I’ll take a break from my India travelog and give you a little heads up about Tibet.
I’ve always had a BA – Buddhist Attitude – but it hasn’t been until the last few years when someone asks “what are you?” that I do not hesitate to say “Buddhist”. My dharma name is Sama (meaning “harmony”, and the hard part is living up to that ideal), that I received when I participated in my Five Precepts Ceremony — or as my husband called it, my Buddhist confirmation. Back in the day I read many books on the Eastern wisdom traditions, but it was not until I dove deeper into Tibetan Buddhism and wrapped the teachings around me like a cozy shawl that I felt comfortable. For some reason Tibetan Buddhism resonated with me more than any other form, such as Zen for example, and I don’t try to analyze why, because what’s the point? It just is. After all these years I finally found my spiritual teacher in Gehlek Rimpoche. I would give up all my future yoga trainings to study with him, no second thoughts, no hesitation. I also have fourth row seats when HH the Dalai Lama comes to Madison, Wisconsin to give his teachings and empowerment — sweet! By the way, the Dalai Lama is not allowed into Kenya or Cambodia, just so ya know…
Gehlek Rimpoche grew up in one of the most upper-crust families in Tibet, being the grand-nephew of the 13th Dalai Lama. At the age of four he was recognized as the reincarnation of an important lama, so he was taken from his comfortable life to the harsh life of training as an incarnate lama. The Communist Chinese invaded Tibet in 1950 and finally overran Lhasa in 1959. During those years hundreds of thousands of Tibetans were killed, imprisoned, and tortured, and monasteries were destroyed. Rimpoche lost his family, his teachers, his society, his country. His stories about his escape from Tibet are powerful lessons on impermanence and suffering, on how our lives can change in the blink of an eye or at the end of a gun.
At his last workshop he spoke about standing chest deep in a freezing swamp all night long, holding hands with the other Tibetans who escaped with him. He pointed to a man sitting in the back row and said that when they escaped, that man was a baby on his mother’s back on that dark night in the swamp, hiding from the Chinese invaders. His group eventually crossed the Himalayas into India, escaping the bullets of the Chinese planes that were strafing them. Rimpoche painted a potent image with his words.
The Chinese are still in Tibet, and many more have come since 1959. The US has never sent troops into Tibet to save anyone as we “saved” the Iraqis from Saddam. Rimpoche told us how when he took a group with him to visit Tibet last year, they could only visit the monastaries – the few that the Chinese left standing – in the morning because the afternoons are dedicated to the “re-education” of the monks – in other words, listening to Chinese propaganda. He told us how the monks accept what is, because no matter how much propaganda they listen to, the Chinese can’t really change what is in a monk’s mind or heart. What is the Chinese word for “blah blah blah”? If you look over at the global meter at how many visitors from different countries have viewed this blog, you will see that China is number 3. Maybe one of those visitors can tell us….
As my Buddhism deepened, I began to really notice how much of what we buy here says “made in China.” Almost everything. I am one of those weirdos who reads every label on everything I buy, and it just doesn’t feel right to me to buy Chinese, but it’s very difficult to find something that doesn’t have a Chinese label. It’s my own little one person boycott, but change starts with one person. Yeah, I’m just an old hippie who still believes that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, so go ahead, call me stupid, I don’t care…but maybe you might want to start noticing, too.
I know more than a few people who have visited China. When they hear I’ve been to India, they tell me that they’ve been to China or that they are planning a trip to China. I know that one can’t blame the people of a country for what their government does – I heard plenty of Bush-bashing in India and felt compelled to tell people “but I didn’t vote for him, twice! You can’t blame me!!” – but something in me just wants to tell them please don’t go, can I tell you about Tibet?
You don’t have to believe me…you can read this story, The End of Tibet, from Rolling Stone magazine. The opening sentences describe a young woman who is a former Buddhist nun, as she vomits blood in a concrete room that smells of urine. She’s recovering from an operation on her stomach, an operation to repair the injuries inflicted on her by her Chinese guards.
Rimpoche told us about a monk he knows who was imprisoned and tortured, but is now free. He said he asked him if he was ever afraid. Yes, the monk told him, he was afraid. But not afraid of his captors or the tortures they put him through, after all, the body is impermanent…he was afraid that he would develop hatred for them.
Click the links that I have provided for the Tibet news forum and the International Campaign for Tibet. And think about where your next T-shirt comes from.
om mani pedme hum
may all beings be free from suffering