Tibet’s National Spirit Advisor

At Foreign Policy, Jeffrey Bartholet talks to Thupten Ngodup, medium or kuten for the Nechung Oracle which is said to have warned the to flee Tibet in 1959. They discuss the processes of selection and consultation, the wrathful nature of the deity, and how the oracle fits into the government-in-exile’s decision-making.

FP: How many times did His Holiness request you last year?

TN: Around seven or eight times.

FP: And you never know what you’re asked and what answers you give?

TN: Many people ask that question. I tell them it’s like last night, you had a dream or many different dreams, and in the morning you can’t remember them clearly. It’s that kind of feeling. The first time I saw myself on video, I thought: That’s not me.

FP: So you wouldn’t know, for instance, if you had been consulted about the wave of inside Tibet?

TN: I don’t know. But let me make this clear: They don’t simply rely on the prophecies of the Nechung Oracle. We follow a democratic process in exile. Everything is discussed in the parliament and the cabinet, and if they are not clear, or want to hear the opinions or prophecies of the Oracle, they will consult. Ultimately, the decision depends on them, not the Oracle. [Source]

Bartholet is the author of a feature on the self-immolations and their background in the July 8th edition of The New Yorker. See more on Tibetan self-immolations and China’s recent reaffirmation of “absolute” opposition to the Dalai Lama via CDT.