Tibet’s sacred objects may be worth as much as $1bn
The head of the world’s largest Buddhist organisation says he believes there are around 200 million Tibetan objects that are sacred.
“I am confident that this number is far higher,” said Dalai Lama Lobsang Sangay, in an interview with The Associated Press in his home village of Dharamsala, the capital of India.
“These sacred objects are worth as little as $ 1bn,” he said, citing the value of a Tibetan prayer rug as a key indicator.
Sangay, a former Communist Party member, said the spiritual treasures could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
He said many of the objects were in museums around the world.
“In the case of the Buddha, he was an idol.
There are some relics of him.
And there are some of the most precious Buddhist objects in the world, like the Buddha’s robe, the robe of a bodhisattva,” Sangay said.
“The price tag on these things is a lot.”
Buddhist iconoclasts have long said that the wealth of Buddhist relics is a secret treasure, and they believe that their veneration has been hijacked by western powers.
In 2012, a group of Buddhist monks launched a campaign to buy the Buddha.
The campaign raised nearly $100m and led to the restoration of Buddhist icons and other objects to their former glory in India and abroad.
“If the wealth is not available for the preservation of Buddhist objects, we can see the problem and we can start to discuss it,” Sangays comments the AP.
“The wealth of the sacred objects is a very important part of the development of Buddhism.”‘
Buddhists are not like other religions’The Dalai Lama said that some Buddhist relics were not really sacred objects at all.
“Some are considered as holy objects and some are not,” he told the AP, but the value is not the same.
“They are not Buddhist objects.
I think there are many Buddhist objects that have value, but they are not sacred objects,” he added.”
Buddhas are not just holy objects.
We are all like this.
They are like us, we are human beings.”
He said that while some objects are revered by monks, the value does not extend to all Buddhists.
“Many of the things that are revered in Buddhism, those are not truly sacred objects and they are in museums.
Some of them are not in the temple anymore,” he noted.
The Dalai’s comments come at a time of growing international attention to the plight of Tibetans.
On Friday, the United States announced it would cut off aid to Tibet for a second time in a decade.
“We are going to stop any financial assistance to the Dalai Lama and his administration because of his increasingly repressive measures against the Tibetan people and his ongoing efforts to destabilise the region,” the State Department said in a statement.
China has also taken steps to crack down on Tibetans and others.
The Associated Press contributed to this report