Tibetan culture with the rest of the world, His Holiness commented that prior to 1959 there were those who referred to Tibetan Buddhism as Lamaism, as if it were not an authentic tradition. Nowadays, it is properly respected as the heir to the Nalanda Tradition, a system that even attracts the interest of modern scientists.

Questioned about his next reincarnation His Holiness recalled that when, on a previous occasion, a journalist had asked about this, he took off his glasses, looked him in the eye and asked, “Do you think there’s any hurry?” He remarked that certain Chinese hardliners seem very keen to know the answer to this, but they will have to wait another 30 or 40 years to find out.

“The future of the Dalai Lama is really in my hands. Before I die, I’ll write a will. And I think I’ll probably come back in some Buddhist community. However, as far back as 1969, I made it clear that whether or not there will be a 15th Dalai Lama will be up to the Tibetan people. It’s not so important. There is no reincarnation of the Buddha, but his teaching survives. There are no reincarnations of the Nalanda masters, but their writings remain. In my case, books and recordings of my talks will be there.

Members of the audience listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during his meeting with Indian Buddhists and students of mass communication at his residence in Dharamsala, HP, India on November 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to Indian Buddhists and students of mass communication at his residence in Dharamsala, HP, India on November 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

A member of the audience asking His Holiness the Dalai Lama a question during his meeting with Indian Buddhists and students of mass communication at his residence in Dharamsala, HP, India on November 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

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India, the Cow, and Religious-Nationalism

H induism, and India in general, has become widely associated with the veneration of cows, with many in Western countries believing India to be a vegetarian country. But this belief, to some extent, has been publicly engineered by special interests and political forces.

Somewhat similar to the United States, India is going through a religious nationalist movement with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the helm. This post-colonial revival has motivated many to produce new national mythologies, including those related to the vegetarian history of Hinduism and the religious landscape of India as a whole.

Unlike in the West, vegetarianism has not necessarily been motivated by concerns over animal welfare but informed by tradition and caste structure. Food has become a potent religio-political force that has excluded some and pushed others into power positions.

To better understand how vegetarianism became such an overwhelming force, let us go back several thousand years to the early years of Hinduism. The Indo-Aryan groups that migrated to the Indus River Valley region around 1800–1500 BCE brought with them many rituals, including fire sacrifice.

The Vedas are rich with examples connoting cow sacrifice and the use of animal products such as milk, butter, and ghee. In one example, the Hindu god Indra reveals a preference for bulls (Rigveda X.28.3c) while Agni prefers a barren cow (Rigveda VIII.43.11). From these two examples, it can also be seen that male and female cattle were both included in the sacrificial process. As with other familiar forms of Ancient animal sacrifice, the emphasis rested on the careful process of ritual.

The emergence of Upanishadic thought (in about 800 BC to 200 BC) directly challenged many of the rituals involved in fire sacrifice at large, though not culminating in a clear-cut vegetarian version of religious practice like Buddhism and Jainism which date to relatively the same period.

In future Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Laws of Manu, the texts are riddled with apparent contradictions in terms of meat consumption. Manu says (V.28–30),

“The eater who daily even devours those destined to be his food, commits no sin for the Creator himself created both the eaters and those who are to be eaten.”

This line of thinking suggests that the divine role of certain animals is to be consumed by other creatures. Within the human species, an analog exists in the Bhagavad Gita when Krishna encourages Arjuna to fulfill his castely role as a warrior, even if it means killing his family members.

This positive sanction to consume animal flesh is contradicted by other law books of the same period, including the Yajnavalkya (100–300 CE) which simultaneously prohibits cow slaughter but mentions Brahmins that eat cow meat. Indeed, in most recorded cases of cow consumption, it is the priests that participate.

Today, there is little of the historical ambiguity surrounding what certain castes should and should not eat. One New York Times article writes,

“The Hindu caste system is structured around food. Food choices signify degrees of purity and pollution — meat, especially beef, is polluting and triggers base instincts”.

In addition to being a mode of religiosity, meat consumption in India has deep political implications. It has been used to distinguish castes within Hinduism, but also promote religious nationalism. The cow sits at center stage.

