The Wolf In Monk's Robes
by Alexander Green

This week more than 100 deaths were reported in Tibet, as the Chinese government cracked down on demonstrators in Lhasa demanding greater autonomy.

In many ways, this is nothing new.

In 1950, Chairman Mao Zedong ordered the "liberation" of Tibet. The Chinese army occupied the country and the following year it was turned into a so-called "autonomous region."

Since Tibet is a relatively poor country with no oil and little strategic value, the rest of the world decried the thuggery but essentially did nothing. The Dalai Lama was forced to escape in 1959, and remains the country's spiritual leader and head of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Today he concedes that genuine independence is no longer a realistic goal for Tibet. But he supports greater freedom and autonomy for his people.

The Dalai Lama has condemned the violence of the protestors this week, however, and has threatened to step down as leader of the movement unless it stops. "Violence for us is suicide," he says.

Yet because the Nobel Peace Prize-winner remains a high-profile symbol of resistance to Chinese oppression, the government there continues to demonize him. At a meeting last Wednesday, for example, Tibet's Communist Party chief said, "The Dalai is a wolf in monk's robes, a devil with a human face but the heart of a beast."

The Dalai Lama does not dispute this assessment. Not because it's accurate, but because he believes angry words like these are "the wind blowing behind your back." And he views the speaker not with disdain, but with compassion.

"For a spiritual practitioner," he says, "one's enemies play a crucial role... Our friends do not ordinarily test us and provide the opportunity to cultivate patience, only our enemies do this. So, from this standpoint we can consider our enemy as a great teacher, and revere them for giving us this precious opportunity."

This is a radical approach to diplomacy - and to personal relationships, as well. He believes those who confront or defy us provide the resistance necessary to build inner strength.

And despite being a high priest, the Dalai Lama doesn't feel we need to adopt his Buddhist beliefs to benefit from this approach. Many Westerners, accustomed to proselytizers, are surprised to hear this.

In his book "Ethics for the New Millennium," he writes, "Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit - such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony - which bring happiness to both self and others... My call for a spiritual revolution is thus not a call for religious revolution. Rather, it is a call for a radical reorientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self."

This is not a message you typically hear from world religious leaders. Yet if this viewpoint were widely adopted, imagine how things might look today in the Middle East... or Northern Ireland... or India and Pakistan.

In essence, this "wolf in monk's robes" reminds us that true religion is not about our enemies or other people's beliefs. Rather, it is about ourselves.

"The very purpose of religion is to control yourself, not to criticize others," he writes. "How much am I doing about my anger? About my attachment, about my hatred, about my pride, my jealousy? These are the things which we must check in daily life."

The Dalai Lama is not the first spiritual leader to take this point of view, incidentally. As the Anglican priest William R. Inge said more than a half century ago, "Religion is a way of walking, not a way of talking."

Carpe Diem,


Author's Bio: 

Alexander Green has recently launched Spiritual Wealth (

What is “Spiritual Wealth,” exactly?
According to Alex:
"Anything that can be measured in dollars and cents, I call material wealth. Everything else – the love of our families, the health we enjoy, the time we spend doing things we enjoy or working on things that really matter – I call spiritual wealth."

Alex is also the Chairman of Investment U, where his actionable investment ideas are published three times a week. He’s the Investment Director of The Oxford Club, as well, where he’s beaten the S&P 500 nearly 5-to-1 over the last five years.