Recently, on his visit to the New York area Tibetan community on February the 26th, our new Chief Kalon, Dr. Lobsang Senge made a public speech in which he referenced to the line 'Ringne nyingdu nagpai dodpai dhon' while making the case that the Central Tibetan Administration did not lack any legitimacy even with the Tibetan name demoted to that of a mere polity. The arguments for and against this assertion has been made and is now considered settled.
That curious line though. The object of our long struggle. The reason for the existence of an exile movement in the first place. The dream of every Tibetan. What is it? What is our long burdened heart's desire, as that line in Tibetan asks?
That line of course is lifted from the prayer composed by the Dalai Lama in 1960, Dentsig Monlam or the 'words of Truth' prayer as is commonly translated. In one sense, it was an appeal for truth to prevail. Every exile Tibetan probably do or should know this prayer by heart as it was taught in schools and is recited at most all public gatherings. It is possible that even then, not all of us know or tried to learn the deeper meaning of that prayer. On which side does our Prime Minister fall in this regard? Does he know the Dentsig Monlam? If yes, does he know the full meaning of the prayer? Given the context in which he used that line from this prayer, these are questions one wonders about, if not for measuring the competency of the person, but for the unintented consequences of public pronouncements of a public person.
In the speech, Mr Senge correctly argues that the voluntary devolution of Gadhan Phodang, the duel seat of the Dalai Lama of 400 years, the ushering in of democratic elections and the orderly transfer of political power to civilain leadership guarantees the legitimate continuation of the sovereign Tibetan nation, ( if only in spirit/exile for now.)
But he pointedly says that this outcome was the long awaited goal, using that line in Tibetan. Further, again using the line, reminding us that His Holiness was finally at peace and that He had a sound sleep the night of his own inauguration. Really? Ringne nyingdu nagpai dodpai dhon. That was it! That was the object of the Dalai Lama's prayer, His long burdened heart's desire? Or our hopes and dreams all these years? Mind you, he does not attribute that all important line to the famous prayer, which would have meant at least that this was one of the goals. No, he categorically states that this was the chief concern of the Dalai Lama's heart, emphasizing 'Nagpai dodpai Dhon'. One is left with the impression that "our long national nightmare is over" to quote Gerald Ford when President Nixon resigned!
On closer consideration, of course he possibly couldn't have meant that. Either out of wanting to impress upon the Tibetan gathering of his mastery of the language, or for the flair of public oratory he slipped in that heavy sounding line. Such conjecturing doesn't forgive such blatant oversight, however.
The prayer composed by the Dalai Lama back in 1960 was a call for struggle and freedom. It was an appeal for truth and victory over evil which the Chinese occupation of Tibet represented. The object of the prayer and thus of our struggle was stated with the line immediately following the above mentioned line which makes clear how it was wrong and inappropriately taken out of context by the Prime Minister.
Let's look at the four lines that make up this part of the prayer:
Ringne nyingdu nagpai dodpai dhon
Yongzok bodjong rangwang tsangmai pal
Lhundup chosid xungdal gaton la
Chodpai Kalsang nyurwa nyiddu tsol
The second line says, 'winning complete freedom for the whole of Tibet'. That was the one thing burdening each and every Tibetan heart. Not devolution of political powers by the Dalai Lama, nor institution of democracy; but fighting and winning Independence for Tibet. Now the goals of the Tibetan struggle has changed since this prayer was first written, but the spirit you could say still lives. Otherwise why would we still recite this prayer at political events? Better yet, shouldn't the Dalai Lama withdraw the prayer and retire it from public domain? Such loose ends linger from the hastely changes from last year. But here we are getting off track...
The third line says, ' Success happily led by the duel religious/political' leadership. The separation of church and state represented by the transfer of power to the elected leadership that the elected leader alluded to as being the chief concern of the Dalai Lama, described in terms of the long burdened heart's desire; clearly is in direct contradition to this qualifying line from the prayer.
What all this amounts to is probably not much as is evident from the fact that there is hardly a ripple of concern shown thus far, which was mainly the reason why Dr. Lobsang Senge gave not much thought before borrowing that line in his speech. If it were scrutinized closely as say, American politicians are, he must realize that he would be accused among many things,of misrepresenting a fact, redefining a proven fact or out right plagiarism.
First, it shows that Mr. Senge probably does not know the words of the Dentsig Monlam or more evidently that he does not know the meaning of those words. Otherwise, how could he have missed the lines that define that one particular line and not feel restrained from the liberty to describe something else altogether. Yet, he must know those lines. He must also know the meaning. Then why this huge leap? The Dalai Lama himself has certainly not pronounced his retirement in such stark terms. All this points to is a certain carelessness of the facts and misrepresentation of facts. These are a politicians forte, I suppose.
With Independece no longer being our ultimate goal, what then is our long burdened heart's desire, again? The Kalon Tripa we know is an advocate of the Middle Way policy or is bound to it in his current role. Then what of his musing? Of the idea that our aspirations are fulfilled with the political changes that were enacted in Dharamsala last summer. That 'ringne nyingdu nagpai dodpai dhon' already happended. Again, he doesn't mean that we are going to be in exile for perpetuity and that this is as good as it gets. But that is the implication of his remarks, redefining for us what our ultimate goal is for the struggle.
Finally, with all the criticism and the inherent inferences aside, pulling that line from thin air to describe a new context, without a hint of attribution or quoting either the Dalai Lama, the author or Dentsig Monlam, the text is an act of plagiarism. He plainly knows this from his years of academic training at Harvard (or do they teach how to plagiarise?) Plagiarism by a Harvard scholar could be a death nail to someone else's career if it was someone else.
The last line from the prayer above hopes that freedom for Tibet, 'This joyous moment' may soon be found.
NOTE: This opinion piece is written in the style of American political commentary and should be viewed as that of an observer. It lacks overt Tibetan formality which should not be construed as lack of respect for the person or the office of the Kalon Tripa. Senge is my rendition of his last name in Tibetan. You can watch the said speech on www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7gdn1L160Y&feature=youtu.be
* Lhakpa lives in Lexington, Kentucky. He was born in Tibet and went to high school in India. He is a freelance writer and an interpreter.