Seven Years in Tibet

This is an excellent movie in my opinion, though slow-moving. Dalai Lama has always fascinated me, especially after my visit to Dharamshala in 2008. The movie depicts the Dalai Lama’s life when he was very young, and how he was tutored by the Austrian mountaineer who managed to reach Lhasa, the capital of Tibet in 1944, and lived there till 1951.

Since I am sort of educated on Tibetan history, this movie appealed to me. The Peoples’ Liberation Army of China invaded an independent and proud Tibet in 1951, and continued its attack on civilians and monks during the course of the 1950s, murdering a million Tibetans and burning down over 6,000 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. China had absolutely no right, and no business in Tibet, but wrongfully claimed sovereignty over Tibet. All that could have been eventually resoved amicably, but China chose to attack and kill defenceless people who were and still are, peace-loving. Any such large country which invades a small defenceless country and murders civilians and religious monks, will have to suffer consequences eventually, and that applies to all large and powerful nations, including the U.S., U.K., France and Russia. There was no one to question their violations and infraction, their killings and assassinations, their illegal acquisition of land and wealth, and their destruction of religious faiths.

The first half of the movie is not about Tibet, so it could mislead the audience as one could misunderstand that this movie is all about mountaineering and the second world war. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The second half focuses on Tibetan way of life and the Dalai Lama, and the impact that the mountaineer had on the educational and social development of the very young Dalai Lama. The essential learning is that though China now heartlessly rules Tibet, the Tibetan culture and way of living continue their path to salvation. It demonstrates the unassailable faith of the Tibetans and puts to lie China’s claims that the 14th Dalai Lama is an enemy of China who is intent on splitting China, which is absolute hogwash. China invaded and occupied an independent Tibet, and Tibetans now agree to be part of China, so why keep hurting Tibetans and the Dalai Lama? What is the rationale behind it?

The movie gracefully depicts the bond which develops between the Dalai Lama and the Austrian, though it is not clear how the very conservative advisors to the Dalai Lama would allow a total foreigner complete access to the Dalai Lama, but that is part of the real history.

Heinrich Harrer, the mountaineer (acted by Brad Pitt in the movie) says in his book “Seven Years in Tibet” – Wherever I live, I shall feel homesick for Tibet. I often think I can still hear the cries of wild geese and cranes and the beating of their wings as they fly over Lhasa in the clear, cold moonlight. My heartfelt wish is that my story may create some understanding for a people whose will to live in peace and freedom has won so little sympathy from an indifferent world.”

The only country in the world which gave asylum to the Dalai Lama was India in 1959, it also allowed him to form a government in exile. Dalai Lama is widely respected around the world, and continues to live at Dharamshala.

I connected with the movie rather well, and it has synced up my feelings towards Tibet, which in my mind, will never be a true part of China. This may be heresy, but so be it. The ultimate truth is what one feels, not what one is told. Every country on the planet is afraid of China, but China will also attain soft power one day, and it will then realize it is not necessary to demonstrate its hard power.


Vijay Srinivasan

21st January 2018



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