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Lama Tendar Olaf Hoeyer
  The author of this page
  Tendar Olaf Hoeyer  is a
  Danish Lama or Dharma
  teacher  of  the  Karma
  Kagyu   tradition   since
  1994; his expertise is in
  classical meditation and
  applied Buddhist view.

 December 2018.  

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and the ‘West’
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche lose credibility in support  of Aung Suu Kyi of Burma

a reproach by Lama Tendar Olaf Hoeyer

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Aung Suu Kyi. Photographer is unknown.


Aung Suu Kyi



Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche defends Aung Suu Kyi and attack the ‘West’ in general for our continuing attempts at colonialism and cultural imperialism, as he sees it. How is that possible?            (Read his letter of support in the column to the right.)



An out of place criticism

 Much of what he writes, is after all true in a certain sense. Particularly so regarding Buddha-dharma becoming watered down in the West. His letter though, indicate undoubtedly that the Teaching of Buddha is also watered down by some Asian Dharma-teachers, who are actually supposed to refrain from such. Well, that may be so. Most of his letter is a rough generalisation of people in the West and about our culture here having the power to reshape Asia in a bad way. This is not entirely true. It might only be true in a figurative sense. That Asia have adopted Western culture to such a degree, that this – in such an adapted way – now Asian culture is in fact destroying former Asian values. Just like it has also happened in the West to our own past. But this is not, what he writes. Instead, he blames the West for things, that Asia itself is copying and developing in their very own way – how may we in the West have a responsibility for, what other peoples chose to do by them selves?

 The imperial powers of Europe have long time ago had to give up their empires,  and most people from here in the West have never participated in those empires and their adventures in Asia. It is not us in the West that rule Asia. It is the capitalist demons, that have conquered the whole world. That these demons took power first in the West, does not relieve anyone in Asia from responsibility in regard to, what happens there.
 The diagnosis is not correct. As it happens, the patient is indeed sick, but the disease is not ‘Western influence.’ The West was just the first place for the disease to infect people. Besides, imperialism is not any particular ‘Western’ phenomenon, but a global problem.

 The great majority of people in the West are not imperialists. Neither do they nourish any ambition about reshaping Asia in Western cultural context. In our eyes, it is up to them. It is very few people indeed here in Europe, that have forefathers  who took part in the imperial powers’ occupation of Asian countries for quite some time ago. So Khyentse Rinpoche’s criticism is not fitting. At the same time the question rises, why he wants to cultivate such a prejudice? The only answer, that I can imagine, is that it is the easiest way to describe a complicated process, even it is in fact a lie about, what is actually happening.

 Instead, he ought to criticise the Asians for the way in which they implement both inventions, that originally was made in the West, and the political, economic and cultural institutions, that they have developed further, after the European empires left Asia long time ago. It is a choice of the Asians to go for chewing gum and wear jeans. It was not decided in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is not useful to criticise the West for moral shortcomings of Asians. That also people of the West have committed moral faults, cannot mean that Europeans cannot criticise Aung Suu Kyi. This issue is not about East or West. It is about your own ethics and morality, and about being responsible for your own actions.

 As it happened, Genghis Khan never had to answer for the millions of people, that he murdered. Nor the European colonists in America who, when they did not directly kill people, their carried diseases did, and if that was not enough, the original peoples’ slavery for the colonists would kill them off in great numbers. It is a miracle that original people of America and Australia still exist. And a great luck that there are Chinese people around at all, because Genghis Khan’s first plan was to kill them all, so the flat lands of Northern China would serve as grassing fields for the Mongols’ herds.

 These crimes against humanity have nothing to do with the geographical origin of the various people, but it is all about their military power and desire to rule others and their greed for confiscating the possessions of strangers and rob them of their life and freedom. Some of these actual historic criminals have been punished, when there was a law against their actions and a possibility to prosecute, whether in Asia or America and Europe. Bur most of them got away with it, very rich and powerful, in both Asia and Europe. What is completely wrong is exactly imperialism. And the principle, that power is righteous. Of course it is not. And it is wrong everywhere, all over the planet.

