Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why Is Tibet Burning?

95 Tibetans have self-immolated for freedom from over 60 years of oppression. 

The Central Tibetan Administration, Tibet's government in exile, explains... 

Please help Tibet: Solidarity with Tibet

THE BURNING QUESTION: Why are Tibetans Turning to Self-immolation?
Department of Information and International Relations
Central Tibetan Administration
Dharamshala, India

Since China invaded Tibet in 1949,
it has ruled with an iron fist.
The ongoing series of self-immolations
are acts of protest against
China's polices in Tibet.

Today Tibet is under military lockdown.
The trigger is Beijing's paranoia over Tibetans setting their bodies on fire,
turning themselves into human torches for freedom.

From February 2009 to August 2012, the toll was 51 self-immolations, 40 dead and the others' fate largely unknown.

-Map: Self-immolations in Tibet (As of August 27, 2012)-

Monks, nuns, lay men and women, mostly young and robust,
soak themselves in flammable liquids and shout slogans while
the flames consume their flesh.

Their stages are town squares, crowded markets,
government headquarters and military camps,
public places and any locations that symbolize
China's iron-fisted rule over Tibet.

Unlike the self-immolation by monks in the 1960s during the Vietnam war, and Bouazizi's action in Tunisia which ignited the Arab Spring, Tibet's human sacrifices are yet to bring any tangible results.

- The Lede: Glimpses of a Chinese Town Under Lockdown-

The world's response has been mainly muted, with
foreign media and tourists banned from entering Tibet.
Who sees, knows, and can truly understand what is happening there?

-In the latest of a spate of self-immolation protests against Chinese policies, a 19-year-old Tibetan monk set himself on fire on Monday in the rugged western Chinese town of Aba, the advocacy group Free Tibet said in an e-mailed statement. It was the 23rd self-immolation by a Tibetan since last...-
In 2008, the year that led up to these self-immolations,
the scene was different.

The media and visitors were welcomed to marvel at Beijing's Olympic games. But instead of basking in glory, China faced an uprising across Tibet. A rebellion erupted against 59 years of deeply resented colonial rule.

Immediately, paramilitary troops and armored tanks were deployed,
and cameras of foreign correspondents and citizen journalists
recorded the true face of human rights in Tibet.

The uprising in Tibet became headline news,
and so Beijing's lockdown began.

Emboldened by the recession and financial woes in the West,
and facing political uncertainty at home,
China's leadership is in denial over the wave of
self-immolations recurring in Tibet.

Despite the overwhelming military and police presence in protest
hotspots and imposition of de-facto martial law, cries of
"Return the Dalai Lama to Tibet!" "We want  freedom!" and, "No human rights in Tibet!"
keep erupting spontaneously from Tibetan bodies spurting flames.

Does Tibet have a history of self-immolations?

The answer is 'No.'

Buddhism teaches that all sentient life is precious.
During the darkest decades of suffering under Mao's
Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution there were cases of suicide, but never displays of humans publicly torching themselves.

So, this begs the question:

Why is this happening now?

-China lock-down seals off Tibetan unrest-

With Internet and phone lines blocked,
and media and foreign tourists banned,
it has been hard to grasp the reality
of Tibet's current situation.

Reporters Without Borders described media access to Lhasa
as even worse than Pyongyang.

-"Out of sight of the world, a major crisis is unfolding. Even Pyongyang has an
international media presence, which is not the case in Lhasa."-

When a team of journalists from BBC and CNN attempted to reach the regions of most self-immolations in eastern Tibet, claimed by China as Sichuan,
they were detained, questioned and threatened with laws of the [inaudible.]

The police held us for 9 hours. They tried to force us to sign a document promising that we would not attempt to enter Tibetan areas again. When we refused, well, then they threatened us. They said that within two days, our visas could be cancelled, and we could be expelled from the country.


Having cut Tibet off from the watching world,
China then launched into a campaign of disinformation
through state media.

-Map: Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture-

The self-immolators are either described as violent terrorists, mentally unstable, or
ignorant villagers knowing nothing about today's world.

Since the majority of those who have set fire to themselves,
are young, and monks or former monks,
Beijing propaganda claims that rather than being politically motivated,
they have been brainwashed by religious leaders and their teachers.


The blame is then diverted across the Himalayas
to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his so-called Dalai Clique in India.

They stand accused of offering cash incentives
for any debts or injuries through self-immolation,
and actually engineering and fomenting
this new resistance to China's rule over Tibet.

This documentary addresses the background,
the fundamental causes and events that led to
this fiery outburst of protest across the plateau.

Perhaps more importantly, it will explain how Tibetans themselves
view these unprecedented actions,
and articulate their hopes for an outcome that
will make all the suffering worthwhile.

-A single spark...-

On February 27, 2009, a 20-something monk at Kirti Monastery,
heard that the authorities had cancelled that day's major
religious ceremony.

Within half an hour, Tapi was in the main square of Ngaba town,
soaked in oil, waving the banned Tibetan flag,
shouting slogans as he set himself on fire.

Before the flames were extinguished,
he was shot by the People's Armed Police,
and then his body was dragged away.

This was the first in Tibet's chain of self-immolations.
Whether Tapi is dead or alive is uncertain.

For Mao Zedong, religion was poison,
and for today's leadership in Beijing,
Tibet's monasteries and nunneries are still their prime targets.

The late 1990s saw classic Mao's era methods and campaigns
introduced to control monks and nuns.

