Living Tibetan Spirits
THE LIVING TIBETAN SPIRITS: MY BODY IS INDIAN BUT SPIRITUALLY I’M TIBETAN
Following the visit of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s visit to Ann Arbor, MI, USA in 2008, I coined the phrase ‘The Living Tibetan Spirits’. I am not a monk. I am speaking of my ‘spirituality’ in the context of hosting the ‘Spirits’ of young Tibetan soldiers who gave their precious lives while taking part in military action that initiated the Liberation of Bangladesh during 1971. I claim that I am Tibetan for I host their ‘Spirits’ in my Consciousness.
“Self-grasping (or self-focus) gives rise to suffering. It is the root of all afflictions.”
– The Dalai Lama, as translated Saturday by Thupten Jinpa.
“At the root of all our suffering lies a form of ignorance, a form of unknowing.”
– The Dalai Lama, as translated Saturday by Thupten Jinpa
‘My body is Tibetan but spiritually I’m an Indian,’ says the Dalai Lama
In a freewheeling interview with HT, the Dalai Lama speaks on wide-ranging spiritual and political issues, including what he thinks of India-China ties.
On the outer periphery of Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya in Bihar, a mere few hundred steps from the Bodhi tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment more than 2,000 years ago, the 14th Dalai Lama prays and meets his followers in a monastery behind an iron security curtain. Inside the temple, Trinley Thaye Dorje, the co-claimant along with Ogyen Trinley Dorje for the title of 17th Karmapa or head of Karma Kagyu school, is preaching to his followers from all over the world on Buddhism. The 17th Karmapa will become the key leader of Tibetan Buddhism in case the 14th Dalai Lama dies without reincarnation. The two religious leaders have no common ground because of the Dalai Lama, like China, recognizes Ogyen Dorje, who left India for the US in May 2017 and acquired citizenship of Dominica in March this year, as the real Karmapa.
On Sunday morning after he discreetly meets a group of monks that has made its way from Tibet Autonomous Region of China, the frail-looking but mentally alert 84-year-old spiritual leader of the Tibetan people talked exclusively to Shishir Gupta on wide-ranging political and spiritual issues. Edited excerpts:
How is your health these days?
Quite Good… Not very good …. for an 84-year-old person, quite good. I go for morning walks in Dharamshala also…. Here I take around 600 steps each morning in the monastery.
What was the reason for the indefinite postponement of the 13th Religious Conference of the Schools of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon Tradition (November 29-December 1, 2018) in Dharamshala? The conference was called to discuss the future of the institution of Dalai Lama.
One important lama (Kathok Getse Rinpoche, Head of Nyingma school) suddenly passed away. The conference had to be postponed as it was a period of mourning. It has nothing to do with 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje not getting a visa to visit India. I could not meet Thaye Dorje as he was not present when I went for pilgrimage to the Stupa.
Do you talk to both Ogyen and Thaye?
No, I have not yet met Thaye Dorje. Recently, the two met in France. A rightful beginning. Shamar Rinpoche, the nephew of 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje who took refuge in Sikkim after 1959 uprising, told me that there were indications that Thaye Dorje was the reincarnation of the previous Karmapa. In the meantime, Situ Rinpoche (the rival regent) appointed Ogyen Dorje as the Karmapa. I mentioned to Shamar that a high lama in the 19th century had five reincarnations. It is possible for 16th Karmapa to have few reincarnations but the holder of the seat should be one. This is like the two Panchen Lamas with Gedhun Choekyi Nyima (proclaimed by Dalai Lama as reincarnation on May 14, 1995) still alive (other being Gyaltsen Norbu who was appointed by the Chinese government). But then some group told me that I should not be talking about the possibility of two or three reincarnations. I said, OK, then I will keep quiet.
Then who will decide the rightful one heir to the seat?
Situ Rinpoche found a remarkable child (Ogyen Dorje) in Tibet. They came to see me and finalize that. Then I said yes to Ogyen as the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa.
There are now two Panchen Lamas, two Karmapas, now the question comes to the tallest lama, the Dalai Lama. Have you initiated the process of your reincarnation because the Chinese government has already initiated the process?
