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Ani Jangsem, manager of Kopan’s ani gompa in Nepal, relates the activities of the Tibetans in Kathmandu:
After the intensity of demonstrations and reprisals in Tibet which followed the historic week in March, the Tibetan community in Nepal began daily prayers at the Stupa Tibetan Regional Office in Jorpati which is close to the Boudhanath stupa.
Prayers have been and are still being recited every day from 9.00 A.M. till 5.00 p.m. – OM MANI PADME Hum for those killed in Tibet – both Chinese and Tibetan, monks, nuns and lay people; the accumulation of 100 million Twenty-One Taras Praises for the accomplishment of His Holiness’ wishes for Tibet; and Guru Rinpoche mantra and Hayagriva practice for the Tibetan cause generally and specifically for prisoners to be released from jails.
These practices are being done according to advice from the Tibetan Government in Exile and attended by up to 2,000 and sometimes 3,000 people. Before the school year began for the monastery and nunnery, everyone was attending, but as these days there are classes, each day just some representatives attend.
In Kathmandu, at the United Nations office and at the Chinese embassy, demonstrations are held every day, with the exception of the week of Nepalese elections when the Tibetan community supported the commitment of creating a peaceful environment in the country for the election process. These demonstrations have been attended by 300-500 monks, nuns and lay people, with 200-250 arrested each day – most of whom are released after nightfall! …
A woman married to the Tibetan secretary of a high lama in Dharamsala writes about what life is like in Dharamsala these days. She remains anonymous, although this vivid piece has been emailed around the world many times in the last few weeks …
These days, Dharamsala feels alternately like a temple and the seat of revolution. At times it feels like both. Every morning, thousands of Tibetans, young and old, those born in Tibet and those born in exile, march down the hill from the market of McLeod Ganj, shouting in English for justice and human rights, for the help of the UN, for the long life of the Dalai Lama. Today, their shouts are mingled with the moan of long horns blasting out from a nearby monastery.
They have been marching every day since March 10, and they never seem to tire. Each evening around dusk, thousands more walk through McLeod all carrying candles and chanting the bodhisattva prayer: “May I become enlightened to end the suffering of all sentient beings” in Tibetan over and over again. This prayer has become the anthem of Dharamsala. You hear it muttered from old women, belted out by toddlers, and chanted by monks through loud speakers: “May I become enlightened to end the suffering of all sentient beings!”
The evening marchers end up at the tsuglakhang, the temple located right in front of the Dalai Lama’s private residence, to assemble in what is essentially the Dalai Lama’s front yard. They shout freedom slogans and “Bod Gyalo!!!” (Victory to Tibet) at the top of their lungs for twenty minutes, while young boisterous monks wave giant Tibetan flags to rally the crowd. The red, yellow and blue of Tibetan flags are everywhere, and a feeling that must accompany all revolutions of past times – a feeling of passion, resolve, and the sting of injustice – stirs the air.
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, hosts of the US daily TV/radio news program ‘Democracy Now,’ (March 20, 2008) asked Robert Thurman, professor of lndo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University and President of Tibet House US, what sparked the latest wave of protests’. This is an edited version of his response:
I think it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, and it took us totally by surprise. And I think it took His Holiness the Dalai Lama very much by surprise. Everyone was focused on the march from Dharamsala, the nonviolent march of young Tibetan activists to Delhi and then to the Tibetan border. His Holiness was quite worried about that. That’s something they did on their own initiative. There is an agreement between the Tibetan government in exile and the Indian government not to do political things on Indian territory where they are refugees. So the Chinese claim that this is the work of the Dalai Lama clique is very laughable, but also very [alarming].
The main point I’d like to get across is that when Wen Jiabao in his press conference, and also the hard-line officials in Tibet, said that this is the work of the Dalai Lama clique, this is very sinister, because the Dalai Lama clique is all of the Tibetan people, who follow the Dalai Lama and whatever he does and says. They, and the monks, were just protesting about local conditions where they are – a some of them were arrested at the last Congressional Gold Medal Award last fall – and they painted the monastery in celebration, because they were forbidden to have a formal celebration, but they [monks of Drepung Monastery] were arrested anyway. They were marching peacefully and nonviolently on the March 10 occasion in order to protest those conditions, as well as to celebrate the day, knowing full well that they might bring onto themselves the full force of the Chinese intolerance of any sort of demonstration by Tibetans in Tibet.
And then, when they were shot at and when they were suppressed violently and beaten, then the Tibetan community exploded, because they’re a tinderbox. China has been smothering them with immigration because of this train [connecting China with Tibet]. Three or four million people came pouring into Tibet. Also, the Chinese have been pushing them very hard by making them denounce the Dalai Lama and controlling their studies and persecuting them in all kinds of ways. So it’s a kind of spontaneous outburst of all the Tibetans all over Tibet, including all the areas where two-thirds of the Tibetans live outside of the Tibet Autonomous Region. …
Sara Blumenthal spoke to Yangsi Rinpoche, director of Maitripa Institute (a Buddhist university-in-the-making affiliated with FPMT and located in Portland, Oregon) who is the recognized reincarnation of Geshe Ngawang Gendun and a qualified geshe, about the situation in Tibet.
