Monday, May 23, 2011


Today marks the 60-year Chinese anniversary of "The Liberation of Tibet" begging the question: Liberated from what? Said top political advisor and member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Jia Qinglin as published in Xinhua, China's main news source, the Tibetan people should "unite and drive out imperialist aggressive forces from Tibet and return to the big family of the People's Republic of China."

Tibet's peaceful liberation "fundamentally expelled imperialist forces, safeguarded the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, cracked down on various secessionist forces and maintained national unification and ethnic unity.

The region's peaceful liberation paved the way for Tibet's theocratic feudal serfdom to be changed, emancipating more than 1 million slaves and greatly promoting all-round development in Tibet," said Jia.

This view is vastly different from that of most ethnic Tibetans. Their view is that Tibet has been invaded by the Chinese Army, their land has been stolen, their culture has been under attack, the idea that there existed any slaves at all is a myth, and the vast majority of the Tibetan nomad population has been marginalized into poverty. The country's "sovereignty and territorial integrity" does not exist as it has been overtaken by the Chinese Army which maintains a policy of strict reeducation and arrest with no trial, indefinite periods of incarceration and torture. This policy affects all Tibetans including the general population, nomads and particularly Buddhist monks and nuns.

Currently the town of Ngawa in the eastern Tibet region has been overrun with approximately 55,000 Chinese troops as a response to a young monk who set himself on fire in protest coincident with the 2008 anniversary of violent protests against Chinese rule in Tibet(

Chinese troops occupy and run military training exercises in nearly all the Tibetan towns and villages. If the Tibetans were happy with the current takeover by the Chinese why would such a strong military presence be necessary?

It is a shame that perhaps the most peaceful and spiritual culture in the history of our planet is being marginalized, brutalized - its very survival threatened. The simple goal and motivation of a Tibetan Buddhist monk or nun is simply to become enlightened in order to benefit all beings - to make themselves better so they can more effectively help others. They are consumed with the task of cultivating compassion within themselves. They have no political or commercial agenda. Witnessing repeated brutalization has brought some of them to a sort of semi-activist stance, perhaps organizing a small gathering with a placard or two or just expressing their opinions for which they are all now considered a threat to the stability of China. They are seen as enemies of the state and are being reeducated, arrested and tortured. Many of them simply disappear. They are easily overrun.
Of course the most insulting change for the Tibetans is that their spiritual leader, according to many of them the very embodiment of compassion and peace, The Dalai Lama is seen as a seperatist and enemy of the state. Tibetans who mention his name or carry his picture are arrested and tortured. What sort of liberation is that?

A more realistic view of the Chinese incursion may have to do with the exploitation of the vast mineral deposits in the Tibet region. Perhaps control of the headwaters of the Himalayas that serve as the source of water for most of Asia is another motive. The Ganges, The Indus serving Pakistan and the Brahmaputra Rivers all originate within 100 miles of one another in the Tibetan Himalayas. The Salween, serving Thailand and Myanmar, The Mekong, serving Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, and The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers all originate on the Tibetan plateau.

In the end it appears no country will come to the aid of the Tibetans. China now has influence on too many economies and its military is far superior to all but one. China shares a border with 14 countries, but has had 23 border disputes in recent history. All these disputes have been resolved except with Bhutan and India. The dispute with Nepal was resolved in conjunction with an infusion of financial aid, military aid, and aid in upgrading infrastructure. In return, the Nepalese Prime Minister reiterated Nepal's adherence to One-China policy and decided not to allow any anti-China activities in the territory of Nepal ( Nepal has a large Tibetan refugee population and increasing pressure is being brought to bear on Nepal to further marginalize the Tibetans living there.

Solution to the border confrontations with Bhutan and India will also be leveraged with massive funding and similar demands regarding further marginalizing the refugee Tibetan populations there. These will be more difficult for China to achieve as India and Bhutan represent the last frontiers for Tibetans, and they are areas where Tibetans have garnered the most support for preservation of their culture. India currently hosts the Tibetan Government in Exile as well as the Dalai Lama and the vast majority of Tibetans outside of Tibet. Bhutan has a very similar culture to Tibet and has a history of resisting any form of intervention whatsoever.

In Tibet Buddhism has flourished for more than a thousand years. Through the centuries Tibetans have sustained and increased their spiritual roots and practice and have incorporated the meaning and the essence of the teachings on compassion into their daily lives. This is an incredibly valuable culture that should be nourished, not wiped out. Our world is in delicated balance with the forces of greed, political power and brutalization increasing. Sometimes I think it's only the Tibetans and other spiritual beings who are holding this delicate balance.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Source of Happiness