No, no, no. That is not my business. I made it clear as early as in 1969 that it was up to the Tibetan people to decide whether the very institution of Dalai Lama should continue or not. They will decide. I have no concern. Since the 5th Dalai Lama, the (person holding the) title was the head of both temporal and spiritual affairs. Since 2001, I have proudly, voluntarily and happily given up the political role. We have already achieved elected political leadership (Centralized Tibetan Administration in Dharamshala) and they carry their full responsibility about our temporal affairs. I have totally retired since 2011. So, my thinking is more liberal than Chinese thinking which is more orthodox.
But how will people under stress in Tibet decide whether the institution of Dalai Lama should continue?
It should be decided in a free country, not in Tibet, where there is no freedom.
Have you initiated the process of dialogue on the Dalai Lama institution?
No. Formally, not yet. As the Dalai Lama institution is close to Mongolia, Mongolian people should be involved. I think there should be an international Buddhist conference involving Himalayan people and other Buddhist countries to decide on this. My main concern is that my body, speech, mind, and life should be useful to other people. So long as space remains, and suffering remains, I remain. My daily prayer is the source of my inner strength. This institution of Dalai Lama, I half-jokingly, half-seriously say, has lasted six to seven hundred years should cease with the 14th with grace. If the 15th Dalai Lama turns out to be naughty as the sixth, then the institution will cease in disgrace. The institution could voluntarily and democratically cease with the 14th Dalai Lama being quite famous (he laughs).
Has your middle way approach with China worked? Is it going to benefit Tibetans at all?
Oh yes. Like Germany and France after centuries of fighting came together after second World War to form European Union on shared common values, we also want to be part of the Peoples Republic of China provided the Tibetan culture, language, knowledge, and environment are protected. We get a more economic benefit for material development as China is rich economically but spiritually, we can help millions of Chinese Buddhists. This is mutually beneficial. Historically, Tibet has never been part of China and this even some Chinese historians admit. But past is past, we must live harmoniously and happily together rather than talk in terms of our nation and their nation. People ask me about the future of India and China relations. I say that neither India nor China has the capability to destroy each other. They must live happily side by side with minor irritants. Ultimately, Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai should be the principle. One must remember that there are around 400 million Chinese Buddhists who are inspired by Tibetan Buddhism, which in turn derives the majority of its strength from the Nalanda traditions.
There are media reports about Dr. Lobsang Sangay, President of Centralized Tibetan Administration (CTA) often disregarding the advice of the 14th Dalai Lama. How is your relationship with him?
No. As he is the head of elected political leadership, all decision-making is in his hand. I have never tried to control the political leadership. But in the meantime, he believes me and trusts me. There are some small rumors.
Will Ogyen Dorje return to India? We are told that the 17th Karmapa claimant is putting conditions to the Indian Government for his return?
That I don’t know. Most probably, I think he will return. I recently had discussions with the Ministry of External Affairs and told them that it is between the government of India and Ogyen to decide. I have no problems. It is his business. Not an important matter. There is no question of the Tibetan movement splintering in this context.
Are you looking forward to a pilgrimage to China?
Yes. Sure. As far (back) as 1954, I expressed my desire to the Chinese government to visit Wutai Shan, the home of 13th Dalai Lama. I was told that there was no road. I still have that desire, but it is up to the Chinese government. Once a high Tibetan lama wanted to go to Bodh Gaya, but his disciple said that the real Bodh Gaya is in your heart. Historically, the Wutai Shan is the seat of Deva of wisdom. Whether I am there physically or not, that wisdom from the Deva is already in my brain…. very sharp.
Is there any back channel open with the Chinese for resolving the Tibetan issue?
After we decided not to seek independence from China in 1974, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping decided to have direct contact with us through my elder brother and the dialogue started in 1979. We sent four fact-finding missions to Tibet from 1979 but the dialogue ceased with the death of Deng in 1997. The official dialogue again started under President Jiang Zemin in 2002 but ceased in June 2010. Since then there is only an informal channel open with Chinese retired officials and private businessmen coming to see me from time to time. And they have some connection with the top leader. The Chinese are not in touch with the CTA. We never used the word Tibetan Government in exile. It is the Chinese who have used this and recognized them (he laughs).
Of late various heads of government refuse to meet you fearing the reaction of a now all-powerful China? What is your reaction to it?