In at least 20 Indian states (out of 29), cow slaughter has been banned (New York Times Saving the Cows, Starving the Children). About 80% of Indians consider themselves Hindu, about one-third of them practicing some degree of vegetarianism (New York Times Indian Beef Workers Fight to Bring Back Bull Market).

Though the most common form of vegetarianism found in India mostly abstains from animal flesh, much of the modern Indian food tradition is centered around dairy products, which sustains a massive factory farming industry.

These corporations use traditional stories associated with Hinduism to sell their products, including the popular story of Krishna stealing butter and the earth being created from an ocean of milk (Yamini Narayanan). Though male cows are seen as sacred, the highest degrees of veneration are applied to the female cows who ‘selflessly’ perform their duty of producing milk, even if it means sacrificing her body and her child (Yamini Narayanan). According to the USDA (2017), India is the world’s leading producer of milk.

This Hindu-operated dairy industry has received considerable backlash from famous strict vegetarian Hindus such as Mahatma Gandhi who once said,

“I shudder when I see [the dairy farms] and ask myself how we can say anything to our Muslim friends so long as we do not refrain from such terrible violence. We are so intensely selfish that we feel no shame in milking the cow to the last drop.”

In another speech he said,

“What is really needed for protecting the cow is that the Hindus themselves should care for her, since they, too, kill her… if we are serious about cow-protection, we must put our own house in order.”

In addition to being the world’s leading dairy producer, India is also the world’s largest meat producer, with a substantial history of meat-packing, particularly in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh which has a substantial Muslim population.

Muslims consume meat at a higher rate than Hindus and have been famously pushed into the meat-packing industry, manufacturing meat products for the rest of India and the world. Their largest export is flash-frozen water buffalo, which in 2015 represented a $5 billion industry (New York Times Buffalo Meat Industry Facing Government Shutdowns in India).

With the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu-nationalist revival has broken out across the country, with cows becoming a key symbol. Since Prime Minister Modi took office in 2014, he has instituted many more restrictions on meat-packing, which some Muslims claim to be restrictions on Muslims altogether.

In one interview, the wife of a Muslim who works in the buffalo-slaughter factories said,

“We are scared of this Hindu government. The meat business is predominantly run by Muslims. What does this step mean? That they want to drive us out. To render us jobless, or drive us out” (New York Times Modi’s Push for a Hindu Revival Imperils India’s Meat Industry).

Others see this as less of an expression of islamophobia than a move to protect the environment. The beef industry accounts for the largest portion of animal-related greenhouse gases. In theory, removing the meat-packing industry should reduce the number of cow-related emissions.

Unfortunately, the dairy industry and the meat-packing industry are necessarily closely related. You cannot have an endless supply of dairy without a near-endless supply of baby cows, half of which will not be able to produce milk (to learn more, read Feminism, The Dairy Industry, and the Evils of Vegetarianism). Many of these cows have become beasts of burden or simply roamed the fields, still producing the harmful methane that contributed to the staggering greenhouse gases which are killing the environment.

When examining the historical roots of Hinduism alongside this modern nationalist movement centered around the cow, one has to question the motivations of such legislation.

Hindus have always consumed meat or animal products, and within India, they have particularly eaten from the cow. Should the veneration of the cow be seen as a step in the direction of ending animal cruelty, or have political forces turned this narrative on its head, using the symbol of the cow as a tool of division between high-caste Hindus and minority groups such as Muslims?

The historical roots of vegetarianism in Hinduism are diverse and can offer examples of how religion evolves over the stretch of thousands of years. Animal products are very central to our personal identities and certainly our religious identities. This is a prime case where food becomes political, and how the political can shut out minority groups whether by accident or design.

The Last Dalai Lama?

At 80, Tenzin Gyatso is still an international icon, but the future of his office — and of the Tibetan people — has never been more in doubt.

Credit. Photo illustration by Mauricio Alejo for The New York Times. Stylist: Karla Muso.

