Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche’s Talk to an exchange group from New Orleans, USA
Facilitator: Rinpoche, thank you for coming today. I have already informed our group about some of your many, many accomplishments over many years; very important work. But I want to just remind the group that Rinpoche has worked for many, many years on behalf of the Tibetan government and he at one point was the head of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, was the Chancellor of this esteemed university, has worked within the Government and has advised His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on many, many important things, and we are truly, truly honored to have you with us today. We greatly thank you for coming today and I know we will all benefit from your many years of experience and great wisdom that you can share with us today. ….
Facilitator (Dr. Ron): Yes, so let me tell you. So our group is from the United States, from the Tulane University, School of Social Work, New Orleans. And these are students in graduate school, they’re studying social work.
Rinpoche: Social work, OK.
Facilitator: Yes, social work, and they are all interested in how they can better serve the communities that they will live in and work in, how they can strengthen those communities, how they can work with families and individuals and the communities and governments to help make these more supportive of the people that live in these communities. So, in many ways I think they have much to learn from the kinds of work that you have been involved in as well. So we’re very honored to have you today. Thank you. And I know some of them have already prepared questions for you as well, so we welcome anything you would like to say on any topic—your work over the years, your current projects and work, and we also have questions to ask of you. So, Thank you.
Rinpoche: I think you should ask the questions before, then we can discuss them. Questions?
Audience member: So we’ve talked a lot about, you’re very involved… You’ve been very, very involved in the Tibetan government, and a lot of times problems in different countries arise because of the lack of understanding of their governments, and I was wondering if you could kind of explain to us the… We’ve learned a lot about Tibetan culture through our visit, and [could you explain] the philosophy of… Maybe if there’s a Tibetan philosophy of governing? Or working together…in a governmental position?
Rinpoche: Okay. Any other questions?
Audience member: I was talking about this with one of our colleagues yesterday. Michael told me that you subscribe to some Marxist philosophy, and I wanted to ask you something. We visited an Indian slum through Tong-Len Centre yesterday, where the lowest caste lives, and I was just curious…
Audience member: And I was…just from my perception, it seemed that, you know, I mean people are living in such poverty and it seemed that the real obstacle in India to any meaningful revolution or class change come from the oppression of the caste system, or, you know, from the caste system. And I just wanted to hear your thoughts on that, because I’m sure you have a lot of them.
Rinpoche: I have a number of limitations in entering a really engaged dialogue with you. The first limitation is my knowledge of the language. I’ve never been able to learn the English language; it was just picked up from everywhere. So at many times I find it difficult to verbalise my thoughts into proper language. And the second limitation is that I am a stranger to you, we are meeting for the first time here. I have no understanding of your background, your level of understanding, and your attitudes and how you look at things from your perspective. So therefore we might have entirely different outlooks, even though the matter may be the same thing to be examined or to be discussed. And thirdly, before I came here, I received a letter from Mr. Ngawang Rabgyal, and it said I should give an introductory talk on Buddhism. An introductory talk on Buddhism in one session is quite difficult. As such I was wondering how to start and how to end. Now you have asked two important questions. I will try to refer to the basic principles of Buddhist teachings, and then come to these two different questions. That way we might be able to build up a kind of dialogue, or an examination of these questions.
All the different traditions of Dharma, spiritual traditions, and also the philosophical traditions, originated in a historical sequence of events, so therefore if you look into the traditions more deeply, you will find something that has been influenced by the historical things of that time. So Buddhism is not an exception. When Buddha appeared in India, 2556 or 2557 years ago, the Indian social, political, and economic conditions did have some bearing on the Buddha’s teaching. Of course it has not entered into the basic principles of philosophy. ….
