My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

Sunday, August 17, 2008

8/8/08 a sad day…..

Tibet is not just about Tibetans—

Tibet is about an Endless Arms Race between

India and China;

Tibet could well be the Flashpoint of the next

Great War;

Yes; Tibet is about the Future of World Peace;

So Please; please help Free Tibet!

An excerpt from “Please” by Lhasang Tsering

As this day started for me one of my classmates placed this statement, “We condemn the return of Hitler’s Olympic stance!!!” on a piece of paper on the bulletin board of my classroom in effect stating a similarly between this current Summer Olympics held in Beijing and the one held in Nazi Germany Berlin 1936 under Adolf Hitler prior to World War II. As can be seen by what Lhasang Tsering has written and what I have heard from a few intellectuals in the Tibetan Exile Community, that there is a similarity between the two: Communist China and Nazi Germany. Both was/ are oppressive regimes and both have had/ have the Olympics and have used/ are using it as a propaganda machine to promote themselves as a righteous global power. Though I am unable to properly elaborate on the validity of such statements and thoughts, I cannot but help feel a sense of helplessness and sadness from a group of people regardless of achieving much media attention throughout the pass couple of months over the Tibet Issue have ended up being silenced by what counts to those who have power, the “mean green.”

As Dharamshala was turned into yet another focal point for the demonstrating of ones disgust, agony, and suffering that the Tibetans have endured for the pass couple of decades by raising their voices in protest, Beijing prepared and commenced their goal, to hold the first ever Olympics, what I think is a first in the Asian Continent and thus at least at this point if not silenced then at least dampened these voices.

As I was watching the opening ceremony with my fellow college mates, the feeling of melancholy was very thick. On the screen was hundreds of people performing one of the most beautiful displays of Tai Chi Chuan that I have ever seem, in total precision, synchronicity and unity. The commentators were explicating a little bit on some of concepts found in Taoism from which Tai Chi Chuan takes its symbolism. Coming from a nation that its founder claimed that religion is poison; a nation that suppressed
Tibetan Buddhism and banned Falun Gong, all I can do is to be in awe at the skill involved by these participants and laugh at the irony, One World, One Dream…..

As they showed the different “Chinese minorities” in their traditions dresses, dancing their traditional dances the crowd of us watching this in the Boy Dorm’s TV lounge gasped as we saw the extremely familiar masks used in Tibet for a dance called “Tashi Choepa” and the typical elongated sleeves undulating back and forth over the heads of these dancers. Was this to be the only sign of Tibetans at this show? The five races that make up the PRC, as Beijing prefers, the Mongols, Manchus, Uigurs, Tibetans and Hans, all had their representative dances, three out of five of these which are occupied nations as far as I know.

As we watched all the various countries marching into the main Olympic Stadium in Beijing and as the Bhutanese made their presence I once again laughed at this irony. The Bhutanese are of the Tibetan Race or Bod Rig, and if one traces the etymology of the word Bhutan, one would see that Bhutan actually means Tibet, hahaha. But that is not a solace to those who sit around me waiting…. As I was explaining to a monk where the various countries as they came out are located in the world, he suddenly asked me, “What would happen if one of these athletes were to carry a Tibetan Flag or started yelling Free Tibet? Would they go to prison?”, “They would probably be expelled from the games” was all I could say.

There was a sense in the room that something was going to happen, that someone was going to show support for Tibet at this crucial moment, in front of George Bush, Nicolas Sarkozy (who threaten to boycott the opening ceremonies “Money Talks, Bullshit Walks”), Sonia Gandhi and the world, but as far as I know nothing of the sort has happened. Though I am filled with sadness on this day, I am never exhausted of hope, that is the only thing that they have and I am always happy when I am able to instill it to anybody when I given the opportunity. Though the odds seem high, for all freedom struggles that have ever existed on this planet, it was hope that got them their objective.

With me being so involved with Tibetans, more so than when I was at Berea College, my sense to be beneficial seems to grow and intensify. I eat with them, debate with them, chat, clean, get my ass wooped in Badminton by them, and even have totally fallen in love with one of them. My sense of yet other global folly done to these folks, as has been done to the Indigenous Americans and others horrifies me. 8/8/08 should be a day to remember for all the small people of the world who struggle to have freedoms.

Well I have been really bad with the whole blog updating business but I am attempting to strive to be a bit more regular in updating (I know that I have said this before). Please forgive my syntax for I am out of practice in writing. Since my last entry which seems like many moons ago, I have celebrated my golden birthday, 30 on the 30th of June, and a friend from college Fred Rweru a Watson Fellow was in Mcleod Ganj for a month which was awesome, I took a summer course in the Tibetan Medium for Tibetans attending Indian colleges, visited Rajpur to visit my old college friend Kalden a.k.a Dagmo Kusho la and received an audience from H.H. Sakya Trizin which was a true blessing. And my second year at Sarah has begun.

As this year begun with the recitation of “Praises to the 21 Taras” a hundred thousand times, I came to realize how lucky I and the rest of us have been to be here at Sarah. I have always had this feeling, but these times have been much more acute. The folks that happen to me around me are truly incredible people, and if it were not for the timing of my arrival here I would not have be able to meet any of them or more clearly have the type of relationship that I am having with them now. I am doing what I love and it makes me very happy, regardless of the fact that I am in debt, and that my loans were not deferred this year, and that my money situation is very grim. These would normally over cloud any sense of hope and motivation. I will strive to achieve my goal regardless of all these things.