O n a wet Sunday in June at the Glastonbury Festival, more than 100,000 people spontaneously burst into a rendition of ‘‘Happy Birthday.’’ Onstage, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, blew out the solitary candle on a large birthday cake while clasping the hand of Patti Smith, who stood beside him. The world’s most famous monk then poked a thick finger at Smith’s silvery mane. ‘‘Musicians,’’ he said, ‘‘white hair.’’ But ‘‘the voice and physical action,’’ he added in his booming baritone, ‘‘forceful.’’ As Smith giggled, he went on: ‘‘So, that gives me encouragement. Myself, now 80 years old, but I should be like you — more active!’’

The crowd, accustomed to titanic vanity from its icons — Kanye West declared himself the ‘‘greatest living rock star on the planet’’ the previous night — looked uncertain before erupting with cheers and claps. The Dalai Lama then walked into the throng of celebrities wandering about backstage, limping slightly he has a bad knee. He looked as amused and quizzical as ever in his tinted glasses when Lionel Richie approached and, bowing, said, ‘‘How are you?’’ ‘‘Good, good,’’ he replied, clasping Richie’s hands.

When the Dalai Lama entered his dressing room, I stood up hurriedly, as did the Tibetan monk who was sitting beside me. ‘‘Sit, sit,’’ he said and then noticed a black-and-white photo of naked young men and women dancing during Glastonbury’s earliest days. He turned to me with a mischievous smile, and said, ‘‘Please sit and enjoy the photo.’’ He then spoke in rapid-fire Tibetan to the monk, cackling with delight: ‘‘These pleasures,’’ he said, ‘‘are not for us.’’

And yet here he was in his crimson robes — ‘‘just a simple Buddhist monk,’’ as he describes himself — among Britain’s extravagantly costumed young revelers in a 900-acre bacchanal in the muddy heart of the English countryside, inconceivably remote from the mountain passes, high plateau and rolling grasslands of his Tibetan homeland. For much of his 80 years, the Dalai Lama has been present at these strange intersections of religion, entertainment and geopolitics. In old photos, you can see the 9-year-old who’d received the gift of a Patek Phillipe watch from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Another twist of the kaleidoscope reveals him tugging at Russell Brand’s shaggy beard, heartily laughing with George W. Bush in the White House or exhorting you to ‘‘Think Different’’ in an advertisement for Apple.

Though the Dalai Lama has yet to use a computer, the 1990s ‘‘Think Different’’ ad is a reminder that he was a mascot of globalization in its early phase, between the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. In that innocent era, the universal triumph of liberal capitalism and democracy seemed assured, as new nation-states appeared across Europe and Asia, the European Union came into being, apartheid in South Africa ended and peace was declared in Northern Ireland. It could only be a matter of time before Tibet, too, was free.

The Dalai Lama still travels energetically around the world while frequently joking about his age (‘‘Time to say, ‘Bye-bye!’ ’’). His Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts help secure his place in the contemporary whirl. But the cause of Tibet, once eagerly embraced by politicians as well as entertainers, has been eclipsed in the post-9/11 years. The world has become more interconnected, but — defined by spiraling wars, frequent terrorist attacks and the rapid rise of China — it provokes more anxiety and bewilderment than hope. The Dalai Lama himself has watched helplessly from his residence in Dharamsala, a scruffy Indian town in the Himalayan foothills, as his country, already despoiled by Mao’s Cultural Revolution, is coerced into an equally breakneck modernization program directed from Beijing.

The economic potency of China has made the Dalai Lama a political liability for an increasing number of world leaders, who now shy away from him for fear of inviting China’s wrath. Even Pope Francis, the boldest pontiff in decades, report­edly declined a meeting in Rome last December. When the Dalai Lama dies, it is not at all clear what will happen to the six million Tibetans in China. The Chinese Communist Party, though officially atheistic, will take charge of finding an incarnation of the present Dalai Lama. Indoctrinated and controlled by the Communist Party, the next leader of the Tibetan community could help Beijing cement its hegemony over Tibet. And then there is the 150,000-strong community of Tibetan exiles, which, increasingly politically fractious, is held together mainly by the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan poet and activist Tenzin Tsundue, who has disagreed with the Dalai Lama’s tactics, told me that his absence will create a vacuum for Tibetans. The Dalai Lama’s younger brother, Tenzin Choegyal, was more emphatic: ‘‘We are finished once His Holiness is gone.’’