I have nothing to ask from any head of state or country. I think they are afraid of the Chinese reaction. I met Barack Obama as former US President and Nobel laureate as also late President George Bush Senior. My visit to Sri Lanka was canceled at the last moment. I have not visited Thailand since it established diplomatic relations with China. I am never allowed into Buddhist countries because I am a Buddhist (he laughs) except Japan.
Any plans to visit the US and meet President Donald Trump?
No because of my physical condition. Normally, I used to go to the US annually for a medical check-up. One Indian doctor found traces of prostate cancer at the Mayo Clinic in USA. A team of 10 doctors discussed and ruled out surgery due to my age and side effects. Instead, I got radiation and have been completely cured of the disease. I have not traveled to the US in the past two years as it is too far, and I cannot handle too much physical exertion. So instead of going to the US for treatment, I go to a private hospital in Delhi.
US President Donald Trump has just signed “The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act 2018”, which allows the Tibetans to return to their homeland or else the Chinese officials stopping them face sanctions. What is your reaction to this?
The present president of the greatest democratic nation is a bit unpredictable. So, I am in no position to comment on this as I do not know enough. But both the US houses have been strong supporters of Tibet over the decades and so has been the American government. American people love Tibet.
What is your reaction when you were asked to shift “Thank You India” event to mark 60 years of your exile in New Delhi to Dharamshala in April?
The Indian government tried to avoid any obstacle to their relations with China. That is understandable. That is OK. I was not unhappy. Not much. Nothing. Basically, our relations with India are centuries old since a Nalanda master introduced Buddha Dharma in Sanskrit tradition in the 8th century. My body is Tibetan but spiritually and mentally I am an Indian. Today 10,000 monks and now nuns are studying in Nalanda Buddhist traditions with total freedom and not in any restricted environment in Tibet.
Will you or your people ever be able to return to their homeland, Tibet?
India is the only place where modern education meets ancient knowledge, which is needed to tackle emotions. I am committed to reviewing the ancient Indian knowledge to tackle emotions. For these things’ freedom is very important. My return to Tibet is of no use if there is no freedom. I prefer this country and this freedom and then I am the longest guest of India.
THE BATTLE FOR TIBETAN SOUL – REINCARNATION vs RESURRECTION
I coined the phrase “Living Tibetan Spirits” to describe the Tibetan Soldiers with whom I worked in Establishment No. 22 or Special Frontier Force while taking part in Operation Eagle, the military action that initiated Liberation of Bangladesh by attacking the enemy posts in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. These Tibetans lost their mortal lives while dreaming about Freedom in Occupied Tibet. As per Tibetan traditions, the deceased Tibetan Soldiers have no chance to reincarnate to fulfill their wishes. The privilege called ‘Reincarnation’ is accessible to a select few highly accomplished Lamas of great wisdom. I chose the option called ‘Resurrection’ to keep them alive by hosting their Spirits in my living Consciousness.
Chinese effort to impose its own Dalai Lama would be opposed: the US
WASHINGTON: The United States believes that the decision on picking the next Dalai Lama should be as per Tibet’s religious traditions and that it is not a role of the state, a top Trump administration official has told lawmakers, hinting that it will oppose any move by China to impose its own Dalai Lama.
The United States has a very clear position that religious decisions should be made within religious organizations and that this isn’t the role of the state, Laura Stone, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific and International Cybersecurity Policy during a Congressional hearing.
Stone was responding to a question from Senator Cory Gardner.
China has said that they will pick the next Dalai Lama. The Tibetan policy, in 2002, mandated that American officials visit Tibet on a regular basis. I want to get into both. If China proceeds and tries to impose a Dalai Lama what will the US response be? the senator had asked.
Gardner said it was clear that this Congress would not recognize a Chinese imposition.
Stone said the senator asking such a question was an important signal to the Chinese government that this was the kind of issue that the United States was watching very closely and at very senior levels.
I wouldn’t want to prejudge exactly how this, a future scenario, would roll out but I would like to lay a marker that that is the clear position of the United States government and, I think, widely supported within the American society, that those are the kinds of decisions that should be made by religious communities on their own and without outside interference, she asserted.
In his remarks, Gardner said the crackdown in the Tibet Autonomous Region was intensifying while Beijing continued to refuse negotiations with the Central Tibetan Administration.