My class is called “Tsham Jor” or the Bridge course, it is meant to bridge Tibetan Students who have slightly less than a10th grade level Tibetan to those of college level Tibetan. All of my classmates are Tibetan except of a Korean woman. My course involves Orthography, Buddhism, Grammar and History. There is a class on poetics but it is too hard for me so I dropped it. A picture of H.H. Dalai Lama hangs from above the blackboard compassionately looking and smiling at us, reminding me of the meaning of the word Chenrezig, he who looks down, as the HHDL is identified as an emanation of the “Bodhisattva of Compassion”. To the right of that is a long panoramic picture of the Capital of Tibet, Lhasa, with the Potala Palace jotting out of middle and directly above it someone has pasted a sticker of the Tibetan Flag.. Below that is a well made modern map of Tibet or more precisely cholkhasum, the three provinces of Tibet, U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo.

This to me gives me the sense of the purpose of this course and this college that I am enrolled in and what gently tugs the student’s motivation. The class is mixed between those born in Tibet and those born in India. Our teachers frequently talk about Tibet, the Tibet of their childhood and I can tell that the students relish hearing these story from their elders. Two of my teachers are political prisoners, detained and tortured in Chinese prisons for numerous years, for saying two words very loudly “Free Tibet”.

When class first started I was quite overwhelmed, and if it wasn’t for the course that I took over the summer I would have been screwed. The work load is quite intense and I have had to be more vigilant in learning how to writing in cursive Tibetan which is hard as hell. All the teachers write only in the cursive script and though I cannot write it well, I have learned to read it. I am slowly adjusting to my new environment, as compared to the foreigner language course from the previous semester which was pretty laid back; this year have a way more serious feeling and I am more interactive with the students. I think when they first saw me enter the classroom that they must have been surprise to see me there, but we are slowly warming up to each other.

I have also finally commenced my studies of Tibetan Buddhist Debate, one of the nuns from the current Buddhist Philosophy course from Switzerland a.k.a Swiss Ani, has been teaching a few of us once a week how to debate. We are working on debating procedures from a genre of text called Collected Topic/ dudra which are the introductory texts that teach first steps in Buddhist logic. It has only been two weeks, but I am slowly making process. It is way hard, I have been reading a book about it in English and it is tough, we are doing it in Tibetan which makes it even tougher. The First year bachelor’s degree course ‘rignae’ are also studying Dudra and they debate twice a week for an hour on Monday and Thursday evenings. I started going to their debates last week just to get just to hear it live, because it is very fast and requires that one is on their mental toes. I hoping that as I learn more that I would be able to take a more activate role in the debating, but that this point it is just to try to get a feel for how the terms and ideas at I will be learning are applied in real live debate. Also the good thing is that they are also just starting their study of dudra, even though their some students who have studied it in the pass. My Buddhism teacher from this summer is the one teaching first year Rignae dudra so he told to listen very carefully and that it will come, so I was happy to hear that.

Last night the students of Buddhist Philosophy course (a.k.a The Smack Masters) had a four and some hour debate with two monks from the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics (IBD), Sarah’s mother school. Apparently, they do this one a month. These two monks took the position of defending, meaning that they sat of the floor and each student from the Sarah class will initiate a debate one by one in turn. The (IBD) monks are in a class higher than the Sarah class and thus in assumption have more experience. The Sarah class has been studying the Prajnaparamita Sutra/ Phar Chin, and I assume that that is where their debates came from. It was quite raudy to say the least; though one person might have initiated the debate eventually there were ten or more challengers ganging up on the two defenders, in which some of more forceful challengers were either cutting off or straight up pushing the other challenger/s out of way so that they could present their point. In Tibetan monastic debating is called “tsod pa gyab” arguing and that is exactly what it looks like. Upon a casual glance one would not think that they are discussing the finer points of Buddhist Philosophy. The challengers are at times jumping up and down, the defenders and the challengers are pointing fingers at each as they spit out rapid fire statements, and times all the various challengers in union will present a point that ends in huge clap of the hands (thus Smack Masters) and a stomp of the feet that resounds solidly throughout the temple. It is quite a show actually even if you don’t know Tibetan. When a defender, the one sitting down, takes too long to respond the whole crew starts yelling at the top of their lungs, “ooooooohhhh cheeiir cheeiir cheeiir!!” clapping their hands at each cheeir. Though I have just begun learning the procedures of debate I felt it was very beneficial for me to have gone even though there was little I understood. It seems very daunting to me at this point but if things work out that will be me someday up there with them debating. I have so much work to do.

To all those out there, friends from BC, the road and elsewhere I miss you very much and I think of you often, always remember that all of you reside in my heart.

P.S. This blog entry is dedicated to “Clear Light” for expiring me in many various ways.



kailash said...

Hi Brother
I read you blog.its interesting.I surprise that how can you write so big blog about girls basket ball.anyway nice

Anonymous said...

tashi telek,

my name is joshua. i enjoyed reading your blog. i arrive in mcleod on the 13th of september. perhaps we could share a chai at carpe diem someday.
my email is

all the best and may all being benefit