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Beijing Review Exclusive
Special> China's Tibet: Facts & Figures> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: July 25, 2008 NO. 32 JUL. 31, 2008
Seeing Is Believing
Senior Chinese Tibetologist invites Americans to see the real Tibet for themselves

By promoting Tibetan culture around the world, she added, "I would only wish that the world would understand how important culture is in geoscience, geoeconomics, foreign affairs and foreign politics. It is the window to understand values, beliefs and tradition so that we can respect our differences."

Dalai Lama's role

Tondrub Wangbum said he also found that many Americans have little knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism and the role of the Dalai Lama in the religious life of Tibetan people. Therefore, they are very concerned about the post-Dalai Lama situation in Tibet, he noted. This prompted some people in foreign countries to think that if the Dalai Lama was to live overseas or passed away, religion in Tibet would collapse.

"This is a huge misunderstanding," said Tondrub Wangbum.

The Dalai Lama is commonly regarded as the religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism in the outside world. However, historically speaking, Tondrub Wangbum said, Tibetan Buddhism has many sects. Except for the Gelug Sect, to which the Dalai Lama belongs, there are the Sagyi Sect, Nyingma Sect and Gagyu Sect among others. There are also a large number of followers who believe in the Bon religion, an original belief in the region.

Given this, the choices of Tibetan people for the sects of their religious belief are also diversified, said Tondrub Wangbum, adding that even within the Gelug Sect itself are diverse systems of Living Buddhas. "I think this is a very important issue, which is not widely understood in foreign countries," he said.

Tondrub Wangbum said he thought their U.S. tour was fruitful. "Our voice has been heard and our ideas got across," he said, "but we still have a long way to go in order to have people change their stereotyped views on Tibet-related issues."

It is convincing, he said, that during their exchanges both sides shared a common desire for more and frequent dialogue. "The more we communicate with each other the more issues we can clarify and the better understanding we can have," he said. n

(Reporting from New York)

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