And then of course every religion or every philosophy is an outcome of the human search for liberation. All sentient beings, not only human beings, all sentient beings, all living beings are of a common nature. This common nature is liking happiness and disliking unhappiness. A desire to achieve happiness, pleasure, and a desire to discard pain and misery and unhappiness. This is the basic feature of a living being. And by that, right from the smallest insects like an ant, to those with a huge body like an elephant and those who are intelligent like a human being, by nature they are all looking for a liberation from bondage, liberation from misery and unhappiness. Less intelligent individuals, they can only think of discarding immediate pain and displeasure, they are not able to examine the causes and how to eradicate those causes, and thereby achieve permanent freedom from all kinds of unhappiness and misery. The more intelligent people, the proponents of spiritual traditions and philosophical traditions, they are always looking for the permanent liberation from the cause of all misery. So I think that inquiry is the basic cause of all the spiritual traditions, all of the different Dharmas, all of the different philosophies. ….
Of course, in the later stages there are a number of material philosophies—like Marxism or many other social philosophies or economic philosophies—which do not inquire into the permanent solution of all misery, but rather the immediate social, economic problems,. The later stage deals with immediate problems. Otherwise, if we look at all the spiritual and religious traditions, their inquiry is: what is the cause of misery to all sentient beings? And is there any way to overcome these causes to find a permanent solution, permanent freedom from the inevitable unhappiness and pain and misery. So that’s why the Buddha’s first teaching after attaining enlightenment, his first sermon at Sarnath, is dealing with the Four Noble Truths.
The four noble truths are: What is misery? What is the cause of misery? How do we achieve the cessation of misery? What is the path to achieving the cessation of misery? So this sums up the entirety of Buddha’s philosophy. And in that process, Buddha is talking about the progression of misery. And he categorises misery into three kinds: The misery of misery, the changing misery, and the vessel or the basis of misery. So, unless we can see the nature of these three different kinds of misery, we are not able to see the misery as it is, and we are not able to find its cause in a pervasive way.
If we look back at Siddhartha’s life story, very interesting life; when he was visiting around the township he saw an old person, he saw a diseased person, he saw a dead body. And for us, these are just common things. Day in and day out we see these things, but it does not bother us, it does not give us any special sensation or feeling. But Siddhartha had the sensitiveness, a sharp sensitivity, and he could relate these things to all sentient beings. ….And he had a dialogue with his chariot driver, to whom Siddhartha asked, “What is this?” and the charioteer responded, “This is old age.” And Siddhartha’s second question was, “Does old age come to a few people or is it inevitable for all?” and the charioteer replied, “No, everyone has a youthful body which is bound to decay into old age. And time goes by… even You, Prince Siddhartha, while you are at this moment very youthful, after fifty years, eighty years, you will also enter this kind of situation. And similarly, disease comes not limited to a few people, it comes to everybody. And death is…” So the charioteer’s reply was that this is inevitable for all who are born, that they will inevitably meet with death. This pervasiveness…no one is free from going through this kind of pain.
Then Siddhartha saw the senselessness of worldly pleasures. And then he also realised that all the pleasures that are being experienced now are going to disappear, disintegrate, and that it is all impermanent. And all the pleasures which we are experiencing now are bound to change. And when it changes, our sense of self…(indistinct recording). You are enjoying something very pleasurable when it decays, it goes away. ….that is changing misery. And this changing misery and the misery of misery—like obvious misery, like disease and death and old age—both of these, the changing misery and the misery of misery, take place on our body. Our body is the result of the karmic force and the mental defilements. The karmic force is created, and accommodated due to the mental defilements. Our mind has defilements: attachment, hatred and ignorance, they are in Sanskrit rāga, dveṣa, moha. Rāga, attachment, is to be attached to something, to be desirous; dveṣa, hatred, is to dislike something, and the cause of these two mental defilements is the ignorance of reality.
So, due to these three defilements of the mind, the force of karma is created, and the force of karma takes place on your body. As soon as you are bound with your body, you have no freedom to operate your consciousness without the baggage of the karmic force and the mental defilements; you are not free and you are bound perpetually to the three different kinds of miseries. So this is how the Buddha realised and perceived things happening in reality.
