"Prof Samdhong Rinpoche's on Hind Swaraj"
(DIIR Hall, Dharamshala | August 19, 2002)
Prof Samdhong Rinpoche Delivering His Speech on Hind Swaraj
At the outset, I must express my appreciation and gratitude
to Friends of Tibet (INDIA) for doing many things for the
Tibetans-in-exile at the grassroot level who are not yet really
prepared themselves for freedom movement, particularly the freedom
movement under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
for whom commitment to a Non-Violence is uncompromising. Under
the leadership of His Holiness the people of Tibet quite sincerely
engaged themselves for the freedom of Tibet for the past more than
fifty years. Of course during the last 50 years we have achieved
great deal and today, we are now almost at a stage to take off,
but for our weaknesses which I feel is not very easy to remove in
a short span of time.
The greatest weaknesses, which we are facing, are two things.
One: our commitment to Non-Violence under the leadership of His Holiness
the Dalai Lama, is quite sincere. I do not doubt the sincerity of the
people, but the understanding and the culture of Non-Violence is not
able to evolve within ourselves. Second: Such dichotomy with us is
that we are committed to ourselves to a genuine democratic system,
but the people have not been able to evolve and develop democratic
culture, culture for Democracy within ourselves. So we find some
kind of struggle, and it is absolutely indispensable to develop
an understanding of the culture of Non-Violence and a culture of
Democracy if we want to achieve the success.
This problem has been understood by Friends of Tibet (INDIA) and
now they are quite sincere about doing something about it. They
continuously and persistently go around the Tibetan communities and
talk with them, have dialogues with them about the Non-Violence,
about freedom struggle and particularly the Gandhian concept of
freedom and the Gandhian concept of Non-Violence.
Gandhian concept of Non-Violence is extremely apt for us because
this concept of Non-Violence is accepted and practiced by His
Holiness, our leader and he says that the Gandhian interpretation
of Non-Violence is correct or the real one. And therefore we must
study it, we must try to understand what the concept is? Why Gandhi's
teachings necessarily fall under Buddha's teachings?
Buddha was a monk, Buddha was a spiritual teacher and the entire
teaching was woven around just for spiritual upliftment. He did not
care to give a social upliftment, he did not care to give a social,
philosophical or political meaning to it, because Buddha's teachings
of Non-Violence was in the context of spiritual practice. We may
be able to understand it in Buddha's own word.
Many past Tibetan rulers were not able to understand the Buddha's
concept of Non-Violence in the context of social and political
freedom. For that reason I always say although the Tibetans have
until now claimed that we have a combination of Dharma and politics,
the 'Chosi-Sungdel' but it had never happened in real sense
until the present XIV Dalai Lama.
The past leadership always thought that a certain degree of violence,
power and repression is needed if one needs to run a country or
govern a nation and therefore Tibet, in spite of being a Buddhist
country and in spite the title 'the combination of Dharma and polity',
we have never been able to have a military free nation.
Not only Tibet, there are many Buddhist countries today,
who until now have not been able to do away with their military force,
with their weapons and with their ordinary defence system of today.
In that context unless we read Gandhi's teachings we will never be able to
understand it in the context of social and political teachings of
I deeply appreciate to have this series of workshops on the text
of 'Hind Swaraj'. Gandhi had written and spoken voluminously.
The collected works published until now is more than 300 volumes,
almost Buddha's teachings of the 'Kangyur' which has 108
volumes. Gandhi never cared for consistency. He was always doing
experiments and each day he had something new to say.
So you'll find a great deal of inconsistencies and differences.
And you'll know that Buddha's teachings, each word of Buddha's
teachings cannot be taken on face value of the world, we call
it 'nizar' and 'niarth.' We have to interpret many
things, because of inconsistency. Yet certain basic principles which
cannot be compromised, for example the four outlines of Buddha's
philosophy, that have to be consistent in every teaching and every
word. Similarly the 'Hind Swaraj' of Gandhi's basic teachings
and even after around 30 years, he did not find anything-needing
revision. That means this is pure and basic teaching, therefore we
must learn, we must read this great book.
This is the only treatise, a text which is almost 100% relevant,
and Gandhi interpreted in our own context, as Dr Mani has very
rightly mentioned in his introduction, that wherever 'India' and
'British' are mentioned or used in this book, if you substitute
them by 'Tibet' and 'China,' the whole book is entirely relevant
to the Tibetan issue.