First, patriotic education was imposed, and later,
Democratic Management Committees took over the day-to-day running of
Tibet's religious establishments.

Since then, monastic education places love and loyalty for the Great Motherland
on a higher throne than studying and practicing the Buddhadharma.

Monks and nuns spend half their days memorizing party propaganda,
but most painful of all, they are forced to sign pledges
denouncing His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Surveillance and control have spiraled across the plateau since 2008's spontaneous uprisings.

A communist party cell is now embedded in all Democratic Management Committees, and government officials directly rule religious establishments.

Given this targeted control over Buddhist life,
it is no coincidence that out of 51 self-immolations until
August 2012, 30 are from Ngaba,
and 20 are by young monks and former monks.

Two nuns who died are from a nearby nunnery.
With Kirti Monastery and Ngaba town under lockdown,
policed by crack military units of the People's Liberation Army,
it is clear that Kirti monks are being further radicalized.

Their monastery is now a de-facto prison.

And to further enhance patriotism in monks and nuns,
since November 2011,
portraits of four leaders of communist China,
plus the PRC's flag,
must be displayed in all monastic buildings.

-Lhasa 2008-

To achieve Hu Jintao's 'harmonious society,'
Beijing now spends more on domestic security,
including policing and surveillance,
than on its defense budget.

In Eastern Tibet's Ngaba county alone,
spending on public security in 2009,
was five times higher than in the non-Tibetan regions of Sichuan.

The escalating outlay is certainly due to the
spate of self-immolations and related protests,
and in turn, the heavy security presence leads to social confrontation
and the alienation of all Tibetans.

Although the PRC has produced no credible evidence
that Kirti Monastery has
been involved in the self-immolations by its monks and former monks, both the local community and Kirti residents are taking the blame.

The aftermath of every fiery action sees police raids, and arrests,
road blocks, and intimidating parades of military force.

In retaliation for Kirti Monastery's monk, Phuntsok,
setting fire to himself in March 2011,
armed paramilitary troops placed the monastery under siege,
cutting off food and water supplies.

The patriotic education campaign was stepped up and made compulsory.
A month later, ten military trucks drove 300 Kirti monks
away for political indoctrination,
under the guise of 'legal education.'

The fate of those who didn't return is in doubt.

Today, for a monk to get leave from his monastery,
three letters by guarantors are demanded.

In addition to civilian and military police patrols,
a special unit has been deployed to Ngaba
to strike hard against violent terrorist activities.

-Dharamsala, India-

-Kirti Rnpoche
Abbot of Kirti Monastery-

"China's constitution protects the right to believe or not to believe in religion.
A Buddhist may be defined as the one who seeks refuge in the Three Jewels:
the Buddha, his teachings and his community.

Tibetan Buddhists revere their spiritual masters
and His Holiness the Dalai Lama as their Buddha.

Although China claims to protect religious freedom,
the so-called 'patriotic education campaign,' 
forces Tibetan monks and nuns to denounce their spiritual masters.

They are not allowed to maintain any relation with their spiritual masters.
They are not allowed to follow the teachings of their spiritual masters.

This is causing unbearable pain in the hearts and minds of Tibetan people.
They will, however, not forsake their objects of refuge,
even at the cost of their lives.

Since 1959, the Tibetan monasteries have been
the main target of crackdown.

They are viewed as the hotbed of reactionaries,
the main target of the hostility of the Chinese officials.

-Lhasa 1989-

Since campaigns after campaigns were waged inside the monasteries,
the situation today has reached a breaking point.

Tibetan monasteries are the centers of learning and scholarship.
They are the preservers of Tibetan cultural heritage.
They are not a tourist spot or a museum.

The Chinese policies have turned Tibetan monasteries into sightseeing objects,
and money-making entities, a place where they entertain tourists
by hosting elaborate masked dance shows.

-Kirti Rinpoche, Abbot of Kirti Monastery-

Let alone the restriction on the Tibetan monasteries,
the Chinese authorities have gone so far as to modify
Tibetan Buddhism to suit their political ends.

This is absolutely impossible.
You can't stop flames from leaping up
or waters flowing down.

Tibetan Buddhism is based on scientific principles.
You can't make arbitrary changes in Buddhism
and conform it to the polices of the Chinese Communist Party."

Prison sentences of 10 to 13 years were given to three Kirti monks
in September 2011, for allegedly helping 20 year old Phuntsok set fire to himself,
and sheltering him inside the monastery until he died.

China condemns self-immolation as an extreme act of violence by terrorists,
and a gross violation of the fundamental principles of Buddhism.

-Jiang Yu, Spokesman, Chinese Foreign Ministry-

"This behavior, which ignores life and violates moral standards,
should be condemned.
We note that, after these incidents,
the overseas Tibet independence force,
the Dalai Clique,
has not denounced this extreme behavior,
but publicly glorified it."

Tibetan religious scholars are educated to know better.
The explanation of Sopa Rinpoche carries added authenticity.

-Tulku Sonam Wangyal-

"This learned lama, in his early 40s, died on January 8, 2012,
in Amdo Golok.

Before drinking kerosene and lighting his robes,
he recorded the following message:

...I am giving away my body as an
offering of light to chase away the
darkness, to free all beings
from suffering...

I am sacrificing my body with a firm
conviction and a pure heart just as
the Buddha bravely gave his body to
a hungry tigress [to stop her from
eating her cubs]."