Human rights defenders are routinely jailed, tortured, and otherwise deprived of liberty. A genuine freedom of speech and assembly are nonexistent. Corruption and abuse of power are rampant. The judicial system is a tool of the state and the party and not an impartial arbiter of legal disputes, he said.
The United State, Stone said, was deeply concerned at the lack of meaningful autonomy for the Chinese people. We have certainly pressed for the release of detained activists throughout the entire country, but very importantly, on the Tibet plateau and in historical Tibet, she said.
The US has been pushing for access to Tibet with the Chinese authorities, Stone said, adding I know that’s an important issue. We do want to work with Congress on that shared goal and we do continue to have very serious concerns about the ability of the Tibetan people to continue to have the ability to express their unique culture, their unique language, and their religious practices.”
Senators Gardner and Ed Markey reflected the sentiments of the US Congress, seeking equal access of Americans to China as being done by the US to the Chinese. A legislation is being moved in the Congress in this regard.
We need to consider reciprocal access as part of our policy in approach to Tibet and to China and what’s being done to address this and to promote our access to Tibet. Do you share the goals of our Reciprocal Act?” he asked.
In the absence of such a reciprocity, the Act calls for sanctions against Chinese officials.
We certainly share the goals and we do look forward to working with you to figure out how best to achieve those goals, Stone said, confirming that the US government would implement the provisions of the Reciprocal Act if signed into law.
THE FATE OF FREEDOM IN TIBET HINGES ON TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY TO TIBETANS
In my analysis, the Fate of Freedom in Tibet hinges on Transparency and Public Accountability to Tibetans. The type of governance in China, India, and the United States is of no consequence if their State Policy is not transparent and is not accountable to Tibetans. On behalf of The Living Tibetan Spirits of Special Frontier Force, I demand a Government Policy that is transparent and is accountable to Tibetans to decide the fate of freedom in Tibet. Hidden Agendas, Covert Actions, and Secret Negotiations will utterly fail to deliver the Blessings of Peace and Justice in Occupied Tibet.
The fate of freedom in Tibet hinges on democracy in China
Tibetan Americans walk in protest to China’s consulate in Los Angeles on Nov. 19, where they held a prayer and candlelight vigil for a 23-year-old Tibetan man named Dopo who self-immolated. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP)
By Carl Gershman
Carl Gershman is president of the National Endowment for Democracy.
The death last month of Lodi Gyari, who as the Dalai Lama’s special envoy conducted nine rounds of negotiations with Beijing over Tibet’s status, offers an occasion to reflect on the increasingly troubled relationship between the United States and China.
The negotiations conducted by Gyari in 2002 through 2010 were based on the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way Approach, which seeks genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the framework of the existing Chinese state and constitution. Earlier in his career, when he was an interpreter for the Tibetan resistance fighters training in the United States and helped found the Tibetan Youth Congress, Gyari was committed to the struggle for Tibetan independence. He never changed his belief that Tibet is “in every sense an occupied nation, brutally occupied.” But he became persuaded that the Dalai Lama’s vision of autonomy offered a nonviolent way to preserve the Tibetan people’s religion, culture, language, and identity. And after conducting exploratory talks in China in the 1980s during the period of reform under Deng Xiaoping and Hu Yaobang, he believed that such an approach was feasible.
But Beijing had no interest in finding a middle ground with the Dalai Lama, and the negotiations were unsuccessful. Beijing actually hardened its position on Tibet. In a speech Gyari gave after the breakdown of the talks, he charged that the regime had increased repression and was seeking the “cultural destruction” of the Tibetan people. China also issued a white paper denouncing the Middle Way and asserting that it wouldn’t resume talks until the Dalai Lama acknowledged that Tibet has been part of China “since antiquity,” a view rejected by all independent scholars. The growing repression, Gyari said, was responsible for “the terrible and tragic wave of self-immolations” by desperate Tibetans, whose resistance was likely to grow.
The bitter disappointment experienced by Gyari parallels the profound disenchantment with China in the United States and other advanced democracies, where policymakers once believed that as China modernized economically it would liberalize internally and become a responsible stakeholder in the rules-based world order.
In fact, exactly the opposite has happened. As China has risen economically, Beijing has become far more repressive, arresting dissidents and independent lawyers, creating mass concentration camps for Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province, and using facial-recognition technology and other digital tools to establish what has ominously been called the “surveillance state.”