 Why does Dzongsar Khyentse not provide a general criticism of imperialism? Why does he blame us in Europe for what our irresponsible forefathers did against their just as olden fellow human beings some long time ago? Can we Danes not criticise the French, because King Godfred once upon a time burned down Paris and slaughtered the French army? Undoubtedly there are some American generals, who ought to stand trial for their crimes against humanity in the Vietnam war. But that does not free Aung Suu Kyi for her ethical and political responsibility in Burma  (Myanmar).

 How could there be a connection between these two events, that somehow free Aung Suu Kyi from her responsibility, inactivity and silence? The only thing, that I can find, is that both events are examples of something rotten, bad morality and neglect of responsibility. Besides, it appears that both the American Generals and Aung Suu Kyi will never be prosecuted and presented before a judge. It is not in any way fair, but the consequence of the laws in both USA and Burma. Khyentse Rinpoche does not provide a connection between these two events, that free Aung Suu Kyi for her responsibility.

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 The European empires did a lot of damage in Asia, though the little kingdom of Denmark, from where I come, does not really share in any of that damage done. I can mention 21 other European nations, that did not do any damage either nor subjugated anyone in Asia. Instead they let their urge for empire hurt their neighbours, or they conquered territories in Africa. Denmark cultivated its imperialism in the Caribbean, on the Faero islands and Greenland. Had we had the opportunity and power, we would properly had been just as bad as the English, French and Dutch were in Asia. But it did not happen. Neither was it the Danish Air-force nor other European powers that bombed Laos during the Vietnam war. As a Danish citizen and a European, I do not sympathise with the generalisations of Khyentse Rinpoche. They appear completely out of place. They also imply a collective responsibility, that I do not think earn any merit. Europe is over 30 very different nations.

 What Khyentse Rinpoche blames the West, could as well be said about the Tibetans. If the Tibetans had the power, they would also subjugate the Chinese and kill the ring leaders, when they rebelled against such an unjust occupation. In fact, the former kings of Tibet did exactly that, when they were powerful enough over 1000 years ago. In this way, I think Khyentse Rinpoche’s criticism does not hit its target. Also, I do not think that he provides any justification for Aung Suu Kyi’s lack of action to benefit the Rohingyas, nor for her outspoken nationalism in the multinational state, that Burma is.

 Her silence cries to the sky. It may be that the English ought to admit the Rohingyas into England and provide them with asylum, because the British empire was to some degree responsible for at least some of the Rohingyas coming to Rakhine state in the first place. But when the killing goes on in Aung Suu Kyi’s own country and she is taking part in government and a million people is exiled, she has a duty to resist and cry out. A common compassionate human obligation, if she has a heart and can recognise and find it. Of that reason her silence cries to the sky. Even she did not kill nor expel anyone herself, she appear as a deplorable person in an ethical sense, because she did not act, and she said nothing. And this is her tragedy. Everywhere she was appreciated as a person of integrity with moral stamina and irreproachable ethics. Until the Rohingya crisis happened and she failed.

 It is true that the government of the UK does not recognise their part of responsibility for the problem, while this does not prevent them from criticising Aung Suu Kyi. But even if the UK has failed to some degree, you cannot say, that therefore Aung Suu Kyi has not failed – nor that she has no responsibility. Again, there is no connection between these two events.

 As I said before, it is not Aung Suu Kyi personally, that has indulged in a killing spree on the Rohingyas and driven them out of the country. Of course it is the Burmese military and some local fascists that are behind it all. And it is also the army that is the administrative authority for exactly that area, where the Rohingyas used to live, before their escape to Bangladesh.

 But Aung Suu Kyi does partake in the government, and she is the unofficial prime minister of the country. Naturally, the political situation in Burma is complicated and it is the military, that holds the real power in Burma. Also, there is a clear reactionary nationalist movement in the country these days with militant Buddhist monks  (?)  and a hysterical mass mobilisation against the Muslims and the other minorities in Burma.
 But it is also such a situation, that summons a man – or a woman – to disavow and to act. Khyentse Rinpoche does not write about that. He has another objective, that does not appear honourable, even he himself appears convinced about it.

