jamyang norbu

q:  How did this current chic perception of Tibet get to be this way?

a:  Well, actually it's a long story. I don't think I'm absolutely accurate in this. Good research has yet to be conducted on this; it has yet to be done.

But, for one thing when we Tibetans first came into exile in the '60s very little attention was paid to us except by the CIA, and certain charitable organizations like CARE and so on.

But at that time in the 60's, a whole bunch of hippies and people of that nature came to India. And they came up straight where the Tibetans were. And they were not concerned with the political problems of the Tibetans people-- that they were exiles, and they were fighting Communist China.

I've talked to many at the time, they considered our kind of resistance against the Communist Chinese very bad. Because a lot of these people admired Mao Tse-tung. A lot of them couldn't understand why we didn't want to live in worker's paradise.

But, they subscribed to the karma, to the Tibetan Buddhism, especially because Tibetan religion is very rich in color and in ritual and in ceremony. It's not much fun for a Western hippie to be a kind of... (inaudible) Buddhist, which is very stark. It doesn't have all that color and music and all the mysticism. So, Tibetan Buddhism was the in thing. And it became quite a small industry in India with a lot of Lamas.

And a lot of the younger generation at that time picked up on it. A lot of the hippies now had become fairly affluent, maybe even powerful people out in the west. A lot these people are ones who are still pushing their kind of flower power type perception, and they're pushing it on us Tibetans.

Like, I'm a Tibetan --when I talk about my politics, about my country, oftentimes the critics I get are not Chinese or other Tibetans, but Westerners. They say, "How dare you contradict the Dalai Lama? How dare you say Tibetans should take up arms against the Chinese?"

And, I reply to them, " I'm a Tibetan. This is my country. These are issues that are close to me. You are living in a country where democracy is already there, freedom is already there. You may not like it, it may not be perfect, but we don't have anything." Whether the Tibetans want to get their country back to peace or violence or whatever, that's their business.

But, the problem is that in our situation, a lot of these people have become very powerful in the context of our politics, because they have money. They sponsor a lot of the monasteries; they sponsor a lot our people in power within the Tibetan world, especially Lamas. They become big patrons. So, they call the shots as far as Tibetans politics are concerned.

You may have noticed a lot of the issues that the Tibetans debate in their politics is very fuzzy, the question of environment, religious issues, environmental issues. That's not the real issue, at all. The real issue is a question of the survival of the people. But that issue is not debated at all.

q:  Explain to me this western phenomenon of Richard Gere's and the Steven Segal's -- the celebrity patronage of Tibet and what that's about.

a:  I am not at all condemning anyone. I'm sure Richard Gere's kind of faith in Tibetan Buddhism is genuine. In fact, his patronage of Tibetan Buddhism and even the society and the cause, has been a rather low key one.

Even Steven Seagal, although he may want to be a Lama and has himself recognized as one-- I don't think it's a question of blame of these people.

Now, the problem with the whole celebrity thing is that -- our exposure to the West is a fairly recent one. Even when exiled in India, we were in a very remote area. Our ideas on the West are not that well-formed. But when someone says, "There's an important person from the West," they really don't know. Even actors, no matter how wonderful they may be, really don't have that much power in the sense of politics.

I think we are making a big mistake in not really trying to get our cause out there to the intellectuals, to writers, to artists, instead concentrating on celebrities who sometimes as wonderful as they may be, a lot of them have very short attention spans and have to move onto another cause; maybe one or two or five years from now.

q:  How do you understand this trend? How do you explain it to someone?

a:  That's very simple. You just have to look at lot of these people, a lot of the New Age people. Look at the way they think. There's tremendous inadequacy in their kind of spiritual lives. And, I'm not saying blaming society or anything for it, but this is the way a lot of these people feel.

And one feels this even more when one is affluent. When you are poor, actually, all you want is some food and to survive, send your kids to school, college. But when you are rich, you have to move on. It's only human, it's not a question of condemnation or making fun of these people. But there is this inadequacy.

Since traditional Christianity in this country is not fashionable anymore for real or imagined reasons, people are moving on. Tibetan Buddhism is fascinating. I am a Tibetan Buddhist, myself. I do find the religion to be fascinating.

First thing, for a lot of academic types and even for, let's say, our people here, it's a very ......religion. It's not just like shamanism. There are a lot of things you can do. It's so broad that you will find a niche for yourself there.

And, at the same time, it's not so organized like the Catholic church, so you don't have to go to church; you don't have get up early on Sunday and wear a suit. You're not obliged to do anything. So, it's really wonderful for someone living, let's say, in a studio out in New York for a religion for him to have. Any time it's convenient, he does his little thing. His little Buddha, and he can feel good. It's not like Judaism or Islam. There are no dietary regulations. There's nothing really.

