“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief, “There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief …”

Bob Dylan, All Along The Watchtower

This website addresses complex issues related to Tibet, Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama as well as Buddhism in general.

The articles included here provide information, detailed scholarship, analyses and opinions on these issues.

With that, we hope to counter the overblown caricatures or simplistic and often ideologically tainted portrayals of these issues, circulating on the internet or elsewhere in the name of enlightening us.

Since the vast majority of academic writing that uses Sanskrit is conducted in transliteration, we use another typeface (FF Fago) for those articles because it is capable of handling the characters necessary for transliterated Sanskrit.

Tenzin Peljor is responsible for producing this web site.

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Buddhism in the West

Jay Garfield

  Buddhism in the West
Jay Garfield examines what happens when Buddhism and the transmission of Buddhism moves into the West and how Buddhist practice and Buddhist ideas themselves develop, evolve or transform through interaction with Western culture.

Buddhist Monks

  The Ever-Changing Forms of Buddhism
James Blumenthal sees a great advantage in Buddhism’s current situation, where lineages from various countries and traditions are coming into contact with one another and influencing one another in profound and subtle ways.

Manjushri

  The Three Turnings of The Wheel of Dharma – Why They Are Each Essential To All of Us
Jay Garfield calls on Mahayana practitioners to read and study the suttas and commentaries from the Pali tradition and explains why this is important. He suggests a different way of thinking about the relationship between the three turnings of the wheel in terms of three different subject matters.

Buddhist monk

  Thinking through Texts: Toward a Critical Buddhist Theology of Sexuality
José Ignacio Cabezón recommends thinking through Buddhist texts when examining sexual ethics in Buddhism. A critical appraisal of the doctrine also involves understanding the context in which these ideas were elaborated.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness: Search Inside Yourself

Mindfulness has become an essential part of Western psychology and marries even with capitalism … however, there are different views as to what it actually is

Buddhist monk debating

Georges Dreyfus examines the definition and use of the term ‘mindfulness’ in Western and traditional Buddhist context:
  Is Mindfulness Present-Centered and Nonjudgmental? – A Discussion of the Cognitive Dimensions of Mindfulness

Jay Garfield

Jay Garfield shows how mindfulness is essential not only for the development of insight, but also for the cultivation and maintenance of ethical discipline in
  Mindfulness and Ethics: Attention, Virtue and Perfection

Ornament

The Root of Tibetan Buddhism

Seventeen Pandits

James Blumenthal introduces the most important Mahayana Buddhist masters:
  The Seventeen Pandits of Nalanda Monastery


Further readings


Tibetan Buddhism

Buddhist Monk studying

  What is Tibetan Buddhism all about?

  Buddhist Meditation Traditions in Tibet: The Union of Three Vehicles by Georgios T. Halkias

Buddhist monk in Drepung monastery, India

  How is education & life in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery?

  Tibetan Monastic Colleges: Rationality Versus the Demands of Allegiance by Jeffrey Hopkins

Corpse field Jamyang Khyentse Wangchug

  What about violence in Tibetan Buddhism?

  “Orientalism” and Aspects of Violence in the Tibetan Tradition Elliot Sperling

Tibetan king Lang Dharma

  Is it justifiable to kill a tyrant out of compassion?

  Compassionate Killing or Conflict Resolution? The Murder of King Langdarma according to Tibetan Buddhist Sources by Jens Schlieter

Khunu Lama

  Khunu Lama: The life of an Indian saint

  Negi Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen – A preliminary account of the life of a modern Buddhist saint by Thierry Dodin

Buddhist nuns – debating

  The need to enable full ordination for women

  Full Ordination of Women – Interview with the XIV. Dalai Lama by Michaela Doepke

Ornament

Teacher Student Relationship

Buddha Teacher Guru Student Chris Banigan

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso

14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso

  The 14th Dalai Lama has acquired the stature of international star. Why are people so taken now by the Dalai Lama? This essay addresses these questions by examining some of the ideas with which the Dalai Lama is associated, particularly among Westerners who see him as embodying the fundamental principles of Buddhism.