I am seriously studying this book for the last 12 years. I knew
about it for quite a long time but I was not able to study it
seriously in depth until 1992 when I came to Dharamsala to work in
the parliamentary affairs. I had a chance to interact with some of
the Gandhians and our dialogues and our interactions were centered on
'Hind Swaraj'. At that time I realised I must re-study and re-read
'Hind Swaraj' seriously. Since then I kept on reading it. I found
that whatever doubts and whatever questions aroused in my mind in
the context of Tibet issue, I am able to find a suitable answer. I
always go to 'Hind Swaraj' and read it more carefully, I always find
the correct answer to my doubts, to my questions from this small book.
Since then I am carrying it around with me wherever I go.
For me 'Hind Swaraj' is equally important as that of Dhammapada and
in many ways more important than Dhammapada, because my understanding
of Dhammapada is through 'Hind Swaraj'. When I do not have any
exposure to Gandhi's teachings my understanding of Buddhism was
general and Dhammapada's importance was very limited.
After reading Gandhi's many works particularly 'Hind Swaraj' my
understanding of Buddhism and Non-Violence has immensely widened
and became practical in every word. It may be social, political and
economic. Each one of the questions of life is dealt with correct
answers. So this is the philosophy of life and this is the philosophy
of spirituality in full time.
I mentioned it before also, at a similar kind of workshop in Sarah,
where chapter by chapter how they are related to the Tibetan
situation, is more clearly demonstrated by Dr Mani. I would like
to sum up with few things, which might perhaps facilitate to redo
this workshop with Rajiv Bhai in the coming three days.
Today the whole world is in the influence of the material.
The various forms of materialistic outlook and the tension between
materialistic approach and the spiritualistic approach or in other
words idealism and materialism, this debate and dialogue remained
in the world for centuries, for many years. Perhaps it may not
end. For centuries people are divided. People who are leading
the life of civil society so to say, many to govern a nation or
state. Those people are considered to be assigned to work in the
materialistic field and their spiritual practice is a kind of part
time job. They are not expected that they would achieve a great
deal in their spiritual field. They just think that the spiritual
aspect would be done by the other segment of the society.
Many people who opt for spiritual pursuit, mostly renounce the
civil societies, get into monasteries, become monks and rather
become dependant on civil society for their livelihood and their
persuit for the duality of material attainment and salvation
or nirvana. Buddha had said at many times particularly in his
Mahayana teachings and Vajrayana teachings, that
worldly appearance and spiritual appearance can be combined in
one's individual life. But his teaching was never demonstrated
by anyone. It was Gandhi who has demonstrated, who said that the
materialistic approach cannot keep you anything worthwhile for your
spiritual objectives and not only the materialistic approach can
give you full worldly life, that was Gandhi's teaching. For leading
a full and satisfying worldly life, you need the understanding of
spirituality, the inner life. This is really a very unique teaching
perhaps not very many of Gandhian followers very carefully understood it.
The Tibetan people who by tradition proclaim that they advocate
the combination of spirituality and worldly life, and if we have
to prove this as reality, as a pragmatic thing, the only way is to
adopt the Gandhian teaching, only then we might be able to say that
we are following a path of combination of Dharma and polity.
If this basic concept is properly analysed and understood, then
the spirituality and materialistic do not need to be opponents
or opposite things. It can be complementary to each other, the
whole material life can be converted into a spiritual life, that is
absolutely and easily possible and that is very clearly demonstrated
and explained throughout this book — 'Hind Swaraj.'
'Hind Swaraj' basically is known for two sharp criticisms; one on the
modern civilisation and the other on missionary and the industrial
society. These two criticisms are extremely important. This is
all the discourse. Today the underpinning of criticism is very
shallow. A Buddhist must know the way of criticisms, because the
whole of Buddha's teaching is a form of dialogue and is not a form
of preaching or sermon. Buddha's sutra goes through an analytic
dialogue. Through those dialogues, they arrive to a consensus.
Mahatma Gandhi's Notes on 'Hind Swaraj' (January 1921)
Listening to Prof Samdhong Rinpoche
Above is a speech given by Prof Samdhong Rinpoche
on August 19, 2002
during the 'Hind Swaraj Reading'
organised by the Friends of Tibet (INDIA)
in association with Swarajpeeth.