 Aung Suu Kyi has failed morally and ethically, because she did not disavow and speak out loudly and explicitly against the killings and expulsion of innocent people. By her passivity she has earned responsibility and lost her good reputation. It cannot be excused, even it may be explained by the political complications of Burmese society. But Aung Suu Kyi does not deserve praise nor recognition for nothing. And Khyentse Rinpoche is not providing some unknown merit, that might cause praise and honour. Because there is no merit.

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 It does appear, that Khyentse Rinpoche has lost his temper and got angry with long gone and dead Western imperialists. He seems angry with ghosts from the past. And blind to what is happening in Burma right now. He only mentions the Rohingyas in one short sentence with just a faint trace of sympathy.   (Here is a link to the passage.)

 Rather, Dzongsar Khyentse ought to criticise the imperial tendencies of the Tibetan exile government and ‘parliament.’ Against the wishes of the Tibetan peoples, they aim to create a new Tibetan empire, if they could get rid of the Chinese occupation. Tibet is not a very large national entity, but many nations, each of which wants to become independent countries. They do not want to Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpotje. The photographer is not ruled by a central Tibetan government. They want self-rule over their own territories.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

Khyentse Rinpoche is from Bhutan, that only narrowly escaped such an earlier Tibetan imperialism at the time of the 5th Dalai Lama and by the following wars between Tibet and Bhutan. Only by their good luck did Bhutan remain independent.

 It is very difficult to evaluate,  just how great a responsibility the ‘West’ has for the development of things in Asia today. By the very existence of the ‘West,’ our nations of course exercise an influence on Asia. But Asia has adopted the ideas of the ‘West’ about capitalism, communism, technology and science and made all of it their own. They have made their own stock exchanges, universities and bureaucracies. Development is by and large in their own hands. The European imperialism is all in the past, and hurrah for that. Why is it, that Khyentse Rinpoche has not yet discovered this fact. USA actually lost the Vietnam war. What many perceive as a ‘Western’ influence in Asia, is in fact a very Asian culture such as only Asians can make it with chewing gum, jeans, iPhones and pop music. And a very repressive exploitation of the underclass peoples in the Asian societies.

 In this way, the criticism of Dzongsar Khyentse does not hit its target. On the contrary, he appears to be a confused person, that we must presume, is incapable to counsel and teach people from the ‘West.’ As it is, he shows no respect for people from here unless they are artists, scientists or anarchist philosophers. He has simply made a terrible analysis, that falls back on himself by its simplified outlook, and it will destroy the good reputation, that he has enjoyed so far. It was already under attack by his apology for Sogyal Rinpoche, even Sogyal was a sexual predator, a very bad character and an abuser of power.

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The Bhutan born Nepalis

 There was a hope, that exactly Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche would be a modern cosmopolitan, who would bridge East and West. Now it seems, that he does not even comprehend, what is going on in the ‘East.’ Unless of course his letter is all about, that he does not really appreciate the many Bhutan born Nepalis, that were expelled from Bhutan, even though their ancestors were invited to settle there by a king of Bhutan in the past. We are talking about more than 100.000 people, that are mostly Hindus in regard to their religion. But first of all, they are fellow human beings. It is yet one more of the oppressed refugee peoples of this world, that everybody has forgotten about. Khyentse Rinpoche does not write about them at all, but they might be exactly whom, he is thinking of.     (Here is a link to the passage.)  Just like the Rohingyas, they languish in refugee camps in Nepal, robbed of their rights in their own native country.

