In his biography of Mila Repa, Tsangnyon Heruka (1452-1507) wrote:
When one of his disciples asked Mila Repa whose reincarnation you are, the great yogi said, “I don’t even know myself whose reincarnation I am. That you believe in me as a reincarnation of a Bodhisattva is your superstition. In fact believing in reincarnation is the worst form of heresy.”
Mila Repa’s above comment is enlightening. It testifies the corruption of the Tulku system and the dangers of theocracy to human liberation. And Mila Repa is absolutely right.
As we all know, foreign powers fully exploited Tibet’s Tulku system. The Chinese continue to exploit it, as we saw in the case of the selection of Panchen Lama and the Karmapa. Today, we have two Panchen Lamas, two Karmapas, and if we do not move to real democracy and abolish the whole Tulku system, we will have multiple Dalai Lamas.
If such a scenario occurs, it will be a serious setback for our struggle and will cause serious confusion and split within our society.
It is high time Tibetans realize that democracy is necessary for our survival. Democracy is not just participating in elections and voting for the favorite candidates, although these rituals are important. True democracy is possible only when there is freedom to think and speak without fear or embarrassment, to question everything — especially the most sacred and divine things.
Such freedom to think, scrutinize and speak freely comes only in an open society. And an open society is possible only when we learn to speak truth to the powers that be — whether they are the lamas, government leaders, parents and elders, school authorities, activists or intellectuals. So we must question the powers that be, especially our government, rather than follow them blindly in the name of “patriotism” and thus letting them steal our independent spirit and thoughts.
Today, our government is attempting to seal our fate by negotiating Tibet’s right to exist — not as a sovereign nation but as an autonomous part of China. Negotiating for autonomy is no problem, but the danger is that our government believes it is the only way forward. In other words it has some acute problems when it comes to tolerating other views. However, if we are to learn anything from Mila Repa it is that thinking independently is more important than dogma.