The Tibetan feeling of isolation and helplessness has a broad historical basis. By late 1951, as many of Europe’s former colonies in Asia and Africa were aspiring to become nation-states, China’s People’s Liberation Army occupied Tibet. Not long after, giant posters of Mao Zedong appeared in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the seat of the Dalai Lama, traditionally the most powerful leader of the Gelugpa order of Tibetan Buddhism and the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet.

Previous Dalai Lamas held political authority over a vast state — twice the size of France — that covered half of the Tibetan plateau and was supported by an intricate bureaucracy and tax system. But the Chinese Communists claimed that Tibet had a long history as a part of the Chinese mother­land. In truth, a complex and fluid relationship existed for centuries between Tibet’s Dalai Lamas and China’s imperial rulers. In the early 1950s, the Tibetans, under their very young leader, the current Dalai Lama, failed to successfully press their claims to independence. Nor could they secure any significant foreign support. India, newly liberated from British rule, was trying to develop close relations with China, its largest Asian neighbor. The United States was too distracted by the Korean War to pay much attention to cries of help from Tibet.

The Dalai Lama had little choice but to capitulate to the Chinese and affirm China’s sovereignty over Tibet. In return, he was promised autonomy and allowed to retain a limited role as the leader of the Tibetan people. He traveled to Beijing in 1954 to meet Mao Zedong and was impressed by Communist claims to social justice and equality.

But the Chinese program to uproot ‘‘feudal serfdom’’ in Tibet soon provoked resentment. In 1956, armed rebellion erupted in eastern Tibet. By then, the Central Intelligence Agency had spotted Tibet’s potential as a base of subversion against Communist China. The Dalai Lama’s second-oldest brother, Gyalo Thondup, helped the C.I.A. train Tibetan guerrillas in Colorado, among other places, and parachute them back into Tibet. Almost all of these aspiring freedom fighters were caught and executed. (Gyalo Thondup now accuses American cold warriors of using the Tibetans to ‘‘stir up trouble’’ with China.) China’s increasingly brutal crackdown led to a big anti-Chinese uprising in Lhasa in 1959. Its failure forced the Dalai Lama to flee.

He made a perilous crossing of the Himala­yas to reach India, where he repudiated his previ­ous agreement with Beijing and established a government in exile. The Dalai Lama quickly warmed to his new home — India was revered in Tibet as the birthplace of Buddhism — and adopted Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration. But his Indian hosts were wary of him. Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian prime minister, was committed to building a fraternal association with Chinese leaders. He dismissed the Dalai Lama’s plan for independence as a fantasy. The C.I.A. ceased its sponsorship of the Tibetans in exile around the time that Richard Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, reached out to Mao Zedong in the early 1970s. Though Western diplomatic support for the Dalai Lama rose after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, it declined again. By 2008, Britain was actually apologizing for not previously recognizing Tibet as part of China.

The Tibetan homeland, meanwhile, has been radically remade. The area once controlled by the Dalai Lama and his government in Lhasa is now called the Tibet Autonomous Region, although roughly half of the six million Tibetans in China live in provinces adjoining it. The Chinese have tried extensive socioreligious engineering in Tibet. In 1995, Chinese authorities seized the boy the Dalai Lama identified as the next Panchen Lama, the 11th in a distinguished line of incarnate lamas. The Chinese then installed their own candidate, claiming that the emperors of China in Beijing had set up a system to select religious leaders in Tibet. (The whereabouts of the Dalai Lama-nominated Panchen Lama are a state secret in China. It is possible that, if freed from captivity, he would follow the example of the Karmapa, a lama who represents another Buddhist tradition in Tibet, who, though officially recognized by the Chinese authorities, escaped to India in 1999.)