 Was it by any chance because of the British imperialists, that some Nepalis were invited to Bhutan in order to settle and cultivate the land? Had the independent king of Bhutan no power to rule in his own country back then? Was it therefore due to the English imperialists, that these Nepalis’ descendants were expelled from Bhutan in 1989?  (Many years after India had gained independence. So the English imperialists were long gone.)
 Are Bhutan then in no way responsible for the fact, these ‘evacuated’ Bhutan born Nepalis now live in refugee camps in Nepal? Or is there a coincidence in Khyentse Rinpoche’s thoughts about Burma and Bhutan in regard to ethnic cleansing of national minorities? Does he cultivate such thoughts because he is from Bhutan? Was the former Ottoman Turkish empire in 1915 then also not responsible for the genocide of the Armenian people? Where does this line of thinking stop?

 Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche has become his own scandal. Either he is very unskilled in political-cultural thoughts, or maybe he is just another nationalist from Bhutan with a grudge towards the Bhutan born Nepalis. Actually, it does not matter much, if he is the one or the other, because he ought to be too good to write such an ignominious letter, that now is everywhere in the public space for everybody to read. Such a shame for himself, Buddhadharma, Bhutan, Burma, the Rohingya refugees and the Bhutan born Nepalis. And for such people in the West, that had confidence in him.



And now a spiritual bypassing

 On the Facebook page of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, there is a link to an article in the India Times. Allegedly, it should explain his approval of Aung Suu Kyi. But I cannot find any practise of ‘maitri’ in it (it is called ‘metta’ in the Pali language, that the Theravada tradition use, but it means the same as Sanskrit maitri, what is mostly translated as ‘loving kindness, though the meaning is the love of friendship)  even the article claims, it is there. It really look like the usual spiritual bypassing, that so many people like to apply to difficult subjects. Of course, theoretically speaking, it is possible that Aung Suu Kyi – hidden from the public and all the media of the world – may induce influence on the military of Burma and limit their assaults by staying on in government.

 But it is actually evident, that she by protesting loudly would be able to force political changes. It could be – theoretically – that the military in Burma does not care, what she may think, say or do, but in that case, she is not influencing anyone nor anything in any hidden way, so she could as well speak out loudly. That could make someone on the outside of government wake up. The matter is after all not about some accidental police violence, but about ethnic cleansing of a substantial national minority expelling them from the lands of their ancestors.

 For instance would Gandhi have started a hunger strike, if this had happened in his time under his watch. During the partition of India in 1947, Gandhi went to Kolkatta in West Bengal, because certain Hindus were killing large numbers of Muslims in the city. Gandhi came in very loudly and outspoken and with the focus of the media and started a hunger strike in protest to the killings. That stopped all the murders. This is what is meant with the phrase: moral authority. We do not know, how many lives this action of Gandhi saved, but his action properly cost him his own life. Soon after, he was killed by an allegedly fanatical Hindu.

 Nothing indicates, that Aung Suu Kyi is silent, because she practise the love of friendliness, maitri. Nor does her silence indicate, that she practise compassion, karuna in Sanskrit. Not with the military nor with the Rohingyas. Her conduct indicate, that she as a seasoned politician in a very tight situation have chosen to stay in government as informal leader in order to avoid to give up power to someone else. This policy has cost her dearly and did not prevent the assaults on the Rohingyas. Her silence could even be understood as condoning the policy by the military of ethnic cleansing.

 Similarly does Dzongsar Khyentse’s  expressive support to her indicate, that we must assume, he is condoning the ethnic cleansing in Bhutan in 1989 of the Bhutan born Nepalis.  It is not possible to find any honourable aims anywhere, so they both appear wretched. The one for her silence – the other for his unhealthy speech. Khyentse Rinpoche writes in his letter, that “...a guilty person cannot judge  [others]...”  Even that quote falls back on himself.

Read here about the refugees from Bhutan  (Matthew Gindin).

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Update on the Rohingyas

    26. november 2018.      It is still very difficult for the Rohingyas, that have not yet escaped from Burma. Most of them live in internal temporary refugee camps in the Rakhine state, that is in no way any better than the camps in Bangladesh. So the refugees in Bangladesh resist going back to Burma in the wake of international pressure on Burma. Rohingyas inside Burma still try to escape. The whole situation is in so few words a mess with terrible sufferings as consequence.

