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Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Bodhisattva Path – A Cosmic Mandate for the Tibetan People, a broader view from an outsider

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By: Liem Giok In

Contending that the tragic issue of Tibet, for all its appeals to the sympathetic world, lack a political solution as at present, LIEM Giok In* feels that the Tibetan people’s energy and uniquely inherited gift of spiritual knowledge is better spent on promoting universal Buddhist values to be of service to humanity.1

I am an outsider, not a Tibetan. However, I had the privilege to become imbued by your values, the Buddhadharma, for almost 50 years now, under the auspices of qualified Tibetan masters. I am also the author of a book in which are explained my views on how we should think about the economy – from local to global realities. I believe these views are in harmony with what the Buddha himself taught on the subject-matter, namely: economic policy is there to provide people with what they need to live and be prosperous. Economic policy is not a programme to become richer and richer, not for an individual, nor for a state.

And, in the same vein, according to the Buddhist view, the state’s governing mandate is to create the best possible conditions for humankind to live in peace and harmony with one another, nationally and internationally. Some may think that Buddhist politics is about dreaming of some kind of Utopia or Shangrila, but that is not the case. No, the Buddhist way is to be grounded, with wisdom and compassion, in a reality where conflict, disagreement and selfishness are, unfortunately, part of the daily diet. At the same time however, fortunately, there is also a good portion of goodwill and some wisdom in the mix.

You, Tibetan people, suffered unimaginable suffering, losing country, family and friends, your social structures, your physical infrastructure. Some of you have spread outside of Tibet, some of you had to survive in Tibet, adapting to a totalitarian system, living as underlings to a foreign power. And even in the so-called free and democratic West, it is not easy to maintain your precious values.

Then you fight, of course you need to fight, for human rights, for regaining independence even. And there is a lot of focus inwards, on your inner political structures and quibbles, on this leader or that representative, in exile, that is. In Tibet itself, there still is protest, and we even hear of self-immolations … for what, to what effect?

Now, here is a proposal, from an outsider. I know, I have no voice, no standing in your community, but for what it’s worth …

Your teaching speaks of a Bodhisattva path, not only caring about others more than yourselves, but even turning your own misery into a good for all. You have already done that, you are doing it now. Because your culture is the result of centuries of Mahayana practice at its highest level, your culture is unique in this world.

Let me illustrate this. After Tibetans fled their country, in 1959, after having experienced unthinkable trauma, and then, in the 1960’s, settling in India (and some other countries in the region) in harsh, very harsh conditions, only 10 years after your escape, from the beginning of the 1970’s onwards, Westerners from rich countries – mostly young, mostly hippies – came to you for spiritual guidance and life’s advice. We were spoiled, confused, and spiritually impoverished. And you gave that guidance and support to us, you literally saved us. Not only did your high Masters guide us with deep and profound teachings, but also ordinary Tibetan people showed us good spirits and friendship (in general). I repeat: you were a people, hardly emerging from total destruction of your country and your lives, and here you were, helping others in their dire needs. Please, take a moment to appreciate that.

All I can say is that Tibetan people – indeed, guided by the wisdom of their masters – are of a unique mental strength and quality. And therefore I want to plead with you: please, do not waste these qualities on too much or sole focus on your ‘Tibetan question’. Believe me, there is no real solution to your problems, not at the world stage. It is just not to be. The cosmos mandated you with another destiny.

Instead, please take care of the world as a whole, the world of the future, a world of equal nations with people each living their own cultures. And all that politics should be about is to secure equal access to economic resources and equal empowerment for people to stand their own, including the Tibetan people.

In order to leave you with some concrete ideas on how to do that, I list here below links to my material – and you are welcome to exchange views with me. I also provide you with a link to a paper titled ‘Buddha on International Relations’ by Willam J. Long. These informational texts are merely initial and want to lay some fundament. Please, work out the details of implementation yourselves.

‘Preserving your culture’, does this not mean implementing the Bodhisattva path wherever you can?


  1.  Together with the two other articles: 1) China is a part of Tibet (Tibetan Review, 1999) and 2) Tibet – leading light for the World, not the middle but a higher way. (Tibetan Review, 2020), this makes the trilogy of the story I wanted to tell.
  2. For the article by William J. Long, Buddha on Politics, Economics and Statecraft, see:
    For my material on my views on economic policy thinking and planning, see:

* In her book ‘Interdependent Economy – from political economy to spiritual economy’ the author has described views and proposals for an economic thinking and policy implementation that are relevant for this 21st Century. We can all contribute to and participate in a world of prosperity and peace. Ms. Liem Giok In is available for counselling services for leaders of socio-economic projects. 


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