Letters to the Editor


Regarding Michael Parenti's Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth

To the Editor:

Buddhism does not have a concept of God as implied in this article. The author, Michael Parenti, writes as if he knows little (if anything) about Buddhism, as is shown by his use of the phrases: "Tibetan theocracy," "incarnate deity," "their recognized status as gods," "Theocratic despotism" and "the Dalai Lama's feudal theocracy."

Buddhists refer to Buddhism as nontheistic. Some even deny that it is a religion, and this is accurate to the extent that it is not one in the sense of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam).

The author either does not know or understand this or feigns ignorance. The latter seems more likely in the case of a Yale Ph.D.

Unfortunately, these inaccuracies concerning the nature of Buddhism cast serious doubt on the accuracy of the article as a whole, rendering it effectively useless as a source of information. In order to ascertain the accuracy of any assertion in the article, one would have to conduct an independent research project.

This article has done little to educate either western Buddhists, who by and large are aware of the political situation in pre 1959 Tibet, or the western Left, who would do well to work cooperatively with the progressive sectors of all religious traditions to promote social justice.

Alexander M. Lemberg
Fort Collins, Colorado, USA - July 9, 2003

Michael Parenti responds:

My article was not about Buddhism. It was about a terribly exploitative and repressive autocracy that was theocratic and considered itself Buddhist. Those who know Buddhism also know that there are many brands and tendencies that call themselves Buddhist. Yours may indeed be one of the nicer ones, with no theology, no demonology and devils, and is more a "cleansing and enlightening" discipline of mind and spirit. That's not what the Tibetan monks were selling to the peasants.


To the Editor:

Michael Parenti's article on Tibet is only one half of the story.

This began as a BRITISH covert operation, before even the 1949 revolution and before the CIA was officially created. It precedes Indian independence in August 1947.

It was realised the Dalai Lama had not yet been located, and British policy had long striven to replace the authority of the Chinese governor with either the Dalai Lama or the Ketchen Lama.

The key was that the child who became the present Dalai Lama's eldest brother, already and adult, was in British India and recruited as an agent. He was to play a significant role, returning to Tibet, in identifying his youngest brother as the latest incarnation of the Dalai Lama.

It was also in many ways the first major operation of the CIA on its creation and had been going on for some years before the coup attempt in 1958.

A CIA operations 8 man team brought out the Dalai Lama, lead by "Tony Pop," regarded by the brotherhood as one of their top covert special operations agents.

Richard Roper
Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England - July 13, 2003


To the Editor:

Michael Parenti's article on Tibet is filled with factual errors.

Among others, he attempts to dispute the death of 1.2 Million Tibetans by citing a Chinese statistic of 1.74 Million Tibetans in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Does he not realise that historical Tibet is about three times the size of TAR? Tibet, as Tibetans describe, is the entire Tibetan plateau including regions in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunan. The total population of Tibetans in all these regions is estimated at around 6 million. He describes Melvyn Goldstein as being "sympathetic" to the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Independence -- a claim I am sure even Goldstein would deny -- as a Tibetan, I can say I do not consider Goldstein to be sympathetic to the Tibetan Independence or the Dalai Lama. Mr. Goldstein is one of the preferred American friend of the Chinese government who has unlimited access to Tibet. Mr. Parenti charges the Dalai Lama with all the ills of old Tibet as propagated by the Chinese government. Does Mr. Parenti realise that the Dalai Lama was only 15 when China invaded Tibet? Is he accusing the 15 year old Dalai Lama of all the social injustices in Tibet? Mr. Parenti claims that the exile community is primarily made up of the aristocratics' claims of old Tibet, has he looked at the Tibetan government in exile and the leadership in that? Not a single Kashag (the Cabinet) member nor the leadership group in the Tibetan Government in exile is of aristocratic background.

Nima Dorjee, P.Eng.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - July 17, 2003

Michael Parenti responds:

1) The TAR is exactly the area in question regarding Chinese rule and atrocities.

2) Goldstein does speak sympathetically of the Dalai Lama and of the right of Tibet to self-determination, albeit only in passing. He certainly is not hostile to the idea. And he is not a Beijing party-liner. Read his book.

3) I am happy to hear that the Dalai Lama is putting nonaristocrats into his exile Cabinet. The Cabinet would not look good as a democratic alternative if he put in the same old feudal fascists with whom he spent so much time in years gone by.


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Published July 21, 2003
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