So it's the ideal, for the 21st century, in that sense. It gives you a lot of space. And people take to it. And, it's fashionable also, especially with the whole Zen thing that's happened earlier on in this country. It's a kind of progression from there. It's very fashionable.

q:  What is your sense of the impact that will come from the two big Hollywood films coming out. What is your sense of the impact and awareness they'll create?

a:  The two Hollywood movies that are coming out on Tibet will create some impact. But like the impact of movies on the populace it is really overestimated. We had a wonderful movie like that won even the Academy Award for a number of reasons-- "Killing Fields." How much did that change the perception of people on Cambodia? Even after that movie was aired, there were many academics going around saying that the Camerouge didn't massacre all that many Cambodians. That this is all kind of Western hype.

So, I don't know with movies. Sometimes you do feel in the immediacy there is some impact. But I think with feature films, sometimes the story alone captures you; everything else is background. I really don't know. I hope there will some impact and that people will respond. But, I keep my fingers crossed.

That alone, even some response from the ordinary people will not really change things.

q:  What would your dream be for the impact of these films?

a:  My hope is that people will see this film and realize that Tibet was an independent country. That to a certain extent, responsible people out in the west, ought to put some kind of time and effort to see that this great injustice is readdressed. Especially, the younger generation in university and schools see this movie and are moved enough to take up the Tibetan cause and do something to readdress this great injustice that the Tibetan people have suffered.

I think with the younger people gradually it will. There's a wonderful kind of, let's say, lack of cynicism in American universities. Sometimes you feel in Britain-- I lived in Britain for a long time-- There's a sort of "can do" attitude with a lot of people-- younger people here. So, I hope the movie will have some impact on them.

q:  You talked about bringing young people to the Tibetan cause... People say bring awareness to the Tibetan cause. What is the Tibetan cause? What are we talking about?

a:  The Tibetan cause is really about independence; it's about freedom of the Tibetan people. It's been misrepresented. To a certain extent, because it is such a difficult, let's say a cause. Everyone knows the Chinese are not going give up Tibet just like that. It's far more difficult than, let's say, even the Palestinian and Israeli issue, or even South Africa.

The Chinese are infinitely far more stronger and vaster than the Tibetans. Tibetans' size, the numbers, everything is insignificant. So, people see this and somehow, before they even take up the cause, they get tired, just imagining how it could be done. Therefore, a lot of times they seek alternative kind of action. They go in for smaller things like human rights and Tibetan environment, maybe religious freedom, this and that.

But, all of these actually hinge on one factor--Tibet is not free. Why are there human rights abuses in Tibet? Because the Chinese are oppressing Tibetans. Because Tibetans are not independent. Why is there environmental degradation of Tibet? that's never happened before? Because the Chinese are there. Why do you have religious persecution in Tibet? Because the Chinese are there.

The fact is, unless the Chinese go away, unless the Tibetans have independence, none of these, let's say, ills in Tibetan society, none of this real tragedy that is going on will, in any way, be addressed or solved. But people don't see this, because it's such a difficult thing to look at.

It affects our own leadership, because of the kind of realistic advice you get from many people, who say, "There's no way you can challenge China; it's impossible. You'd better make peace with them." They carry on and on with the point, where you know the Dalai Lama has given up on this. He's saying, "I don't think it's a good idea. Maybe we should make our peace with them."

If China was a democracy, if it was an empire even like the Roman Empire where local provinces and local separate kingdoms were given some kind of autonomy and opportunity to deal with their own problems in their own way, yes--there could be a place for us, like even, let's say, in part of the British empire or something. But, the system in China is not like that at all. We know now from what's happening in Hong Kong. That so many promises were made about the basic laws, about the legislature and all that is finished now. Whatever it is, the Chinese are not going to change; they're not going give us anything.

So, the Tibetans, I really feel, should go all out for independence. And, this is the main cause, I think, that everyone should propagate. It may not immediately seem possible, but it is in the nature of every revolution and great cause that it is not something that is foreseeable. That is why you have revolutionaries. That's why revolutionaries are always dreamers and madmen. Revolutions are not made by stockbrokers... ... or politicians, it's made by these sort of crazy people who have dreams.

This, to a certain extent, is a dream, of Tibetan independence. The main factor is that it is a worthwhile dream, and it is true dream. It is not a dream that has been tainted in any way. The Tibetans have never massacred Chinese; thousands of Chinese. They had never done anything, really, that has hurt Chinese interest.

Old Tibetan society may have been old-fashioned, may have not been egalitarian, but it was not an evil society. So, all the support that is given to this cause is worthy. And, I think that is a good basis for people to start on, not whether it's possible or not. The very fact that we survived is a miracle, when you think about it. We could be anything else, the planet could be destroyed in way or the other. There are a thousand other things going on all the time. Anything can happen.

But, the fact is this is a cause worthy of moral indignation for people. And, if one starts off from there and keeps on real moral lines, I think the faint possibility of Tibetan freedom will become a reality. But if one surrenders right from the beginning because this is not possible, that is not possible, then it's not even a cause. That's why it's so fuzzy these days. Because too many people; too many experts are coming into it.

