Behind Dalai Lama’s Holy Cloak
Good intentions, questionable outcomes. If you want to know about the Dalai Lama, follow the money…
The Dalai Lama has been an American agent for decades. Michael Blackman investigated his finances for the Melbourne Age newspaper:
Rarely do journalists challenge the Dalai Lama.
Partly it is because he is so charming and engaging. Most published accounts of him breeze on as airily as the subject, for whom a good giggle and a quaint parable are substitutes for hard answers. But this is the man who advocates greater autonomy for millions of people who are currently Chinese citizens, presumably with him as head of their government. So, why not hold him accountable as a political figure?
No mere spiritual leader, he was the head of Tibet’s government when he went into exile in 1959. It was a state apparatus run by aristocratic, nepotistic monks that collected taxes, jailed and tortured dissenters and engaged in all the usual political intrigues. (The Dalai Lama’s own father was almost certainly murdered in 1946, the consequence of a coup plot.)
The government set up in exile in India and, at least until the 1970s, received $US1.7 million a year from the CIA.
The money was to pay for guerilla operations against the Chinese, notwithstanding the Dalai Lama’s public stance in support of non-violence, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
The Dalai Lama himself was on the CIA’s payroll from the late 1950s until 1974, reportedly receiving $US15,000 a month ($US180,000 a year).
The funds were paid to him personally, but he used all or most of them for Tibetan government-in-exile activities, principally to fund offices in New York and Geneva, and to lobby internationally.
Details of the government-in-exile’s funding today are far from clear. Structurally, it comprises seven departments and several other special offices. There have also been charitable trusts, a publishing company, hotels in India and Nepal, and a handicrafts distribution company in the US and in Australia, all grouped under the government-in-exile’s Department of Finance.
The government was involved in running 24 businesses in all, but decided in 2003 that it would withdraw from these because such commercial involvement was not appropriate.
Several years ago, I asked the Dalai Lama’s Department of Finance for details of its budget. In response, it claimed then to have annual revenue of about $US22 million, which it spent on various health, education, religious and cultural programs. Read more…