-Forced settlement of Tibetan nomads...-

While a majority of the self-immolators are monks and nuns,
nearly half of those who have burned themselves
have their roots in traditionally nomad regions of Tibet.

Out of a population of 6 million,
it is the 2 million hardy and independent nomads whose lifestyles and livelihoods have suffered the most under the communist yoke.

Today, 1.5 million of them are corralled into state-controlled villages. This was the background of Rinchen, a mother of four,
who set herself alight on March 4, 2012,
near the military camp close to Ngaba town.

Since her husband died, she had been raising her children,
ranging from a few months to early teens, alone.

"We need freedom!" she shouted as the flames engulfed her body.

-Zamthang, Tibet-

This dying cry for freedom, by a single parent,
exemplifies the crisis building up inside Tibet.

The mood of resistance to the Chinese Communist Party is strong,

The nomads of Tibet have been free to graze their yaks and sheep
across the lush grasslands of the high plateau for over four thousand years.

But when Beijing introduced compulsory settlement in 1998,
the official reason was that overgrazing is leading to environmental
degradation and soil erosion.

Until then, nomads and the complex habitat,
had co-existed in productive harmony for millennia.

These resettlement villages in remote locations,
offer no chance of employment,
and without livestock, the inherited skills of nomads have no value.

With unemployment the accepted norm,
many females have been forced into the sex trade,
while they watch their men-folk turn to alcohol.

Knowing that the lands they are surrounded with are rich in minerals, rare earths, ores and other natural resources that the PRC is hungry for, the nomads of Tibet only see their future as bleak.

-Tibetan language and freedom...-

Like many nomad children, Tseringkyi started school when she was ten. But her zeal made up for lost time.
According to her cousin, she always had a book in her hand
while tending the family's livestock.

Passion for learning turned to despair on the day she heard
that the authorities were switching the language of instruction
in schools in her native Amdo from Tibetan to Chinese.

On March 3, 2012, just before the start of the spring semester,
Tseringkyi emerged from a public toilet in the market of a local town. Gasoline soaked blankets wrapped around her body
were bound tight with wire.

As the flames leapt over her head, she raised a defiant fist,
before slumping to the ground.
She died on the spot. Tseringkyi was twenty.

Language has become an explosive issue across Tibet.
As Chinese has taken over from Tibetan as the only official channel of official communication and dominates the entire education system,
monolingual rural Tibetans feel like foreigners in their own land.

By devaluing their language, Tibetans are being deliberately marginalized.
This policy denies them employment.

In 2006, Lhasa University students, protested when 98 out of 100
government jobs went to Chinese stream graduates.

That left two posts for Tibetan language applicants.

And in September 2010, hundreds of angry graduates from Lhasa's
institute of Tibetan traditional medicine
demonstrated in front of T.A.R. government offices.

Their banners demanded an increase in work opportunities.

A year later, student demonstrations erupted in the northeast,
when the teaching of Tibetan in highly literate Amdo
was to be fully downgraded.

The massive gatherings were widespread and the banners read:
"Equality of nationalities," "Freedom of languages.

These protests soon spread from Amdo to Beijing,
with 400 students demanding freedom of language at the Minorities Nationalities University in the capitol.

Tibetan, both written and spoken,
is the very bedrock of the nation's identity, religion and culture.

Being one of Asia's seminal languages and one of its four oldest,
Tibetan also has unique historical value.

As a Tibetan blogger best put it,
"Taking away a person's language
is not the same as taking the bread out of someone's pouch.
It is like having your tongue pulled out of your mouth."

-China's colonial policies...-

Until May 27, 2012, there had been no self-immolations in Tibet's historical capital, Lhasa.
Undaunted by the pervasive military and police patrols that day,
Thargey and Dorje Tsedan protested against China's rule over Tibet
by torching themselves in front of the sacred 7th century Jokhang Temple.

Thargey was 25 and Dorje, 19.
Both had moved to Lhasa from eastern Tibet and were working in a restaurant.

The twin immolations in May led to several hundred Tibetans from eastern provinces currently living in Lhasa, being arbitrarily expelled.
This was part of a drastic security clampdown to
avert Tibetan protest, a militarization that is still very visible on the streets of Lhasa.

A Chinese net citizen reports,
"Lhasa is crawling with riot police.
In gas stations, temples, power stations, intersections - everywhere there are riot police carrying guns. There are even armored cars patrolling the pedestrian walkways."

Another observer comments,
"When taking pictures in front of the Potala Palace, you can't sit or lay down on the ground. Otherwise, Uncle Riot Police will come and get you."
Kalsang Gyaltsen Bawa, China Analyst:
"China's current Tibet policy is based on two fundamental principles, economic development and social stability.

Under their policy of maintaining social stability,
the entire blame for the current lack of stability in Tibet is heaped on the so-called Dalai Clique, which is His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan administration in exile.

Everything that happens in the Tibet, including activities related with the preservation of Tibetan religion, culture and language,
all these are labelled as inciting separatism and endangering state security, and under this pretext, the Chinese authorities have
adopted a policy of unrestrained use of force and an extreme policy of arbitrary detention, torture and killings.

This is one of the main reasons behind the current crisis in Tibet.

Secondly, under the slogan of economic development, the Chinese authorities have initiated campaigns like the Rail Tibet project, and promotion of tourism and development of infrastructure.

However, the real policy behind these campaigns is to facilitate Chinese population transfer into Tibet.

