Reflecting about God with our Tibetan friends – Part 1

“The Tibetan people have many famous stories. There are the stories of Gesar of Ling, the stories of Aku Tonpa, and the story of Milarepa. Everyone likes to listen to these stories and to tell them to other people. Good stories help us to understand life, and to live it well. Among all the world’s stories, there is one story that is the best of all. It is a true story. It is a story of how God’s love, joy, and peace can overcome sickness, death, family problems, and the work of evil spirits. And this wonderful story explains how we too can overcome the bad things of this life and receive the best gift of all.”

Gsungrab: ༄༅། །འཛམ་གླིང་མཐའ་གྲུ་གསལ་བའི་འོད་སྣང་གི་ལམ་བུ། འཕྲིན་བཟང་གི་ངོ་སྤྲོད། / The Path of Radiant Light – An Introduction to the Gospel. རྩ་འགྲེལ། བོད་དབྱིན་ཤན་སྦྱར། / Text & Commentary Tibetan-English. Central Asia Publishing, 2022.

The book to which the editors refer is the Bible of course. Before I go into detail, I want to clarify some things for my own’s sake: First, I think that every individual in the world should have the right to choose his or her religion on his or her own. We should not enforce any belief on anyone. This is very important! I am against proselytizing peoples all around the world and take their religion away. However, there might be people all around the world who do not identify with their local religion, whether it is a world religion or a tribal religion, and indeed, we should make wisdom from other religions available to them. So we should offer these people a help in understanding our religions, but we should in no way diminish their beliefs. Second, why do I address the Tibetans specifically here? This is a personal background. It is my hobby to learn about the ethnic minorities who live in the People’s Republic of China. They really fascinate me. The Tibetans, the Mongolians, the Uyghurs, the Zhuang, the Dong, the Miao, the Wa, the Lisu, etc. they really caught my heart and inspire me with their traditional wisdom, their ideals, their way of life – I really believe that we can learn a lot from them. Therefore, we should not be that arrogant and regard ourselves as culturally superior and look down to them as some hinterland tribes. I really look up to these amazing peoples and I want to build a bridge between East and West. We often forget what value exchanging means. It is not a one way road! Many people associate the exchange of values as teaching others our Western values and strongly demand them to adopt them for once and for all. But an exchange is always twofold: it also means that we can adopt values and thoughts from them.

“On the Chang Tang are many shepherds. The shepherds lead their flocks to good pastures. Wise shepherds know what their sheep need. They know the places where there is good grass. They know how to protect their sheep from wolves. Shepherds know these things today because they have gained wisdom by listening to the stories of those who were shepherds before them.”


Same as the Tibetan shepherds in Qangtang (mostly but not exclusively covering Ngari and Nagqu in the Tibet Autonomous Region) protect their sheep, lead them to good pastures and look after their needs, so we can teach them that God is our shepherd (Psalm 23): He looks after us, protects us and leads us to “good pastures”. It is even literally described in that way: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul […]” (KJV). But there is a slight difference in the analogy: The shepherds are able to know how to look after sheep, because they gained wisdom from generation to generation, and so, human-beings always have to pass on our knowledge to the next generation: this goes also to the knowledge about God, but God Himself is all-knowing.

In the past, there were many dogmatic preachers and also the history of the Catholic Church, for instance, is not one of a brilliant shining light, and in the same way, there might be very caring shepherd and shepherd that faint in front of all their hardships. So we should not blindly follow the Word of God as a human-being taught us, since it is still a human-being who taught us, but meditate upon it (Psalm 1) to find the right way. Nonetheless, God never faints in front of us. No matter how many times we go astray, like the sheep, we can always return to our Loving Lord.

So if a Tibetan asks us about our Biblical faith, what shall we tell them? We should tell them that we trust in God, we are like the sheep of a shepherd, a shepherd who is loving and kind and we can always rely on him. Unlike a shepherd, He does not accumulate wisdom as He is all-knowing, but we have to gain wisdom to understand His plan and live righteous. And even if we fail a few times, we can always return and are received by Him, so He never gives up on us. His Creation is a loving one, and He created us in His likeness. But we also should let them know that God loves every single human-being, no matter which religion he adheres to, so we should not put any pressure on him and he shall not feel pressured.

Food for thought in conversation: You may ask your conversation partner if a similar story exists in Buddhism or Bön. In which points is he/ she able to agree and where are significant differences? Is his or her view also supported by Biblical passages? If not, is it really a problem for you?

Timo Schmitz, 1 January 2023 – The headtitle was changed on 9 January 2023


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