BEIJING, March 27, 2009 -- Unwilling to lose the privileges they enjoyed in the feudal serfdom society of old Tibet, some lamas have been the initiators of riots or other violent incidents in the region, according to a Tibetologist, who lived and worked in Tibet for 26 years.
"Lama in Tibetan language means a person with morals and cultivation. In average people's eyes, lamas should just chant, abide by religious vows and promote Buddhism, the essence of which is being nice to others," said the Tibetologist Liu Wei at an interview with Xinhuanet Friday.
Liu Wei (left), a Tibetologist and also a senior reporter of Xinhua, is interviewed at Xinhuanet on Friday, March 27, 2009. Liu lived and worked in Tibet for 26 years. (Xinhua Photo)
Those who chant and cultivate themselves in accordance with Buddhist doctrines are real lamas, said Liu. "However, those who break the law and do things that have nothing to do with Buddhism should not be considered monks at all."
Liu witnessed three major riots in Tibet in 1987 to 1989 and other cases in the region. He said all those riots were initiated by lamas or people dressing lama robes.
Some so-called "religious figures" exiling in foreign countries are unwilling to lose the privileges they boasted before. Therefore, they kept making violence due to the instigation by home and abroad separatists and foreign politicians, Liu put.
Liu Wei (left), a Tibetologist and also a senior reporter of Xinhua, is seen with a lama in this undated file photo. (Xinhua Photo)
"What they did was completely contrary to their religious doctrines," Liu stressed.
"As long as we understand the history of Tibet, the background of Tibetan Buddhism and that religious groups in the region enjoyed absolute power in the past, it will be easier to understand that why lamas always took the lead in each riot in Tibet," said Liu.
"Old Tibet was a society characterized by the merging of politics and religion, in which monasteries enjoyed the greatest power and interest among the three powerful forces," he said. "The most powerful serf owner was the Dalai Lama, who was both the most powerful political leader and the highest religious head."
Under statistics, there were 477 officials in old Tibet in 1959, among whom 266 were monks. That means upper-layer lamas, especially lamas at a certain level, enjoyed certain privileges. That was mainly because in old Tibet big monasteries were not only for religious events. Upper-layer lamas had their own manors, serfs and slaves, and some even had their own judicial rights and armed forces.
A Lama distributes holy water to believers during a ceremony of "abhiseca", a Tibetan strength-giving ceremony by pouring water on the heads of Buddhist faithfuls, in a lamasery in the Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Aba, southwest China's Sichuan Province, March 11, 2009. (Xinhua Photo)
"For example, some big monasteries, like the Drepung Monastery, had their own prisons and they put people into prison if they did something wrong. Those were kind of like religious courts."
Therefore, for centuries, the political center in old Tibet was the three biggest monasteries -- Sera Monastery, Ganden Monastery and Drepung Monastery. As the religious as well as political center in old Tibet, they somehow dominated the fate of Tibet.
Take the Drepung Monastery for an example. A social survey record shows the monastery possessed 185 manors, more than 300 prairies and 10, 000 serfs. Moreover, each upper-layer lama in the monastery had a slave.
There was one lama who had 10 younger lamas serving him. According to his disciples' indiction during the democratic reform in Tibet in 1959, he raped more than 1,000 women in villages near the monastery from in 35 years. When he was in charge of a monastery subordinate to the Drepung monastery, he raped all the women working on the manor that affiliated with it.
The social survey shows there were few records of the evils deeds lamas did. On the contrary, most of them were covered with too much glory. The abolishment of serfdom was to deprive the privileges of serf owners. And the biggest serf owners were the upper-layer lama and the highest lama was the Dalai Lama.
"However, the Chinese government still needs to do more to expose the true nature of the political and religious regime of Old Tibet," said Liu.
"In my opinion, the political foundation for such regime has not been completely abolished, that is why some religious forces with political purposes, at home and abroad, are growing stronger."