  From Protective Deities to International Stardom: An Analysis of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s Stance towards Modernity and Buddhism by Georges B. Dreyfus

Dalai Lama Joseph Beuys Louwrien Wijers

  The “lost discourse” between contemporary art and Tibetan Buddhism …

Culminating in the 1980s, one can speak of a kind of permanent conference of the mind having been instrumental in such artists as Beuys and Filliou, and spiritual masters as the 14th Dalai Lama and Sogyal Rinpoche.

  Exploring contemporary and modern art: HH the Dalai Lama reflects on points from the work of Joseph Beuys by Louwrien Wijers

Dalai Lama Interviews

Tibet

International Law Tibet

  Is Tibet legally Chinese territory? Is there a legal title which could justify this claim to Tibet by the People’s Republic of China?

  Tibet’s Status Under International Law by Eckart Klein

The Tibetans: A Struggle to Survive, Steve Lehman, Robert Barnett

  An authoritative perspective on the 1987–89 pro-independence protests and stereotypes that have clouded Western perceptions of the situation.

  Essay: The Tibetans by Robert Barnett

mass death in Tibet

  Mass death in Tibet: 1.2 million Tibetan deaths over two to three decades is the figure that is almost always cited. But this figure has no reliable foundation.

  The Body Count by Elliot Sperling

Nomad with fox hat

  Pico Iyer’s account of the fourteenth Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of Tibet and the 1987–1989 Tibetan unrest in Tibet.

  Thunder from Tibet by Robert Barnett

CIA in Tibet

  Tenzing Sonam, who made a remarkable documentary film for the BBC, reveals how the CIA once helped his people fight their oppressors.

  CIA in Tibet: A Secret War in Shangri-La by Patrick French

Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama

  Tibetan democracy is a very different kind of democracy compared with other democratic systems prevailing in other countries.

  “Tibetan” Democracy by Dhondup Tsering


Tibet Myths, Propaganda and Facts: Correcting Misrepresentations

Authenticating Tibet Cover

  Human Rights in Tibet before 1959
Robert Barnett examines claims by China such as: 1) before 1959, all except 5 percent of the Tibetan population were slaves or serfs in a feudal system in which they were regarded as saleable private property, had no land or freedom, and were subject to punishment by mutilation or amputation; 2) serfs were liable to be tortured or killed; and 3) economy and culture were stagnant for centuries, life expectancy was 35.5 years, illiteracy was over 90 percent, 12 percent of Lhasa’s population were beggars, and the Dalai Lama was responsible for all of this …

Tibet as Hell on Earth

  Tibet as “Hell on Earth”
Elliot Sperling puts China’s “Serfs Emancipation Day” and their strong ambition to dominate the Tibetan historical view into perspective. “There’s no doubt that Tibet’s traditional society was hierarchical and backwards, replete with aristocratic estates and a bound peasantry. And there’s no doubt that Tibetans, whether in exile or in Tibet voice no desire to restore such a society. Many Tibetans will readily admit that the social structure was highly inegalitarian. But it was hardly the cartoonish, cruel ‘Hell-on-Earth’ that Chinese propaganda has portrayed it to be.”

Shanrgi la

  The Myth of Shangri-la
Tsering Shakya wonders and investigates why the public support of the Tibetan cause has not materialised into political action. “Why is it that no major political party has dared to pass a single resolution on Tibet?” Shakya shows that the causes for this lack of political action are not only issues of realpolitik, but also how the West perceives Tibet and interprets the Tibetan political struggle. Western perceptions of Tibet and the images they have produced about Tibet “have hampered the Tibetan political cause. The constant mythologisation of Tibet has obscured and confused the real nature of the Tibetan political struggle.”

