High Peaks Pure Earth has presents the English translation of an online essay on the subject of nationalism by a Tibetan blogger who calls himself “Lag” (vulture). The article was written on April 15, 2015 and posted on his blog on korawa.com on May 1, 2015.
“Lag” uses the term མི་རིགས་རིང་ལུགས། (mirigs ring lugs) in Tibetan for nationalism and his musings, also social commentary, call to mind the writings of other young Tibetan thinkers who write on large topics, bloggers such as Buddha and Shokjang.
Thank you to Palden Gyal for the translation from Tibetan to English.
There is this prevalent assumption that we are familiar with or understand what ‘nationalism’ in our society is. The birth of the term ‘nationalism’ occurred recently in its ideological development, but I think the concept itself is quite ancient. Since we are always fond of engaging in talks related to “nationalism,” the idea has become prosaic, and it has unwittingly entered into our ‘general knowledge’ without much discussion or deliberation. As a consequence, for most people, the idea of nationalism has become a ruler of discernment, and they maintain it with a virtue of strict and uncompromising outlook.
Regardless of race or ethnicity, nationalism has a force of intensifying sentiments. It carries an acute sense of discernment and a high degree of moral authority. This moral authority facet of the ideology assists people in establishing and validating their perspectives and positions. Such views and visions of nationalism have led to and created many circumstances of divergence or convergence in many societies. To recount an example from recent history of China, why did the Communists (CPC) and the Nationalists (KMT) confront each other even after their supposed resolution? The chief reason for the conflict and clash between the nationalists and communists was nationalism. Both Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek were committed individuals who had different visions for the future of China, cherishing distinct views of nationalism. Nationalism has this rare power of convergence as well as divergence.
If we look back and critically examine our own history, we realize that just as Lhalung Paldor’s assassination of Emperor Lang-Darma was for Tibet, the latter’s destruction and demolition of Buddhism was also in the name of saving the Tibetan Empire – weren’t they driven by yet conflicting views for the Tibetan Empire? In retrospect, Sakya Pandita’s surrender to the Tardars, Ganden Phodrang’s deployment of Mongol soldiers into Tibet, Ditsang Parthur’s persecution by Nga-Lam-Jar-Sum (three ministers during the time of the Seventh Dalai Lama) or their own downfall, Lungshar’s deprivation of sight or Reting’s reason behind the removal of Lungshar’s eyeballs, Phunwang’s motivation behind leading the way of the red Communists into Tibet or Takdrak’s protest against it, even the so-called “ten-virtues” movement in Serthar or for that matter those who support and sustain the idea that Amdowas are not Tibetan, all of these were and are founded on this faint idea of nation and nationalism. Logically, one must wonder: what is Bhod and who are real Bhodpas?
Thus the word “Bhod” (Tibet) is a curious term. If the expression Bhod is a box, everything could be deposited or dumped into it. For instance, just like anyone can declare and name anyone an enlightened being, different objects and articles of significance have been put into this box, and there is some degree of elasticity to this conceptual box. Sometimes this box can accommodate a multiplicity of “things” and other times it can house only few. But it has never departed the prudence of and profit for some individuals or group of individuals, while the multitude invariably bewitched and beguiled by a language of political trickery. As a consequence, the river of Tibetan history is punctuated, directed and driven by conflicting views of nationalism and all in the name of the nation. Our history also bears witness to the double-edged characteristic of nationalism – the contradictory yet possible good and bad elements of the ideology.
These days we come across a growing number of Lamas, Tulkus or lay individuals who claim to do this and that, organize activities or preach certain codes of conduct in the name of Bhod. Some even publicly accept their acts of theft and robbery and demonstratively claim to have established this or that for Bhod, while others express their conviction and courage to kill or die for Bhod. Many of these restless minds seem to discipline and conduct their lives according to what they see as proper and prudent for and in the name of Bhod. But, what is this “for Bhod” actually mean and who is this for ultimately? Examine it closely and truthfully. Is it for a short-lived profit of your own? Is it for an idea or an activity that you are involved in? Is it something related to your birthplace? In short, are you not yourself Bhod? If not, is your birthplace Bhod? Oh, “nationalists”!
Everybody seems to be very fond of talking or listening to people about nationalism. Some contend and question the necessity of nationalism, but that is not useful. It seems quite an inextricable ideology. Under the banner of nationalism, some wholeheartedly uphold and commit to a certain ideals, while others in the name of Bhod or religion engage in numerous activities for personal profit and power. This idea or the word “Bhod” has become almost an instrument or a weapon of those self-seeking individuals or groups. I do not hold that nationalism is an entirely detrimental and damaging ideology, but I protest against the uncritical eye that receives everything done in the name of Bhod or under the banner of patriotism without discernment and deliberation. When we think and talk about nationalism, we must not forget to locate and revise nationalists and nationalism and the history of the political ideology in the greater world history. We must recollect the birth of National Socialism in Nazi German as a nationalist ideological movement and its architect, Adolf Hitler.