The other day I discovered that his holiness, the Dalai Lama, was on the payroll of the United States government for years. What’s more, he was a CIA asset, the relationship going all the way back to 1959 when he fled from Tibet to India with his entourage of lamas. While he claims that he didn’t personally receive funding, it is acknowledged that his lamas did get subsidies of about 1.7 million dollars per year in the 1960’s. These were used to carry out training of his followers, both in spiritual practices, as well as the intricacies of guerrilla warfare.
It was a bit shocking to come upon this information, since the CIA appears behind the scenes in so many clandestine operations in the past 50 years or so. Everything from selling heroin and cocaine in the 70’s and 80’s, to overthrowing governments of countries that don’t submit to the corporate interests of the United States. If one only accepts the things that CAN be learned and proved about them, it leads to the implication that there is far more going on than we are allowed to discover. It raises questions that are difficult to answer.
As this revelation slowly settled into my consciousness, I had to ask the first question. Does this make the Dalai Lama evil? Does it invalidate the beautiful teachings he has to offer the world, the words that earned him a Nobel Peace Prize? It forces one to compartmentalize the various aspects of the man, while they sort out the baggage that comes with accepting blood money. In the end, he stands out as an exemplary human being, but just that. Not a god, or a saint, unless the word, ‘Saint’ can include leaders who try to guide by example as opposed to quoting a holy book.
I must point out here, that I am not a strict practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, nor any other formal religion. I therefore feel that I offer a layman’s perspective, not the expertise which a reader might find comforting and trustworthy. Yet it is EXACTLY this perspective that I think most people in our culture share. We need role models to look up to, as our society appears more interested in capturing a smiling celebrity face instead of a priceless treasure of age old wisdom. His holiness has spent his lifetime in meditation and contemplation, no matter who paid his bills.
Still, it’s a hard pill to swallow, imagining the Dalai Lama as a spy. That must be how China sees him, simply a pawn of the USA, ready to reclaim his homeland should the People’s Republic ever loosen their iron grip on Tibet. I have looked at both sides of the conflict between Tibet and China, and as an outsider it is tough to fully grasp. When I lived in China for a year, those around me thought it perfectly normal to claim Tibet as their own. When I went to India during that same year, the Indian people vehemently opposed Chinese, ‘Occupation’.
Another question that comes to mind is, “Why haven’t the American people been informed more thoroughly about this?” True, it might reflect my own ignorance, but to be fair, I pay attention to the world around me and at large. So what’s the deal? The Dalai Lama received assistance from the United States, for years. This is a much more palatable way to state it, since it removes any implications of bad intentions on the part of his holiness.
In the end, human beings are weighed by their character, which leads to their actions. We can look at those actions and get a good idea as to one’s heart. And it’s likely we’ll learn a lot more after the Dalai Lama passes away, the same way that truth seems to be a generation behind the textbook histories. Can we wait that long, to take the best of what the man has to offer? I recommend we don’t. My suggestion is that we examine the man just as we examine our own inner landscape. The Dalai Lama has become almost synonymous with the word, ‘Peace’. So let’s acknowledge that this was partially afforded to him at the cost of American taxpayers. Maybe then we can cash in on our investment, and begin living out peace on earth.