Read about it here  (RFA).




 Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche has published his letter on Facebook. The Buddhist online magazine ‘Buddhist Channel’ from Malaysia has also published it, while only the Tricycle Magazine in USA has published a commentary here in the West. Otherwise such reactions happens normally very quickly nowadays. The reason is of course that the letter is very provocative, and at the same time it is mixed in with spiritual bypassing by an acknowledged  Buddhist teacher. Add to this, that most of us are reluctant to criticise an otherwise widely acclaimed Tulku such as Dzongsar Khyentse. Until now. Particularly his films has rendered him a good name. But now everything pales. Fame becomes infamy. Why has Dzongsar Khyentse shot himself in the foot? Is this the way in which he will demonstrate maitri? By denigrating intelligent people in the West and praising political idiocy? What has that got to do with ‘love of friendship’? Or Bodhicitta?

 If indeed, Aung Suu Kyi was really perceived as exercising a hidden influence on the Burmese military by Khyentse Rinpoche, he ought to have taken that as an example and kept his mouth shut. If indeed, maitri is best practised in hiding and silence, he should have tried it out. Now he has harmed himself and put a question-mark on his character as well as all the East-Asian Buddhism. This is not of benefit to himself. It is not good for East-Asia. Nor is it any good for us in the ‘West.’ So I will not shut up. We are many that totally disagree with Khyentse Rinpoche. His demonstration of the meaning of maitri is hereby contradicted. It is not love to the people to marry the enemy of the people, like Aung Suu Kyi has done. Her silence cannot be explained away in that fashion. The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas cannot be explained away nor condoned.



UN and possibly a genocide

 The accusations against Burma’s military and thereby also the government of that country and Aung Suu Kyi in particular, is in fact not just about ethnic cleansing, but also about genocide. The conceptual limits for genocide are quite rigid by definition within international jurisprudence. The United Nations has not yet established a court of justice to try the accusations, so maybe these accusations will not be sustained in court. But it is a large number of people, that have been killed by the Burmese military and local fascists. Precisely how many, I do not know. The numbers are kept secret by the authorities. Two journalists from Reuters have been stowed away in prison for more than a year now for reporting on some of these murders. But the UN has established a commission called the ‘International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.’ In September 2018 the commission published a report  (link below)  about the killings.

 The International Court of Justice have said, that it does not exercise any authority in Burma, because that country is not a party to the treaty about the Court, but it does hold authority in Bangladesh and thereby the Rohingyas, that are refugees there. In the Tricycle Magazine article, written by the Burma activist Maung Zarni and the journalist and meditation teacher Matthew Gindin, Aung Suu Kyi is described as ‘ethnic nationalist’  (this is a reference to the dominant Barma people in Burma, to whom she belong) and ‘Buddhist chauvinist.’  (Link below.)

 The article also points out, that the Rohingyas already were established in Rakhine state, at that time called Arakan, before the Burmese king invaded and subjugated the state in 1785. So the narrative that the Rohingyas in reality were Bengali peasants, that just never went back home, even they were in Burma on a temporally schedule or had settled because of a British imperial invitation in the late 19th century – is not completely true. The English did in fact invite peasant from Bengal, but the Rohingyas were already established in the area before that. Likewise, the British have to recognise that they did indeed persuade the king of Bhutan to invite the Nepalis in the late 19th century. But that of course does not free the kingdom of any responsibility.

 And I am still sitting here before the computer gawping. How could Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche make himself write such a letter of prejudice? Well, it may be, that he is yet another an example, that you must be careful about who you receive Buddha-dharma teachings from. It might very well become Buddha-drama. So there is no guaranty of quality, if the Dharma-teacher is a renowned Tulku. The title does not mean enlightenment. It just means a ‘spiritual’ prince.
 This story is yet another example of the terrible character of samsara.

 Do not let this event make you blind to the qualities of the teachings of Buddha Sakyamuni. Instead, check out your teacher and learn well.

