Okay, “Enlightenment or bust” might be a bit dramatic, but…

"Dang Zang" is an empty name. The blog has to do with the dharma; material related to Buddhist teachings (Tibetan style in particular, Kagyu in even more particular), meditation, gurus and lamas be they genuine or flaky, books and events. I do have a more personal blog, Pica Pica, and a site for my work.

Oh yes, it's by Alex Wilding


  • A Brexit puzzle 03/07/2017
    No, not the one about “why did we ever…?” This: Let’s think of an election, perhaps a general election. A vital part of our democratic process, of course. Usually it’s a two-horse race with a few also-rans, so let’s just concentrate on the two main parties, and call them left and right. One side wins, […]
  • Kathmandu trip 30/06/2017
    For the last few weeks I’ve been writing up “what I did on my holidays” in Kathmandu this April. It’s on this site, but not on this blog. You’ll find it at http://alex-wilding.com/the-kathmandu-report/  
  • Untitled 27/02/2017
    https://www.theguardian.com/…/grandmother-deported-from-uk-… How is this fair? How is this not vindictive? How is this not a failure to use discretion? How is this not a failure of compassion? How is this not a failure of common sense? How is this not narrow-minded? How is this not mean-spirited? How is this not pig-headed? Sorry, pigs, it’s just […]
  • Donny, Theresa and the Brexit effect 29/01/2017
    In her attempt to pretend that there is enough other “free trade” out there in the world to compensate for the financial hit to the UK (lower wages and higher prices, to you and me) that Wrexit will cause, we have seen Theresa May cosying up to a variety of questionable characters, most notably the […]
Tuesday June 30th, 2009. Posted by Alex W:

Old chestnuts about the Karmapa and the Dalai Lama

My good friend Dave Lawson sent me a link to an article in the Times Online by Michael Binyon. Written some three or four weeks ago, it is entitled Disunity threatens the Dalai Lama’s timeless authority. It is full of tired old chestnuts, and the comments that have been added by others are sadly full of ideas that I thought had curled up and died in a dusty corner long ago. We are only allowed 300 characters with which to comment on the Times site, so although I did that there, I wanted to expand on it here.

Binyon starts the article by referring, as if it were news, to the story of Lama Tenzin Osel, who “has changed his name, denounced the Buddhist order that revered him as a man of spiritual authority and is now studying film in Madrid”. Perhaps somebody can explain to me why this story suddenly spread across the news media a few weeks ago? In the cases that I read, it was always tied in, almost gleefully, with the idea that “See, things in Tibetan Buddhism are not as happy as people like to pretend”. I can certainly see that this case is not a happy one, and I can see that it does raise question marks, to some extent about the Tulku system in general, and more particularly about the recognition of little western boys (as Tenzin Osel was). The puzzle is, however, that it is old news. Tenzin Osel has been – and has been known to be – moving away from his role as a Tulku for some years. Clearly somebody decided recently to make it a campaigning point, but I don’t know who.

Binyon then feeds a couple of foolish misconceptions, to which I will return soon, by stating that “the Dalai Lama’s choice as his successor appears to have fallen on Ogyen Trinley Dorje”. Ogyen Trinley is, of course, the one we generally know as the 17th Karmapa. There are three problems here. Firstly, it is altogether jumping the gun. Secondly, the question of what is meant by “successor” badly needs clarifying. In the light of his age, intelligence, importance and charisma it is perfectly possible that the 17th Karmapa will become a semi-political figurehead for the Tibetans, just as the Dalai Lama is a semi-political figurehead at the moment. If the Dalai Lama were to give appropriate indications, there is no doubt that it would strengthen the possibility that this would happen, but he is not in a position to “appoint” the Karmapa in that way; it is simply a matter of popular feeling amongst the Tibetan people. Thirdly, however, there are also those who are frantically waving the nonsensical red herring that the Dalai Lama wants to appoint the Karmapa as the next Dalai Lama. This is, I suppose, intended as a form of scaremongering, but the idea could only be entertained by those with no clear idea of how these positions hang together.

A little further down Binyon asserts that “there is a major difficulty to any smooth transfer of authority to Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje: the Tibetan community is deeply split over his claim to the Karmapa throne”. This is just wrong. To the best of my knowledge, only a very tiny fraction of the Tibetan community have any allegiance for Shamarpa’s “rival Karmapa”. His followers consist almost entirely of those still loyal to Ole Nydahl and the “Diamondway” organisation. Binyon goes on: “A large number are loyal instead to the handsome and charismatic Trinley Thaye Dorje”. Apart from the fact that this is not true, and the number is not particularly large outside of Europe, he raises some almost embarrassing points here. While we would love to think that good looks and charisma are not important in these matters, we should perhaps be realistic. These are public figures. But “handsome and charismatic”? To judge from the photographs, Trinley Thaye Dorje is not as weedy as he looked a few years ago, which is pleasing no doubt. But if you want “tall, handsome and charismatic”, and if you feel that these issues have a lot of weight, then you simply cannot get past the more generally recognised Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje:


(Oh, did I mention intelligent and artistically gifted?)