After flooding Tibet with Chinese people, their aim is to dilute Tibetan religion, culture, and linguistic identity.

The people inside Tibet therefore fear that the ultimate aim behind China's current Tibet policy is to wipe out the very identity of Tibetan people.

There was, as a result, a series of protest movements inside Tibet.
The main cause behind the current crisis of self-immolations by Tibetans is therefore China's defective policies in Tibet."

In Lhasa today, there are reportedly more Chinese than Tibetans,
more soldiers than monks, and more surveillance cameras than windows.
Thubten Samphel, Director of Tibet Policy Institute:
"It is no coincidence that the increasing number of self-immolations in Tibet
took place when His Holiness was in the process of devolving all
his political authority to an elected Tibetan leader.

In this way that the Tibetans in Tibet regret the fact that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is no longer Tibet's political leader.

And this comes as a cause of deep remorse.
All of them, without exception, want His Holiness to return to Tibet, and they feel that His Holiness, leading the Tibetan people in his political role, is no longer an option.

On the other hand, I feel there's a sense of alienation amongst young Tibetans in Tibet, that in exile, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has devolved his political authority to an elected leader. So, when Tibetans see this event, they feel that, given a chance,
Tibetans have the capacity to elect a leader whose authority has been inherited from the traditional institution of the Dalai Lama.
So, this.. when there were developments from Tibet, in the exile community, there's a sense of alienation; at the same time, there's a sense of deep regret, that this ability of Tibetans to elect their political authority is denied to them by a reluctant, very stubborn leadership in Beijing.

So, I feel, these two factors might have played a role in the number of self-immolations we see in Tibet."

In spite of Beijing's punitive colonial policies in Tibet,
alienating every section of the population, the PRC's propaganda
machinery insists that self-immolations are being instigated and choreographed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his associates in exile.

-Hong Lei, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman-

So what is the Central Tibetan Administration's position on this burning issue?

Since the Dalai Lama devolved his political and administrative role to a fully elected leadership in 2011, we now turn to the new elected leadership under the administration of Kalon Tripa Dr. Lobsang Sangay with Dicki Chhoyang, as a Kalon of Tibetan Department of Information and International Relations. 
Kalon Dicki Chhoyang, Department of Information and International Relations:
"The position of the Central Tibetan Administration with regards to self-immolation is very clear.
As early as [2009] when the wave of self-immolations began,
we made an appeal to Tibetans inside Tibet,
not to resort to drastic actions.
Now, despite our appeals, the self-immolations have persisted,
and, given the situation, we feel a moral obligation to speak on their behalf,
to the international community, to explain the reasons behind these
political acts of protest.

Looking at the profile and the background of the self-immolators,
we can see that their distress was related to different policies, namely policies related to religious freedom, language, environment, and also the forced settlement of Tibetan nomads.

If one asks, "What is the way forward?" - it is dialogue.
As we expressed, the Kashag, on behalf of the Central Tibetan Administration,
in the statement that we issued in June 2012,
when the two special envoys tendered their resignation for the Sino-Tibetan dialogue, we remain firmly committed, not only to non-violence, but also to the Middle Way approach, which seeks to resolve the issue of Tibet through genuine autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution.

The international community, despite the fact that the Chinese government has returned a deaf ear to requests to send fact finding delegations and also to give access to the international media to Tibetan areas where the self-immolations took place, the international community must not remain an idle bystander.

The way that the international community handles the issue of Tibet sends a very clear message, a very important message to other political movements, that may not be as firmly committed as we are to non-violence.

Does it pay to stick to non-violence to find a solution to a conflict?

So, the message is sent, not only to other political movements, but also to
future generations.

World leaders love to speak about peace, about non-violence,
about finding resolutions to conflict without armed confrontation.

Tibet is an opportunity to live up to these principles.

Talking about these principles is devoid of any meaning,
if we cannot embody them through actions when we're dealing with real life situations such as the crisis we're facing inside Tibet.

Tibetans inside Tibet have the courage to stand up for their rights,
even  if it's at the cost of their life.

All we ask for, is for the international community to have the courage to use their freedom to help the Tibetan people secure theirs.

-As this documentary went to air in
September 2012, 51 Tibetans have been confirmed
to have self-immolated inside Tibet.-

-41 of the 51 are known to have died
following their protest.-

~ ~ ~
December 2012: 95 self-immolations in Tibet

Please help Tibet: Solidarity with Tibet

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Past Lives: Science & Documentation

Are past lives real or not? 
Every moment of our existence is illusory - existing, but not inherently existing, yet precious and important in terms of how we relate to others.

People once thought the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth. Whoever claimed otherwise was roasted at the stake or lost his head. The majority opinion turned out, in retrospect, to have been mistaken. These changes in understanding reality led to revolutionary changes for all humanity - from transportation and trade routes, to space exploration and the development of the Internet.

Past and future lives are an accepted and well-known fact in all Asian countries and among the Druze people. Either reincarnation exists or it doesn't - only one answer is correct. Reincarnation cannot be refuted. However, abundant evidence exists that supports the existence of past lives. A change in our understanding of reality, regarding the way in which we exist, may bring significant changes in our daily conduct, for example, with regard to decisions and policy concerning environmental protection, peace and war, economics, generosity, altruism and more.

Geshe-ma Kelsang Wangmo

Geshe-ma Kelsang Wangmo, a German woman, today a nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and the first woman to complete the long geshe degree program for advanced Buddhist studies, recommends watching the first of the documentary films about reincarnation presented here.

