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. 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
2. non-violence
3. creating healthy minds

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

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