Plight continues for oppressed Tibetans
After reading Soumitro Sen’s Feb. 3 article regarding the visit of the Gaden Shartse Monks to Nevada County, I made it a priority to attend their exhibit at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center. It was a rare opportunity to become acquainted with these fascinating people who came halfway around the world to share their lives, culture and history with the American people.
As Soumitro Sen pointed out in his article, “monks from Gaden Shartse monastery in south India have been visiting western Nevada County for the past six years, … visiting schools, teaching their religion, sharing their culture and raising awareness about the political situation in Tibet.” Literature freely distributed at the exhibit serves as a reminder that the advances of scientific and technological innovation along with the growth of economic and materiel wealth has been accompanied by an ever-increasing pursuit of material happiness which, to a casual observer, might approach ridiculous extremes.
At the same time, reads one pamphlet, “there has been a great longing for inner peace and happiness” that only results from the expression of “inner human values like compassion and love.” Hence, one aim of the monks’ tour is to “share with all humans the path to inner peace of compassion and love in accordance with (the) systemic technique discovered by Shakyamuni Buddha.” Their “programs of enlightenment, empowerment and initiations” are all part of an educational odyssey that reminds one that “Buddha’s teaching is more like a science and specifically a mind analysis process than a traditional religion.”
According to literature at the exhibit, “the Gaden Shartse monastery, one of two learning centers founded by Buddhist master Je Tsongkhapa, was established in the early 15th century. (Today), it is one of the most highly standardized learning sects of Buddhism in the world, having been re-established in 1969 in (the) Mundgod Tibetan settlement, South India” after its destruction following the invasion of Tibet by Communist China.
A brief study of the history of Tibetan Buddhism, included among the literature reveals that: “The country was once filled with fragmented, tribal, war-loving people. When Songtsän Gampo (617-693 AD) became the ruler of Tibet, he imported the philosophical tradition of Buddhism, which had been flourishing in India for centuries. His successor, Trisong Detsän, then made it the official religion.
“The once-violent nation of Tibet became transformed by this new appreciation for the depth and true worth of human life. It was revolutionary. Tibet became one of the finest civilizations the world has ever seen. It became a nation of people filled with patience, tolerance, generosity, love of learning, and loving-kindness. Monasteries and learning centers sprang up across the country, and the Buddhist values of compassion and wisdom infused the people of Tibet.”
Tragically, this vibrant civilization was destroyed with the invasion of the Communist Chinese who, according to the International Tibet Independence Movement, now state that their invasion and occupation of Tibet was designed to liberate Tibetans from medieval feudal serfdom and slavery. Further, “China asserts that Tibetans have enjoyed all rights of equality and they have embarked on the road to freedom and happiness … that Tibet is now a modernized community benefiting from economic growth and social progress.” China contends that they have “rebuilt Tibetan monasteries, nunneries and monuments … that Tibetans fully support the communist party.”
Literature of the International Campaign for Tibet tells a different story. According to the organization, “International legal scholars agree that from 1911 until the Chinese invasion in 1949, Tibet operated as a fully independent state by modern standards.” The international independence movement concurs.
Historians and scholars of international law agree that recognition of a country occurs by explicit acts that include treaties, negotiations and diplomatic relations. Tibet can claim all three: Formal treaties with Nepal and Mongolia (1913); the Treaty of Simla with British India (1914); and Britain, Bhutan, India, the U.S. and even China maintained diplomatic embassies in Tibet’s capital, Lhasa.
The so-called “Great Cultural Revolution” initiated by Mao Zedong took the lives of more than 1.2 million Tibetans and resulted in the destruction of more than 6,000 monasteries. The brutal occupation and religious repression persists today.
Douglas Neher is a Grass Valley resident.
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