Following the publication of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Statement Regarding the Issue of His Reincarnation, I thought to share these films, so that we may learn and understand how we and sentient beings exist.

There are future consequences to our thoughts, speech and actions, far beyond this life. I grew up in Western society, at least in this lifetime, studied science, and left a large question mark over the topic of reincarnation for many years. I listened to personal stories about ghosts and spirits, from Americans, Mexicans, Indigenous people, and about reincarnation from Druze people. Today I no longer have any trace of doubt.

The Tibetans say several things about doubt that would be worthwhile for us to know. According to one view, doubt is considered a wrong view and an obstacle to enlightenment. But it is also possible to make conscious and beneficial use of doubt. There are three kinds of doubt: doubt tending to the right, doubt tending to the wrong, and neutral doubt. If we keep an open mind, neutral doubt, and examine things deeply, we will be able to gradually develop doubt tending to the right, and then gradually attain a correct and precise view regarding the way in which reality exists. Ultimately, a clear and knowing mind is free from doubt.

With the wish that we may all progress towards lasting happiness, genuine inner peace and full enlightenment, here are several films, as well as several references and links. Happy viewing. 

The Boy Who Lived Before
Ever since he was two years old and first started talking, Cameron Macauley has told of his life on the island of Barra. Cameron lives with his mum, Norma, in Glasgow. They have never been to Barra. 
47 min

Past Life of James
The Unexplained James III World War II Pilot Reincarnated 
17:16 min (4 parts)

Reincarnation, children remember past lives
Popular journalistic topic in Sri Lanka news 9:32 min
Part 1 6:27 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYQItLUMjEY
Part 2 3:05 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UnQjTYatrM 

Dr. Jim Tucker
Interview with psychiatrist and past life researcher 9:40 min

Dr. Ian Stevenson 
10:37 min

BBC: Supernatural Science - Previous Lives

Geshe-ma Kelsang Wangmo lectures in English and is currently teaching in Israel November 19 - December 9, 2012. 
Geshe-ma's Israel teaching program (Hebrew & English) or contact Dharma Friends of Israel - Yedidei Hadharma b'Yisrael
dharma.friends.il at gmail dot com

Further Reading 

Carol Bowman

Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss, M.D.

Articles by Dr. Jim B. Tucker and Dr. Ian Stevenson, University of Virginia

The Ethics of Altruism

16 Guidelines for a Happy Life

Dalai Lama Foundation "Ethics for the New Millennium" Study Guide - 6 languages 

95 Tibetans have self-immolated for freedom.
Please help Tibet: http://www.SolidaritywithTibet.org/outreach
Make Tibet a Zone of Peace

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Ayn Rand Epidemic - Matthieu Ricard

"A strange disease that has become an epidemic." 
                                              - Matthieu Ricard

When we have finally laid the altruism-egoism debate to rest, once and for all, we will all have great cause for rejoicing for the well-being of humanity and the planet.

Scientific research clearly and unequivocally demonstrates that altruism leads to a deep and profound sense well-being. His Holiness the Dalai Lama tells us, "Everyone wants happiness. No one wants suffering." It is astounding that in the 21st century, we still have doubts about, even promulgate, what leads to human suffering. Unless and until we 'get it right,' we will continue to suffer. One very good mantra worth reciting, a good antidote for our present human condition, is: "Others before self."

Matthieu Ricard, a meditation adept, has been dubbed "the happiest man in the world." Matthieu Ricard's measure of happiness is shown 4.5 standard deviations off the bell curve for the rest of humanity, represented by 150 controls.

Prof. Richard Davidson and Matthieu Ricard

Here is the latest from Ven. Matthieu Ricard's blog, on Ayn Rand, a major contributor to human suffering.

Is This the Right Model for a Great Nation?
by Matthieu Ricard
Monday, October 29, 2012

Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan recommends the reading of Ayn Rand’s writings to all his collaborators. Does the United States of America truly want to have a leader whose ideal is to promote selfishness in society? I am convinced that selfishness makes life miserable not only for all those around us, but for ourselves as well.
Read the full article

Related Links:
The Habits of Happiness, TED talk by Matthieu Ricard
Prof. Richard Davidson
The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Stanford http://ccare.stanford.edu
A Revolution of the Heart (close pop-up and scroll for English)
Trance and Mental Health

Still not sure who to vote for? 
Consider Jill Stein: http://www.jillstein.org

62 Tibetans have self-immolated and are demanding human rights, freedom of religion, cultural and linguistic freedom, the right to be Tibetan in Tibet, and an end to over 60 years of oppression and cultural genocide.
Tibet is a #1 global issue:
1. environment
2. non-violence
3. creating healthy minds
Cultural Genocide in Lhasa


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Common In Tibet

Tibet is referred to by magical names such as Shangri-la and Shambhala, and is truly miraculous from our perspective, but not for the Tibetans. The Tibetans, who developed and established a science of mind in their culture, from the time Buddhism came to Tibet 1300 years ago, analyze and understand the causes and conditions for the different states of consciousness and phenomena. Phenomena do not exist independently. Therefore, every common phenomenon in Tibet that I will describe, has its own causes and conditions.

