[Marxism] Free Tibet

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 23 09:43:32 MST 2017

I strongly urge comrades to watch "The Angry Monk" online:


This is a documentary I reviewed 10 years ago:


Choephel began life as a Buddhist monk but evolved into a scholar of 
Tibetan history and a political activist during his extended visit to 
India in the 1930s, where he became inspired by Gandhi’s revolt. He 
decided to travel to India after coming into contact with Rahul 
Sankrityayan, an Indian researcher of ancient Buddhist texts in Tibet. 
Surprisingly, Sankrityayan was also a Marxist revolutionary who fought 
for Indian independence. (It should be mentioned that many of these 
texts were burned in huge bonfires during the Chinese Cultural 
Revolution, a barbaric act that rivals the Taliban’s destruction of 
ancient statues of Buddha in Afghanistan.)

When in India, Choephel not only politicized, he left behind the kind of 
Puritanism expressed in the Dalai Lama’s strictures against 
homosexuality. He was proud of his ability to sleep with 4 or 5 
prostitutes in an evening and to get roaring drunk in the process, as 
Golok Jigme, a 85 old monk and former traveling companion of Choepel, 
reveals in an interview. In addition to writing the very first history 
of Tibet, Choepel translated the Kama Sutra into Tibetan! In the 
introduction to this classic work on sexual techniques, he wrote:

As for me — I have little shame I love women. Every man has a woman. 
Every woman has a man. Both in their mind desire sexual union. What 
chance is the for clean behaviour? If natural passions are openly 
banned, unnatural passions will grow in secrecy. No law of religion — no 
law of morality can supress the natural passion of mankind.

Choephel was the quintessential modernizer. Like Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal, 
he wanted to reduce the power of the clergy. In a 1946 poem, he wrote:

In Tibet, everything that is old
Is a work of Buddha
And everything that is new
Is a work of the Devil
This is the sad tradition of our country

In 1946 Gendun Choephel took up residence in Kalimpong, a town that sat 
on the India-Tibet border, where he joined the Tibetan Revolutionary 
Party, which was founded 7 years earlier. He designed (he was a gifted 
artist as well as a scholar) their logo: a sickle crossed by a sword.

The Tibetan Revolutionary Party sought to overthrow the tyrannical 
regime in Lhasa. When Gendun Choephels arrived in Lhasa, the capital 
city, he was arrested by the Tibetan government, which had learned about 
his activity from British operatives working out of India. He was 
accused of insurrection and thrown in jail for three years.

Two years after his release, the Red army overran Tibetan troops in 
eastern Tibet and took control of the country. A physically ailing and 
psychologically broken Gendun Choephel characterized the invasion in his 
characteristically blunt manner: “Now we’re fucked!”

“The Angry Monk” is also an excellent introduction to some of the more 
sophisticated thinkers in today’s Tibet, who are interviewed throughout 
the film. I especially appreciated the comments of journalist Jamyang 
Norbu, who derided the Western obsession with Tibetan spirituality. His 
remarks in a PBS Frontline documentary reveal his continuity with the 
Angry Monk:

Q: How does the West see Tibet?

A: I think, primarily the West sees Tibet, to some extent, as a fantasy 
land, as a Shangri La. Of course, this is a kind of stereotype that has 
existed in the Western kind of perception for a very long time, even 
before the movie “Lost Horizon,” the movie was made. Initially, the 
perception came from ideas of medieval Europe that they had of … … 
(inaudible), the Christian king who lived behind the mountains of Gog 
and Magog, and who would come maybe to make the whole of Asia a 
Christian country.

Because maybe people in medieval times heard of Tibet and a lot of 
liturgical practices in Tibet, religious rites and ceremonies, resembled 
the Roman Catholic ones.

Q: Tibet is suddenly very chic in America. Why is that?

A: There’s a kind of New Age perception of Tibet, which is fed to some 
extent quite deliberately by propagandists for Tibet, many New Age type 
Buddhists, Tibetan Buddhists. And, also subscribed gradually by 
Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama and a lot of prominent Lamas. The 
idea that this even materialist west will be saved by the spiritualism 
of the Tibetan Buddhists. It’s total nonsense.

Tibetans are in no position to save anyone, least of all themselves in 
the first place.

But, this is the kind of idea that’s being subscribed by a lot of New 
Age type people. This is the problem that Tibetans face, because their 
issues and the tragedy of Tibet has not being taken seriously. 
Primarily, it’s very fuzzy; it’s sort of a feel good issue, rather than 
a stark, ugly reality.

You have the Palestinian problem. Now, whether you like the 
Palestinians–and I’m sure a lot people in the West don’t like them—- but 
you give them the respect that their condition is real.

A lot of people love Tibetans in the West, tremendous sympathy, but it’s 
a very fuzzy kind of sympathy, because it never touches on the reality. 
It doesn’t touch on the reality that the Tibetan people are 
disappearing, they’re being wiped out.

You look at even supportive friends of Tibet like Galen …. Have you seen 
his calendars? It just says everything is wonderful. Tibet is wonderful. 
The culture is wonderful. The land is wonderful. It does not touch on 
the tragedy that people are actually being wiped off the face of the 
earth and their culture is being wiped out. That is not touched; it’s 
considered in bad taste.

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