Chinese authorities claim that Tibet, helped by government investments and subsidies, has enjoyed a faster G.D.P. growth rate than all of China. Indeed, Beijing has brought roads, bridges, schools and electricity to the region. In recent years, it has connected the Tibetan plateau to the Chinese coast by a high-altitude railway. But this project of modernization has had ruinous consequences. The glaciers of the Tibetan plateau, which regulate the water supply to the Indus, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Salween, Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, were already retreating because of global warming and are now melting at an alarming rate, threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of millions. Lhasa, the forbidden city of legend, is a sprawl of Chinese-run karaoke bars, massage parlors and gambling dens. The pitiless logic of economic growth — which pushed Tibetan nomads off their grasslands, brought Han Chinese migrants into Tibet’s cities and increased rural-urban inequality — has induced a general feeling of disempowerment.

In recent decades, Tibetan monks and nuns have led demonstrations against Chinese rule. The Communist Party has responded with heavy-handed measures, including: martial law forced resettlement of nomads police stations inside monasteries and ideological re-education campaigns in which dissenters endlessly repeat statements like ‘‘I oppose the Dalai clique’’ and ‘‘I love the Communist Party.’’ Despair has driven more than 140 people, including more than two dozen Buddhist monks and nuns, to the deeply un-Buddhist act of public suicide.

As if in response to these multiple crises in his homeland, the Dalai Lama has embarked on some improbable intellectual journeys. In 2011, he renounced his role as the temporal leader of the Tibetan people and declared that he would focus on his spiritual and cultural commitments. Today, the man who in old photos of Tibet can be seen enacting religious rites wearing a conical yellow hat — in front of thangkas, or scrolls, swarming with scowling monsters and copulating deities — speaks of going ‘‘beyond religion’’ and embracing ‘‘secular ethics’’: principles of selflessness and compassion rooted in the fundamental Buddhist notion of interconnectedness.

Increasingly, the Dalai Lama addresses himself to a nondenominational audience and seems perversely determined to undermine the authority of his own tradition. He has intimated that the next Dalai Lama could be female. He has asserted that certain Buddhist scriptures disproved by science should be abandoned. He has suggested — frequently, during the months that I saw him — that the institution of the Dalai Lama has outlived its purpose. Having embarked in the age of the selfie on a project of self-abnegation, he is now flirting with ever-more-radical ideas. One morning at his Dharamsala residence in May this year, he told me that he may one day travel to China, but not as the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama lives in a heavily guarded hilltop compound in the Dharamsala suburb known as McLeod Ganj. Outsiders are rarely permitted into his private quarters, a two-story building where he sleeps and meditates. But it is not difficult to guess that he enjoys stunning views of the Kangra Valley to the south and of eternally snowy Himalayan peaks to the north. The cawing of crows in the surrounding cedar forest punctuates the chanting from an adjacent temple. Any time of day, you can see aging Tibetan exiles with prayer wheels and beads recreating one of Lhasa’s most famous pilgrim circuits, which runs around the Potala Palace, the 17th-century, thousand-room residence that the Dalai Lama left behind in 1959 and has not seen since.

To reach the modest reception hall where the Dalai Lama meets visitors, you have to negotiate a stringent security cordon the Indian government, concerned about terrorists international and domestic, gives the Dalai Lama its highest level of security. There is usually a long wait before he shuffles in, surrounded by his translator and aides.

I first saw the Dalai Lama in the dusty North Indian town Bodh Gaya in 1985, four years before he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Speaking without notes for an entire day, he explicated, with remarkable vigor, arcane Buddhist texts to a small crowd at the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment. Thirty years later, at our first meeting, in May of last year, he was still highly alert a careful listener, he leaned forward in his chair as he spoke. When I asked him about the spate of self-immolations by Buddhist monks in Tibet, he looked pained.