Shanrgi La in Exile

  Shangri-la in Exile: Representations of Tibetan Identity and Transnational Culture
In this paper Toni Huber is primarily concerned with the representational style and agenda of a new type of Tibetan exile self-image. He outlines the social and historical context of their appearance and he considers the manner of their deployment by the exile community. He discusses four main points, 1) the reinvention of a kind of modern, liberal Shangri-la image of Tibet; 2) how new identity images are largely the creation of a political and intellectual elite in exile; 3) that it is the experience of the diaspora that provides the initial stimulus for a modern Tibetan identity production; and 4) though the “myth of Tibet” was historically a Western enterprise, new Tibetan exile identity claims represent, at least in part, an appropriation of the Western discourse about Tibet

Imagining Tibet Cover

Imagining Tibet: Perceptions, Projections, and Fantasies

Most of the essays in this book are based on papers presented at the International Symposium “Mythos Tibet” held in Bonn, Germany, in May 1996. This site offers alltogether six papers from this book.

Buddhism in the West

  Buddhism in the West and the Image of Tibet
L.S. Dagyab Kyabgön explores the genesis of the Western image of Tibet. “Europeans usually see in Tibet that which seems familiar to them—such as the apparent similarities between the religious customs of Tibet and the Catholic Church. On the other hand, Europeans judge the uniqueness of Tibet to lie either in its backwardness or in its manifestation of that which the West has lost. … Its seclusion lent the country an aura of mystery and magic. For this reason, Tibet offered itself as a screen upon which Western fantasies could be projected.”

Buddhist Monk Sayka Monastery, Tibet

  “Violated Specialness”: Western Political Representations of Tibet
Robert Barnett endeavors to map in his paper ways in which the Western representation of Tibet has appeared in political texts in the West since the mid-1980s, and he examines the impact of such representations on the policies of foreign governments. “In doing so, I am responding to recent reductionist depictions of Tibetans engaged in the contemporary political and cultural domains as more or less trapped subjects of Western constructions. My study takes a different approach, looking at representations in terms of their functions and intended effects. In particular, I suggest that, rather than merely responding to Western discourses which emerged following the expansion of the Tibetan advocacy movement in late 1987, exile Tibetan policy-makers were already by then encouraging this trend as part of an intended and considered strategy. In doing so, they were continuing a tradition of Tibetan political self-representation, using images which were developed in Lhasa long before the Chinese invasion and which they have continued to shape and reconstruct in response to changes in their conditions and objectives.”

Dalai Lama as a Hollywood star

The Final Chapter of Imagining Tibet

  Between Shangri-la and Feudal Oppression – Attempting a Synthesis
Thierry Dodin and Heinz Räther give an historical overview of the myth of Tibet and attempt to find an historically correct description of Tibet between the extremes of Shangri-la and feudal oppression.

Ornament

“Nazi-Tibet-Connection”

If you google “Nazi-Tibet-Connection” google gives you about 225,000 results. If you search for “Tibetan uprising” Google lists about 185,000 results. The latter has historic significance but the alleged Nazi-Tibet connection is primarily the fabrication of some self-appointed “experts”. These self-styled “agents of enlightenment” who, while purporting to bring light into darkness and to demythologize Tibet, actually construct new myths by skillfully mixing fact with fiction—deliberately or not.

The following three papers by Historian and Tibetologist Isrun Engelhardt untangle the long, multilayered and complex process that finally generated the alleged Nazi-Tibetan connection.

Nazi Tibet myths

  This paper has two aims: first, to describe the long, multilayered and complex process that finally generated an alleged Nazi-Tibetan connection; and second, to lay to rest the oft-repeated claim that the Ernst Schäfer Tibet expedition of 1938–39 had some occult purpose.

  Nazis of Tibet: A Twentieth Century Myth by Isrun Engelhardt

Letter envelope Hitler Reting

NEW  In 1939, Tibet’s regent, Reting Rinpoche, wrote two letters to the German leader at the time, Adolf Hitler. Although not the most important result of the Schäfer expedition, it became perhaps the most famous, serving as a basis for the ongoing Nazi-Tibet myth.

