The travels by His Holiness in Europe are just as important to him as they are for us
Northern Ireland is a long way from Tibet. But watching the Dalai Lama cross Derry’s Peace Bridge last Thursday, one could be forgiven for imagining that the two worlds were, in fact, intimately related.
The Dalai Lama clearly has much inspiration to offer to Northern Ireland. However, the movement that he leads is experiencing massive stresses, and his peregrinations in Europe are just as important to him as they are for us.
The Dalai Lama is the head of the Yellow Hat sect, the 14th reincarnation of his office, and a “living Buddha”. As a child philosopher-king, he received gifts sent from Franklin D Roosevelt, but made only desultory pushes for Tibet’s claims to sovereignty.
In 1951, the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) broke Tibet’s isolation, occupying the plateau. Some 25 per cent of all Tibetan males were monks, and the Chinese were ardent atheists, but efforts were made by both sides to accommodate the other. The Dalai Lama went so far as to meet with Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing. As Tibetans began to be assimilated into CCP’s matrix of “brotherly nationalities”, the Dalai Lama fled in March 1959, and has since led a government-in-exile based in Dharmsala, India.