Tibetans are very practical. If certain causes and conditions cause suffering, these need to be analyzed and abandoned. If other causes and conditions bring happiness, these should be adopted and practiced. The conceptualization of happiness needs to change in a well thought out manner - what brings ostensible happiness does not bring lasting happiness. Within an instant, or several instants, momentary pleasures become sources of dissatisfaction and suffering. Altruism, generosity, patience, honesty, a life in accordance with moral values, bring lasting happiness and genuine inner peace of mind. Honestly looking inward, combined with applying logic, can bring release from mental suffering.

Common In Tibet

Thukdam, rainbow body, tulkus, tummo, srok-rlung (say: sok-loong), are common in Tibet. What are these?

Thukdam is a state which a spiritual teacher remains in for several days following death, when the mind has not yet disconnected from the body. In this profound meditative mental state, known as "the clear light" state, the body does not decay. A Tibetan lama remained in thukdam for 18 days and was examined by three teams of scientists, with the latest and most advanced neuroscientific equipment. When the consciousness detaches from the body, there are clearly recognizable signs, such as red moisture appearing in the nose and the head going limp. Thukdam is common in Tibet. When I was in Lhasa, a monk from Drepung Monastery remained
in thukdam for 11 days.

The Tibetans believe that we Westerners bury too quickly. The consciousness of a person who has not trained his mind at all will disconnect immediately from the body. Rituals for the dead are very important in Tibet. During the 2008 massacre in Tibet the Chinese took bodies to incinerators outside the city to burn them... There are four kinds of "burial" in Tibet: earth, water, fire and sky burial. Here is a Tibetan sky burial:

A very beautiful, unique and interesting film about Tibetan funeral rituals, with a narrative by Leonard Cohen,  is "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" (45 minutes). 

The rainbow body is an actual biological phenomenon, observed by thousands of people in the course of the 1300 years since Buddhism arrived in Tibet.  The rainbow body is a well-known and common phenomenon in Tibet. Sometimes, when a spiritual practitioner dies, in the days following his death, rainbows of light are emitted from his body. Over the course of about a week, the body gradually shrinks, until only hair and nails are left, and sometimes not even those.

A spiritual teacher told us about his teacher, who, before his death, asked his students to cover his body with an orange cloth and not to touch the body for a week. During the week, as the students recited prayers beside the body, they watched the body gradually shrink until it disappeared completely. The teacher was present at the event. Another teacher told us about an old woman who went off to a cave to meditate for several months. Every day her meal was brought to her. One day she asked not to bring her food for a week. After a week, she was found dead, with rainbows of light being emitted from her body. It is said that the rainbow body is especially common among ordinary spiritual practitioners, not famous spiritual teachers, but people that no one had noticed the depth of their spiritual practice until their death.

Sometimes, when a spiritual teacher dies, a full circular rainbow appears in the sky. I witnessed this phenomenon during the Lhasa massacre in March 2008.

The tulku tradition is a uniquely Tibetan tradition that was established several hundred years ago. This is the tradition of finding the reincarnation of the spiritual teacher about a year or two after his (or her) death. The tulku tradition has been documented in several films, including "The Unmistaken Child" by Nati Beretz and "My Reincarnation," about the spiritual teacher Namkai Norbu Rinpoche's son, who is half Italian. The phenomenon was described in the feature film, "The Little Buddha," about an America boy who was recognized as a tulku by Tibetan lamas. A Tibetan tulku can be born anywhere in the world, among any people or culture. The Karmapa was the first tulku in Tibet. Today, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje is the 17th in the Karmapa lineage. The Dalai Lama is the 14th reincarnation in the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. The birth of a tulku is usually accompanied by signs, such as the parents' dreams, appearances of birds or animals before the birth and other special signs. Various methods exist for the correct recognition of tulkus. When spiritual teachers write their biographies, they often describe their previous reincarnations. Women can also be tulkus.

"The Unmistaken Child" by Nati Beretz (trailer):

"My Reincarnation" by Jennifer Fox (trailer):

"Little Buddha" (Part 8):

Tummo is an advanced meditative practice in which Tibetan monks and nuns raise their body temperature. In the snowy mountains of the Himalaya, monks and nuns hold tummo contests, in which a series of wet sheets are placed on the practitioner, and whoever dries the most sheets is the winner. Tummo has been studied at Dr. Benson's Harvard University laboratory:

Srok-rlung and rlung
, trance states arising from intensive meditation are common in Tibet, especially in monasteries. Srok-rlung and rlung are always treated properly in Tibet and "no one stays that way." I have written more about rlung and srok-rlung in the last post, Trance and Mental Health.

The Tibetans, world experts on the mind, have been collaborating with neuroscientists for about 25 years. Mental illness is rare in Tibet. However, thukdam, rainbow body, tulkus, tummo and rlung are common in Tibet. There is much to learn from the Tibetans. One doesn't need to be Buddhist in order to benefit from the wisdom of the Tibetans. Tibetans respect all cultures, appreciate cultural diversity and recognize the value of the many religions of the world. Tibetans are generally patient, non-judgemental, accepting, and warm hearted people - of course not all. Bodhisattvas, spiritual practitioners with an altruistic and compassionate outlook, are common in Tibet. The only way to develop inner peace of mind is by practicing ethics as a foundation and basis. If one wants to learn from the Tibetans, one should approach with a sincere, egoless and nonjudgemental attitude.