  Mishandled Mail: The Strange Case of the Reting Regent’s Letters to Hitler by Isrun Engelhardt

Ernst Schäfer

  Ernst Schäfer’s German expedition to Tibet has been the subject of sensationalist and ill-informed films, books, and articles on the internet. Many of these focus upon its alleged political objectives and secret occultism, a focus which has given rise to increasingly wild speculations.

  Tibet In 1938–1939: The Ernst Schäfer Expedition to Tibet Isrun Engelhardt

Ornament

Further readings


Christian Missionaries in Tibet

Christian Missionaries in Tibet

Controversies

Tibet 2007: Nomad with fox hat. Olaf Schubert

The Dorje Shugden Controversy

Show More …

Dorje Shugden – A Distant and Critical Perspective

More About Shugden…

Tibet, CIA, Tibetan Guerrillas, and the Dalai Lama

Kalachakra and Shambala Myth


Buddhist Organisations · Buddhist Teachers

Transform Your Life Kadampa

Karmapa Controversy

Lama Ole Nydahl / Diamond Way Buddhism

¹ The file was kindly provided by Geoffrey Samuel. His expert testimony was requested for a court case in New Zealand. The court case was about the ownership of a Dharma centre belonging to the Karma Kagyu Trust.
² Burkhard Scherer is a disciple of Lama Ole Nydahl. See: Random House, 16 April 2012.

Soka Gakkai International (SGI)

FWBO was renamed in Triratna Buddhist Order (TBO/FTBO)

Geshe Michael Roach

Thich Thien Son

Thich Thien Son, Zen Master and Abbot of Pagode Phat Hue (Frankfurt) and »Buddhas Weg« (Odenwald), was expelled from the »German Vinaya Sangha Association« (DBO) on the 24th of December 2010. The expulsion was made after a thorough investigation. The DBO had received five affidavits by former students of Thich Thien Son which clearly demonstrate that he had had inappropriate sexual relationships with several of his students.

Sogyal Rinpoche

T.Y.S. Lama Gangchen Rinpoche

Kundeling Lama – Atisha Charitable Trust

Further readings


Western Buddhism: Problems, Presentations & Debates

Show More …

Nuns debating: Manuel Bauer

Rebirth Debate


Self-Immolations in Buddhism

Self-Immolation Jampa Yeshi

  From March 2011 to June 2012, over three dozen Tibetans set themselves on fire to protest against repression in China. Self-immolation, though exceedingly rare, has been part of the global repertoire of protest for half a century. This article places the Tibetan cases within an international context of suicide protest over several decades.

  Self-Immolation in Context, 1963-2012 by Michael Biggs

Tibetans Self-Immolation

  In Tibet, where China pretends to have liberated the population from obscurantism and imperialism and led it to a better life, there are dozens of Tibetans who burn themselves to express their political frustration.

Part I: Why are Tibetans doing that?

  Self-immolations of Tibetans I – An interview with Thierry Dodin

Buddha Buddhism Self-Immolation

  Is there a background within Buddhism that supports an act of self-immolation? For instance Jamyang Norbu as well as Robert Barnett found that it would resonate with the Buddhist tradition. Jamyang Norbu even called them “Martyrs” …

Part II: Self-immolations & Buddhism

  Self-immolations of Tibetans II – An interview with Thierry Dodin

Part III: Reactions and Consequences

NEW  Vinaya Teachings – Monastic Ethics

Do not say after my parinirvana that pure practitioners have no protector. Now that I have taught the Pratimoksha Sutra and the excellent vinaya well, regard these as the World-honored One after my parinirvana.Shakyamuni Buddha in the Pratimoksha Sutra

Buddha Pratimoksha

  Pratimoksha Sutra – Buddha

Shila-Samyukta-Sutra

  Shila Samyukta Sutra – Buddha

mass death in Tibet

  The Essence of the Vinaya Ocean – Tsongkhapa

Ornament

NEW  Essential Buddhist Teachings