Dalai Lama's Friend:
by Gerald Lehner
and Tilman Müller –
There´s a little secret, perhaps not too dirty,
about the man whom Dharamsala regards as a friend
Tibet Goes Hollywood" said the Newsweek
cover, while the British newspaper The Independent wrote of a "love
affair" between Beverly Hills
and the high plateau. There are seven major films on Tibet in the pipeline this year, including a
biography of the Dalai Lama, Kundun, and an
adaptation of the well-known book Seven Years in Tibet. It is in the role of
Heinrich Harrer, the main protagonist and author
of Seven Years in Tibet, that Brad Pitt stares solemnly out of the Newsweek
cover. "The film is a tremendous honour for me," says Mr Harrer proudly, speaking to us in front of his mountain
home, high above the village of Hüttenberg in the
Austrian province of Carinthia. "Fifty million people have read my
book, but Brad Pitt will draw a movie-going audience in the billions,
including many people who have never even heard of Tibet."
In a sense, it seems only right that Mr Harrer´s
character should personify Tibet´s entry into the
wide-reaching world of films. For it was his book that introduced Tibet
to entire generations around the world since it was first published in 1953.
Mr Harrer´s story is certainly the stuff of film.
On his way back from a climbing expedition to Nanga Parbat 1939, due to the
outbreak of World War II, he was interned in a British prison in India
because he was German. Along with another internee, he made a dramatic
escape to Tibet and
wandered about the then forbidden plateau for more than a year before he
on 15 January 1946. There he served the 11-year-old Dalai Lama as a teacher
of English, mathematics, geography and photography, while introducing many
innovations into the city that amazed the Tibetans. He got along well with
the Tibetans and lived in the city until 1951 when the Chinese invasion of Tibet
forced him to flee in a hurry.
After the Tibetan revolt in 1959 and subsequent exile of the Dalai Lama, Mr
Harrer has stood firmly by his Tibetan friends.
His has been one of the loudest Western voices against the Chinese
occupation. In 1987, he expressed outrage when German Chancellor Helmut
Kohl visited the Chinese rulers in Lhasa,
the first Western head of government to do so. Now, he says he is happy
that there is going to be a film version of Seven Years in Tibet
for "that will be a big blow to Chinese propaganda".
friendship with the Dalai Lama has remained strong over the years. TV
productions that tell the story of Mr Harrer and
the Dalai Lama, both as a young man and as the present worldly statesman,
have been broadcast all over the Western world. Every time, he comes to Austria or Central
Europe, the Tibetan leader spends time with Mr Harrer. He was there during the opening of a museum of Tibetan history and culture in Mr Harrer´s hometown, and they are often seen together
conducting press conferences in the West. And now, as chance would have it,
both are subjects of major Hollywood
Heinrich Harrer with the
There is every possibility that these films
will ride the wave of what human rights advocates have proclaimed to be the
"Tibet Year in Film". Should that happen, it is very likely that
Seven Years in Tibet will ride the crest of that wave, for Mr Harrer, as its main subject, idealises the perfect union
of the Western discoverer with that of the politically correct human rights
activist. This champion of human rights, however, has a past that he does
not care to talk about.
To find out about Heinrich Harrer´s hidden past one has to visit the Berlin office
of the German Federal Archives, which houses the original holding of the
"Document Centre" that the Americans set up in 1945 using
captured Nazi files. Among them are documents from the Rasse-
und Siedlungshauptamt or RuSHA
(Main Office of Racial and Settlement Affairs) which contain information on
members of the dreaded elite corps known as the Schutzstafel
(Protective Echelon) or "SS" for short. Somewhere in this maze of
records is a pink file folder hand-labeled with
black ink in the upper right corner: "Harrer,
Heinrich, born July 6, 1912". Below that: "SS Unit 38, Sippennummer (family number) 73896".
The Harrer file contains 80 pages. One item that
catches the eye within the first few pages is a telegram dated 19 December
1939, sent from SS Section 35 in Graz,
where Mr Harrer was an athletic instructor at the
time. The telegram ( below) is addressed to the
"Head of the RuSHA" and reads:
"Permission to marry is requested for SS-Oberscharführer
Heinrich Harrer, Sippennummer
73896. Harrer is the first man to climb the Eiger North Face and intends, at the express request of
the Reichsführer-SS, to marry already on December
"Reichsführer-SS" meant none other than
Heinrich Himmler, the dreaded head of SS, who demanded that his SS men and
their brides-to-be submit detailed family trees tracing their ancestry back
to AD 1800. Only those who could prove their perfect Aryan heritage were
permitted to marry.