Blessings for happiness and truthfulness :)

Published in Hebrew August 8, 2012 and a featured blog post on the home page of The Marker Café.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Lhasa Impressions

Cultural genocide in Tibet
In honor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's 77th birthday, 
July 6, 2012 (published in Hebrew on July 6)

My son and I lived in Lhasa for a year and half, from September 2007 to the end of February 2009, except for two and a half months somewhere in the middle, when all foreigners in China who didn't have tickets to the Olympics were sent to wait outside China. Most of them crowded into Hong Kong during that period. In March 2008, there were riots in Lhasa. We only saw black smoke rising above the city for several days, and heard booms of a monastery being shelled - a monastery being shelled... 

The Tibetans mostly burned Chinese shops - the Chinese are mainly interested in money and property; they tyrannize the Tibetans, desecrate their temples and treat them with contempt. Of course, the Chinese responded with a massacre, shooting every person, woman, child in the area of the Jokhang Temple, the most sacred place to Tibetan Buddhists in the world. Names of 219 dead were reported. About 1000 are missing, some of them survived in the mountains, but many bodies were taken to incinerators outside the city by the Chinese.

And the Tibetans? An endearing people full of joy. They love picnics in nature, and sing and dance for days, whole extended families. Once I wore a Tibetan skirt, a chuba, and walked part of the Lingkhor (a sacred circumabulation route around Lhasa) together with everyone else. I received so many warm comments, "Hi," "How are you?" in English and Tibetan. I heard people talking about me, "She speaks Tibetan (or: Chinese)," people smiled, made eye contact, mainly women. That day I wrote, "It's so easy to make the Tibetans happy;" it's enough just to put on a piece of clothing... The Tibetans have suffered for over 60 years, genocide, cruel oppression, unimaginable kinds of cultural oppression, for no reason, only because of greed, and lack of understanding and appreciation of the culture and the customs of this extraordinary people.

In the film “Seven Years in Tibet,” when Heinrich Harrer (Brad Pitt) brags to the seamstress Pema Lhaki (Lhakpa Tsamchoe) about his Olympic gold medal, she says, “This is another great difference between our civilization and yours. You admire the man who pushes his way to the top in any walk of life, while we admire the man who abandons his ego.” About 1300 years ago, the Tibetans, a collection of warring tribes scattered over the Himalaya, understood, as a society, that they are killing each other, and that they need this Dharma very much, this medicine for violence, that comes from the thought to harm others, a thought that arises in an untrained mind. Tibetan society as a whole, with all of its resources, devoted itself to producing compassionate people.

Symbolic photograph - back gate of Tibet University during the curfew, March 2008.
Would that our hearts would melt, and Tibet and all of us would know a different world, a peaceful world.

What do the Chinese have to say about Tibetan food? 
"I've never eaten their food. It's dirty."
The Chinese traditionally eat with chopsticks, and look down on Tibetans who traditionally eat with their hands, like their Indian neighbors to the west and south.

Relief map of the Himalayan high plateau. The Tibetan area has distinct geographical boundaries, beginning from 3000 meters above sea level. The Tibetans are genetically adapted to the high plateau, whereas the Chinese tend to suffer from the high altitude. The typical Chinese attitude towards living in Tibet is reflected in the comments above.

Chinese lack of respect for Tibetans is prevalent in Lhasa. 
Fortunately, many wonderful exceptions to this 'rule' can be found, both in China and abroad, such as the Chinese-Tibetan friendship societies (see end of post) and the work of the extraordinary Chinese historian Li Jianglin, whose book, "1959 Lhasa !" is banned in China:

Many Chinese Buddhists, both in and outside China, support Tibetan freedom.

Just as the Inuit people have many words for snow, because it is such an important part of their lives, so the Tibetans have many names for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Shown are four commonly used names for His Holiness.
What is truly precious? Individuals who have conquered their ego, who have purified their mindstream, who have developed great compassion, are truly precious. Tibetan lamas languish in Chinese prisons for decades due to our ignorance about the preciousness of genuine spiritual teachers
Garchen Rinpoche spent 20 years in a Chinese prison:

Genuine spiritual teachers teach us how to train and tame our own minds for the benefit of all beings.

Top right: The plaza in front of the Jokhang Temple.

The Dalai Lama has specifically requested Tibetans not to wear fur, in order to refrain from killing and to protect endangered species who have been massively hunted for fur and food by the Chinese. Therefore, wearing fur trimming is compulsory for Tibetan cadres.

At a Lhasa public school, Tibetan children have separate classes. Their classes are all conducted in Chinese, except for one 45 minute class per day in Tibetan.
An ad for a Chinese language evening paper shows a Tibetan family reading Chinese.

Kyuk is the traditional cursive Tibetan script used by educated Tibetans in Lhasa. Workbooks for kyuk are no longer available in Lhasa. After friends scoured all the bookstores in Lhasa looking for a kyuk workbook for me and couldn't find one, a friend gave me her own copy of this kyuk workbook.
Ten letters in the Tibetan alphabet used for Sanskrit transliteration, shown on the right, are missing from workbooks Tibetan children now use to learn the alphabet.

Tulkus are Tibetan reincarnate lamas. The Panchen Lama is considered second to the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is the sun, the Panchen Lama the moon, the Gyalwa Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje, the day star, of Tibet. The 10th Panchen Lama was poisoned. The 11th Panchen Lama was abducted with his parents at age 6, in 1995, following recognition of his reincarnation by the Dalai Lama, and his whereabouts are unknown. 
The Communist Chinese have issued a law to control the reincarnation of Tibetan tulkus, although the Communists don't believe in any religion or in reincarnation at all.
(Close pop-up and scroll for English: Past Lives - Science & Documentation - 3 Films)

Tibetans in exile continue the Monlam Chenmo tradition, celebrated two weeks after Losar, the Tibetan New Year, in India.