There are so many-- these days ..self-appointed Henry Kissinger types, who come with 220 different ways to solve the Tibetan issue. Their kind of State Department type who come there, some lawyers and this and that from the West, all kinds of hustlers are coming, selling some kind of idea ... on how to make a deal with the Chinese.

Nobody talks of a struggle or a revolution. Everyone is saying, "There's a way we can do a deal with the Chinese." And, there's no way you can do any deal with them.

q:  Has the Dalai Lama lost the dream of Tibet?

a:  I think Dalai Lama has lost his dream for Tibetan independence. And, primarily because he lives, to some extent, high above the normal Tibetans. He lives, to some extent in the ivory tower. And, all he meets really are sort of leaders even from the West; and, I think, they give him really wrong advice. The kind of influence he gets from those people are absolutely wrong.

They see things as it is now; they look at the status quo. The leadership that you have now all over the world are not people who can see something in the future. What they see is now. Business now. China now. That's why they advise him, make a deal, cut a deal, whatever, do it. Don't go violent, whatever it is. "We don't want to rock the boat."

Revolution is not--as Mao Tse-tung said, "It's not a Tea Party." Or, maybe dinner party or whatever. You have to rock the boat. It has to dislocate something. It causes unhappiness; but there's a result in the end. Unless you do that, you won't get anything. What the Dalai Lama and all his friends want is not to disturb anybody; not to offend the Chinese; not to offend the Americans, not to offend Clinton; not to offend anybody, and get Tibetan freedom. That is not going to happen.

It's not even in our control, in some ways. These things are spontaneous; it happens because of people's moral indignation and their suffering. When it happens, blood is shed. It's not for me to approve or disapprove of this. This is the nature of life. I think His Holiness sometimes forgets this. Whatever it is, he is a spiritual leader. But, he is a Buddhist monk also. He's cut off from the normal life of the Tibetans.

We are ordinary Tibetans. We drink; we eat; we feel passion; we love our wives and kids. If someone sort of messes around with them, even if they're an army, you pick up your rifle. If you don't defend your wife and your kid, you cannot survive. What will happen to you in the end. People do these things. This is something that I don't think the Lamas and his Holiness understand in ordinary people.

We don't all want enlightenment. We are quite happy, sometimes with our little field, and our horses and the guns and your wife and your kids. Some people don't want to be enlightened, at least not immediately. They are really happy in their landscape and in Tibet. They have a kind of affinity to their place they live in. And, they don't want the Chinese there. And, his Holiness cannot understand this.

The need of lay people--in Tibetan we are called the "Black Haired People." People with long hair. People with long hair--- really, Why do they need freedom? People in monasteries, to a certain extent, they live in their discipline. But we don't want to live in discipline. We are like horseman-- I put this in -- Not me, I'm talking for the Tibetan people. I haven't written or asked for the last 20 years-- But, these are people who want space, who want their freedom, who don't like to be ordered about.

Who is speaking for them? And, I don't think His Holiness is speaking for them. Neither is Richard Gere nor his Holiness, his friends out in the West. They are talking about a very specific Tibet; they're talking about the monks and the nuns. Yes, of course, we love the monks and nuns and we respect them. But, we are the ones who pay the taxes in the end. We are the ones who support the monasteries. You know, when the monasteries are attacked, we're the ones who fight.

Our children become monks and nuns. The monks and nuns don't have children to continue their institutions. This is something that is done by the ordinary Tibetan who is neglected in this factor. That factor is not even accounted sometimes. Therefore, I think His Holiness in wrong.

And I'm not saying this in any way as a kind of propaganda-- It's not a propaganda speech. There is a mystical kind of power, I think, as far as revolutions and uprisings and all. We don't know what is going on in Tibet. But, what I know is every demonstration they've had in Tibet, every cry for freedom that has come out from there, has been for independence. It has not been for autonomy. All the placards that you see in these documentaries, the slogans that the demonstrators shout, the screams from prison cells where nuns are being beaten, are for independence. They're all shouting, 'Ransen' which means independence. They're not calling for the Dalai Lama solution or for autonomy or for some adjustment with the Chinese. But, this is something that, I think, His Holiness really doesn't understand, neither do a lot of our friends out in the west.

They say, "Why don't you live-- Why don't you adjust?" We've done all the adjusting we can. We have nothing left. We have nothing to give the Chinese.

q:  What should America do for Tibet?

a:  Right now, I really couldn't say. But, essentially, Tibetans should be able to start a campaign, let's say an economic boycott of Chinese goods. But, this is something that we have to push on the Americans; we have to sell this to the Americans. And, it is possible-- maybe it's not going to realized overnight, or maybe in five, ten, thirty years even. Initially one or two companies may subscribe to this. But, you have had companies subscribing to this-- Like Holiday Inn in ... (inaudible). Because of a boycott, they pulled out. Now, you could try to sell this to other companies trading with China. It's not immediately foreseeable that all these companies would agree. But that was not foreseeable even with South Africa with apartheid government there. But eventually it happened. And, now we see a South Africa that promises wonderful things for the future.


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