Sara Blumenthal: From your side, what’s your sense of things right now?
Yangsi Rinpoche: When I heard that the Tibetans’ frustrations have led to some kind of conflict with ethnic thought that is really unfortunate. But I also understand why they get so frustrated. Where can they turn, when they’re pushed from all corners? At the same time we Tibetans need to live side by side with the Chinese. There are just regular Chinese in trouble. I think that this is very sad. Generally speaking, all karmic action creates repercussion. I wish and I hope it will end there.
The media is really paying attention to the immediate situation. After the Olympics, however, the violence from the Chinese authorities may start again. The world will go on to different issues, looking towards the U.S. presidential elections, etc. As Tibetans, we need to look ahead to the aftermath of the Olympics when the Chinese may say, “OK, now nobody’s looking. We close doors.” As an individual Tibetan, I’m really hoping and praying that n violence will happen towards Tibetans or anybody, Chinese included, in the aftermath of the Olympics. When there’s no voice, when there’s no attention, people can do whatever they want. And the Chinese won’t need to fear anything if there is no international pressure left. So that’s one main concern for me.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is sending a strong message of non-violence; everybody may be trying to maintain nonviolence, and the Chinese may be trying to behave better. That would still be my hope for Tibet. And of course, the Tibetan government wants that to happen.
During His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit to Portland, Oregon, in May 2013, His Holiness spoke on the situation in China at a press conference. His Holiness told the media that while things have been very difficult for Tibetans, he is hopeful for the future.
His Holiness cites as an example how many mainland Chinese are now coming to see him in Dharamsala, India and that they are showing genuine interest in Tibetan Buddhism. In addition, His Holiness said there is growing recognition that censorship in China is ultimately self-destructive.
“1.3 billion Chinese people have every right to know the reality. Once they know reality, 1.3 billion Chinese people also have the ability to judge what’s right and what’s wrong,” His Holiness said. “So, censorship is morally wrong and very harmful. … Trust is the basis of harmony and unity. Censorship destroys that trust.”
His Holiness also called for improvement of the Chinese legal system, saying it must come up to the level of international legal standards.
You can listen to His Holiness’ complete response to the question of Tibet and China:
In a brave and landmark address to their own government, twenty-nine leading Chinese academics, writers, jurists and human rights activists from Beijing, Shangdong, Sichuan, Gansu, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Hubai and Inner Mongolia have devised a list of suggestions for dealing with the Tibetan situation.
They include stopping all the Chinese propaganda which is aggravating an already-tense situation; supporting the Dalai Lama’s appeal for peace; urging the Chinese government to stop the violent suppression; and appealing to the Tibetan people likewise not to engage in violent activities.
They urge the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to independently investigate allegations of a “Dalai Lama clique,” and for the Chinese government to refrain from using Cultural-Revolution-like language such as “the Dalai Lama is a jackal in Buddhist monk’s robes …,” instead displaying “a style of governing that conforms to the standards of modern civilization”.
They strongly demand that the authorities “not subject every Tibetan to political investigation or revenge” and any trials should be carried out according to open, just judicial procedures.
They also call for international media access and for the Chinese people to be calm and tolerant, noting that the unrest has spread throughout Tibet and is not confined to Lhasa. They are calling for freedom of religious belief and freedom of speech, holding that animosity must be eliminated and appealing to Chinese leaders to hold direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama.
To read the comprehensive list go to http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2008/03/twelve-suggestions-for-dealing-with-the-tibetan-situation- by-some-chinese-intellectuals/
On March 10, 2008, what began as a peaceful protest against Beijing’s hardhanded policies in Tibet ended in violence and with the deaths of both Tibetans and Chinese. The aftermath of this event has had devastating consequences for the region, and extended well-beyond into the international community. Beijing immediately launched an official crackdown, putting many Tibetans into prison, increasing military presence within Lhasa, and severely restricting international media access in what it purports is an attempt to stabilize the region. The Chinese response to the protests has caught the attention of the international community, and many are critical of China’s action, arguing that it directly contradicted the basic principles of human rights. And now that the 2008 Olympic Games are looming on the horizon, China’s human rights record, particularly as it relates to Tibet and her people, has been forced into the limelight.
Although some have responded by demonizing China’s government and people, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other notable Buddhist and non-Buddhist spiritual leaders have consistently argued for non-violence and understanding, citing the necessity for productive dialogue between Beijing and Tibet’s government-in-exile. Dialogue, for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is the only viable solution to the conflict between the two governments. By virtue of being non-violent and by providing a space for compromise, dialogue presents the opportunity for a solution that will benefit both parties, and thereby accords with the tenets of Buddhism. Up to this point, Beijing has refused to engage in meaningful dialogue with any Tibetan Buddhist leader. The Dalai Lama remains steadfast, radically committed to non-violent conflict resolution as the only way forward. It is one of the most stirring testaments of faith the world has ever known.
As Buddhists, how do we sound the drum of political action while remaining true to our religious principles? We can follow the advice of His Holiness and take the Middle Way and do as Lama Zopa Rinpoche requests: recite the Golden Light Sutra.
