Dalai Lama gets almost top treatment in France

August 22, 2008

Dalai Lama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy at Lerab Ling temple in Roqueredonde, southern France, 22 August 2008/Philippe LaurensonSensitive about possibly upsetting Beijing, President Nicolas Sarkozy decided not to meet the Dalai Lama during the Tibetan spiritual leader’s current visit to France. But he sent an envoy who got just as much media coverage (if not more) than he would have — his wife. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (left), the pop singer and former supermodel Sarkozy married in February, attended the consecration of a Tibetan Buddhist temple in southern France on Friday. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Human Rights Minister Rama Yade and former prime minister Alain Juppé were also at the Lerab Ling temple, but French media made only fleeting references to their presence.

Read our report by correspondent Estelle Shirbon here.

Segolene Royal and Dalai Lama, 16 August 2008/poolEven before any comment came from China, France’s opposition Socialist Party criticised the meeting as “a serious slide into celebrity- mania (“peopolisation”) in political life” and rapped the two ministers for taking a secondary role at the ceremony. “They should have received the Dalai Lama in a secular and official setting,” a party spokesman said.

Not that the Socialists are opposed to meeting the Dalai Lama. In fact, former Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal (above) held talks with him last week and said afterwards that she wanted to visit Tibet soon.

Lerab Ling temple/Tertön Sogyal Trust, Architect: G. Kaloghiros

The red and gold Lerab Ling is one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist temples in the West. It houses a 7-metre (23-foot) high golden statue of Buddha and many relics and scriptures.

“I told him he was always welcome in France,” said Kouchner, who attended the inauguration and met the Dalai Lama briefly with Bruni-Sarkozy afterwards.

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What a great marketing success story, what a great PR triumph in launching a globe-trotting politician, the Dalai Lama, as a be all and end all. Politicians and celebrities fall over themselves to be seen in his company, in order to consolidate their human rights credentials. His nebulous messages and utterances are never challenged for veracity. What did he say the other day…something about 140 people gunned down in Tibet!!?
To all you johnny-come-lately new age Buddhists, Dalai fans etc., the Dalai Lama is hardly a revered religious figure in traditional Buddhist communities. He is largely a creature of the US State Dept. and the CIA. A left over from the Cold War era. It seems his use by date has been extended by the advent of the electronic age.

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