The Luxemburg scholar and historian Albert Ettinger recently published a book written in German entitled Freies Tibet? (Free Tibet?). In his book Ettinger completely dispels the myth that Tibet was a Buddhist paradise before the Chinese invasion.
For almost a century now people in the West have believed in the myth of Tibet. According to legend Tibet before the Chinese invasion was a peaceful and happy country inhabited and controlled by Buddhist monks, meditators and saints whose only concern was the welfare of all living beings. Everybody in Tibet was free, content, and living in accordance with Buddha’s teachings. There was no war, poverty, injustice, cruelty or intolerance since their ruler, the Dalai Lama, was an emanation of the Buddha of Compassion whose infallible wisdom ensured that Tibet would remain a free and happy Buddhist paradise forever.
If you believe this, you might as well believe in the existence of Santa Claus. Nevertheless millions of people around the world believe this nonsense. Why is this? Maybe because many people have a deep-seated wish for the existence of something pure, something beyond the mundane, something holy. Or maybe it is just ignorance and an unwillingness to accept the facts. Whatever the reason, it is time to dispel the Tibet myth.
Ettinger begins his book by stating that his research was based to a large extent on Tibet-friendly sources such as high Tibetan lamas of the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Western tibetologists, Tibet historians, ‘Free Tibet’ activists, and famous writers and explorers such as Alexandra David-Neel and Heinrich Harrer (a close friend of the current Dalai Lama) who travelled through Tibet at a time when the 13th & 14th Dalai Lamas respectively were still in power and who are celebrated for their books on Tibet and have inspired a whole generation of readers. Ettinger’s purpose in quoting mostly Tibet-friendly authors was to show that his sources were ‘authentic’, and to immediately dispel accusations by fanatical pro-Tibet and pro-Dalai Lama supporters that he is working for the Chinese, which is a favourite accusation of the Tibet lobby against journalists, historians, and critics who dare to voice differing opinions.
Before we relate some of the points Ettinger makes in his new book we would like to point out that we, of course, do not share Ettinger’s deep disgust for Tibetan Buddhism, which may have arisen in the course of his research into Tibetan history. Anyone who takes an honest look at Christian history in Europe would feel the same about Christianity as Ettinger about Tibetan Buddhism. Christianity preaches love and patience yet has engaged in every conceivable crime in the name of religion from burning tens of thousands of innocent people at the stake during the Inquisition to the Crusades in North Africa, and genocide in South America. In the same way, Tibetan Buddhists have waged merciless wars against other nations (and each other!), systematically persecuted ‘heretics’, oppressed and exploited their own people, tortured thousands of people in unimaginably cruel ways, and even held prisoners under inhumane conditions in the Potala (the Dalai Lama’s palace!). And yet we cannot completely dismiss Christ’s or Buddha’s teachings. Although some of the so-called representatives of these religions such as the Popes and the Dalai Lamas have engaged in countless unspeakable crimes, these religions, when practised sincerely, can be of immense benefit to the practitioner. However, this does not mean that we can simply ignore history and pretend these crimes never happened as many fanatic followers of both religions prefer to do. For this reason, the Tibet myth and the propaganda surrounding the current Dalai Lama will be unravelled in this article.
But let us first examine how the Tibet myth arose. Why is Tibet regarded by so many ‘spiritual’ people in the West as Shangri-la, a Buddhist paradise? There are many reasons: one reason why Tibet rose to fame was due to widely read travel literature written by such famous individuals as the French author Alexandra David-Neel and the Austrian Nazi Heinrich Harrer (mentioned above) who, each for their own reasons, mythologised Tibet (although a closer look at their original writings shows that they both showed utter contempt for the system of government and the general backwardness and cruelty of the Tibetans, as we will see below). Another reason for Tibet’s rise to fame was the current Dalai Lama’s dramatic ‘escape’ from Chinese ‘oppression’ and his subsequent involvement with the CIA who waged a covert guerrilla war against the Chinese in Tibet and who used the Dalai Lama as their willing ‘frontman’ in their propaganda war against Red China. And then, of course, there was the Hollywood dream factory which produced “…elaborate film productions such as the propaganda film ‘Kundun’, which was personally authorised (and supervised) by the Dalai Lama himself..” (the screenwriter of ‘Kundun’ by the way also wrote the script for E.T. – which of these two films contains more fiction is still to be examined!). And then there was “…Annaud’s dishonest screen adaptation of ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ based on the book of the same name by SS-Oberscharführer and Dalai Lama teacher Heinrich Harrer..” Through all these books, films and propaganda Western people came to believe in a faraway paradise in the Himalayas ruled over by benevolent Buddhist monks, which was lost to the evil communist Chinese invaders.