December 2002-February 2003
While the Chinese believe that Tibet has been part of China since the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), Tibet has a recorded history of statehood that goes back to 127 B.C. After centuries of history, studded with wars and reforms, the multitude of voices claiming opposing views reached cacophony in 1949, when Communist China invaded Tibet, forcing the young Dalai Lama, Tibet’s political and spiritual leader, to flee to India in 1959. The Tibetan Government in Exile is based in Dharamsala.
Most Tibetans do not believe, as the Chinese maintain, that the invasion has “liberated” them from feudal serfdom. Rather, the “liberation” has resulted in the death of over 1.2 million Tibetans and the destruction of over 6,000 Tibetan monasteries and cultural centers. It is estimated that 130,000 Tibetan refugees live in exile around the world, including about 3,000 in the United States and Canada.
Today historical Tibet has been divided by the Chinese government into regions and prefectures. Well over half of Tibet’s original territory has been absorbed into China proper. The Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) encompasses only the central area and some of the eastern regions.
Chinese settlers out-number Tibetans in most urban areas and many rural areas, making Tibetans a minority in their own country. Meanwhile, thousands of Tibetans continue to flee from occupied Tibet, making the treacherous journey over mountain passes and into the uncertain world of exile.
Mandala asked prominent Tibetans in exile (including His Holiness the Dalai Lama), a Western advocate for freedom for the occupied Land of Snows, and a Chinese writer and intellectual, how they see the future of Tibet.
Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari
My hope is that Tibet will once again become a land where the six million Tibetans can live in total freedom, according to the principles of Buddhadharma. The preservation of the Dharma is a core issue for us. The whole Tibetan civilization is built around Dharma, and the Tibetans, a Buddhist people, have even sometimes gone to the extreme of taking up arms to preserve the Dharma – I am not saying this is the right approach, rather to stress the fact that Dharma is precious to the Tibetan people. [In recent history] it wasn’t when the Chinese took away the land from the Tibetan rich, but precisely when the monasteries were being reduced to rubble, and when learned scholars and venerated religious leaders were being imprisoned, and in many cases executed, that the Tibetans throughout the plateau rose up and resisted.
Most important for us Tibetans is that we are able to lead our lives according to our beliefs. I certainly don’t see a Tibet where every Tibetan is in some cave meditating or reciting mantras – in fact I would like Tibet to become a modernized country where its people can take full advantage of scientific and technological innovations – yet not at the cost of losing our Buddhist identity. If we lost that, and even gained so-called total political independence, this would be meaningless. His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s vision for Tibet, to become a zone of ahimsa [the Hindu ethic of non-violence], is, I believe, both far-sighted and courageous. I understand it’s a vision that has not been adopted by a fairly large segment of the Tibetan people, but my hope is for its realization.
It is also my dream that Tibet becomes a bridge between two of Asia’s great civilizations: India and China. In the past Tibet acted as a buffer between these two, but as the world is changing, becoming smaller, what is needed now is not a buffer, but a bridge – a position that would suit Tibet because of its deep-rooted historical cultural relation with the people of India, and its unique and special long relationship with China, even though sometimes it is unpleasant.
It is unrealistic for Tibet to exist in isolation from China – His Holiness has envisioned the future of Tibet to be one that is really a part of the People’s Republic of China, without seeking total independence. We hope that Chinese leaders, thinking of the long-term interests of their nation, will reach out to the efforts of His Holiness. I see some hope because day-by-day China is becoming much more self-confident, and less threatened or suspicious of everyone around her. [On this point] it is important that the global community accepts China into the fold of the family of nations, which must be done in a way that is sincere. I find two contradictory approaches by some of the Western nations in particular. Sometimes because of their commercial, etc., short-term interests, driven by greed, many nations are willing to give China license to do almost anything, which does China more harm than good in the long-run. On the other hand these nations continue to look at China as a threat, which is also wrong. One has to have the ‘middle-way’ approach.
Each year we see more young and dynamic Chinese leaders emerging, who have a far wider vision of the world. This is not good not only for China, but for us Tibetans – we can only deal with a leadership that is self-confident and sees its long-term interests. I always tell my Chinese friends whenever I have the opportunity, either formally or informally, “His Holiness the Dalai Lama is not your problem, he is your solution, and he’s also our solution.” I strongly believe that both the Chinese and us Tibetans must take advantage of His Holiness’s presence to reach out to each other.
Thirdly, I would like to see Tibet as a sanctuary for all living beings. Due to Tibet’s unique life-giving physical position – all the major rivers that nourish millions of lives throughout Asia, originate from Tibet – it is not only important for the Tibetan people, but in fact much more so for the Chinese, the Indians, Bangladeshis, for everyone living in the Mekong Delta, to join in helping Tibet become the Zone of Peace that His Holiness envisages, so on the plateau, we human beings can live in harmony with nature and other sentient beings, the beautiful nature of Tibet is maintained, and Tibet can truly become a ‘giver of life.’ …
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Buddhism is not at all a tactful religion, always trying to avoid giving offense. Buddhism addresses precisely what you are and what your mind is doing in the here and now. That’s what makes it so interesting.
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