          Read the article from Tricycle Magazine here.

          Watch the video from the presentation in the UN of the report about Burma.

          Read also the report from the Forbes Magazine here

          Read here about the background for ethnic cleansing in Burma
            (A background paper by Randy Rosenthal in ‘Lions Roar’ magazine).

 In a paper published in  ’Lions Roar' magazine in USA, Khin Mai Aung writes, that  “tragically, he  [Dzongsar Khyentse]  overlooks the fact that Myanmar’s civilian leadership has abandoned the core Buddhist belief in each person’s innate human dignity — including that of the Rohingya.”

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Youth in Burma go against Aung Suu Kyi

1. december 2018:      At the same time, the youth of Burma start to drop their support for Aung Suu Kyi. They are disappointed with the lack of results by Aung Suu Kyi and her party, that won a great majority in paliament 3 years ago with promises about democratic freedoms. The youth demonstrate for freedom of the press and against putting people away in prisons for political reasons. They also demonstrate to free the Rohingya people from their sufferings and for recognising their right to citizenship in Burma. These activists are an absolute minority, though.

Read about it here.


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Source:  The Buddhist Channel, Nov 24, 2018
The letter was also published on Dzongsar Khyentse’s Facebook page.

Dzongsar Khyentse on Aung Suu Kyi and the West

a letter of support from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

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Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpotje. Photographer is unknown.




Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche rips the west over hypocritical treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi.

 Renowned Tibetan Buddhism teacher Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche has let ripped western institutions over what he calls as "blatant double standards" over their treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi, the first and incumbent State Counsellor of Myanmar, a position akin to a prime minister. His complaints were over the spate of withdrawals of international awards to the Burmese politician, such as those from Amnesty International as well as honorary citizenship from Canada.
 Here is his letter in full:


Dear Honourable Aung San Suu Kyi,

 In these difficult times, I am moved to write to you to express my deep respect and appreciation for all you have done over so many years to fight for your people's freedoms, and especially for your great courage and perseverance in upholding your principles through nearly 15 years of house arrest.

 You remain in my mind a true heroine of this age, more than worthy of the Nobel Prize and other honours you have received. And so, I am also writing to tell you that l have been appalled in recent months at the removal of many of those awards - from the cities of Edinburgh, Oxford, Glasgow and Dublin to your honorary Canadian citizenship.
 Those shocking actions against you reveal a blatant double standard.

 Without doing anything and just eight months into office, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet no one demanded it be taken away after he killed thousands of civilians in Mid-east drone strikes and bombings. In fact, de-nuclearizing North Korea will do more for world peace than anything Obama ever did, making Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un far worthier of a Nobel Prize.

     [To this  day, Kim Jung-Un has not removed any nuclear weapons at all, and Trump is a compulsory liar and a joke. So far, it has all been a public relation stunt without content. In fact, Kim Jung-Un is expanding his military and remains a terrible dictator, that put Koreans in concentration camps in great numbers. None of these two persons  merit any prizes. Obama did not change much, but at least he tried. The Nobel committee has not yet asked  Aung Suu Kyi to return her Nobel prize. They do not normally ask for that. This comment is by Lama Tendar Olaf Hoeyer.]

 More subtly, however the hypocrisy of taking away awards is a sign of the insidious colonialism that continues to strangle Asia and the world. We Asians have been taught to disparage our own noble traditions and instead to treasure western values, literature and music, to chew gum and wear faded jeans, to embrace Facebook and Amazon, and to ape western manners and institutions.

 We are badgered to feel guilt for the European Holocaust of World War 2, while our own holocausts are conveniently forgotten and buried in the dustbin of history. How many westerners mourn the 15 million displaced and million killed in Britain's partition of India, or the five million civilians killed in Korea and Vietnam?

 Who recalls that the US. dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos between 1964 and 1978, almost equal to all the bombs it dropped on Europe and Asia during all of World War 2 - making Laos the most heavily bombed country in history relative to population size. And how quickly have we forgotten the genocidal holocausts of the 16th  to 18th centuries that killed an estimated 130 million native Americans - more than 90% of indigenous peoples there. We non-westerners have considerable cause for grievance against those European invaders who now claim moral authority over our lives.