The RuSHA records show that the Austrian Harrer and his Hamburg-born-wife-to-be Lotte Wegener complied in almost exemplary fashion.
Bride Lotte had belonged to the Nazi youth
organisation BDM (Bund Deutscher Mädchen or "German Girls´ League") since
1936. Groom Heinrich joined the SS on 1 April 1938, and had been a member
of Hitler´s second terrorist organisation, the SA
(Sturmabteilung or "Storm Troops")
since October 1933, at which time the organisation was still operating
illegally in Austria.
In a handwritten curriculum vitae, the young
Heinrich Harrer confirmed that he had joined the
SA and the SS. He enclosed a photograph that showed him with a Nazi
insignia on his lapel.
When confronted with the documents, Mr Harrer
first denied everything. "I never wrote a request or anything of the
kind," he said. "I was just assigned to the SS as an athletic
instructor." Mr Harrer even denied he was a
member of the SS. Until, that is, he was shown the completed RuSHA questionnaire with his handwritten CV and asked,
"Is this your handwriting?"
"Yes," said Mr Harrer upon seeing that
under the SA membership the entry on the form reads "since October
1933" and under SS membership "since April 1938". After a
moment of silence, he said: "I just wanted to boast a little
Boasting! At the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, the SS was classified as a
"criminal organisation". Of course, as he was in India and Tibet from 1939 to 1951, Mr Harrer probably cannot be held responsible for SS
atrocities during the war. "But these documents do indeed cast a cloud
of suspicion on someone who denies having ever been a member," says
Berlin-based historian and SS expert Hans-Heinrich Wilhelm, who examined Mr
Harrer´s SS records on behalf of Stern magazine.
Hero of the Reich
was no ordinary SS man. On 24 July 1938, at the age of 26, he and three
fellow climbers succeeded in the first-ever climb of the Eiger North Face, considered the hardest mountaineering
challenge in the Alps. This triumph was
celebrated throughout the Reich. The quartet of climbers was quickly
lionised by the Nazi propaganda machine. A blond mountain lad from the
"Ostmark", as Austria was known in the
administrative jargon of the Nazis, Mr Harrer became the darling of the Nazis.
Right after the Eiger triumph, Adolf Hitler
congratulated the climbers personally before a crowd of 30,000 cheering
spectators in Braslau. "My, my, you
certainly have achieved a lot!" said the Führer.
Himmler was also there. Recounts Mr Harrer today,
Himmler came up to him and said, "I know of an expedition going to Tibet
if you would like to go along."
The Nazis´ dream couple of young Mr Harrer and
his first wife, Lotte, were in a hurry to get
married "because I," so wrote Mr Harrer to the Berlin RuSHA on
5 November 1938, "am a member of the team of the German Nunga-Parbat Expedition and will be leaving for a
six-month stay in the Himalaya".
Permission received, they were married on 24 December 1938, the day on
which the Nazis celebrated the Germanic Yule festival instead of Christmas
Heinrich Harrer with Adolf Hitler
(the rank corresponds to that of a sergeant) Harrer
left for India
in May 1939, where he and his climbing party were later imprisoned. It was
only in 1944 that he and his late companion Peter Aufschneiter
(who had joined NSDAP, the Nazi party, in 1933) managed to escape prison
and make their way to Tibet.
Until we confronted him in Carinthia, Mr Harrer had never acknowledged his erstwhile link to
Nazi organisations. He has written dozens of books since returning from Tibet,
but not a word about the Nazis. Now and then, voices have been raised
regarding his Nazi past, but there had never been documentary proof.
Someone once discovered a book entitled On the North Face of the Eiger, published by the Central Publishing House of the
NSDAP, in which Mr Harrer wrote: "That is an
invaluable reward for us, to see the Führer and
be permitted to speak to him. We climbed right up to the North Face of the Eiger and over the summit until at last we reached our Führer." Today, Mr Harrer
claims that he was interviewed after his Eiger
triumph, and that a ghostwriter did the writing.
