Tibet was non-negotiable for Dalai Lama’s brother

By Mayank Chhaya, IANS,

Chicago : Thubten Jigme Norbu, the elder brother of Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama who died last week in the US, considered the status of Tibet “non-negotiable” throughout his life.

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Asked during an interview four years ago in Bloomington, Indiana, whether he agreed with the idea that Tibetans should settle for autonomy rather than independence, Norbu, who was also known as Takster Rinpoche, said: “No, I do not, but I also know that you cannot get anything more from the Chinese. The status of Tibet must be Tibet, nothing else.

“If we don’t achieve that I think in the future there will be no Tibetans in Tibet. Period. In two generations there will be no Tibetans in Tibet. See what is happening in Inner Mongolia. There are four million Mongols but you cannot find 10 Mongols together in the capital Khokhot,” Norbu said.

In 1926, at age four, Norbu was chosen as the reincarnation of an important lama by the prestigious Kumbum monastery in the province of Amdo. He learned to live in his younger brother’s shadow without a trace of sibling rivalry. He lived over 50 years out of his 90 outside Tibet.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: You were made an offer by the Chinese that if you overthrew the Dalai Lama, you would be made the governor general of Tibet.

A: Yes, there were quite a few people who kept talking about making me the governor general in return for overthrowing my brother. They would come to me every day and tell me all sorts of things. They would criticise everything from our habits to our clothes. They would comment on our robes saying we wasted so much cloth in those robes and wasted so much money. They would say just wear a jacket and pants.

Q: Is it true that they even encouraged you to commit fratricide to achieve the objective of ending the Dalai Lama’s rule?

A: Yes, they said so in so many words. They said they would destroy everything Tibetan, its religion, its culture, its customs and so on. They said if His Holiness does not cooperate with the Communists, then you should kill him.

Q: You eventually told His Holiness about the Chinese suggestion. How did he react?

A: When I finally met His Holiness and told him what the Chinese were up to, he remained very calm. He just waived his hand as if he was brushing away an evil spectre. He asked me to rise. We both looked into each other’s eyes. I could see nothing but sympathy and concern for me through his thick glasses. I left soon after that.

Q: The Dalai Lama is optimistic that the issue will be resolved in his lifetime. Are you that optimistic?

A: At this moment I cannot say anything.

Q: What role can India play?

A: India should recognise His Holiness’ government. That is crucial. That will help. Once that happens, then the situation will change. Doors will open up.

Q: What about the United States?

A: I don’t think the US can do anything because the US is interested in green paper (dollars) and how much Mr. Coffee they can sell. They are not concerned with Tibetans’ suffering. They are concerned with trade.

Q: What is the best deal that China can offer?

A: The Tibetan people must say that China must leave Tibet. They must react.

Q: Would you like to visit Lhasa?

A: No, what for? I went in 1980. I regret that. What would one do there? The Chinese do not let you move around freely. The few Tibetans who meet you cry about the state of affairs. I am a human being. I feel a lot of pain.

Q: What kind of conversation do you have with the Dalai Lama?

A: I always say that the status of Tibet is not negotiable. Tibet is Tibet.

Q: What are the Dalai Lama’s most striking qualities as a brother?

A: He has no selfishness about him. He treats everyone as an equal. We might say those things in words but cannot do so in practice. I know all human beings are equal but I cannot always practice that. He always does.

Q: Is he the last Dalai Lama?

A: I don’t think so. That will depend on Tibet. If it is up to Tibet and Tibetans, it is guaranteed that he is not the last Dalai Lama. If there is Tibet, there must be a Dalai Lama.

(Mayank Chhaya is the Chicago-based author of the Dalai Lama’s authorised biography. He can be reached at [email protected] )