Therefore, if you need to get freedom from this karmic bondage, the mental defilements and the karmic force, you have to see the things as they are. You have to see the selflessness, or the interdependent nature of all. It might be the ultimate truth or it might be the relative truth, all of these exist through interdependent nature, through interrelatedness. This interrelatedness is expressed in the Buddhist technical terminology: pratītya-sam-utpāda, the Sanskrit word is pratītya-sam-utpāda. It means that all the existences exist interdependently, and also are designated from the name and the mind, the thought.
So this is the basic philosophy of Buddha, the interdependent arising. The interdependent arising gives you insight into the possibility of eradicating entirely the cause of misery, ignorance; ignorance can be completely eradicated. This is the basic outlook of Buddha’s teaching.
Now the Buddha’s teaching gives three different approaches. If you are just a beginner, an ordinary person, there is one approach in terms of the Buddha dharma; if you are more mature and have more capacity to think, there is a different approach; and then if you have the highest intellect and capacity of mind, then you have an approach suitable to that. In the Buddhist terminology, we call it the three capable persons, the three puruṣa: the adham puruṣa, the beginner; madhyam puruṣa, the middling person; and mahā puruṣa, the great person. And these three have different objectives to achieve, and different ways to achieve those objectives.
Now, I have mentioned the karmic force, and the mental defilements, kleśa and karma. How does one determine which kind of action is a positive action, and which kind of action is a negative action, and which are neutral? Any action can be inclusive into one of these three categories: a positive action, a negative action, or a neutral action which is neither positive nor negative. With all good actions and bad actions, you must look into the nature of the action: Does it cause harm or cause any kind of violence to any sentient being, directly or indirectly? If your action has the possibility of harming any other sentient being, directly or indirectly, that action is a negative action. If you commit such an action, then you have accumulated a negative karma on your consciousness and that is going to have a result. That result will be in the aspect of pain and unhappiness. And if your action is directly or indirectly causing a benefit or help to any other sentient being, that is a positive karma. And that positive karma will also influence your consciousness, will have a result, and that result will be in the form of pleasure and happiness. So this is the nature of karmic reality. …. And if your action does not cause a benefit or harm to any other person, that karma does not have any force and it is neither positive nor negative. Actually, it will not have any kind of result afterwards.
Then the question arises: Why is a violent act a negative act? Why is a non-violent act a positive act? There are two different ways of looking at this. The beginners, mentioned earlier, the adham puruṣa, their logic is that if they harm any other sentient being, that sentient being will feel suffering; by causing suffering to another sentient being, the person causing the suffering will definitely experience unhappiness as a result of that action. Therefore the attitude or the logic is self-centered. ‘It will give me a bad result, therefore I must refrain from all kinds of harm or violence.’ There the attitude comes out of a self-centered way of thinking: I shall have to suffer as a consequence, therefore I must refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misbehaviour, lying—all these physical or vocal or mental negative things I should not do. Because if I do it, I shall suffer. I shall have to pay the consequence, the result will be bad for me. As such, this is from the selfish viewpoint—one perspective on negative actions.
The greater people, they do not think from the selfish viewpoint. They think that all sentient beings are equal: I do not like misery, others also do not like misery. The other person is much more important, the other sentient being is much more important, than myself. As such, for the sake of others’ well-being, so that others do not experience any misery or pain, I should not harm others. So I must exchange myself for the others, I put the others in my own place, and I put myself in the others’ place. If the others harm me, how would I feel? And similarly, I must understand that if I do some harmful things to others, it will not be good or will not be taken positively by others. And due to the importance of others’ well-being and others’ welfare, I will refrain from violent action. Applied also is the understanding of interdependent origination, that ultimately the self and the other, they are all related things. In this relation we cannot differentiate the self from the other and the other from the self. If we look from the philosophical viewpoint, all things are equal and all are interdependent. But this way of understanding the interdependent origination is at the basic perspective, how to refrain from all kinds of violent action.
