An interesting blog post and a major magazine article this Sunday both raised questions about the continuing viability of Ladakhi culture and peacefulness. Both imply that social conditions and beliefs in peacefulness are never stable or permanent.
An anonymous individual, writing the blog “Balancing Frogs” under the pseudonym “Animal Extender”, published a book review on Sunday of Helena Norberg-Hodge’s book Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh. Animal Extender admits that, although a college course on developmental anthropology had made little impression, the Norberg-Hodge book was quite effective. The author of the blog evidently enjoyed the portrayal of traditional Ladakhi subsistence farming, but he or she was not at all convinced by Norberg-Hodge’s discussion of the problems cause by globalization.
The review doesn’t touch on the peacefulness of the Ladakhi people, though the changes they are undergoing due to globalization clearly impressed the writer. However, Animal Extender thought that Norberg-Hodge’s “anti-globalization rant was a bit over the top,” and he or she concludes the review with the thought that visiting tourist spots in Ladakh has little appeal after having read the book.
This Sunday’s New York Times Magazine featured a lengthy, well-written article by Pankaj Mishra, “The Restless Children of the Dalai Lama.” It analyzed the changing attitudes toward peacefulness held by young Tibetans living in exile in India. While the article is not about the Ladakhi people, peacefulness in both Tibet and Ladakh is based on the beliefs of Tibetan Buddhism, so the article is tangentially relevant to Ladakh also.
Mishra examines the restlessness of the young Tibetans who are increasingly unwilling to accept the pacifism of their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. The author interviews young Tibetan opposition leaders who take a more aggressive approach than the Dalai Lama in their campaign against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The young Tibetans may well turn to violence after he has passed away.
Mishra talks with one of the young leaders of the opposition to Chinese rule, named Tsundue, and his friends at the Peace Cafe in Dharamsala, India. He describes their reactions to peacefulness: “A true Buddhist is expected to bear with equanimity the prospect of an endless exile, but Tsundue’s friends spoke approvingly of violence as a possible means to Tibetan freedom.”
The situation in Ladakh, reported on several times in these news stories over the past year, is not nearly as serious as the tragedy in Tibet. While the Ladakhis may have had internal social problems caused by violence along the de facto border with Pakistan over the past decades, the Indian national government appears to support a peaceful resolution of the problems. Although the Chinese occupation of Tibet, and China’s attempts to destroy Tibetan culture, do not directly affect Ladakh, the increasing anger of the young Tibetan exiles should serve as a warning that the peaceful beliefs of Tibetan Buddhism could be lost. The anger and rejection by these young people of the Dalai Lama’s approach should be heeded by everyone concerned about Ladakh.