When the hero of Tibet returned home in 1952,
coming to terms with the past in a serious way was not on the agenda.
"My husband was entnazifiziert (denazified) back then," Carina Harrer,
the climber´s third wife, explains today,
"and then he went on with his life."
Mr Harrer certainly did go on with his life. In
the 1950s, he toured the Andes and
traversed the Amazon. He was the first man to climb three Alaskan peaks.
Later, he travelled to Borneo, Greenland, Congo, and, time and again, Tibet.
His books are written with much love and understanding for foreign people.
There are no traces of nationalism, nor any remnant of Nazi ideology. Mr Harrer has always maintained that concepts such as
"primitive" should be avoided at all costs when dealing with
indigenous tribes. Whether this had anything to do with his long stay in Tibet
can only be a matter of conjecture.
Heinrich Harrer, son of a postman risen to become a superstar, was feted on his 80th
birthday at New York´s Waldorf Astoria hotel.
Illustrious friends from the Explorers Club, the ranks of which included
names like Thor Heyerdahl, Neil Armstrong, Edmund Hillary and Reinhold Messner, were on hand to raise the toast: "We
honour the greatest of us all."
Whatever he might have been in his youth, it would be difficult to call
Heinrich Harrer a Nazi diehard. The confrontation
with his SS past seems to have given the grand old man a fright at best. As
he escorted us to the door with a happy spring in his step, he said
cordially, "We knew that this great film was also going to bring us
Nazis in Tibet
The "chic Tibet"
to which Hollywood pays homage today, the
Nazis had already laid claim to back in the late 1930s. Heinrich Harrer was not the first "Reichdeutsche"
(Reich German) in Lhasa, but rather it was
SS Untersturmführer (2nd Lieutenant) Ernst Schäfer of Hamburg.
The expert on Eastern Asia, who has since
died, used to work in the SS Genealogical Research Centre set up by
In 1938, Mr Schäfer left for Tibet with 30 men and a large cache of
weapons, arriving in Lhasa
in early 1939. The journey was called "SS Expedition Schäfer". In 1964, a companion of Mr Schäfer´s admitted to historian Michael K. Kater that the SS storm troops were on a mission to
persuade the Tibetan army, by giving them gifts, to wean it away from
The Germans had more than that one agenda
however. Himmler considered the Tibetans to be "racial relatives of
the Aryans" and many high-level Nazis saw a Shangrila
They wanted to study Tibetan agriculture and lifestyle. The plan was that,
with all the Slavic people in Siberia and Russia eliminated, it was
Tibetans who would teach Germans how to survive in the harsh environment.
Mr Schäfer took away a lot of material from Tibet which can still be seen in the Haus der Natur
Some years ago when the Dalai Lama opened the Salzburg Festival of
Classical Music, Mr Harrer took him to see the
Tibetan exhibits there. What His Holiness might not have known was that the
Haus der Natur was founded by Eduard Paul Tratz,
a biologist, who was also a member of the SS.
© Gerald Lehner
and Tilman Müller
Journalists G. Lehner
and T. Muller are based in Salzburg, Austria, and Hamburg, Germany,
respectively. Aversion of this article first appeared in the German
magazine Stern. One of Mr Harrer´s first
reactions after the Stern article appeared was that is could be the work of
the Chinese agents sent to destroy his life´s
Heinrich Harrer: Dalai Lama's Mentor, Nazi and CIA Agent
of the biggest German Magazines, published a quite well researched title
story on the XIV. Dalai Lama. ("Stern" No 32, July 30, 2009)
Although the Tibetan leader did announce officially his political
retirement, this article has not lost its actuality.
The two faces of the
The soft Tibetan and
his undemocratic Regime
An Icon of Light
with a Shady Side
by Tilman Müller and
When visiting Germany
this week, the Dalai Lama will again be lauded as a messiah. The head of
Tibetans is regarded as a symbol of tolerance. But critics in his exile
community fail in demanding religious freedom and democracy.
He always comes in a large
convoy like a president, bodyguards surrounding him, movie stars and
managers forming honour guards. Politicians in charge hurry to welcome him.
The scene may be the same this week in Frankfurt [Germany], just as it was in Nuremberg last year.
The Dalai Lama greeted the crowds with his lovely child-like waving of
hands. But his speech in the town hall made people halt their breath, as
reported by a local newspaper next day.