A Chinese article in 2009 claims that the Monlam Chenmo Festival continues in Lhasa today. The photo accompanying the article shows a typical debating session held at monasteries on any day of the year, but not the Monlam Chenmo celebration, as stated in the deceptive article.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama's birthday is a major Tibetan holiday, and, traditionally, the only birthday celebrated by Tibetans. The custom is to throw tsampa into the air, as an offering to the gods. A Tibetan from Lhasa, fondly recalling celebrating His Holiness' birthday, said, 
"We would all be covered in white. It was a lot of fun."

Tibetans have a custom that when a family member has died, the family does not celebrate the next Losar, Tibetan New Year. As an act of solidarity with the many families and victims, Tibetans chose to collectively forego the Losar celebration of 2009. The Chinese coerced Tibetans to celebrate, issuing special holiday payments. Tibetans who were found not celebrating risked prison. 
In a 2009, a TV program from mainland China aired in Hong Kong, showed the Tibetan Losar festivities.

Only people who know Chinese are eligible for government jobs, so Tibetans are at a severe disadvantage. There is a also generally a huge wage differential between Chinese and Tibetans.
Clockwise from top left: 
Playing a dice game called 'sho'; 
Playing billiards;
Beggars lined up near the Jokhang temple during Losar;
A boulevard lined with kiosks full of Chinese and Tibetan prostitutes. 
(Top right and lower left photos are screenshots from the film: Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion)

Called "The Wolf" because of its two "ears," the Public Security Bureau building oversees Lhasa. Tea houses, hotel rooms, classrooms, streets, phones, Internet, all have surveillance.
Lower left: Rooftop guard under an umbrella and surveillance camera overlook the plaza in front of the Jokhang Temple.
Lower right: Behind the Jokhang Temple ticket seller, hidden from the visitor's view, is a security guard.

The Chinese government employs fake Tibetan monks to disgrace and discredit Tibetan Buddhism. Real Tibetan Buddhist monks never beg. On the left, a "monk" stands guard in the Barkhor, the route around the Jokhang Temple.

Many methods are employed to restrict, moniter and filter Internet sites, searches and content (not only in China...

During 'sensitive times,' all Internet service is simply cut off in Tibet, for days, even weeks, at at time. There is no Youtube in Tibet.

Traditionally built houses are frequently razed, the residents displaced, and replaced with new "Tibetan style" houses.

...so that Rinpoche won't go to prison again! 
Getting caught with a photo of His Holiness can send someone to prison for five years.

(Photos above were all taken from published sources.)

 The Chinese quickly erased signs of unrest.
Below: A jewelry shop on a central Lhasa street, before and after its speedy repair. 
Top: Damaged building on a side street that remained untouched a year after the riots.

All these empty places are usually packed with people. 
Clockwise from top left: 
Tea house near the Potala Palace; 
Plaza in front of the Jokhang Temple (compare other photo above); 
Sidewalk and street in front of the Potala, usually filled with pedestrians, traffic and prostrators; 
Entrance to Ramoche Temple, the second most important temple in Tibetan Buddhism; 
View from the back gate (title slide) of the university.

Tibetan tea house at Tibet University; all the tea houses were permanently closed the day after this photo was taken, shortly after the riots. 
A sidewalk once packed daily with tables of mahjong players. After many months of inactivity, one lone table returned.

Many multinational interests bind Tibet. Tibet holds the source waters for all of Asia, so the environmental health of the Tibetan plateau has global importance. 

Prof. Robert Thurman, author of "Why the Dalai Lama Matters," envisions that Tibet will be declared a global environmental peace park:

Chinese Communist propaganda, on banners, posters, pasted in taxis, and on a giant screen set up in front of the Potala, after the riots. The center poster shows two sisters, one Tibetan, one Chinese, in idyllic harmony.

More posters in Lhasa. Political reeducation is ongoing in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Students, monks, officials are all required to sign statements denouncing the Dalai Lama.

Chairman Mao was responsible for the deaths of around 40 million Chinese citizens, including around 1.2 million Tibetans. His busts, sculptures and pictures came down all over China decades ago. But in Tibet, his picture still hangs on the walls of offices and in homes, like a protective amulet, showing allegiance to the Chinese Communist party.

"One must require from each one the duty which each one can perform," the king went on. "Accepted authority rests first of all on reason."

Tibetan adults enjoy all the playground equipment.

Chinese-Tibetan Friendship Societies

This slide presentation was first shown at Haifa University East Asian Studies Department, March, 2009, and then on two other occasions in Israel. 
Nothing has changed since then. 
This presentation is as relevant now as then. 
The Tibetan problem has only worsened over the years.

62 Tibetans have self-immolated and are demanding human rights, freedom of religion, cultural and linguist freedom, the right to be Tibetan in Tibet, and an end to over 60 years of oppression and cultural genocide.

Tibet is a #1 global issue:
1. environment http://www.tew.org
2. non-violence http://tinyurl.com/cp44k3y
3. creating healthy minds http://www.mindandlife.org

Original posting, July 7, 2012:  
42 Tibetans have self-immolated, 
sacrificing their lives for freedom and world peace.