I watched the DVD of the Special Meeting held in Dharamsala in November 2008. The DVD was of the sixth day, the last day of the meeting (I suppose the seventh was fittingly the day of rest).
Several things struck me:
A. The Resolutions of the Meeting are really very weird. One was that China must admit policy mistakes and another was that China is to be blamed for lack of progress on dialogue. Umm yes. A hundred and ten people got together for this?
B. Samdhong Rinpoche's speech was basically a state of the union address, which got me thinking, do we even have a state of the union address? His Holiness's March 10 speech is obviously the important speech of the year; is there even a Kalon Tripa equivalent? Sure the Kashag always issues a March 10 statement too but that always seemed like an underwhelming speech to me; I can't remember ever listening to a Kashag March 10 statement. Samdhong Rinpoche's speech was actually very good. He addressed a lot of the suggestions made throughout the Special Meeting in his usual way, that is, sarcastic and skewering if you are at the wrong end. (I mean he addressed some suggestions and criticism by saying, you are wrong, and also, don't know enough!) And he talked about what the government had been up to- no debt, yay! So, I am actually a huge fan. Samdhong Rinpoche is obviously one of the brightest intellects in the Tibetan world, and I really like the no-nonsense, no-frills straightforwardness, and also even his slightly-awkward smile. So overall I am awed and admiring of him, and of course also slightly scared to death.
Samdhong Rinpoche made a distinction between the Middle Way policy and the Dialogue process; he said the dialogue process had produced no results but this did not mean that the Middle Way policy had produced no result. It is an important distinction to make, but I wished that he had elaborated on whatever result had been produced by the policy.
C. I think His Holiness was disappointed with the Special Meeting. His Holiness said, at the very beginning of His speech, that He had nothing to say about the meeting. Later during the Q&A, when a reporter asked how policy was going to change because of the meeting, His Holiness answered, "The meeting...I have nothing to say." I did think this might be a strong statement, because the people didn't have much to say at the Meeting, after all.