home
RSS
June 11th, 2011
08:00 AM ET

Dalai Lama's 'I'm a Marxist' comment sparks curiosity

By Moni Basu, CNN

Karl Marx called religion the opium of the masses, so a few folks were taken aback when the Dalai Lama proclaimed himself a Marxist during a recent visit to Minnesota. 

Minneapolis-based writer Tsering Namgyal listened in on the Dalai Lama's talk with 150 Chinese students at the University of Minnesota. Surprised by what he heard, he wrote about it for Religion Dispatches. Namgyal said midway through the conversation, the Dalai Lama said: "As far as sociopolitical beliefs are concerned, I consider myself a Marxist."

Whoa? Really?

Wait. The spiritual leader quickly clarified his position. "But not a Leninist," he said.

Whew. Maybe that last part was enough to placate thousands of followers who see the Dalai Lama as the global face of compassion and, more importantly, a living symbol of opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet.

The Tibetan leader went on to discuss whether his religiosity contradicted his fondness for Marxism.

Namgyal wrote:

"The Tibetan leader answered that Marx was not against religion or religious philosophy per se but against religious institutions that were allied, during Marx’s time, with the European ruling class. He also provided an interesting anecdote about his experience with Mao. He said that Mao had felt that the Dalai Lama’s mind was very logical, implying that Buddhist education and training help sharpen the mind. He said he met with Mao several times, and that once, during a meeting in Beijing, the Chinese leader called him in and announced: 'Your mind is scientific!' - an assessment that was followed by the famous line, 'Religion is poison.' "

The Dalai Lama formally relinquished his political and administrative powers in May but remains the spiritual leader of the Tibetan community worldwide.

Namgyal found the three-hour exchange between the Chinese students and the Dalai Lama interesting. China, which took over six decades ago, accuses the Dalai Lama of being a separatist.

The dialogue, wrote Namgyal, gave the Dalai Lama the opportunity to portray a very different picture of himself than what the Chinese students usually hear from Beijing. That was a good thing for Namgyal because, he wrote, those students would one day be leading China.

- CNN

Filed under: Buddhism • Dalai Lama

soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. Wangchuk

    In Tibet, the Chinese Communist Party prohibits Tibetans from revering their spiritual leader, HH the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama's picture is banned & those caught praying to the Dalai Lama can be imprisoned & often tortured. Buddhist monks & nuns are forced to denounce the Dalai Lama, which they spiritually can't do, & when they refuse, they are jailed & often beaten by Chinese prison guards. In 2008, thousands of Tibetans took to the streets in Tibet & called for the swift return of HH the Dalai Lama to Tibet & freedom for the Tibetan people. Over 200 Tibetans were killed in the security crackdown by Chinese armed police & army. Over 5,000 Tibetans were detained. Today there are over 800 Tibetans serving prison sentences for political crimes like calling for the return of the Dalai Lama or wanting more human rights.

    June 28, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  2. feckless

    "Whoa? Really?

    Wait. The spiritual leader quickly clarified his position. "But not a Leninist," he said.

    Whew. Maybe that last part was enough to placate thousands of followers who see the Dalai Lama as the global face of compassion and, more importantly, a living symbol of opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet."

    This author should read a book about Marx, or maybe just skim wikipedia before writing.

    The Dalai Lama ascribes to a political and historical paradigm, he is not a pedophile, but from the tone of the article you'd think he was.

    CNN – writing down to the 3rd grade Dixie understanding level aka 'marx' & 'socialism" are the two greatest evils ever, nevermind how they allign with the actual words of Jesus Christ.

    Although I did hear a sermon from a (supposedly) non evangelist minister telling me that Christianity is illegal in China, I told him after church that he should do some googling and then work on his own Bearing False Witness before he tried to stoke the religious anger against the evil godless commies.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  3. FairGarden

    Buddhists need Jesus for salvation and meaningful life. Emptying self is not enough; it needs to be filled with Jesus, God's life. God gave humanity something much more excellent than greedless-ness. Buddhists are better than greedy secular Americans. Westerners don't bash Buddhism because it is a form of self-reliance. It's Jesus or selfism. Honest humans choose Jesus.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • tallulah13

      You are certainly welcome to your own opinion.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:21 am |
    • FairGarden

      @Tall-13, if you have nothing intelligent to say, please don't stalk me. you American atheists are such stalking bullies. Know yourself.

      June 15, 2011 at 2:23 am |
    • Kevin

      I appreciate your perspective. Thank you for sharing your informed opinion.

      Unfortunately, buddhism is often mistaken as being an incomplete system. We westerners tend to see it as being limited because it does not provide a clear answer for the possibility of living an eternal life. However, buddhism does offer an answer to this, it's just not a "western" point of view.

      The buddhist answer has to do with getting ot the root of our beliefs and our concepts. There is a sense that when we do so we will see how all concepts, beliefs, perspectives, and states of mind are conditioned. They don't exist independently. Therefore, they do not exist in the way that we habitually think they do. They are concepts and we isolate them based on a habit of mind. If we look deeper, nothing actually exists in that way, including concepts about god, the afterlife, etc.

      Please dont take this as a way of discrediting God. I'm just trying to emphasize how far and complex buddhist philosophy is. On the other hand, buddhism does not specifically deny the existence of God. If God is there after you've uprooted yoru concepts, God is there. It's just important to be honest with yourself.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • VoipOfReason

      Why is it, that you christians are always trying to force your beliefs on to others? You all sound almost like an insecure child trying to convince him/her self, that your imaginary friend is real.