But due to the realisation by many Western commentators that China has in recent years become a global player and unconquerable force – whose economic power will soon surpass that of the United States – Western propaganda against China is slowly being replaced by a more sober and truthful analysis of events, including of those in Tibet. One Western commentator even said “…the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is becoming a controversial figure in the West. Western critics say that the Dalai Lama teaches a dumbed-down philosophy in his lectures, which reveals his hypocrisy: he teaches a simple version of Buddhism with a charming smile to his Western audiences and a reactionary, feudal, and hard-core theology to his Eastern audiences.” So, from this we can see that the tide is slowly turning against the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan Government in Exile who have shamelessly exploited Western gullibility to amass millions (some analysts even say billions) of dollars in donations for the greatest scam of all: a ‘Free Tibet’ (the Dalai Lama has long given up on a ‘Free Tibet’, which does not, however, stop him and his followers from continuing to fundraise for this lost cause; which makes one wonder where all the money has gone!
Heinrich Harrer, one of the current Dalai Lama’s favourite Nazi friends, had this to say about the Dalai Lama’s government in Tibet: “The reign of the monks in Tibet is unique and can only be compared to a fierce dictatorship. The monks warily watch over any outside influence which could endanger their authority. They are intelligent enough, however, not to believe in their own limitless power, but will punish anybody who doubts that they possess such powers.” And this comes from the mouth of one of the Dalai Lama’s most trusted friends! This shows clearly that the Tibet lobby has not actually read the original writings of the people it exploited to create the Tibet myth or has deliberately omitted anything that could tarnish the Dalai Lama’s saintly image.
Thomas Hoppe writes that the Tibetan monasteries were the “the actual power centres of the aristocratic families” who “were in alliance with them”. And even the historian Deshayes, who supports the Dalai Lama, says that “this feudal system, which was based on peonage, state power controlled by aristocrats, and compulsory labour by the common people remained virtually unchanged right up into the mid-twentieth century” while Charles Bell reports on the slaves in Tibet “Slaves are sometimes stolen from their parents as small children or the father or mother, who is too poor to take care of the child, sells it to someone for the ‘price of the mother’s milk’”. While Tom Grunfeld reports on the appalling living conditions in Lhasa: “…achievements such as water closets, canalisation, sewage plants, and garbage collection were completely unknown in Tibet and urgent human needs were performed on the streets (without toilet paper or washing of hands, of course!). And rotting animal cadavers could be seen everywhere in Lhasa as well as packs of feral dogs..” It is even reported that the 13th Dalai Lama often felt nauseous because of the bad smells coming from the streets of Lhasa. What a paradise Tibet was! Yet some authors who write on behalf of the Tibet lobby even deny that there were beggars in Tibet such as one aristocratic lady now living in the Tibetan exile community in India “In Tibet, rich and poor people received equal care. No one can imagine how happy life was in Tibet” while Ernst Schäfer recalls seeing “the poorest of the poor” along the “holy roads” who looked like “living skeletons” and Stuart Gelder, who travelled through Tibet in the 1960s, says “In reality, Tibetan society was a hard and cruel tyranny as described by Perceval Landon in 1906..” Professor Grunfeld also rejects the whitewashing of the Dalai Lama’s crimes by the exile Tibetans when he concludes “The life of the great majority of Tibetans was certainly not enviable”. And the famous English author Aldous Huxley remarked in 1923 “…compared to Tibet we are magnificent.” This is the truth about Tibet under the Dalai Lama’s reign, which is far removed from Hollywood’s fantasy depictions of Tibet, and the Tibetan-Government-in-Exile’s outright lies (which, of course, greatly profits from the Tibet myth by collecting millions of dollars in donations each year for their ‘holy community’).
The current Dalai Lama’s oldest brother, Thubten Norbu, once said “In Tibet there was no police force and no physical violence”, which stands in stark contrast to Ernst Schäfer’s account that speaks of barbaric monk police (‘dobdob’ in Tibetan) “…who keep the population in constant fear” and “…stone and beat anyone on the streets who does not obey them. Often many dobdobs hold a victim down while the others beat it mercilessly with sticks and leather belts”. Another issue is women’s rights: “…the 14th Dalai Lama claims in his autobiography that discrimination against women did not exist in Tibet. The God-king, whose brothers are also high ‘incarnations’ and have had political careers as terrorist leaders and top CIA agents, does not seem to see the contradiction when his older sister, Tsering Dolma, reports that ‘As a simple country girl I had no education and most of my childhood was spent helping my mother with chores’”. In fact, Tibetan law even allowed a husband, whose wife had cheated on him, to cut off her nose. There is even historical evidence that shows that a husband could kill his wife if she had committed adultery as long as “the dagger or the sword was handed to the magistrate immediately after the killing…” And Thomas Hoppe reports that “Homosexuality between monks, and between teachers and students, as well as sexual relations between monks and nuns and women outside the monasteries were an everyday occurrence in these religious institutions as well as worldly business, fraud and power struggles.” And Alan Winnington, a journalist who travelled through Tibet, says “…any honest observer of Tibet will immediately realise that this country has been in a state of social decay for centuries…” The Dalai Lama, of course, denies all of this and even has the cheek to claim that the Tibetans are “Avalokiteshvara’s chosen people”!