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 Today, we are so infatuated with the west and so immersed in the western mindset that such criticism is seen as almost sacrilegious. So, I must add that nothing I am writing to you here signifies any lack of appreciation for the west's great contributions to human civilisation. From superb music, art and literature to brilliant scientific and medical breakthroughs to philosophies like anarchism, the creations of the west are astounding.

 But watching the self-righteous western actions against you in recent months. I have become convinced it is finally time to tell the truth about the colonial structures and world-view they imposed on us and that persist to this day. Above all, it is time to restore the dignity of our own great eastern wisdom traditions and legacies.

    [How can ethnic cleansing and genocide  express 'the dignity of our great eastern wisdom traditions and legacies"? There is a giant hole in Dzongsar Khyentse's form of argument here.]

 Many mistakenly think the “colonial” era of western invasion and control is long past, since most Asian and African countries won apparent political independence more than half a century ago. But as “post-colonialists” rightly note, the economic and political structure of the colonial era continues to shape life around the world.
 In fact, western ideologies, lifestyles and systems of morality are now more deeply, subtly and dangerously entrenched than ever. Alien to the profound wisdom traditions of the east, today's colonial legacy continues to eat away at and destroy our own heritage.

 For instance, we once knew how to respect and live in harmony with nature. Today, we have been swallowed into the western capitalist system together with its greedy materialism, traffic jams, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and voracious resource consumption. If that system is not even serving the west and is literally destroying the planet, why should it serve the east?

 And to prop up that system, the west is so proud of its supposed “human rights” and "democracy” that we are blindly supposed to imitate. But it is only its limited individual rights the west cares about and those mostly for the rich and powerful. The US and most other western constitutions give no protection to social rights like the right to a job, housing, education, health care and safe drinking water.

 And when it suits, the west blatantly violates its vaunted individual rights. Writing this supposedly exercises my right to free speech. But free speech is a hoax if listeners are intolerant and if they label, stigmatise and demonise the writer. In fact, "the tyranny of the majority” these days includes so-called “liberals” who on US campuses now regularly shut down views they do not agree with, especially if those views might offend some groups.

 And that is so ironic, because western liberals' current obsession with identity politics plays right into the hands of their professed enemies. In the words of ultra-rightist Steve Bannon : “The longer they talk about identity politics, I got 'em. I want them to talk about racism every day.  If the left is focused on race and identity and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush [them]."

 In fact, to rebel against the whole capitalist, liberal-democratic syndrome, China, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea swallowed another western import, communism, which is totally at odds with their own history and culture. No wonder that fake model is collapsing everywhere into the embrace of the very capitalism it sought to bypass.

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 Even the very word "development” is a western colonial imposition. The industrialised western countries are considered "developed", while we are supposed to “develop” towards their dysfunctional western ideal. For the west there is only one acceptable direction for the whole world - to be capitalist, “democratic”, individualist, and therefore “developed,” and to recklessly consume more.

 In the meantime, our own views and traditions that could literally save humankind are labelled “undeveloped” and “superstitious.” While we are expected to kowtow to western morality, we ignore the profound moral values arising from our eastern wisdom heritage that the colonisers severed, taught us to hate, and supplanted with their own.

 And those parts of our tradition the west finds useful are now also colonised and co-opted, entirely missing yoga’s profound Indian wisdom heritage. Florida and California now “certify” yoga teachers.
 Some western "Buddhist teachers” write books that conveniently bend Buddhist teachings to fit their own rational, scientific proclivities. And self-proclaimed ”gurus” edit and plagiarise handy bits of those teachings as their own invention, missing the essence and never acknowledging the source. In fact, Buddhism itself is being colonised and rendered unrecognisable as its extraordinary insights and methods are altered, dismantled and eviscerated to fit western science and self-help fads.