Dalai Lama Publicly Denounces Ancient Indian Caste System - History

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. From wikimedia.org

Responding to a recent statement by His Holiness the Dalai Lama earlier this week that his successor could be born in India, China&rsquos foreign ministry yesterday reaffirmed the government &rsquos position that recognition of the Dalai Lama&rsquos reincarnation can only be approved by Beijing and must be subject to Chinese laws and regulations.*

&ldquoThe institution of reincarnation of the Dalai Lama has been in existence for several hundred years,&rdquo said foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, speaking at a regular ministry press conference on Tuesday. &ldquoThe 14th Dalai Lama himself was found and recognized following religious rituals and historical conventions and his enthronement was approved by the then-central government. Therefore, reincarnation of living buddhas, including the Dalai Lama, must comply with Chinese laws and regulations and follow religious rituals and historical conventions.&rdquo (Newsweek)

In 2007, China&rsquos State Administration for Religious Affairs decreed that all Buddhist reincarnations born within China must obtain the approval of the government to be regarded as valid. Reincarnation applications must be approved by four different governmental bodies&mdashthe religious affairs department of the provincial government, the provincial government itself, the State Administration for Religious Affairs, and the State Council.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang. From presstv.com

&ldquoReincarnation is the unique way of Tibetan Buddhism. It has fixed rituals and systems. The Chinese government has a policy of freedom of religious beliefs. We have the regulation of religious affairs and regulations on the reincarnation of Tibetan Buddhism. We respect and protect such ways of Tibetan Buddhism.&rdquo ( The Hindu )

Many of China&rsquos more than six million Tibetans continue to honor the Dalai Lama, although Beijing has prohibited displays of his image and public demonstrations of devotion, maintaining that the Nobel laureate is a divisive element who encourages violence and separatist activity in ethnically Tibetan parts of China. However, His Holiness has repeatedly stated that he only wishes to see autonomy for Tibet while it remains a part of China.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters published on Monday, the Dalai Lama said that after his death, his next incarnation might be recognized in India, where he has lived in exile since 1959.

&ldquoChina considers Dalai Lama&rsquos reincarnation as something very important. They have more concern about the next Dalai Lama than me,&rdquo His Holiness said. &ldquoIn future, in case you see two Dalai Lamas come, one from here, in free country, one chosen by Chinese, then nobody will trust, nobody will respect [the one chosen by China]. So that&rsquos an additional problem for the Chinese! It&rsquos possible, it can happen.&rdquo (Reuters)

The Dalai Lama also noted that the future role of the Dalai Lama lineage&mdashincluding whether it will be maintained after his death&mdashmay be discussed during a meeting of senior Tibetan lamas and members of the Tibetan community in India later this year.

His Holiness has previously suggested that the lineage of the Dalai Lama could end when he dies. &ldquoThe Dalai Lama institution will cease one day. These man-made institutions will cease,&rdquo His Holiness said in 2014. &ldquoThere is no guarantee that some stupid Dalai Lama won&rsquot come next, who will disgrace himself or herself. That would be very sad. So, much better that a centuries-old tradition should cease at the time of a quite popular Dalai Lama.&rdquo (BBC)

In a public statement in 2011, the Dalai Lama emphasized, &ldquoReincarnation is a phenomenon which should take place either through the voluntary choice of the concerned person or at least on the strength of his or her karma, merit, and prayers. Therefore, the person who reincarnates has sole legitimate authority over where and how he or she takes rebirth and how that reincarnation is to be recognized. It is a reality that no one else can force the person concerned, or manipulate him or her.&rdquo (The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama)

From youtube.com

Born in 1935 and now aged 83, the incumbent Dalai Lama was identified as the reincarnation of his predecessor when he was just two years old. The next Dalai Lama would be the 15th incarnation over a continuous period of about 500 years. The current 14th Dalai Lama escaped from Lhasa in 1959 after the Chinese People&rsquos Liberation Army invaded Tibet, fleeing to India, which is now home to some 100,000 Tibetans living in exile.

Teach values without touching faith: Dalai Lama

On Christmas Eve, the Dalai Lama gives a great message to us and also to the world, that despite different traditions or religions, India has stood as an example to the rest of the world that all could peacefully coexist together. A much-needed reminder to our current leaders who are gunning for Majoritarianism against the Prime Minister Modi's declaration that the only code of conduct of the Government should be &lsquoSabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' which is all-inclusiveness.