      June 22, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  4. Reality

    Reminds one of the following:

    " It is true that many exponents of Buddhism, most notably the Dalai Lama, have been remarkably willing to enrich (and even constrain) their view of the world through dialogue with modern science. But the fact that the Dalai Lama regularly meets with Western scientists to discuss the nature of the mind does not mean that Buddhism, or Tibetan Buddhism, or even the Dalai Lama’s own lineage, is uncontaminated by religious dogmatism.

    Indeed, there are ideas within Buddhism that are so incredible as to render the dogma of the vir-gin birth plausible by comparison. No one is served by a mode of discourse that treats such pre-literate notions as integral to our evolving dis-course about the nature of the human mind. Among Western Buddhists, there are college-educated men and women who apparently believe that Guru Rinpoche was actually born from a lotus. This is not the spiritual breakthrough that civilization has been waiting for these many centuries."

    http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/response-to-controversy2

    ==========================================================================================

    June 14, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • DaLe

      - "... But the fact that the Dalai Lama regularly meets with Western scientists to discuss the nature of the mind does not mean that Buddhism, or Tibetan Buddhism, or even the Dalai Lama’s own lineage, is uncontaminated by religious dogmatism.
      ... Among Western Buddhists, there are college-educated men and women who apparently believe that Guru Rinpoche was actually born from a lotus. ..." –

      See, somehow the quote managed to blame the lack of proper s3x education in the west on the Dalai Lama and Buddhism.

      June 15, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • DaLe

      Wh4t you c4ll sp1r1tu4l br34kthr0ugh h4s t0 c0me fr0m w1th1n, wh1ch is r4th3r d1ff1cu1t wh3n ho0ked on m4t3r14l th1ng5 (0r 0n th3 dr1v3 f0r s3x 4nd/0r p0w3r 1f w3 c0ns1d3r 4 Fr3udi4n 4ppr04ch). But pl3453, 1f th15 15 s0m3 c0mpe11110n 4b0ut wh0 h4s th3 b3tt3r b3l13fs (and 4b0ut wh0 s3ll5 m0r3 b00k5 and/or who gets more gr0upies), t4k3 th3 f1r5t pl4c3 f0r 4ll I c4r3. Aft3r 4ll, sci3nc3 c4n 3v3n m4k3 v1rg1ns (h3r3 1n th3 m34n1ng of f3m4l3s wh0 d1dn't h4v3 s3x w1th 4ny m4l3) g1v3 b1rth t0 ch1ldr3n, wh1ch 1s r3m4rk4bl3 s1nc3 usu4lly 0nly sp3rm and 3gg m4n4g3s t0 d0 th4t. 4nd 1f V1rg1n M4ry w4s 4 h3rm4phr0dite w1th t3st1cl3s wh0 1mpr3gn4ted h3rs3lf, th3n 1t 15 cl34r th1t 34rl13r Chr15t14n5 w3r3 ab0ut 2000 y34r5 4g0 4h34d 0f r3c3nt3r1sh t1m3 4nd t0l3r4nt 0f s0-c4ll3d 3rd g3nd3r5. 0r th3 t1tl3 of the article here could be used to explain why "V1rg1n M4ry". The story is also a good talking point for groups with children regarding v1rg1n1ty and where babies are from (not involving bees or birds). It is a topic that becomes news every year to many, yet in more a year I didn't see any article on CNN about where babies are from.

      June 16, 2011 at 5:24 am |
    • DaLe

      Slave labour, one milliard persons in unvoluntary hunger, life-saving medicine not available where needed too, polluted air and water, murders, ... ; what does any doctrine of science say about these things? Isn't the so-called holy grail of science these days global warming? If you stand for pure scientific beliefs, shouldn't you be fighting against anything which is turning the environment into a gas chamber?

      June 16, 2011 at 5:24 am |
    • DaLe

      About that dogma you've been reposting, if a belief of mine would be that humans are poop left behind by the flying spaghetti monster as it was flying through, who are you to say that such belief is wrong, and who are you to stigmatize me for such belief and for the expression thereof? And, it's not like Christians would believe that is usual for virgins to give birth to children.

      June 16, 2011 at 5:25 am |
  5. Kevin

    These debates are brutal. Being more respectful will help.

    I have no doubt that Christians feel a genuine attraction to their beliefs, and it is not for me to tell them they are wrong. While I don't share their view, having resentment or some kind of animosity towards them does not help anybody. They can experience an internal transformation as well, and if their object is Jesus or God and that helps them have their internal transformation, that is great. They have my full support and encouragement.

    As a buddhist, I maintain that the objective of all religions is an internal transformaton, or perhaps a spiritual transformation. It is possible that there is a conscious life after death, but thee is no way to know. Lots of things are possible. However, what's important is that we proceed in a manner that enables us to achieve happiness. Christianity and buddhism claim to know how to achieve, albeit in different ways. What they both agree on is that to achieve true happiness, we have to spend our time reducing other people's suffering. That is a beautiful thing.

    In regards to science, I can say that if we are using it to reduce suffering – which is generally the case – then religious perspectives should be able to partner with it. Christianity and buddhism both have the ability to co-exist with science and thus partner with it. Science is the how but not the why. Unfortunately, science will never be the why, nor does it attempt to be, nor does it ever need to be. It's okay, and any animosity between religious perspectives and science is really pretty ludicrous. Science does not disprove our religious inclinations, and religion does not trump science in terms of what is measureable.

    The important thing is to know that we can achieve our goals while we are living, which may have implications beyond this life. Nobody knows, not even our greatest scientists. The afterlife is not even the essential question. We should be concerned with the thins we are doing right now, and our understanding of what is real and what is not. This all starts by looking within.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Lori

      thank you for an informed, thoughtful and respectful response. what a concept...

      June 21, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
1 2
Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.