 To maintain “objectivity" and be socially accepted, Buddhist academics in suits and ties hide their own affiliation, avoid Buddhist terminology and reserve any display of eastern culture for fancy dress parties. Even eastern teachers now consciously shun Buddhist iconography and imagery and custom-tailor their vipassana and other meditations to suit western secular expectations. More widely, Asian professionals are quick to bow down to western values to dismiss their own traditions as archaic and superstitious, to wrongly equate modernisation with westernisation, and thereby to reap the rewards of being labelled “modern, progressive and open-minded”. Without western validation, they see their own accomplishments as worthless.

 The irony is that when Japanese, Korean and Chinese musicians learn and play western classical music, they have utmost respect for the integrity of the music as it is and as it was composed. Even in daily life and popular culture, Asians faithfully try to copy the way westerners think, look and act, in sharp contrast too many western scholars manipulate, cherry pick and even alter what they take from the east and then impose their own modified version on us with obstinate moral authority.

 This kind of psychological and moralising colonialism is subtle and dangerous, as you yourself have painfully experienced. For the west, the only qualified ”victims” are those the west itself has oppressed, and the rest of us are expected to join their chorus of guilt and penance.

 We dare not point out that their so-called victims have brutally victimised our people for centuries. To me, the bestowal and removal of your awards typifies the culture of hypocrisy created by that pervasive colonial legacy. Those awards mean nothing beyond another means to colonise us and pull us into the western value system, while they congratulate themselves. In fact, I personally pay the postage for you to send your honorary Canadian citizenship back to Ottawa. You don't need it!

 For me, you remain the heroine you truly are. And for so many who dare not speak up but who secretly agree, you personify our own Me Too movement.

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 None of what I write here justifies wrongs committed by the Burmese military.  What I am saying is simply that the western actions against you and the whole historical and ongoing colonial legacy they reflect are wrong. The post-colonial impact of economic domination and ideological imposition is far more harmful to our peoples and to the planet than anything you have done. A guilty person cannot be a judge and has no credential either to give or remove an award.

 As well, nothing I write here denies the suffering of the Rohingya people. But instead of blaming you, will the British at least acknowledge their colonial responsibility for bringing most Rohingyas from Bengal in the 19th and 20th centuries as cheap labour to work the Burmese rice paddies?

 If the British really care and want to redress the harm they have done to Burma and the Rohingya, they will migrate the Rohingya to the U.K. and give them citizenship instead of letting them languish in refugee camps. And instead of revoking your awards as they've done, Oxford, Sheffield, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow will resettle the Rohingya there.

 Many will label what I am writing to you here as "partisan", “west-bashing” and more. But we have been so deeply twisted by western colonialism for so long that we now have no choice but to break the silence, speak up, and address what has long been taboo. We have long celebrated US and British war victories but do we dare to look at what that western global domination has meant for us?

 If we avoid starting this conversation ourselves, and if India, China and others keep sucking up to western models, the only ones who speak up will be those who make no secret of their hatred for the west. Do we really want to leave the playing field open only to ISIS and the worst extremists to call a spade a spade in challenging western arrogance?

 And that is why I am writing this to you - because for many of us, you superbly represent that middle way. You have stood strong, held to your principles, fought untiringly for your people and refused to bow to the self-righteous western moralising that now reveals itself in the removal of these awards. In that, be assured you have our admiration and support.

 It is more difficult to suggest an effective strategy for a genuine dialogue on the tough issues I am raising here. It seems that the western colonisers will only listen if we have a lot of oil or other resources they need.

 Alternatively, we have to seek out westerners’ weak spot which appears to be their pride and guilt. These days they do not dare criticise Muslims or Jews for fear of being labelled Islamophobic or anti-Semitic. So perhaps we need to start by coining new words for anti-Buddhist and anti-Asian bias to evoke their guilt and fear of those phobias.

 Again, please accept my heartfelt thanks for all you have done and continue to do for your people and for our proud eastern heritage.

Yours sincerely,
Dzongsar Iamyang Khyentse


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