The Dalai Lama's observation is particularly pertinent and very timely in view of Union Minister Ananth Kumar Hegde mocking at "secularists" and announcing in public on 26th December on national channels the BJP would &ldquochange the Constitution in days to come&rdquo. The minister urged people to identify with their religion or caste, He said, "I will bow to you, you are aware of your blood. But if you claim to be secular, there arises a doubt about who you are." He asserted he would feel "happy" if someone claims with pride that he is a Muslim, or a Christian, or a Lingayat, or a Brahmin, or a Hindu. "Those who, without knowing about their parental blood, call themselves secular, they don't have their own identity…They don't know about their parentage, but they are intellectuals," he said at an event organised by the Brahman Yuva Parishad in Kukanur town in Koppal district on Monday. The union minister's observation is clearly intended to divide the country on the lines of religion, caste and creed and is a sure recipe for national disaster. While our soldiers are put on constant vigil to guard our borders 24࡭ in heat & dust and in extreme cold (in Siachen), some of our elected leaders are doing everything to break the nation from within. Should they be allowed to remain in the parliament? Shouldn't the Election Commission take note and take action against these ministers/ public representatives for their unparliamentary remarks including electoral promise to change the Indian Constitution?

Siddaramaiah, Chief Minister of Karnataka commenting on Hedge's controversial remark said that Hedge has not studied the Constitution. &ldquoEach and every individual in this country is an Indian, and every religion has equal right and opportunity. He does not have this basic knowledge," Siddaramaiah said.

In view of Union Minister Ananth Kumar Hegde's mockery of "Secularists" even to the extent of questioning their parentage, the Dalai Lama's observation, made two days earlier, is a prophetic reminder to our leaders to adhere to its "Sarvadharma" tolerant culture and not to divide the nation on religious, caste and creed lines. Isaac Gomes, Asso. Editor, Church Citizens' Voice.

Bangalore: The Dalai Lama on Sunday suggested that ancient Indian knowledge be taught as an academic subject but without "touching religious faith." The Tibetan spiritual leader said the education system should take care of the physical development as well as the "inner" well- being of students by training their minds.

"We should include in education the inner values without touching religious faith," the 82-year-old Nobel laureate said while delivering a lecture on Education for Wisdom and Compassion to Rebuild Nation, organised by the Seshadripuram Educational Trust here.

The Dalai Lama said that while the Tibetans had still retained the ancient Indian knowledge, it had reached "nirvana" in the land of its origin.

"Usually I keep teasing my Indian friends that this ancient knowledge we learnt from you. You are our teacher, our 'guru ', we are 'chelas' ( disciples) of the Indian guru," he said.

Stating that reviving the ancient Indian knowledge in modern India was one of his commitments, the Dalai Lama said all the knowledge Tibet learnt from India and kept for thousands of years was " immensely useful" in modern times, even in the field of science.

Pointing out that there was some kind of emotional crisis in today's world, he said material things and technology would not solve the problems.

Despite differences in views, all religions carried the "message of love ", the Dalai Lama said, adding that "all the traditions teach about practice of tolerance, forgiveness". "Despite different traditions or religions, India has stood as an example to the rest of the world that all could peacefully coexist together," he said. PTI

Dalai Lama for strong Sino-Indian ties

A fortnight after being denied Papal audience on grounds that it could severely strain the Vatican’s fragile ties with China, the Dalai Lama on Wednesday urged greater cooperation on behalf of the world’s democracies with the communist nation.

Stating that barriers between nations ought to be torn down, the exiled spiritual leader said India and China “could not do without each other.”

“Partnership ties between India and China should be strengthened. The two nations must realize they are interdependent,” he said, while give a public talk on ‘Secular Ethics’ organized by the city’s Chanakya Mandal Pariwar here.

Days after he was denied audience by Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, in interviews and statements to the foreign press, had batted for Chinese President Xi Jinping remarking that hardliners within the Chinese Communist Party were holding the President back from granting autonomy to Tibet.