And that is how we look to the basis of Buddha’s teaching. And when it applies to a social or political field, the basic philosophy is non-violence. Non-violence is the essence of the entire Buddha’s teaching, and the practice of non-violence is the entire essence of the practice of Buddha dharma, Buddhist spirituality, in one’s life. So when I work as a community leader for the Tibetans in exile, when I was elected as the head of Kashag, the Cabinet, in the Tibetan Administration-in-exile, I mentioned to my people that all my actions, all my decisions, would be governed by two basic principles: truth and non-violence. If anything goes counter to the principles of truth and non-violence, whatever it may be, whether very popular or unpopular, liked or disliked by the people, my decision would be governed by these two basic principles of truth and non-violence. And fortunately we are in exile, we do not have any territory, we do not need to maintain law and order, we do not need to defend any territorial borders. So therefore just in exile, as a community, we only have to look after the welfare of the Tibetans in exile, which is very easy. Therefore we are able to abide by these two basic principles and not indulge in any kind of violence. ….
Otherwise, today’s principle of diplomacy is largely based on untruthfulness and made-up things, concocted things, that is how people deal diplomatically. We do not need to do any of this kind of diplomacy and we are able to deal with things quite properly. And in this context, the most difficult thing was to engage with authorities of the People’s Republic of China. During my tenure we have had several rounds of dialogue with them. Nine times His Holiness’ representatives and PRC authorities had an extensive dialogue to find some resolution to the Tibetan issue. During that dialogue, to remain truthful and to not indulge in the modern techniques of negotiation or diplomacy, and to say things very bluntly, to call a spade a spade, so to speak, was considered to be unwise by many of our friends. But we were able to stick to our own way of dealing and we never told any lie or any untruthful statement or tried to engage them by some kind of appeasing method. ….
Then there were a number of so-called infrastructure and development projects in the Tibetan settlements, the camps and Tibetan settlement areas. And that involves the department offices up here. Of course during my tenure I privatised all business ventures which were owned by the Central Tibetan Administration, because it is almost impossible to do things truthfully and without any exploitation. So we have privatised all the business ventures. But in spite of that, even the privatising of all the business ventures (indistinct recording)…there are other projects: water conservation and environmental things. There are many infrastructure constructions and projects in the Tibetan settlement camps. And that is a difficult task because apparently, or not even apparently, they may head towards exploitation of nature or exploitation of people, requiring careful guidance. And for that we have prepared some cross-cutting criteria for all our economic projects, and we put forward four cross-cutting criteria.
The first is non-violence. Any project which directly or indirectly causes violence to anyone will not be accepted. Non-violence is the first criterion. And the second criterion is to be eco-friendly. So any project which is causing harm to the ecosystem, the environment, will not do. And the third is sustainability, whether the project will be sustained in the future, technologically….and raw materials, from both sides whether it is sustainable or not. That needs to be examined. And the fourth is the benefit, the profit or benefit: will it reach the poorest of the poor? There are many projects that help rich people, but the benefit doesn’t reach the poorest of the poor.
So these four criteria have been very strictly applied to all our economic projects and in that way we make a conscious effort to do things according to the Buddha’s teachings and also according to the law of nature. Not harming, not exploiting, and not consuming more than is needed. So these things, the Buddha’s teachings and our practical experience, have helped us quite greatly.
Then the second question about the caste system in India. Two thousand and five hundred years ago, when Buddha appeared in India, at that time, the caste system, and particularly caste discrimination, was at a high level. All the then prevalent traditions taught about the different natures of the castes and thereby each caste had its own set of rights and responsibilities. And then there was the concept of untouchability, that people of a certain caste cannot touch the high caste people, and that the high caste people cannot touch low caste people, and the low caste people cannot study the philosophy or the scriptural literature; and they cannot enter temples, and their responsibilities are to sweep the dirt and tasks like that, to be servile to the people. So this kind of discrimination was very much there.
When Buddha taught, he dismissed the caste system altogether and he taught that all of humanity is equal, the same, that there is no difference between castes. And among the Buddha’s disciples, the Buddhist saṅgha, the ordained, many highly-placed arhats and bodhisattvas used to belong to the so-called low caste; and after Buddhism flourished in India, the caste system was quite reduced. ….The exploitation of the low caste was much reduced due to the Buddhist influence.