He catered the elect audience saying he saw Nuremberg already on photographs when he
was still a child: “very attractive
with generals and weapons“ and with “Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering“.
Some of the auditors seemed to be “embarrassed”, some were “alienated for a
chief mayor Ulrich Maly calls it a “moment of
shock“. The special guests tried to get him self afterwards out of the
affair by stating that as a child he wasn't able to foresee the Nazi
If the Pope had given himself room for such statements in the city of the Reichsparteitage [NSDAP party summits] and the race
laws, there would have been a loud outcry in the republic [of Germany]. But
the head of Tibetan Buddhists is willingly excused for such words although
His Holiness has enough reason to critically think about Nazi history. He
who bears the title of the "Ocean
of Wisdom" always had a very
close relationship to his teacher Heinrich Harrer,
a famous alpinist and author ("Seven years in Tibet"). Harrer had been a snappy Nazi who for a long time tried
to hide the fact that he used to hold the rank of SS-Oberscharführer [Senior Squad Leader of the Schutz-Staffel (SS) or Protective Echelon of Adolf
Hitler]. The Tibetan court used to have close ties with the NS-regime.
SS-expeditions were welcomed to
full mark of respect. Until today, His Holiness never distanced himself
from these inglorious relationships. But this is not the only dark chapter
in his story of success.
The Dalai Lama smiles away all doubts. Almost everywhere he receives the
same god-like veneration. In the West he appears as the super idol of the
new age but in the Himalayans he governs like a medieval potentate. A
gentle do-gooder who can show a surprisingly intolerant yes dictator-like
behaviour. His people's sad fate, suppressed by Beijing and expulsed, hides the inner
problems of the Dalai Lama-regime.
Here [in Germany]
people attracted by him fill stadiums like coming to see a pop star. In Nuremberg 7,000 people listened to him, in Hamburg two years
ago 30.000 and Frankfurt Commerzbank-Arena
expects 40.000 visitors these days. The tickets range from € 10 to € 230
and usually are booked one year in advance. In conjunction with his huge
events, there came up a unique spiritual supermarket. 728 German and 908
English books from and about the Dalai Lama are listed with amazon, 13,200 videos at youtube,
almost 8 million entries in google.
The son of Tibetan peasants is the most popular of all living noble
Members of all religions and also atheists come like pilgrims to his one-man-shows.
"We had direct eye-contact", a young woman in the German city of Moenchengladbach
shouted out over-happily and immediately promised to stop smoking
henceforth. "He makes me feel good", a woman in Boston says in excitement and puts it
into a nutshell, "it's his aura, this simpleness".
Just in Europe and the US, the birthplaces of the Age of Enlightenment,
this Buddhist messiah formed new strongholds of his religion and he also
finds favour with the usually critical-thinking generation of 68 [the left
wing student protest movement in Europe] In 1971, Stern Magazine [The
magazine where this article was published] celebrated him as the
"saint on the mountain", Spiegel Magazine romanticised him to be
a "god to touch" two years ago.
The head of the powerful German publishing house Springer, Mathias Döpfner, ex-porn queen Dolly Buster, German football
star Mehmet Scholl, former economy minister Otto
Graf Lambsdorff, and the inventor of the famous
Love Parade Dr. Motte venerate Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai
Where does that huge excitement come from? Christianity is loosing prestige
and believers. That left a vacuum giving Buddhism a space to develop in the
west as some kind of wellness-religion. And the peaceful calmness of the
Dalai Lama makes you feel comfortable in the rough daily rat-race. His
positive charisma seems to ban all fear of crisis. On top of this, there
arose a Tibet
romanticism in the West transfigurating the snow land on the roof of the world where the
Dalai Lama had been born in 1935 in a hut with juniper rain-pipes.
The Asia expert Orville Schell, president
of the New York Center of Sino-American
Relations, explained the development of the Tibet-Myth from its remote
position for centuries in innumerable works. The lack of knowledge gave
birth to fantasies. It all started back in 1933 with James Hilton's novel
"Lost Horizon", first published in German titled "Irgendwo in Tibet
- Somewhere in Tibet".
