In honor of the 13th Dalai Lama’s proclamation of Independence: Neglecting the invasion of Tibet in analysis of early exile as ‘Geluk Hegemony’

[The following is a quick response to the developing thesis on early exile as “Dalai Lama hegemony” or “Geluk Dominance.”]

If you are going to consider the Ganden Phodrang Government’s actions during the early period of exile as Geluk hegemony, then where does China’s hegemonic powers come into play in your analysis? Especially when we’re talking about exile? You know, the hegemonic power that made Tibetans flee for exile in the first place?

Why is this reading missed by the usual ‘hegemony’ crowd? The tendency to read tensions of early exile through the prism of Geluk hegemony alone tends to neglect considerations of the new problem of invasion that was being experienced by a larger collective at the time.

It’s also significant that great Gelukpa and Nyingma authorities from the early exile days like HHDL and Dudjom Rinpoche who regularly spoke out against sectarianism and infighting and old feuds and explained it would weaken Tibetans and their cause against invasion and occupation that conditioned Tibetan presents.

I get that it’s important to show Tibetan complexity, but how much is this scholarship a choice to continue specific communities enimities and resentments into the present and at the cost of collective loss and trauma of the invasion of Tibet?

The invasion impacted all Tibetans. The choice to read the fervent calls for DOKTSACHIKDRIL as attempts to grab hegemonic control alone is not only a selective read, it also forgets to engage an invasion the forced Tibetans to flee to exile in the first place. Not to mention the deaths and destruction taking place inside Tibet that provoked such calls to begin with. It’s simplistic to make it just about “Geleuk dominance” or “Dalai Lama hegemony” without addressing a whole invasion and destruction that was going on and its impact on people, including their choices and decisions in exile.

While some of us younger generations removed from that time may have gotten used to the idea of exile, for people of the 1960s, such experiences were happening, in real time. Meaning, they were dealing with them right then and there. To leave that out of the analysis of early exile is like talking about everything except for the big elephant in the room. Such oversimplified reads of early exile is lazy, careless, and reckless because it forgets to implicate the Chinese invasion as the actual cause that conditioned exile in the first place.

How can we honor the complexities and challenges of our distant past without compromising collective experiences of the recent present? There is value in acknowledges the multi-dimensionality of Tibetan communities and the messiness of making communities in new places, without neglecting the story of invasion and colonial occupation. How can we focus on what unites us as Tibetans rather than revive divides from the past into the present? Can we even afford such divisiveness at a time when it feels as though Tibet is experiencing an intensification of colonial incorporation and exile is stretched to its limits in diaspora with confusing political alignments that does not address Chinese colonialism?