But after the 11th century/12th century, Buddhism disappeared from India, and again the caste system was revived, and not only revived, it was consciously encouraged by the colonisers. Because it is an easy way to divide the people, and the Mughals—before the British, India was occupied by the Mughals—who also very much encouraged the caste system. Then later on with the British Empire, they also used this to divide the Indian community. It may not be like in the ancient times, but still you can feel it, you can see it in many places within the Indian community.
And that lead to a very unique event. That unique event was the appearance of B. R. Ambedkar, a low-caste leader, and he was a barrister from London and he was very highly educated, and was greatly respected by the low-caste people. He had differences with Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi was also very much in favour of opposing the caste system, and Gandhi tried to uplift the low-trodden caste; Gandhi tried to persuade the religious leaders, all of them, to enter the temples and study religious scriptures, so on and so forth. Gandhi was very much involved in abolishing of, doing away with, the caste system, and he gave a new name to the low-caste people: harijan. Hari is the name of God, and jan means the people. The harijan, the translation is “people of God.” Gandhi considered the low-caste people nearer to God than the high-caste people.
I don’t know the basic political reason why Ambedkar and Gandhi had certain differences. Later on they compromised and entered into some agreement, which is called The Puna Agreement. Then Gandhi and Ambedkar both joined the people, for the independence of India. Then later on, Ambedkar had the opportunity to work in the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution, the present Constitution. The present constitution was basically drafted by B.R. Ambedkar, although he was not given a free hand and he was not happy with the outcome of the Constitution.
Ambedkar was looking for a way to bring a revolution against the caste system. And during that process, he was approached by Christians, he was approached by the Sikhs, and he was approached by the Muslims, offering that if he converted to be a Muslim or a Sikh or a Christian, he could do much better work to dismantle the caste system altogether. But he was not satisfied, he studied all the scriptures, and later on he was influenced by a Burmese monk, a Burmese Buddhist monk, and then at the end of his life, Ambedkar converted to Buddhism. And several hundred thousands of “the low-caste” people converted to the Buddhist fold. They are now called Ambedkarites or sometimes as “New Buddhists.” Unfortunately they did not have an in-depth and comprehensive study of Buddhism, because after their conversion to Buddhism, Baba Ambedkar lived only a few months and then he passed away. And he was not able to give a Buddhist education to his followers, thereby his followers were more outspoken, political-minded. Now they have become much milder, they have more educated people at this moment.
The caste system is an illogical thing. And also the caste system is not just a way of looking at a group of humanity. During the Independence moment of India, there were two very powerful leaders who were against the caste system. One was Mahatma Gandhi and the other was B.R. Ambedkar. And B.R. Ambedkar was very much part of the Indian Constitution, of creating the constitution. The constitution was very strongly worded that the caste system would be illegal and the Constitution’s provisions state that anyone commits caste discrimination it will be a criminal act and can be punished, very severely punished. But unfortunately the Constitution’s provisions have not been implemented in the real life. And I consider this to be due to India’s present system of so-called multi-party democracy.
The multi-party democracy was very much condemned by Gandhi, right from the beginning. Gandhi was not in favour of a parliamentary system, Gandhi was not in favour of a multi-party system. And he always talked about a decentralised Swaraj. Swaraj means Autonomy, people’s autonomy. And Gandhi believed that the real democracy could be established with no centralised power, and that the Central Government would only be responsible for foreign relations and diplomatic relations with other countries, otherwise the entire social and economic matters of the nation should be governed by village people. And he named it “Village Swaraj,” Village Autonomy. And the village people must manage the entire welfare of the village people’s health, education, economy, social welfare—everything should be decentralised. Not only decentralised, his exact words were “not centralised.” There should not be any centralisation. But this was not implemented…Gandhi was assassinated just one year after independence. His recommendation was that as soon as Independence was gained, on the 15th of August in 1947, the Congress party, which had become the ruling party of the independent country, must be dissolved, and that the Congress party members must become the welfare-service social workers of the villages, they should go to the villages and they should work as social workers, do social service in the villages. But no one paid any attention to Gandhi’s recommendation.