Internationally, it has militarized the South China Sea, despite President Xi Jinping’s pledge in the White House Rose Garden in 2015 not to take such action. China’s military buildup has been described in a Pentagon study as “perhaps the most ambitious grand strategy undertaken by a single nation-state in modern times.” It has engaged in “cyber theft on a massive scale,” and through its $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative, targets more than 60 countries in an effort to advance its economic and military goals, including securing access to strategic ports.
Such threatening behavior has provoked an international backlash that the Economist has called “the starkest reversal in modern geopolitics.” An example of this reversal was the harsh speech given by Vice President Pence last month at the Hudson Institute, which added the charge of meddling in American politics to all the other alarming Chinese actions. Some observers have seen this speech as a portent of a new Cold War. But one shot across the Chinese bow is not a coherent policy response to the greatest international challenge now facing the United States.
Here Gyari’s experience may help point a way forward. While he failed in his negotiations with Beijing, he was immensely successful as the Dalai Lama’s special envoy in Washington, building bipartisan backing for the Tibet Policy Act (2002), which institutionalized support for Tibet in U.S. foreign policy. He had many allies in this effort, but none was more devoted than Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who is the presumptive next House speaker and whose heartfelt statement on the passing of Gyari emphasized that “members of Congress on both sides of the aisle benefitted from Lodi’s insight and wisdom.” She could be an important ally in building bipartisan congressional support for a new China policy.
Two additional elements of such a policy are also tied to Gyari. The first is the importance he attached to the role of India, which has given refuge to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile, and whose free political environment, he said, “has deeply enriched my thinking.” The Trump administration has emphasized the growing strategic partnership with India, which must be a core part of U.S. policy.
The second element is democracy. Gyari, like the Dalai Lama, believed in the paramount importance of democracy for all people, not least for Tibetans and Chinese. Following the Tibet uprising in 2008, Chinese dissident and future Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo wrote, “Democratization for all of China is the necessary condition for any solution, whatever its form, to the Tibet issue.”
THE LIVING TIBETAN SPIRITS MAKE A DREAM TRIP TO MOUNT EVEREST
As my miserable mortal life journey crawls towards its end without giving me any clue about my destination, I can only afford to make a dream trip to Mount Everest. I give my thanks to photographer Bruce Connolly and ChinaDaily.com.Cn for sharing with me the story about ‘A Road Trip Across Tibet to Mount Everest’. In my analysis, Mount Everest or Qomolangma is my mighty witness testifying in support of true Tibetan Identity. Mount Everest proclaims that Tibet is never a part of China.
A road trip across Tibet to Mount Everest
Lhasa – the start of the road trip in 2000. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
In 2000, Lhasa was a different city in many ways, compared to what it is today. High on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, it was much more isolated back then. Its airport, a roughly 90-minute drive from downtown, was at that time the only one operating across all of Tibet. In earlier years, flying into Lhasa had been restricted to early morning flights from Chengdu in Sichuan. By 2000, however, it was well-served by modern, powerful jet aircraft capable of landings and takeoffs at high altitudes, able to cope with occasionally difficult afternoon weather conditions. In recent years several new airports have also opened across Tibet.
Despite the advances in aviation technology, flying into Tibet was expensive. Before the completion of the Tibet railway in 2006, roads were the only feasible option for most freight and passenger traffic. It amazed me during my time in Lhasa how so much that made my stay both pleasant and comfortable must surely have come up to the city by road. Two main highways served Lhasa at the time. From Golmud to Xining, Highway G109 was a long, lonely journey through an empty upland plateau. The other route, Highway G318, runs 5,476 kilometers from Shanghai’s People’s Square, via Sichuan and southeastern Tibet ultimately to Zhangmu, the border crossing with Nepal. I would leave Lhasa along G318 on a road trip initially to the base of Qomolangma, known in the West as Mount Everest.
I noticed several oxygen bags loaded into what was a comfortable but strong SUV. Lhasa was modern and well-planned, but outside the city, infrastructure such as road quality was quite variable. The physical terrain often proved very challenging for highway construction, even between Lhasa and Xigaze, Tibet’s second city. Geologically, much of the area is still active. Landslides remained a danger during the rainy season.
