Sunday marks the most important date for all Tibetans; those inside Tibet as well as those in diaspora across the globe. March 10 is Tibetan Uprising Day, and we who live in the free world shall protest in front of Chinese consulates and other sites, to amplify our voices on behalf of all who are voiceless inside Tibet.
Ever since China's military invasion of Tibet in 1949-1950, the religion, the cultural heritage and sovereignty of the Tibetan people have been severely compromised.
With the signing of the 17-Point Agreement with the Chinese signed under duress on May 23, 1951, Tibet surrendered its sovereignty to the Chinese for the first time in its long history. Tibetans hoped that Beijing would comply with the Chinese side of the agreement. But that did not happen.
The situation inside Tibet deteriorated progressively, year after year following the invasion. The human rights of Tibetans were not honored.
Above, a short video I shot yesterday on my iPhone in which Samten explains some of the history and symbolism behind the "Wheel of Life" mandala, which is based in a very old tradition but also encompasses some newer creative elements.
It was a beautiful thing to see and hear, over the course of days. The chakpur, those conical metal tools you see in the video that they use to "paint" with the sand, make a raspy percussive rhythmic sound. It's hypnotic. When you can hear that you've achieved just the right pace and rhythm with that sound, one monk said, you know your mind has reached a meditative state of emptiness, and that is where you're supposed to be when you are creating the mandala.
The environment was reverent but there was also some goofing around, as evidenced in the photo below, in which Ven. Thepo Rinpoche takes an iPad snapshot of Samten's head. Yes, some monks carry iPads and iPhones and other gadgets, and they sometimes use them in interesting ways.
"His bald head is a mandala!" Thepo-la said as he snapped the picture. And then they both cracked up.
Snip from a Globe and Mail article quoting HH the Dalai Lama: “It is quite strange – as non-believers, totally non-believers, atheists – showing interest about reincarnation. I jokingly tell them: In order to be involved in my reincarnation, firstly, they should accept Buddhism. Or religion. Or Buddhism. Then they should recognize Chairman Mao Zedong’s reincarnation. Deng Xiaopeng’s reincarnation. Then, they have reason to show some interest about the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation. Otherwise, nonsense!” (via @markkersten)— Xeni
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama speaks during a teaching session on the first day of the Kalachakra festival in the eastern Indian city of Bodhgaya January 1, 2012. The Kalachakra is a 10-day festival comprising Buddha teachings and meditations, taking place at Bodhgaya where Buddha is said to have gained enlightenment. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash
This is the first time that the Chinese authorities have detained large numbers of Tibetan pilgrims returning from the ceremony, held regularly in India among other places.
Many of the pilgrims are elderly and have been detained for more than two months in central Tibet, or what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region. The detainees are being interrogated and undergoing patriotic re-education classes, and have been ordered to denounce the Dalai Lama, who presided over the ceremony, known as the Kalachakra, say people who have researched the detentions. The detainees are being held at hotels, schools and military training centers or bases; some are being forced to pay for their lodging and meals.
“Ruby di, sorry I lied actually I want to do it myself and it is my personal decision whatsoever the consequences maybe tonight,” Dhondup Phuntsok texted Ruby of Ganasamnnay, an Indian organisation that works for Tibetan refugees. “This is just me and myself. I will delete all the phone numbers from my cell so that no one gets disturbed if I am caught in this act…Free Tibet,” Dhondup Phuntsok wrote.
“I want to tell my people that writing free Tibet at the gate of the consulate is a better way to protest than self-immolating oneself,” Dhonduo Phuntsok further wrote.
Worth noting: animal rights advocates do not think the temple itself is wonderful, as the afore-linked Wikipedia entry explains, because the big cats there are kept in abusive conditions. (via Bill Gross)
This morning, a demonstration took place in McLeod Ganj, a quiet Northern Indian village adjacent to the home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile. In this town on the southern end of the Himalayas, young Tibetan exiles staged a memorial for Tibetans inside China-controlled Tibet who have burned themselves alive in recent months.
11 have self-immolated since February 2009. Most are teenagers or in their early twenties. The youngest was 17. It is an expression of despair, and an act of protest against increasingly harsh Chinese military crackdown on ethnic Tibetan cultural, religious, and social systems. For a list of the names, dates, and locations, read on (and there is more background at standupfortibet.org).
It was a very moving demonstration. Young monks carried a graphic banner with flames in the background and the text, Tibetans are dying for freedom. They were accompanied by demonstrators wearing masks of world leaders.
It would be a little dramatic to say things have come to a head. But there's a definite shift, and I suspect that the recent spate of self-immolations will continue. The desperation is palpable, and there seems to be a sense of, "What have we got to lose?"
The Chinese are playing this off as though the Dalai Lama is running around with a lighter and inciting the monks to kill themselves. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Tibetans are very depressed about what's going on. But their is a quiet respect for what the monks have done. It's viewed as the supreme sacrifice for the Tibetan people.
Below, photos, and a press release issued today by organizers.