Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has expressed regret over deadly clashes among Tibetan groups in China over access to areas of a parasitic fungus that is prized for its purported medicinal properties.
The Dalai Lama made the rare plea this week following the latest violence over the harvesting of “caterpillar fungus" between two main rival groups in northwest China's Qinghai province that left at least two people dead and three others wounded on May 30.
The fungus, indigenous only to the 1,000-mile-long Tibetan plateau running from western China to Nepal, enters the larva of the caterpillar moth, mummifies its prey and eventually grows out of the head of the caterpillar. It is highly valued for its purported medicinal benefits and as a libido booster in China.
The Dalai Lama called for a halt to the disputes among Tibetans over access to areas where the fungus grows, saying these quarrels have become a "crisis."
"We have heard that when such incidents occur, some thoughtless and ignorant persons, acting on excuses or on whatever comes to their mind, take up guns and knives to harm others in disregard of a sense of loyalty to the brotherhood of all Tibetans," he said.
"Likewise, in some area in which fungal caterpillar is harvested, there have recently been cases of conflicts and of some places joining together against others, causing crisis situations. I feel sad when I hear of these things."
Reminding the Tibetans that "violence is contrary to the beliefs and conduct of all who believe in karma and in Buddhism," he said, "these acts also obstruct the efforts I have been making all my life to turn Tibet into a peaceful and violence-free land."
"Therefore, out of sheer care and concern, I appeal to all of you—monks and laypeople both—to immediately cease these actions that bring disgrace to the Tibetan people. When similar disputes occur in the future, you must resolve them."