The Dalai Lama has extended his support to a major 10-year research project at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, that will explore the close relationship between religion and politics in Tibet.
The project is considered to be the largest historical project in the world on the subject, and will be led by Mario Aguilar of the university's School of Divinity. The focus will be on developments in Tibetan Buddhism between 1931 and the early years of the 21st century.
Entitled 'Religion and Politics in Tibet 1931-2009', the study will be completed in 2017 with the publication of a series of monographs. The current office of the Dalai Lama, himself an honorary graduate of St Andrews (1993), has written to express its support of the project.
University sources told IANS that the multi-disciplinary project will look at aspects of historiography, social anthropology, international relations and comparative religion. It will also look at the challenges facing the next (15th) Dalai Lama.
Aguilar, who is chair of Religion and Politics and director of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics (CSRP) at St Andrews, said, "The brief period of complete independence of Tibet from China (1931-1950) was marked by the finding of the 14th Dalai Lama in 1935, the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama, a very significant moment that was to mark an insider-outsider perspective in the history of religion in Tibet after the Dalai Lama's self-exile in India of 1959.
"Since then China has annexed Tibet as an autonomous region of China and has even restored some of the Tibetan monasteries destroyed in the hundreds within the period of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
"The question that remains unanswered for the future is how Tibetans are going to manage religion and politics as two geographically separated entities within a Tibetan Buddhist practice that incorporates past histories and a Tibetan region that remains part of contemporary China: both on the path to human Enlightenment in different ways.
"This research project aims at covering the historical ground as to help answer such a question that will arise with the ageing of the 14th Dalai Lama and his future reincarnation."
Over the next ten years, Aguilar will run a series of events and research projects in St Andrews. Specific projects will include 'The History of the Lamas 1391-1935', 'Tibetan Buddhism', 'Independence of Religion 1931-1950' and 'The Restoration of the Monasteries'.
Central to the project is the study of ancient Tibetan Buddhist texts, Jesuit narratives of missions to Tibet and collections of lectures, writings and speeches by the Dalai Lama as well as a number of other Tibetan Studies documents and journals.
In 2009, Aguilar will visit the headquarters of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, where he will visit the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives.
Aguilar added: "Our aim is to provide a series which will comprise arguments by several previous studies that deal with single periods of Tibetan history during the 20th century and to provide a more complete series of scholarly work accessible to historians, political scientists and scholars of religion."