The Dalai Lama, Marxist?

That a monk announces vaguely incoherent support for an millennial cult shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but these remarks by the Dalai Lama seem to have caused some annoyance:
NEW YORK (AFP)— Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said Thursday that he is a Marxist, yet credits capitalism for bringing new freedoms to the communist country that exiled him — China. “Still I am a Marxist,” the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader said in New York, where he arrived with an entourage of robed monks and a heavy security detail to give a series of paid public lectures.Marxism has “moral ethics, whereas capitalism is only how to make profits,” the Dalai Lama, 74, said.
Dumb, sure, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Read the full text of what the Dalai Lama has to say, and it’s easy to see that the exiled Tibetan leader is very far from signing up for the Cheka. That said, the distinction he makes between Marxism with its supposedly “moral” ethics and amoral capitalism is false. Even if we give Marxism some sort of credit for its “morality” (I wouldn’t), the Dalai Lama is comparing apples with oranges. While a moral case can certainly be made for capitalism, capitalism doesn’t pretend to be a moral system in its own right. In essence, it’s nothing but an economic tool. It leaves (and often creates) a space for morality, but does not presume to dictate what those morals should be. Marxism, by contrast, was dreamt up as a comprehensive belief system, and that’s something else altogether. To compare the two in the way that the Dalai Lama has done makes little sense. Then again, he is a monk.

Mao & The Dalai Lama, Oct 13 1954 (AP)

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7 Responses to The Dalai Lama, Marxist?

  1. John says:

    Oh yes, because in a free market system, everyone cares only about themselves, while under a communist system, everyone thinks only of how to benefit humanity. That’s why North Korea is the most moral country in the world.

  2. Susan says:

    Maybe he believes in, or at least finds Buddhism compatible with, Marxist THEORY: The state as a controlling entity vanishes altogether, and people live and work together in perfect harmony. Much like the old Coca-Cola theme, I daresay.

    According to his website, he doesn’t have much good to say about Communism: “Communism failed utterly because it relied on force to promote its beliefs. Ultimately human nature was unable to sustain the suffering it produced.”

    He should know.

  3. John says:

    Point taken, Susan, but if hates communism and loves Marxism, he is guilty of fuzzy thinking. They are pretty much the same thing, and it is impossible, given human nature as it is, to have a Marxist/communist system that doesn’t rely on force.

  4. Susan says:

    True, John, but I don’t expect razor-sharp logic from “spiritual” leaders, since by definition their primary allegiance is to the non-rational.

  5. hanmeng says:

    Not much of a surprise. Look how far left he is on The Political Compass (scroll down):
    Spiritual leaders are hostile to profit.

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  7. Chuck says:

    Eh, at least he’s not a cultural marxist — at least judged from his concern and activism for the traditional homeland of his people. I wonder how he justifies wanting to preserve/maintain that region for his own — though Eastern Marxism never had the same flavor as Western Marxism.

    You would think he would be more of a capitalist-(traditionalist)-democratic kind of guy. And just supported traditions or social philosophies which had a heavy charitable aspect. It’s hard to see how his having a religion does not conflicts with being a marxist.

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