The Dalai Lama however skirted any specific references to Tibet’s autonomy in his address, merely saying that he was “a humble individual.”

“I am not as important a person as is made out to be,” he said, urging for greater tolerance and harmony among nations in an age of turmoil.

The Dalai Lama will give another public talk in Nashik district on January 3 organized by Indo-Tibetan Mangal Maitri Sangh.

Indian Religion, Sects and Philosophy 2

This school may be called one of the oldest school of Indian materialism.

It rejects Vedas, rejects ritualism of Vedas and does not believe in god or any other super natural power.

Ajita Kesakambali is thought to be the first Caravaka while Brihaspati is called its founder.

The basic theme of ajivikism is the doctrine of niyati or destiny.

Vaishnavas worship Vishnu

Its beliefs and practices, especially the concepts of Bhakti and Bhakti Yoga, are based largely on the Upanishads, and associated with the Vedas and Puranic texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, and the Padma, Vishnu and Bhagavata Puranas.

Awareness, recognition, and growth of the belief have significantly increased outside of India in recent years.

Devotees of Shiva wear Sacred ash as a sectarian mark on their foreheads and other parts of their bodies with reverence.

In the details of its philosophy and practice, Shaktism resembles Shaivism. However, Shaktas focus most or all worship on Shakti, as the dynamic feminine aspect of the Supreme Divine.

The term Smarta refers to adherents who follow the Vedas and Shastras.

Only a section of south Indian brahmins call themselves Smartas now.

Smartas are followers and propagators of Smriti or religious texts derived from Vedic scriptures. Smarta religion was practiced by people who believed in the authority of the Vedas as well as the basic premise of puranas. As a consequence usually only a brahmin preferred to use this term to refer to his family tradition.

Kshatriyas: warriors, nobles, and kings

Vaishyas: farmers, merchants, and businessmen

Shudras: servants and labourers

Grihastha is the householder's stage, in which one marries and satisfies kāma and artha in one's married and professional life respectively.

Vānaprastha, the retirement stage, is gradual detachment from the material world. This may involve giving over duties to one's children, spending more time in religious practices and embarking on holy pilgrimages.

The Shramana tradition gave rise to Jainism, Buddhism, and Yoga, and was responsible for the related concepts of saṃsāra (the cycle of birth and death) and moksha (liberation from that cycle).

Sramanism, emphasizing thought, hard work and discipline, was one of the three strands of Hindu philosophy.

The other two included Brahmanism, which drew its philosophical essence from Mimamsa

Rejection of the Vedas as revealed texts

Affirmation of Karma and rebirth, Samsara and transmigration of Soul.

Affirmation of the attainment of moksa through Ahimsa, renunciation and austerities

Denial of the efficacy of sacrifices and rituals for purification.
Rejection of the caste system

Maharashtra has the highest number of Jain Population.

(Authors sometimes add two additional categories: the meritorious and demeritorious acts related to karma. These are called puṇya and pāpa respectively)

Tirtankara is a human being who helps in achieving liberation and enlightenment as an "Arihant" by destroying all of their soul constraining (ghati) karmas, became a role-model and leader for those seeking spiritual guidance. There are 24 Tīrthaṅkaras and each of them revitalized the Jain Order.

Jaina tradition identifies Rishabha (Adinath) as the first tirthankara.

Jaina puruna give a list of twelve Chakravarti. One of the greatest Chakravarti mentioned in Jaina scriptures is Bharata.

Vasudeva are violent heroes

prativāsudeva can be termed as villains.

Vasudeva ultimately kills prativasudeva.

Both Digambara and Svetambara communities have continued to develop, almost independently of each other.

Except for some minor differences in rituals and way of life, their belief and practices for the spiritual progress are the same.

The four main sects with a sizable population are Digambara, Svetambara Murtipujaka, Sthanakavasi and Terapanthi.

The Digambaras, like Mahavira, practice total nudity to avoid all attachments.

The Shvetambaras reject nudity as an exterior symbol having no significance on their inner spiritual development.

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