So after sixty-eight years of India’s Independence, and after sixty-two years of the adoption of the Constitution, the caste system is still visible. And now this caste system is being used by the various political parties. And it is good for the political parties to build up a so-called “vote bank.” And if they have a particular caste in their favour, the entire voting population of that caste can remain in block for the specific political party.
The basic principles of the democracy, the rule of law, people’s voting—but all this cannot go with the competition of the various political parties. Unless there is a will of common, or common will, democracy seems to be very difficult. The choice of the system, of a two-party system or a system of several parties, whatever it may be, that is based on competition. And the system of competition can only survive on the basis of selfish interest, because competition means that you win and the others lose. Competition never means that you should lose and others should win. Winning or losing is a very inappropriate choice. If there could be any choice, it should be of a win and win situation, not of competition, but of cooperation. A real people’s rule can be established if there is cooperation, and cooperation and competition never go together. So that is how I look, from my viewpoint. It is in the most unfortunate parts of India that there still remains caste system and the caste discrimination; not only a caste system, there is discrimination among the castes. And this is one of the most disadvantages for this great nation to prosper properly.
Sorry, one hour has elapsed completely…I think I should stop here. Any other comments or further queries?
Facilitator: Rinpoche, in your time with the government, you attempted to have a relationship with China. It must be very difficult if your principles are truth and non-violence, because…I don’t pretend to fully understand the Chinese government, but my very naïve belief is that they do not operate with principles of truth and nonviolence, so I wonder…I know this must be very difficult for the Tibetan government-in-exile to communicate with and to work with the Chinese government and I wonder if you could tell us anything about where that is right now, how the relationship is now, is there any attempt at, are there further continuing talks or dialogue with the government-in-exile and the central Chinese government?
Rinpoche: As to the present situation, I have no knowledge. Since my retirement on the 8th of August 2011 I have disassociated myself from all the organisations. When I completed my tenure there was no communication with the PRC at that moment because by January 2010, it was the last course of the dialogues; at that time we had submitted a Note on a Memorandum. In 2009 we had given them a comprehensive Memorandum. That Memorandum spelled out all the details as to how genuine Autonomy can be granted to the entire Tibetan people within the Constitution of the PRC. PRC has one Constitution. Of course they do not implement it, but there is a written Constitution; it is called the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. And then there’s another law which is called the “Autonomy Law” that was also passed by the People’s Parliament, and that is a legal document.
After seven rounds of dialogue with them, the Chinese representative says that His Holiness is talking about genuine Autonomy, real Autonomy, high-level Autonomy, that there are many different terms His Holiness has used, but that he has not come up with his demands, exactly what he wants, what kind of Autonomy he is asking for. So we said, Well, we are prepared to tell you what His Holiness wants. Then we prepared a Memorandum on genuine Autonomy for all Tibetan people. We presented clause by clause, the Constitution and Autonomy Law, and for each clause we said, This is the clause in the Constitution and this is the clause in the Autonomy Law, which are the provisions given to the Tibetan people. Now, how this can be applied to the Tibetan people, here are the methods for applying.
So that was the Memorandum, it was a comprehensive document of about 50-55 pages, which is available on the Internet—English, Tibetan, Chinese, available in all those languages. That is the basic document. And after we gave them this document, [the Chinese government] commented that this is no less than Independence in disguise, and that it is not applicable and that we had not understood the Constitution, and that the Constitution does not mean… So they had certain comments, and in response to their comments, we again submitted a Note, which was a Note on the Memorandum. And that is the second document, and in that we have explained how their comments were not true and explained what we mean. We gave this document to them during the ninth round of talks in the beginning of 2010.