With respect to the current Dalai Lama’s immoral and illegal ban of the protector deity, Dorje Shugden, Albert Ettinger, the Luxemburg scholar whose book we are reviewing here, says “…the Dalai Lama’s wisdom and infallibility are never questioned even when he high-handedly and arbitrarily revises previously accepted teachings and replaces them with his own.” And Andreas Gruschke correctly reminds people that “violence…is nothing new in Tibetan history” and that the discrimination of Dorje Shugden worshippers through the Dalai Lama has “…led to violent excesses among exile Tibetans against Dorje Shugden worshippers in South India”. Swiss television has reported extensively about these developments in the Tibetan exile community (see videos below). Ettinger adds “…the highest lamas and Tulkus often do not behave like saints, but rather in all-too-human ways, sometimes even worse than the Catholic Renaissance Popes. One only has to remind oneself of the 13th Dalai Lama’s crimes and those of the regents that succeeded him, which ranged from unbridled greed to illegal and cruel imprisonment and physical punishments, to political murder and the incitement of civil war.
In the light of all these eye witness accounts it is impossible to continue believing in the Tibet myth. And yet there are still people in Korea and elsewhere who publish quotes from the 13th Dalai Lama on their fan pages completely ignoring his well-documented crimes against humanity. This is tantamount to quoting a butcher on the importance of animal rights! “The claim that such barbaric physical punishments were abolished by the 13th Dalai Lama is an often-repeated fairy-tale by the Tibet lobby.” While anyone who presents evidence to the contrary (namely the truth) is immediately called a Chinese collaborator; an accusation that is often levied against those who call for an honest analysis of Tibetan history, especially in relation to the role of the Dalai Lamas. The number of times the authors of this website have been called Chinese dogs is extraordinary. For us, this is a clear indication of the profound brainwashing some individuals in the Tibet community have been exposed to since there is overwhelming evidence that back up all the points presented above; and it shows the unwillingness of others to accept an alternative viewpoint free from mythologizing. For some people it must be unbearable to admit that their ‘hero’ is a fraud and, instead of facing the facts, they want to kill the messenger (as can be clearly seen from all the hate propaganda being spread in Korea about Dorje Shugden worshippers who are innocent of any crime).
In conclusion, we can consider the words of Kollmar-Paulenz who says that the exile Tibetans “…have to a large extent adopted the positive myth about themselves” in order to exploit it for political ends. The “exile government” even regards the “propagation” of the Tibet myth as “one of its main tasks”. No attempt was made at “demythologisation” following the 14th Dalai Lama’s escape into Indian exile. Instead, the whole Tibetan community was “stylised into a completely spiritual people who are solely interested in religion free from all material attachments” And Patrick French, the British Tibet activist and former director of International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), says that the “Ocean of Wisdom” often makes mistakes such as his behaviour with respect to the recognition of the Panchen Lama, which caused a serious schism in the Tibetan community. And with respect to the ICT French notes “…the current approach of the Tibet lobby is leading nowhere” and their work “abroad” has only resulted in increased repression in Tibet and has “created false hopes among Tibetans”.
Albert Ettinger concludes his book by remarking that “The Dalai Lama, or shall we say his image, is solely a product of modern public relations. He is a living example of the power of advertising, similar to Coca Cola or McDonald’s. Due to this, nobody seems to care that the mouthpiece of a religion that apparently espouses “compassion for all living beings” in reality eats meat and that his special Buddhist love of animals made him stop his cat from hunting under threat of punishment, which eventually led to the death of the animal. And who is surprised after all that that the non-violent “student of Mahatma Gandhi” has loved weapons and modern military equipment since his childhood and that he enjoys shooting at birds with his air rifle in Dharamsala, and that he has a “special penchant for war and action films”.
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 2, pg.15)
 See above
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 2, pg.17)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 4, pg.28)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 4, pg.29)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 5, pg.45)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 5, pg.47)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 5, pg.50)
 ‘On the Margin’ by Aldous Huxley (1923)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 7, pg.61)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 8, pg.64)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 8, pg.73)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 9, pg.76)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 12, pg.106)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 17,pg.135)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 17,pg.140)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 17,pg.142)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 20, pg.170)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 30, pg.248)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 31, pg.263)
 ‘Freies Tibet?’ by Albert Ettinger (Chapter 31, pg.265)