Highway 318 at Tingri. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Initially, my departure from Lhasa along G318 followed the road that had brought me a few days earlier from the airport. Nearing the Yarlung Tsangpo Bridge, we turned right for Xigaze. Initially, the route followed a wide valley and the river braided into many channels, with sweeping views toward glacial mountain peaks and ridges. Villages sat near intensively cultivated, irrigated farmland. Then it started narrowing, with scenery becoming increasingly breathtaking. Settlements perched on any patches of level terrain available.
The road started along a ledge cut below almost vertical cliffs. High gullies were filled with long fingers of snow. Below the road, sheer drops reached the river that appeared to be cascading around huge rocks. Workers tirelessly cleared fallen boulders from roadside ditches. Flocks of sheep and goats also shared the road space, with drivers carefully edging past. Gradually the valley widened, and the river slowed, allowing flat-bottomed ferry boats to carry villagers across. Both road width and quality improved. Where bridges spanned river junctions, small restaurants and shops had opened, providing supplies for travelers. At intervals, pack horses gathered beside narrow trails leading to seemingly inaccessible villages.
Eventually, the valley really did widen and the waters calmed, becoming almost lake-like. A tugboat pulled a pontoon carrying vehicles across to the far shore. Some of the landscape appeared as a small sandy desert with protective trees planted along the highway. I noticed poles being erected to carry electricity to some villages while concrete-lined aqueducts helped irrigate reclaimed land for arable farming.
Rounding a bend, I saw a concentration of modern buildings, some even medium-rise. We arrived at Xigaze, at an altitude of 3,836 meters, the highest city I had ever reached. Since that 2000 road trip, travel to and from Xigaze has greatly improved. Not only has the road been upgraded but the railway has been extended from Lhasa and a modern airport opened. Partly in response to such infrastructure investments, tourism has grown significantly, not just to Xigaze but across much of Tibet.
I stayed at the Xigaze-Shandong Hotel, which then was the city’s tallest building. I discovered at that time a certain arrangement existed, where the more developed parts of China were paired up with areas of Tibet to assist in regional assistance programs such as infrastructure projects. Xigaze had relationships with Shanghai and Shandong, Lhasa with Beijing, and so on.
It was an unexpected joy to find excellent accommodation in what in theory was then a remote location. After a spicy Sichuan-style lunch in the hotel, I spent the afternoon visiting Tashilhunpo Monastery. Founded in 1447, it was the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama — Panchen meaning “great scholar”, the title bestowed on the abbots of Tashilhunpo.
I was spellbound by the magnificence of the monastery as I walked through its halls illuminated by trays of butter lamps. One chapel was home to a 26-meter-high copper image of the Maitreya, or Buddha of the future. Around the walls were around 1,000 gold paintings of the Maitreya.
Within an assembly hall dating from the 15th century, chanting monks sat on carpets while above them long thangka images and colored scarves hung from the ceiling. A large throne in the middle was where the Panchen Lamas once sat.
A doorway within Tashilhunpo Monastery Xigaze. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
I wandered the alleys between prayer halls crowded by people chanting, prostrating themselves, walking clockwise along balconies or spinning personal prayer wheels. Some, along with young monks, scooped up chunks of butter from large bowls and smeared it into lamp bowls. The butter produced a distinctive aroma that seemed to permeate everywhere. Above the monastery’s perimeter wall, people quietly followed the Tashilhunpo Kora (pilgrimage).
That evening I tried writing in my diary but found it a challenge because I had experienced so much throughout the day. I did realize that this hotel would offer the last comfortable bed for the next few days, as there were no more cities ahead on this route, with only small trading towns and to look forward to.
Leaving Xigaze early next morning, I saw many people already walking around the monastery. The road was initially unpaved, passing many exposed multicolored rock formations that stood as a testament to the massive tectonic movements that had uplifted the area’s geology. The land became increasingly dry with small patches of cultivation, mostly barley and potatoes, where water could be sourced. Occasionally someone on horseback would tend herds of black-coated yaks.
Villages. Photo by Bruce Connolly/ChinaDaily.com.Cn
The road would climb up and over several passes usually crowned with prayer flags, such as the 4,500-meter-high Tso-La Pass and the 4,950 meter-high Yulang-La Pass. The visibility was so clear, giving excellent views of distant peaks. At one point I saw the heavy walls of what had been a fort guarding a pass. Descending, lower areas would have limited cultivation, although I did observe groups of farmers scattering seed potatoes onto plowed soil. Ponies pulled wooden carts along the farmers.
