June 20, 2010

The Dalai Lama criticizes Anti-Whaling Protestors. The Dalai Lama should stick to what he knows about.

Update! I’d asked if anyone knew of violent behavior exhibited by Sea Shepherd folks that contradicted their civil disobedience policy. This tip comes via Bill Schwartz, quote via Japan Times:

“…Sea Shepherd recently said it expelled [a member, Peter] Bethune because he violated its policies against carrying weapons. The group said he had a bow and arrows with him while he was aboard the Ady Gil, although he never used them.”

According to Bill, this incident happened 10 days before His Holiness’ statement, which would give me and our readers all context necessary to empathize with the Dalai Lama’s concern. ~ ed.

~ Original article below ~

The Dalai Lama, in Japan, criticized the Sea Shepherd Society. AFP:

“The rebuke came as the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader visited Japan for an 11-day lecture tour.

At a news conference, he said he had told the US-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to stop its violent harassment of Japan’s whaling fleet.

“One time I wrote a letter…(saying) their activities should be stopping,” he told reporters.

The Dalai Lama said he supported Sea Shepherd’s goal of preventing whalers from harming the giant sea mammals but added that “their (activities) should be non-violent”.

Remember, Japan is the nation that is leading the (more and more successful) fight to re-legalize whaling for the first time since the famous, wonderful Save the Whales campaign of the 1970s. Japan has taken to bribing small, poor, corrupt nations (that often have no whaling traditions of their own) to side with Japan in overturning the whale-hunting ban.

This is well-reported by our friends over at Tricycle Magazine, and the comments are well worth reading. Excerpt:

The Dalai Lama, who is visiting Japan, criticized anti-whaling protesters, saying that while he sympathized with their efforts to protect the mammals, protesters’ methods should be nonviolent

…read the rest at Tricycle.

Make sure to read the comments. Excerpt from one, which states the case well:

While I have the utmost respect for HHDL, I have to say I feel he is mistaken in this case.
I have been following the activities of the Japanese Whaling fleet and the Sea Shepherds for some time now, and from what I can tell, the Sea Shepherds have done nothing overtly violent in their protection of marine mammals.

However, the Japanese whalers have: thrown metal objects at protestors in small boats; used a LRAD device against the protestors’ helicopter pilot; and (allegedly) rammed and destroyed the protestor’s specialized boat (and I’ve seen the footage, it was deliberate AFAICT). This was all done in the name of exploiting a loophole in the International ban on whaling.

The Sea Shepherds have only: thrown (essentially) stink bombs onto the whalers’ ships to try to slow down/stop their work; and attempted to disable the whalers’ ships by fouling their propellors. Neither of these actions could be considered violent (or life-threatening, unlike the LRAD and boat-ramming scenarios).

I feel HHDL must have based his comment on Japanese propaganda. It is sad that he would make such a public statement without getting both sides of the story.

The Dalai Lama is all about non-violence, and that’s why we love him. But, more precisely, we’re talking about a lineage of civil disobedience, here—not sitting on our hands and staring at our navels in the face of tyranny. The Dalai Lama himself is a hero of this lineage—his peaceful strength in the face of Communist oppression has inspired millions, including of course myself.

But the fact that, in this case, he made such comments while in Japan—which again is actively bribing small, poor nations in a possibly-successful effort to overturn a ban on whaling since the 70s (remember Save the Whales?) make his upaya (skillful means) rather clumsy, this time around.

And it’s okay to call our heroes out when they misstep. In fact, it’s essential, in the Buddhist tradition. No one’s perfect or god-like, in Buddhism—no one’s held up on a pedestal. Honest communication is as vital for our leaders as it is for our loved ones and friends.

And innocent as His Holiness’ intentions are, the context within which his comments were made is harmful—and may well lead to more permissiveness of real violence.

The Cove touches on Japan’s love of bribing its “allies”:

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