Tibetans revel in nature and development

By Maria Morigi Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/16 20:53:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

New Lhasa has wide tree-lined avenues with little traffic and comfortable living quarters that are multiplying. To us, who came from a stay in Nepal with its pervasive chaos, this place is an orderly "paradise:" government offices, police stations, traffic cops, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, driving directions, shops open in the streets.

The old town of Lhasa, with its well-preserved traditional architecture, is a maze of narrow streets and a market around the quadrangle of the Jokhang Monastery Temple, destination of local pilgrims and Tibetans coming from Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces. Accessing the area of the devotional path through security checks, one comes across a discrete presence of police and army. However, it is less evident than in our Italian cities considered the target of possible terrorist attacks.

The security checks are used by proponents of the human rights "schools" to criticize the heavy-handed security measures. But those who decide to go to Tibet are aware of visiting a territory that is part of China since the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). Liberated in late 1950s by the People's Liberation Army, Tibet saw attempts to reach an agreement between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese central government, but it failed. Today we know that the Dalai Lama's escape was orchestrated by reactionary elements funded by foreign powers (the CIA's role is now declassified).

In reality, farmers to whom the use of the land has been returned, have been given more and better choices for life. From the mountain dweller who sells stones and goats to the market to the citizen doing a job, politics is not a central topic. In fact, for the Tibetan, the priority is practicing social peace and their religious beliefs. No ordinary person in Tibet has ever imagined using Buddhism as a political 'club'!

Another subject used for human rights propaganda: the destruction of monasteries and sacred artefacts. Now I am no longer willing to believe voices of those who - already exiled - could not have witnessed the facts. I have recorded even in inaccessible areas works of re-construction, scaffolding and verifiable projects, furniture and other objects stored in an orderly fashion and repositories of cataloged sutras.

And why not talk about the splendor and wealth of palaces and monasteries? I am not new to the sumptuous images of Protectors of the Doctrine, Holy Masters, multiform and irate deities, oracles, "instruments of Salvation" that belong to schools and traditions of Vajrayana Buddhism. But the gold, the precious stones, the silks, the precious paintings, the furniture ... leave one stunned, if one thinks of the misery in which the Tibetan people lived before the region became an autonomous region of China.

Today it is appreciated that this heritage produces tourism and finances public works. As an example of wealth, I was struck by the tomb of the 13th Dalai Lama, built in 1933 at the Potala Palace: the 14-meter-tall giant stupa contains priceless jewels and a ton of gold, among the votive offerings of elephant tusks from India and a pagoda built with over 200,000 pearls.

Ordinary people, not only monks, inhabit Tibet. They are simple people linked to shamanic traditions, oracular cults and Lama Buddhism; people who by now are insensitive to the practice of Tulku (the reincarnation of the Lamas), but who need to be protected by State. These people know how to use the mobile phone with the most advanced applications, even while accompanying the flock or working in the rice fields. They appreciate the new roads built by the government, public works, public schools, the state protection of minorities and various cults, health and public hospitals. All things that were not there under the administration of the Lamas.

For the Tibetan people, having passed from absolute slavery to a relative and guaranteed state of freedom-democracy, which calls for a sense of shared responsibility, does not seem to be a trivial matter.

The author, a scholar on cultural heritage and history of eastern religions, has visited China, Central Asian and Himalayan countries for long periods. Her latest book is The Pearl of the Dragon, State and Religion in China. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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