Along G318 there also was a regular procession of blue trucks laden with goods, for this road was also the main lifeline to western Tibet.
Some 150 kilometers from Xigaze is Lhaze, a small county whose main street had many small restaurants with name boards in English such as “Chengdu Restaurant”, for it was where G318 to the Nepalese border splits from the highway to western Tibet. Apparently, travelers heading up toward Mount Everest maybe would stay one or two nights, for it was the last real town on the route.
Rongphu Monastery at 5030 meters. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
The road climbed again up a narrow valley where herders would camp while tending their yaks. This led up to Gyatso-La Pass, at an altitude of 5,220 meters, one of the highest along the route. Stopping briefly, I thought it was amazing how people gathered around, yet there was no sign of any habitation. The landscape felt like arctic tundra vegetation, and beyond it, I could finally see the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas. However, clouds were building up over those peaks for the monsoon would soon push up from the Indian sub-continent. In this area, the road was not surfaced and it was a constant struggle for work crews to keep it open.
When we reached distance marker 5,115, a sign declared we were entering the Mount Everest Protection Area. Scattered trees indicated the approach toward a small village, Tingri, where the main road turned off to Shegar. Notices proclaiming “guesthouse” and restaurant adorned building exteriors signaled the area was used to visitors. I had lunch in a restaurant that amazingly had television, hi-fi, and a fridge! Boys tried to sell fossils dug up locally while people gathered for onward transport by truck or bus.
Soon after the village was the 63-kilometer route leading up to Mount Everest. As we drove gradually higher, I was enthralled with the geology exposed everywhere, often showing bedding planes of the rocks tilted vertically. That gravel road gradually climbed up through a wide valley with an increasing sensation of being on the roof of the world as we reached the 5,120-meter-high summit of Pang-La Pass. Beyond it lay one of the most spectacular views in the world. Along the horizon stood the glacial peaks of the Himalayas, with Mount Everest, or Qomolangma, at the center. It was so stunning I could easily have stayed there all day.
A wide section of Yarlung Tsangpo near Xigaze. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
From the summit, the road descended through a moon-like landscape reaching a small agricultural village, Tashi Dzom. Notices again in English advertised accommodation and dining. Turning right into a broad valley, we encountered a river spreading over a wide terrain of gravel and stones, which was actually meltwater draining off the northern slopes of Mount Everest. Jeeps carrying tourists descended as we headed higher, passing Chodzom, possibly the world’s highest village, again offering a hotel built in a local Tibetan style. The route went up through boulder fields, the descending river now milky white as it carried so much gravel and crushed stones. At an altitude of 5,030 meters sat Rongphu Monastery, the last inhabited building before the base of Mount Everest. I would stay there overnight, but first, the last section of the road had to be skillfully accomplished.
The going was extremely rough, bumping over many rocks and glacial debris while driving through streams. Great mounds of stones and silt had been carried down and deposited by the Rongphu Glacier. Reaching the road’s end, I found myself lacking the energy to manage anything beyond a slow walk up a gravelly hill. There was no vegetation on this stark landscape, but it was very inspiring. My only disappointment was that Everest was wrapped in clouds. It was windy and felt very cold.
Across the high, arctic, plateau lands. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
I returned to the guesthouse for a simple meal of egg fried rice and pot noodles, and went to bed, trying to sleep, an almost impossible task. This proved fortuitous. As dawn was breaking I went outside for a glimpse of the grandeur of Mount Everest exposed before me. I sat on a rock trying to take it all in, the world’s highest peak. At last, I had arrived at this breathtaking vista, which I had seen so many times in books from years back. Within 30 minutes the clouds once again enveloped it!
I enjoyed a simple breakfast, and then weathered a bumpy descent as villages such as Chodzom were waking up. I watched people heading out to the fields, some by horseback, and children going to school.
Back over the Pang-La Pass, with its many prayer flags, it felt like time for a memorable look back toward Mount Everest, sadly almost obscured by clouds. Soon we returned back to the G318, stopping for lunch at Tingri before arriving in Xigaze once again. I had accomplished an incredible journey, thanks in part to the amazing skills of my Tibetan driver.
