Monday, August 29, 2011

Beijing’s unopened secret gift package to Nepal

You may think that Communists are atheists. You are wrong. They have recently become great experts in religious matters, including ‘soul’ reincarnations and reestablishing Buddhist institutions.

Last year, Beijing announced some new regulations to select what they call ‘Living Buddhas’. Termed Management Measures for the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism, it proclaimed that “the reincarnation of Living Buddhas shall not be interfered or dominated by any organisation or individual abroad (read the Dalai Lama) … the reincarnation of living Buddhas should fulfill the application and approval procedures.”

In other words, the Party is the only legitimate body to select the reincarnations of diseased Tibetan Lamas. Amazing! In fact, there is nothing really new in the Chinese rulers’ attitude: during the nineteenth century, the Chinese ambassadors in Lhasa knew the trick well:

‘Control the reincarnation system; you will control the country!’ The Ninth to Twelfth Dalai Lamas died mysteriously before attaining majority. Chinese-controlled puppet regents could manage the interregnum.Closer in time, a few days after criticising the Party at a public function in Shigatse in 1989 (in the presence of the then Tibet party secretary, Hu Jintao), the Panchen Lama ‘passed away’.

The Party could not accept to lose control over the courageous Lama.

In India, left-minded people have also become great experts in Buddhist philosophy. Last year, Dr Amartya Sen made a rather surprising statement: when asked about the omission of the Dalai Lama’s name from the Nalanda University project, the Nobel Economics Laureate said that “religious studies could be imparted without involvement of religious leaders.”

This seems out of tune with the spirit of the ancient Indian viharas. In the 1960s in Europe, when the first Buddhist Lamas were engaged as lecturers, they were told to interpret Buddhism not as an insider, but an outsider. It is probably what Dr Sen meant when he spoke about the Dalai Lama:

“Being religiously active may not be the same as (being) an appropriate person for religious studies.”

Dr Sen should try to find out why the Indian viharas attracted so many scholars and students from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia or Greece, at least till the day they were looted by Muslim invaders in 1193.

Simply because the teachers, the gurus taught what they had practiced and experienced. Unfortunately, Dr Sen probably wants to recreate a new Santiniketan, an academic institution without its original spirit.

Interestingly in December 2010, during his visit to India, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao gave a large contribution to Nalanda University. This could explain Dr Sen’s reaction.

The joint communiqué issued by the prime ministers of India and China mentions: “China welcomed India’s efforts to revive the Nalanda University. Both sides appreciated the work of the Nalanda Mentor Group and the progress made so far. India welcomed China’s contribution of US dollars 1 million for the Nalanda University.”

And much more funds are expected from China through a consortium based in Singapore. Beijing seems keen to develop other religious places. Take Lumbini, the birth place of the Buddha in Nepal.

Surendra Devkota wrote in The Himalayan Times: “Comrade Prachanda of the Maoist party seems in a mission of transformation from an atheist to a monk. Thanks to the Chinese donation of $3 billion to Hong Kong-based quasi-government NGO - Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF)”.

Further, this organisation signed a deal with the UN Industrial Development Organisation to develop Lumbini, the birth place of the Buddha located a few kilometers from the Indian border.

The Nepali newspaper reminds its readers that “when the Taliban government in March 2001 destroyed the two massive and ancient Buddha statues dating back to the second century AD, in Afghanistan’s central province of Bamiyan, the Maoists celebrated!”

Till recently the Maoists were better known for their hardcore atheism than their religious propensity, but times are changing. Fortunately, a fortnight after the APECF announced its plan for a virtual takeover of Lumbini, Nepal rejected the deal: “Nepal is the actual stakeholder… how can we own a deal struck in a third country without the formal consent of the actual stakeholder? said Modraj Dottel, spokesperson of Nepal’s culture ministry.

It is in this atmosphere that Zhou Yongkang, a member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, one of the nine bosses of the Middle Kingdom, arrived in Kathmandu on August 16. Before his arrival, reports mentioned that Zhou Yongkang had a ‘secret gift package’ in his luggage.

Was it connected with the Maoist ‘revival’ of Buddhism? We will not know because Zhou’s visit did not go as per the planned script, since the Nepali prime minister had resigned a few days before Zhou’s arrival and no ‘gift’ could be presented.

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