"Love, compassion and concern for others are real sources of happiness. If you have these in abundance, you will not be disturbed even by the most uncomfortable circumstances. If you nurse hatred, however, you will not be happy even in the lap of luxury. Thus, if we really want happiness, we must widen the sphere of love. This is both spiritual thinking and basic common sense." H.H. Dalai Lama
Is it true that all demons are within? Is the outward manifestation of our existence a reflection of our inner thoughts - our inner existence? And, if this is true, why is Tibet,a culture rooted in love and compassion for all beings, suffering the incursion of an extremely hostile force (ie. the Chinese military) which is inflicting murder and torture, the indignities of reeducation/indoctrination, and new laws aimed at smothering the elegant Tibetan culture - outlawing the teaching of the Tibetan language in public schools, restricting herds and grazing areas to nomads, and miltary presence and Chinese spy monks inside the most sacred temples and monasteries are just a few.
Perhaps it's not so important to know the reasons for these things. Perhaps they are beyond our current ability to reason them out. However it may be important to do something about the situation.
The Buddhist view would be the action of non-action. That in working to perfect ourselves through the cultivation of compassion and absolute wisdom through meditation then the manifestation of our outer, relative existence will necessarily cause the outer expression of our world to likewise change.
According to history the Buddha faced the worst of all demons just before his enlightenment. Perhaps this is being mirrored in Tibets current state of affairs. The blackest darkness just before the dawn. Considering the state of the world however, and that we seem to be sliding quickly into degenerate times where greed and the love of power are coming to climax, the undeniable and unstoppable force of the Chinese machine craving the vast untapped treasure of mineral deposits and the headwaters of almost all the major rivers of Asia that originate in the Tibetan Himalayas there is little the Tibetans themselves can do. I have been to Tibet many times. The Tibetans continue to pray for others, to cultivate compassion, to forgive their enemies. They are easily overtaken.
As a lone individual here in the West there is little I can do. I pray for the Tibetans with the faith that all prayers are answered. I pray that compassion will not die but grow everywhere. I pray for the light of wisdom that will dispel the darkness of ignorance and confusion among all beings. I have helped to rebuild a monastery in a remote area of Tibet with the intention that a future Buddha will study and practice there. And now we will attempt to raise money to build the first in a series of private schools for nomad girls. We have a promise from the village elders that 108 nomad girls in the area will attend. We have a promise from the monastic community that they will oversee construction and operation of the first school; that they will teach the Tibetan language so it will not die in Tibet, the Chinese language so they can easily communicate with the influx of Chinese, the English language so they can communicate with the world, math, science, philosophy, art and computer skills so they become more highly educated than the local Chinese. We are teaching girls because we know that if girls are educated, they will make sure that their children become educated.
These are desperate times for the Tibetans. It is like a blade of grass trying to stop a steamroller. After blades of grass trees will grow. Enough trees will stop a mere steamroller.

Vietnam Orphanage

March 6th: 35 Km north of Nha Trang on the south central coast of Vietnam: The Chua Phu Quang Orphanage we all rebuilt looks unbelievably fantastic! Very high quality - all hardwood and marble. The head nun, Hoa Nguyen did an incredible job. It really is the center of the village now.
Yesterday the high lama and all the monks did prayers and blessings for 12 hours straight with only half and hour for lunch. They blessed every inch of the place many times - all 3 floors, up and down with the whole procession and all the villagers following every step of the way. Local musicians and all the chanting monks were miked and amplified so the sound was echoing through the village and the hills.
Gongs, bells, huge echoing drums. I got as much video and photos as I could but it won't do the event justice.
Today we drove up and the orphanage was packed with dignitaries, 3 high lamas, the head of the Catholic church of all the provinces, the head of the communist party of this province, the mayor and I counted over 100 monks and nuns. They were all seated in order of importance in a "U" shape in the 1st floor temple with the high lama in the center. The dignitaries overlooked the courtyard which was packed with families from the village and other areas. There was a snake dance and a dragon dance which made all the kids very excited. Village girls sang and did flower dances.
Then there were speeches from the lamas, from the bishop, from the communist leader but the highlight was the speech from Hoa Nguyen, the head nun who founded, built and runs the orphanage. She's very short but what a bulldog and only 28 years old! I've never seen such continuous energy. She has overseen everything and brought the orphanage from them all living in tents and exposed to bugs and mosquitos and all kinds of sickness and with little hope for the basics including food all the way to the elegant state they live in now. She spoke of when she first became a nun - that she felt that it was her calling to help elevate the least of us all - the orphans and the handicapped - and that would bring out the best in her and everybody. She thanked us: Sumner and Drew and Julian and Sydney and that we would be in her daily prayers and in the daily prayers of all the kids. She said a lot more that I couldn't get translated but by the end she had everyone crying with tears of joy.
I'm very, very proud of you all and so grateful for your support to help make all this happen. I know you would be pleased with the results. It's almost as though these orphans have been elevated to a higher status in the eyes of all the people here as a result of all this. They are certainly much more comfortable and very, very happy. But from my experience it seems that we are the beneficiaries of all this. Helping to elevate the lowest of us is our true purpose and when we fulfill that simple goal we ourselves become elevated. Certainly much happier in our own lives.