Amazing colors of the land alongside the highway. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Dawn over Mount Everest – thirty minutes later it clouded over. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
End of the road to Everest. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Glacial meltwater river from Mount Everest. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Groups of monks at Tashilhunpo Monastery Xigaze. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn ]
Highway 318 to Xigaze along Yarlung Tsangpo River. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Incredible geological formations alongside road up to Pang-la Pass. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Pang-la Pass 5120 meters. Looking towards the Himalayan foothills. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Prayer flags on high passes along the highway. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Rough driving on G318 and a former fort above the road. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Villages along the road to Everest. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Villages and a mill where there was water. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
TIBET SEPARATISM IS JUST A NATURAL PHENOMENON
In my analysis, Tibet Separatism is just a natural phenomenon for it is entirely derived from the actions of various Natural Forces acting over thousands of years to create the separate Tibetan Identity which refuses to merge with identities of other foreign nationalities. Tibetan Identity will always exist as a ‘Separate’ Identity and no man will be able to wipe it out by building roads, bridges, railways, airports to plunder the natural resources of Tibetan Plateau. Tibetan Separatism does not constitute any kind of political activity. In fact, Tibetan Separatism represents the reality of Independence granted by the works of Mother Nature.
Dalai Lama a political exile, engaged in separatist activities: China | world news | Hindustan Times
China insists Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans claim they were essentially independent for most of that time
Press Trust of India
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama interacts with the leaders of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) at his residence, in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, on October 24. (HT File Photo)
China on Tuesday hit out at the Dalai Lama who is on a visit to Japan, saying that countries should not facilitate the Tibetan spiritual leader’s “separatist activities”.
On the Dalai Lama’s reported comments that China and Tibet should co-exist and prosper together, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said here that the Tibet issue is an internal matter of Beijing.
“As for the Dalai Lama’s speech, it is not up to me to answer this question. I can tell you that the 14th Dalai Lama is a political exile and he is engaged in separatist activities,” he said.
“We hope the relevant parties will not provide facilitation for his separatist activities,” he said.
China insists Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans claim they were essentially independent for most of that time. The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in his Himalayan homeland.
The Dalai Lama is on a 10-day teaching tour of Japan. China routinely objects to his foreign visits.
First Published: Nov 20, 2018 18:24 IST
NOVEMBER 14, 1962 – FIRST PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA SHARES HIS BIRTH DATE WITH SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE
On Wednesday, November 14, 2018, I pay my respectful tributes to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. On November 14, 1962, he shared his birth date with Special Frontier Force without hosting any public ceremony.
President Kovind, PM Modi, Sonia Gandhi Pay Tributes to Jawaharlal Nehru on Birth Anniversary
Jawaharlal Nehru was born to Motilal Nehru and Swaruprani Thussu on November 14, 1889, in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. His birthday is celebrated as Children’s Day. Jawaharlal Nehru remained in office (as prime minister) until his death in 1964.
November 14, Jawaharlal Nehru’s birth anniversary, is celebrated as Children’s Day in India
President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday paid tributes to India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru on his 129th birth anniversary.
Jawaharlal Nehru was born to Motilal Nehru and Swaruprani Thussu on November 14, 1889, in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. His birthday is celebrated as Children’s Day. Jawaharlal Nehru remained in office (as prime minister) until his death in 1964.
Former president Pranab Mukherjee, former vice president Hamid Ansari, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, and Sonia Gandhi paid their respects to Jawaharlal Nehru at Shantivan.
“Remembering Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, our first Prime Minister, on his birth anniversary,” read a post on the official Twitter handle of the President Kovind.
PM Modi recalled Jawaharlal Nehru’s contribution to India’s freedom struggle and during his tenure as prime minister. “Remembering our first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on his birth anniversary. We recall his contribution to our freedom struggle and during his tenure as Prime Minister,” he tweeted.
Balloons in the colors of the Indian flag were released amid playing of bands and singing of patriotic songs by school children at Jawaharlal Nehru’s memorial Shantivan.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan led parliamentarians in paying tributes to the first prime minister at the Central Hall of Parliament.
Besides Ms. Mahajan, senior leaders LK Advani, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge, Union minister Vijay Goel, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda among others paid homage to Jawaharlal Nehru.