The action was set in the sunshine paradise Shangri-La where no one had to
work and everyone is living in eternal peace. The dream factory of Hollywood later on could use all these fantasies,
creating a symbiosis of Tibet
and pop culture, and created a monument for Tenzin
Gyatso with the movie "Kundun".
has always been so inaccessible, it existed in western imagination rather
as a dream than as reality. It was supposed to be a country we could
project our post-modern longings to", Schell says.
"I am for you whatever you want me to be for you", the Dalai Lama
says and in that way, alpinist Reinhold Messner
regards him as "a fighter for environment protection". German
movie director and Oscar prize winner Florian Henckel von Donnermarck
appreciates that "he makes happiness one of his religion's core
principals." Actress Uma Thurman expects
absolution for making the bloodthirsty violent movie "Kill Bill":
"The Dalai Lama would die laughing" if watching the movie. And
the Dalai Lama takes part in that game, he is open to all directions at one's will.
He is a perfect tool for presidents and heads of government as even George
W. Bush looks peaceful when being with him. The hyper active Nicolas Sarkozy looks gentle, and boring Roland Koch [prime
minister of the German state of Hessen] at least seems to have some esprit.
Especially with conservative and right-wing politicians this game of mutual
instrumentalisation works especially well. The
Dalai Lama had strong sympathy for the Austrian right-wing Jörg Haider and visited him
several times in his Austrian state of Kaernten.
Although the head of Tibetans is already 74, he is touring the West so
intensively only for a relatively short time now. In June 1979, he visited
Mont Pèlerin at Lake Geneva
giving his first public teaching to a greater audience in the west.
"There was not much interest regarding the Dalai Lama and we couldn't
even get police protection for him," one of the then organizers, today
living in Switzerland,
In the meanwhile, the Dalai Lama became popular to the world but isn't it anymore
to all the monasteries. "There had been a break in our community about
ten years ago," a former companion says. In the first line it was
about a protective saint the brotherhood is not allowed to worship anymore.
But basically this religious quarrel is a struggle for power with
intrigues, slandering, and intimidation continued until today. Out of fear
of repression the confidant of the Dalai Lama asks to stay anonymous. The
"Tibetan Community of Switzerland", an organisation strongly devoted
to the Dalai Lama called on all Tibetans in Switzerland having passed their
18th birthday to "immediately" stop the worship of the Tibetan
protective deity Dorje Shugden
and to sign an 8-point-agreement: "Those few Tibetans publicly and for
no reason criticising the Dalai Lama are regarded to be Chinese
collaborators by us."
This strategy of "either being with me or against me" and the
rigid tone absolutely don't fit to the gentle manner in which the "Übervater" [super-father] is usually presenting
himself to the West. His royal court in Dharamsala
still follows the feudalist structure of the old Tibet and is ruled by oracles
and rituals that do not have much in common with western tolerance and
transparency. The Dalai Lama's sudden prohibition of the protective deity Shugden who had been worshipped since the 17th century
and is one out of hundreds of saints in the Tibetan Buddhist canon in 1996
deeply alienated many religious Tibetans. For them it is incomprehensible
and outsiders hardly can grasp how rigorous it is enforced. About one third
of the 130,000 exile Tibetans are supposed to have worshipped Shugden before the ban. Today there are only a few
thousand to openly show their connection to the cult. There are no
independent estimations regarding the 5 million Tibetans inside China.
The journalist Beat Regli in 1998 for the first
time showed emotional pictures of that imminent conflict in the Indian
exile communities in Swiss television [Schweizer Fernsehen, SF - Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden]. Highly
aged monks regretted crying that they didn't already die before the
prohibition of Shugden. A desperate family whose
house had been set alight is presented as well as wanted posters denouncing
Shugden followers and a Dalai Lama
uncompromisingly defending his ban. "Wrong, wrong" he sounds off
in a cold and sharp way nobody in the west has ever expected from the ever
smiling noble laureate.
In Dharamsala this quarrel is continuing to the
present day. Monks not following the Dalai Lama's order report
of massive discrimination. Relatives and friends are put under
pressure and vendors put posters on their shop's doors saying "No
Entrance" for Shugden-believers.