The next chestnut is Binyon’s assertion that “The Supreme Court in India has backed Thaye Dorje’s claim”. It has not. The endlessly slow court processes in Sikkim are still proceeding. Some years ago – and this seems to be the basis of Binyon’s statement – the court did make a procedural ruling on the question of whether Gyaltsap Rinpoche could appear in a particular role in the court proceedings on the same side as the supporters of the generally recognised Karmapa. The Supreme Court said that he could not, and Shamarpa’s followers trumpeted this as a victory. In fact it was nothing of the sort; it had an effect on the way that the court case was to be heard but said nothing about the final conclusions, for which we are still waiting.

In his remaining paragraphs, Binyon manages to insert one or two more unlikely claims. He suggests that the Karmapa is “pro Chinese”, a point of view widely promulgated by the opposing side, but one which requires considerable intellectual acrobatics when explaining the Karmapa’s escape from the Chinese at the beginning of the millennium. He says, for instance, that “many commentators” consider the script of the letter that played a part in the Karmapa’s recognition was very different from the normal writing of its claimed author, the 16th Karmapa. One wonders who the “many commentators” are – I suggest that there are one or two commentators who take that point of view, some who say that the handwriting is like that of the 16th Karmapa, and quite a number who said that it is impossible to tell.

Some of the comments added to this article are even more tired. Morgan Camp, for instance, asks “Is there a historical precedent for the Dali (sic) Lama choosing a Karmapa or is this the first time this has ever occurred?” The implication, of course, is that the Dalai Lama did in fact choose this Karmapa, which is simply not true. The Dalai Lama confirmed and added his own recognition to the recognition presented to him by three of the four “regents” of the 16th Karmapa. But I must leave you to read them for yourself.

Wednesday June 3rd, 2009. Posted by Alex:

Tiananmen Square

Let us not forget. 20 years ago tomorrow. Here is one article in the Wall Street Journal.

Saturday March 28th, 2009. Posted by Alex:

John Powers

John Powers gave a presentation in Sydney University yesterday under the auspices of the AABS. Entitled “Tortured Logic”, he dealt with the presentation of Tibet and of Tibetan Buddhism as provided by the Chinese Communist Party, as against its mirror image provided by the Central Tibetan Administration. Very informative, very clear.

John P is the author of what I think is one of the best introductions to Tibetan Buddhism there is. It’s called Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, straightforwardly enough. I’ve often recommended it, as it is solid, sympathetic yet impartial, assumes no prior knowledge at all on the part of the reader but really does give you an introduction, not just a few hand-waving, good-feeling morsels. So it was nice to meet the author and see a sharp, open and greatly knowledgeable mind combined with a warm personality and an enthusiasm for communication. A real scholar.

Sunday March 22nd, 2009. Posted by Alex:

Thank you to the SMH

The Sydney Morning Herald is probably the best paper around here, although the word “radical” would be a tad excessive. But this morning they not only put a story (1m 45s) about a video entitled ‘China’s brutality in Tibet exposed’ into their video section (at http://media.smh.com.au/ – though I’m not sure how long they keep their video reports there), but they even featured it on the front page! (By the way, that link just goes to the general video area at the SMH – you would have to look for this particular report yourself.)

Their front page says:

Tibet: China’s brutality on film
The Central Tibetan Administration releases ‘China’s brutality in Tibet exposed’, a documentary film of what they say are Chinese atrocities on the Tibetans.

Even this bit is not perhaps quite advised for the faint-hearted, although the paper has not shown the strongest parts of the video. The CTA clip itself can be seen at http://media.phayul.com/, and this is definitely not for the faint-hearted!

Friday March 13th, 2009. Posted by Alex:

Firing up the crowd

Revisiting March 10:

Loud chanting of battle cries, lots of cameras – when people have suffered, it’s hardly surprising that younger demonstrators can get carried away by the urge to somehow, anyhow do something!

Wednesday March 11th, 2009. Posted by Alex:

50th anniversary of the uprising

Woke up before the 4:00 a.m. alarm to catch the bus down to Central Station for 5:00. The Sydney contingent was two full coaches plus a minibus. Dozing on the 4-hour trip to Canberra was slightly successful. Arrived late.

There were speeches outside Parliament House, a march to the Chinese Embassy, a touch of rabble-rousing chant, just enough to get some young ones to try to rush the police line, which makes for more dramatic footage. Chants like “Shame, Shame – China Shame”, “Stop Killing – In Tibet”, “Stop Torture – In Tibet”, some silence, some songs.

And that was it really. What’s the point? I think just being there to be counted usually has a point, though it’s obviously very indirect.

Thursday March 5th, 2009. Posted by Alex:

March 10th – 50 years

This March 10 is the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule – the Chinese had invaded in the early 1950s, of course.

Repression has been particularly savage all year, hence the general cancellation of the more joyful celebrations usually associated with the new year; that in turn, has brought more repression, with one monk setting fire to himself just last week in protest. He was shot before the flames were put out, and is presumed dead, but as far as I know nobody knows what happened to the body – “taken to an undisclosed location”, as they say.

So this year I plan to join the coach going to Canberra for the speeches-and-prayers do, provided I can manage to get up at shortly after 4:00 a.m.!

I will report back!