By Misty Volaski
Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime
minister of Tibet and spiritual advisor to the Dalai Lama, speaks
in a voice just above a whisper, yet his message has echoed across
world since his election by exiled Tibetans in 2001.
That message - to eventually free Tibet from Chinese oppression
by non-violent means - was delivered in two speeches at Oak Grove
School last weekend.
Rinpoche, a friend of the school's late founder, J. Krishnamurti,
spoke of how violence only begets violence, a lesson learned
from Krishnamurti. "He was of the most outstanding philosophers
and spiritual teachers of the 20th century."
The Ojai Valley News was granted a one-on-one interview with
Rinpoche last Saturday. There, he talked of the importance of
non-violence and compassion towards our fellow man, and how the
world's leaders today often overlook this and opt for a violent
solution such as war.
"No conflict can be resolved through violence," he
said. "The U.S.A. is thinking they are fighting terrorism.
But they are doing so through violence. This is basically wrong.
Violence cannot put an end to terrorism. It only continues the
At the age of four, Rinpoche entered a monastery in the southeastern
Tibet. At the age of five, he was recognized as a reincarnation
of the fourth Samdhong Rinpoche, and was given the opportunity
for an education. He fled Tibet in 1959 because of Chinese oppression,
and was commissioned by the Dalai Lama in 1960 to go to Dharamsala,
India to work for Tibetans in exile. In 1971, he was hired as
a professor at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies
- a place "set up as an alternative to the Buddhist students
who used to go to Tibet" for higher education and enlightenment,
In 2001, the Dalai Lama changed the ways in which his cabinet
members were elected in order to give Tibetans more freedom of
choice. Rinpoche was the winner, with over 80 percent of Tibet's
voters choosing him as their prime minister. Under the new system,
Rinpoche could choose his own cabinet members, which first had
to be approved by parliament.
Today, Rinpoche and the Dalai Lama are leading the way towards
a free Tibet, one that is "not a separate but for a genuine
autonomy from China," Rinpoche said.
Though many of Tibet's resident youths are growing increasingly
frustrated with their government's non-violent course of action,
Rinpoche noted that there are several reasons why a violent course
of action would be fruitless in the long run. China's army more
than dwarfs the entire population of Tibet, and an actual war
with China would not only be way too expensive for Tibet but
also would hinder international support. Tibet's non-violent
protest against China has brought much sympathy and support to
their cause and has put more pressure on China now than ever
"Non-violence is the only process that can bring a sustainable
result, and while violence may bring some result, it will not
be sustainable," Rinpoche said. He added that Tibet and
its elected officials as well as the Dalai Lama himself want
to be consistent and use the traditional Buddhist techniques
of achieving change.
"It will resolve sooner or later," Rinpoche said of
the Chinese conflict. "Neither side can achieve anything
through violence. Integration and stability (are needed). You
cannot achieve anything through repression. But this process
takes a lot of time."
Rinpoche added that this decade will be one of much change for
Tibet. Already, Rinpoche and several other officials from the
Tibetan government-in-exile have met with Chinese officials,
and more talks and negotiations are planned to take place.
"Violence produces counter-violence," Rinpoche said.
"The whole of history shows this. It is quite obvious that
violence cannot resolve this issue."
The Ojai Valley News
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