In southern Indian city of Mundgod, Ganden
Shartse monastery last year celebrated the
inauguration of a new prayer hall. "It was supposed to become a great
feast" one monk present at the time remembers. He is afraid to say his
name. The Dalai Lama himself came and with him a number of other high
ranking dignitaries. But almost everything talked about in the speeches and
lectures was the old controversial topic of Dorje
Shugden. Shortly afterwards the monks are said to
have been told to sign a declaration stating they were no longer praticing Shugden. The monastery's
administration even erected a man-high wall through the monastic yard.
In the meanwhile the dispute was handed over to the court. Dorje Shugden Society filed a
complaint at New Delhi's
High Court in order to check whether this "religious discrimination"
is acceptable under Indian law. A decision is expected for the end of this
year. Dalai Lama says Shugden worship is harmful
to his life and to the "cause of Tibet" with no further
statements available. His opposition suspects that Shugden,
who is also exhorted as an oracle, was prohibited for being a concurrence
to the Dalai Lama's state oracle.
The Tibetan Governement-in Exile (TGE)
nevertheless rejects all accusations. "There are only very few of
those people left and they are completely financed by PRC. They are the
only ones still talking about this topic," TGE's
prime minister Samdhong Rinpoche
says. Being paid by the Chinese is the worst accusation for any Tibetan.
The Tibetan refugee's capital is situated in the small town of Mc Leod Ganj,
next to the district capital Dharamsala and
twelve hours by bus from New Delhi.
The Dalai Lama and members of his closest staff moved into the former
residence of the British administration in 1960 with thousands
of devotees following him. Among many Indians of that region, Mc Leod Ganj is known as
"Little Lhasa". It is a tiny place with two dusty one way roads
winding up the mountain.
About 600,000 enlightenment-tourists come here every year. Loud music flows
from cafés and bars into the valley and little stands with religious kitsch
stand side by side along the roads, one of them even offering "monk's
fashion". Young Tibetans here wear Jeans and T-Shirts whereas the
western tourists usually dress like actors in biblical movies. Little Lhasa has become the
"Ballermann" [an area with lots of
clubs, bars, and discotheques in Palma de Mallorca famous among German
tourists to the Spanish island] for spiritual seekers.
The small government district is a short way down the hill with tiny
ministries, a parliament, and a library. The Dalai Lama again and again
underlines that Tibetans in exile have built up a democratic system. There
is a parliament with 43 to 46 seats. All sessions are recorded on DVD and
then sent into the refugee settlements. On a theoretical basis the
parliament may decide against the Dalai Lama. "But this never
happened," says the parliament's president Penpa
Tsering. "Everyone has great confidence into
His Holiness. He sees the Tibetan question from many different angles, receives lots of information and is very, very
For a long time, His Holiness' family members held high positions. Since
2001 the prime minister is elected directly. In 2006's elections, he
received more than 90% of the votes and thus was confirmed in office. The
main goal of Little Lhasa's political structure is to confirm the Dalai
Lama's decisions and to solidify his power. Parties are absolutely
irrelevant and the separation of state and church is not mentioned in the
exile Tibetan Charta although it avows itself to the "ideals of
democracy" in nice sounding words.
In 1990, the independent Tibetan newspaper "mang-tso"
(democracy) was published for the first time and quickly became the most
important piece of media for Little Lhasa's refugee community. "We
wrote on election fraud, corruption, and everything else existent in every
other country as well," says Jamyang Norbu, then editor-in-chief. "Mang-tso"
was uncomfortable and its editors didn't allow themselves to be intimidated
when some of them received death threats and the paper boys were threatened
in the streets. In 1996, the situation got even worse, shortly after the
newspaper published an article on the Aum sect
which was responsible for poisonous gas attacks on Tokyo's metro in 1995 killing 12 and
leaving hundreds injured. The terrorist sect's leader, Shoko Asahara on several occasions met the Dalai Lama. Even
weeks after the first assault, Dalai Lama called him a "friend, yet
not a perfect one." Only later he went on distance to the sect.
"Reporters Without Boarders" then said that due to that article
"the religious authorities immediately put 'mang-tso'
under pressure." It had to close down; that was the end of
Criticism or public debates are not welcomed in Little Lhasa. Dalai Lama
prefers to ask gods and demons for advice. His Holiness' official state
oracle is called Thubten Ngodup,
born in 1958. He is living in Nechung monastery
right behind the parliament.
