The idea that Tibet’s freedom must be restored is not politically motivated, nor is it based upon some nation-state theory. Our struggle is not primarily an ethnic or political struggle. Rather, all people born in the spiritual land of Tibet have a universal responsibility to all beings, and the fulfilment of that responsibility is a duty that we all incur simply by the fact of our birth. If we do not live up to that birth-duty, then we are not worthy of being Tibetans and we are unable to act in a way that does justice to our heritage. Not only is there nothing more rude and base than being unable to live up to one’s birth-duty, even from a worldly point of view, one scarcely merits the life of humanity that one enjoys.
Now what is this responsibility about which I speak? It is the preservation and dissemination of the unique inner sciences and cultural tradition that were preserved and enhanced over thousands of years by the Tibetans of early generations, who considered these to be more precious than their own lives. In modern times, these traditions have a close bearing on the well-being of the entire humanity. If we allow the Chinese to destroy this tradition, it will be a great loss not only to the Tibetans, but to the human community as a whole.
Having said this, I must say that this heritage cannot be protected unless we have complete freedom and unless Tibet’s ecological balance is maintained by preventing the destruction of environment. Therefore, the ultimate goal is not just political freedom for Tibet. Rather, our ultimate goal is the preservation, maintenance and dissemination of the sublime cultural traditions of the unique inner sciences for the sake of all sentient beings. However, without proper means and favourable conditions, it is not possible for us to fulfill this responsibility. We must therefore first undertake the spiritual practice of liberating Tibet without delay.
Unlike the freedom struggles of other peoples, our struggle must be waged with a sense of urgency as we cannot wait for generations for our freedom. We must undertake the Satyagraha movement with the aim of achieving a concrete result no later than 1997-1998.
Non-Violent action is the one and only method of our spiritual practice for the restoration of Tibetan freedom. Therefore, the people of Tibet, both in and outside Tibet, must make efforts and learn to believe in non-violence as indeed we must internalise the habit of nonviolent action. Non-violence is the way of those with the greatest of courage. It is too much for the faint-hearted and too incomprehensible for those with no firm appreciation for inner sciences and the workings of karmic cause and effect. Many simple-minded people assume that we follow the non-violent method because China’s enormous population and military strength leave no other choices for us. These people believe that we would follow a violent path if we had the military capability to do 50; This is a serious mistake and an indication that they have no confidence in the nonviolent path of peace. Whether one has confidence in the principle of karmic causality whereby virtue results in happiness and non-virtue in suffering – or whether one views the situation from a purely political standpoint, the philosophical understanding here is that one cannot achieve wholesome goals if one does not rely on wholesome methods. If one were to practice non-violence with an intent to deceive others, then it would be far better if one were not to practise it at all. Even if violence could guarantee us freedom tomorrow, we must firmly vow never to resort to it. Until we can make such a vow, our non-violent path of peace will not be perfected nor will it be a powerful instrument for achieving our goal.
There can be no authentic non-violent peace movement that is not based on truth. In a sense, truth and non-violence are synonymous. One might wonder how we should use the non-violent path of peace to perform the spiritual practice of liberating Tibet. The answer is that we must recognize that truth is on our side and , with this conviction, we must engage ourselves in a Satyagraha campaign.
Qualifications of a Satyagraha activist
- Apart from having an unshakable faith and belief in truth and nonviolence, one must maintain non-harming ethics. This consists in part of never telling lies and never harming others, a conduct which must be maintained for not less then three months before entering the movement.
- One must have no anger, hatred, or intent to harm the object of our resistance: the government officials and workers of communist China and all those siding with them.
- Regardless of the severity of beating, imprisonment, torture and hardship one suffers in the course of activism, one must never harbour a motive to harm others.
- The Satyagraha movement for the liberation of Tibet should not be inspired by political, worldly or anti-China motivations. Instead, the Satyagraha activists should have a firm belief that his spiritual practice for the liberation of Tibet is for the benefit of all sentient beings.
- A Satyagraha activist should have the permission of dependants like spouses, children, and old parents before embarking on the movement.
Points to be understood
A Satyagraha activist must clearly understand that not only is he or she quite likely to die immediately in the course of activism, but that all the members of the movement may perish without achieving the goal. But then, human life in general is about 70 years. Therefore, it is clearly preferable to die a few years earlier while executing one’s birth-duty than to die a few years later without carrying out this duty.
Forms of Satyagraha
The movement encompasses two forms:
Personal and Collective Satyagrahas. When a person has met all the qualifications, he or she can engage in any feasible form of Satyagraha suited to the time and place without depending on a collective plan. Many forms of Personal Satyagraha are easy to undertake and so everyone should continually engage in them. Personal Satyagraha should be particularly emphasized when the time is not ripe for Collective Satyagraha.
Collective Satyagraha, on the other hand, should be undertaken by a group of at least five people. The activists of Collective Satyagraha must have a plan that is suitable to the time and place.
The stages of movement
- Personal Satyagraha can be undertaken at any time or place.
- Collective Satyagraha will begin from a specified date. From that date all the activists will abandon their property and assets for the duration of the movement and go to Tibet to engage in Satyagraha.
- From the same date, the activists in Tibet will begin their activism in their respective areas.
- After assessing the number of activists, they will be assigned to proportionately-size units. As soon as the first unit of activists is decimated through death, injury and imprisonment, a second unit will take over within a day or two. In this way the movement will be sustained.
Types of Satyagraha
SPECIFIC types of Satyagraha movement will be determined in the context of time and place of intended activism. Therefore, it is not possible to describe all forms of activism at this point. In a rough sense, however, Satyagraha activism consists of Civil Disobedience, Non-Cooperation, and Peaceful Resistance. Listed below are some examples of such activism:
- Complete disregard for all unacceptable orders and directives of the Chinese central government and the Chinese-controlled regional and provincial governments in the Tibetan area.
- Non-cooperation with, and non-participation in, any government or public work that forms part of a project initiated and\or controlled by the central, regional or local government of communist China.
- Resignation from current government jobs.
- Total boycott of goods and services produced by the Chinese government or people.
- Refusal to study or teach the Chinese language or any form of Chinese studies.
- In short, Satyagraha activists will in no way associate or cooperate with any activity that is in any way related to the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the transfer of Chinese population into Tibet, or the destruction of the Tibetan environment.Activists will take out peaceful resistance through daily assemblies. They will not even defend themselves with the poles of their banners or placards, let alone use actual weapons. Activists will shout slogans of resistance and ceaselessly make their demands known.
- Although the activists will certainly have to endure such hardships as enforced starvation, one must not deliberately sacrifice one’s life through fasting, self-immolation, and so on.
The Satyagraha movement is likely to face many possible obstacles, but most are of little cause for concern. However, the two most serious obstacles could prove problematic. They are:
- Satyagraha activists will face immeasurable torture and torment, and our tormentors will use every conceivable method to provoke the activists to violence and falsehood. It is possible that some will be forced to break their vow of non-violence. Another possibility is that they will try to infiltrate movement ranks with agent provocateurs.
- Through vague and false statements, and with the pretext of seeking some means of arriving at a settlement, they will ,try to stop the movement by wasting our time in protracted meaningless discussions.
We will need to face these two eventualities with great skill and vigilance.
Translated and compiled from Prof. S. Rinpoches’ writings on Satyagraha by Tendar. This piece of writing was composed on 10 March 1995.