And after giving that document, they had no genuine response to that because all our documents are very clearly based on Constitutional provisions and their legal provisions. And what we have interpreted was current in accordance with the Chinese law which the professionals use as well, and the international legality also supports our point. These two documents were the most important documents. After submitting this second document, then during my tenure I could not have another round of talks with them. And then after my retirement, I do not know; but the new Administration might have some different channels of communication that I’ll support, but I have no knowledge about it.
So now His Holiness’ position is very clear; if anybody reads the Memorandum and the Note on the Memorandum, our position is crystal clear. We have dealt with each point of the Constitution and of the Law and we also argued that it is very easily possible to be implemented.
Now there are two basic differences between them. In our Memorandum, what we have said is that the Tibetan nationalities are one nationality among the 54 minor nationalities in China, so therefore the Autonomous Region should be under one administration. At this moment, the Tibetans are divided into 11 small parts. The Tibet Autonomous Region is about 60% of the Tibetan people, 40% are out. The 40% are the Tibet autonomous prefectures and districts and many other small, small things, they are divided; so what we are demanding is to make one Tibetan Autonomous Region, because it is one minority nationality, and the entire Tibetan people should be within the one Autonomous Region. They say, ‘You are asking for the greater Tibet, and this is not possible.’ But unfortunately we didn’t have further lines of dialogue; it can be negotiated but the negotiations didn’t take place. …You were saying something?
Audience member: I was just trying to clarify all of this in my own mind. I understand that you asked to be recognised by what is laid out in the PRC Constitution, and they denied that. …But in that round of dialogue, you said, you were seeking autonomy for one of the 11 regions in Tibet?
Rinpoche: 11 regions combined as one Tibet Autonomous Region.
Audience member: Ok. So that’s not the same as the Middle Path, or am I misunderstanding?
Rinpoche: That is the Middle Path. The Middle Path means not seeking separation and not being satisfied with the present situation. One side is seeking separation, which we are not seeking. We are very much willing to abide by the Constitution of the PRC. And whatever the Constitution provides, we are not asking anything outside of the Constitution. The Constitution is the Constitution, and what is provided in the Constitution should be…For example, the Constitution says, all the minority people in the Autonomous Region must use their official language, and they should be able to do every work in their language, even in courts they should be able to make applications and arguments in their own language. This is not implemented, but the Constitution is saying that. So our demand is that, yes, this provision must be implemented. Or you change the Constitution, then there is a different question. If you amend the Constitution, then there is a different question.
Then similarly the Constitution says the Autonomous Regions must have the first say over the natural resources, to exploit the natural resources, and how to use them and how to use the appropriate amount of the natural resources. And all the exploitation, extracting of natural resources must be initiated by the Autonomous Region’s administration. And this is not happening. All the natural resources have been exploited by the PRC Central Government. So what we say is, this is the Constitutional provision, this is the law’s provision, and we must get these provisions to be granted, to be implemented.
And similarly, the Autonomous Regions should have control over Immigration, just like Hong Kong; Hong Kong has control over Immigration. And both the Constitution and the Autonomy Law say that the Autonomous Regions must have the power to regulate immigration. But the Tibetans do not have this power. So we say that we are not demanding that the Chinese should go out or that the Chinese should not come to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, but there must be some regulation. What kind of criteria should be fulfilled if someone is settling in the Tibetan Autonomous Region or if someone is immigrating there? There should be some regulations like Hong Kong. So these are the provisions of the Constitution, provisions of the law and they should be implemented. If you are interested you should look into the Memorandum.
Audience member: And the PRC response is available on the Internet as well?
Rinpoche: Their responses are not available. Their responses are only in the news, which are not recorded online. They only tell these things in news conferences and the statements are not recorded on our website.
Audience: Thank you.
Facilitator: Rinpoche, thank you very much.
Rinpoche: You are most welcome.
(Note: The last question and the response are not included here. This talk was given on 23 Sept. 2014, at Lha Charitable Trust, Institute for Social Work & Education, McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala.)