For centuries now, the Dalai Lamas seek oracle advice in all important
religious and political decisions. After his predecessor had died, Thubten Ngodup became the
Dalai Lama's official fortune-teller in 1987. It is said that he became
aware his qualification in various dreams and visions for the first time.
Another hint for his supernatural skills was his oftentimes bleeding nose.
Whenever the Dalai Lama has a question, Thubten Nodup would put on his 40-kg ritual garment. Incense
would be burnt and his assistants would put a huge crown on his head. Then
the oracle would start dancing to the music of horns and cymbals until he
would enter a trance murmuring words only well-trained ears can understand.
Dalai Lama strongly believes in his predictions. Looking back he found out
that "the oracle was always right," he once said.
This is not what democracy looks like and yet there is not much criticism
regarding his way of governing for reasons of solidarity with a suppressed
people facing the super power China. Drawn out of his
country, the Tibetan head has to see the cruel injustice happening there
and the old culture slowly being destroyed.
The communist leaders in Beijing
try to defame the Dalai Lama by calling him "wolf in monk's
robes" or "devil with a human face and a beast's heart". At
the same time, Chinese security forces suppress even the slightest move
towards freedom on the Tibetan plateau. So one doesn't have to wonder for
most Westeners stepping on the side of the weak.
never was the paradise it is in western imagination. When the Chinese
marched into it in 1950, it was stuck up in the medieval era with monks and
aristocrats sharing the power. Most people were slaves, serfs, or under
debt bondage. The system was protected by a brutal religious police with
whips and bars and many monasteries had their own prisons. Even the Dalai
Lama's friend Heinrich Harrer was shocked:
"The monks' rule in Tibet
is unique and may only be compared to a strong dictatorship. They are
suspicious of any influence from the outside that may endanger their power.
They are intelligent enough not to believe in their unlimited power but
they will immediately punish anyone who dares to doubt it." Harrer reports of a man who stole a golden butter lamp
from a temple. At first his hand were publicly amputated and then "his
mutilated body was sewn into a wet yak skin. They let it dry and then threw
it down a ravine."
After the occupation, the Chinese presented themselves as the Tibetan
people's liberators and destroyed the monasteries. And they built up a new
system of suppression. They oftentimes point out that despite of his peace
messages the Dalai Lama supports the armed resistance in his homeland,
himself being supported by "foreign imperialists". In deed the
Dalai Lama's two elder brothers built up connections with the US
intelligence agency. During several years, CIA trained about 300 Tibetans
in guerrilla war techniques at Camp
Hale in the Rocky
Mountains. In a full moon night in October 1957, the first
Tibetan elite soldiers jumped out of a B-17 without nationality marking
For the case of being caught by the Chinese, each of them carried a small
container of cyanite.
These Tibetan agents also protected the Dalai Lama's flight to India
permanently being in contact with the CIA via Morse messaging. Later on,
the US financed the
formation of a Tibetan rebel army in the Nepalese kingdom of Mustang.
The programmes were stopped when the US
intensified their trading with China in the early 1970s.
Regarding Buddhism rather as an esoteric cult than as a religion, many of
the Dalai Lama's followers are astonished when hearing of their idol
working hand in hand with the US intelligence agencies. Or
when they hear that Buddhism spread in Asia as with much bloodshed as
Islam did in Arabia or as the Christian
crusades. Again and again Tibetan monasteries had brutal fights against
each other. Buddhism is not necessarily more tolerant than other religions.
In an interview with "Playboy" magazine, Dalai Lama called
homosexual practices "misconduct". The teachings also condemn
"having oral or anal sex with your wife or another female
partner". Similar passages had been deleted from his "Ethics for
a New Millennium" on his publisher's advice.
Dalai Lama is in favour of harmony. But he will have to face the
confrontation as there is growing criticism in his own exile community.
"His Holiness is living in a bubble without contact to the outside
world," says Lhasang Tsering,
a long term activist. He is now running a bookstore in Little Lhasa.
"Religion and politics should finally be separated."
This is also what Jamyang Norbu
is stipulating. "Dalai Lama is not a bad person", says "mang-tso's" former editor-in-chief. "But he
begins to be a hindrance to our development. We don't have democracy. Many
things today are even worse than in 1959. Then we had three political
powers: Dalai Lama, the monasteries, and the nobility." Today the only
leading figure left is the Dalai Lama.