THE BUSINESS OF PEACEMAKING–BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS
I commend the U.S. Institute of Peace for organizing a two-day Peace Conclave in Dharamshala to give encouragement to 27 youth peace activists by directly meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I warmly congratulate these young participants for their efforts to promote Peace, Harmony, and Tranquility in the communities where they live.
The 14th Dalai Lama, a Tibetan spiritual leader, was self-deprecating and even playful to put his guests at ease, but peacemaking is serious business.
The Dalai Lama meets with young people in Dharamsala, India, in October 2018. (Photo: Rohini Das/U.S. Institute of Peace)
DHARAMSALA, India — For a few days this fall, more than two dozen educated and articulate young peacekeepers from some of the most dangerous countries in the world gathered at the feet of the Dalai Lama eager for solace, guidance and comfort.
They described experiences alien to anything that young Americans could understand: working to quell misery in places where governments are repressive, ethnic or tribal conflict is rife, or religious extremist groups such as the Islamic State or Boko Haram are savage.
One of them was Sulaiman Qauymi, 28, a journalist and co-founder of a conflict-resolution group in Afghanistan. “I’m living in a country where the people start the day talking about war, battle, conflict, suicide attack, terror and killing,” he told the Dalai Lama. “It’s a major topic of my life and my people each day until we go to bed.”
Su Su, 26, is a peace activist from strife-torn Myanmar. (She and a few others asked that their full names be withheld because of safety concerns.) “I want inspiration from you,” she told the 83-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader, the 14th Dalai Lama.
The U.S. Institute of Peace helped arrange the conclave in this nearly mile-high city in the foothills of the Himalayas. The theory was simple. The world-renowned spiritual leader who had led his Tibetan government into exile at age 24 six decades before, fleeing brutal Chinese communist aggression, could galvanize 27 youth leaders whose age averages 25.
I was one of a handful of older professionals invited to accompany the pilgrimage. The event lasted two days in a wood-paneled hall of the Dalai Lama’s residence as the young adults, against a backdrop of orchids and Buddha tapestries, implored the holy man for guidance.
He was attentive and generous with his time, at moments self-deprecating and even playful to put his guests at ease. He thrilled feminists in the room one morning with the revelation that a female Dalai Lama could certainly be a reality one day.
But as the hours passed and the youth leaders unburdened themselves, the Dalai Lama would almost sag under the weight of their frustrations and doubts about resolve.
Kode Kenaime, 27, a peace activist with twin graduate degrees from the Central African Republic, where Muslim-Christian violence has left thousands dead, talked of slain family members and “darkness in my mind, my heart (and) full feelings of revenge. It’s not easy for me, but I keep working as a peace-builder.”
Meron Kocho, 28, an activist and ethnic Yazidi from northern Iraq, said Islamic State fighters made refugees of his family, turned girls into sex slaves and conscripted boys as soldiers. “We saw so much hate that we started to hate,” he told the Dalai Lama.
An end to empathy
Wadi Ben-Hirki, who at 21 has earned awards for her work educating children, seeking to empower women, and pushing to end child marriage and genital mutilation in her native Nigeria, talked of becoming inured to the depredations of the notorious Boko Haram terror group. “I’m scared of not being able to empathize anymore because I’m used to the pain,” she said.
Others — Mohamed Ahmed, 22, co-founder of a peace group in Somalia; Dalia Anez, 26, a Venezuelan lawyer who trains human rights leaders; and Hayder Ghanimi, 28, who leads a peace workshop in Baghdad — questioned the feasibility of success.
“Have you ever lost hope?” Hayder asked.
The Dalai Lama steered them back to basics. The paths they have chosen to educate, to promote dialogue, to build peaceful coexistence is long and difficult. “I don’t expect some overnight change is possible,” the Dalai Lama told them, hearkening back to his many decades of struggle. “A peaceful world within my lifetime will not be achieved.”
They must be patient, he told them. And the antidote to feelings of anger or despair is the compassion and optimism that gave seed to their commitment to peace. “Optimism is the source of success,” he said. “Pessimism is the source of defeat.”
Is change possible? “Yes, 100 percent.”
It was a pep talk one could only pray would succeed. Harsh realities awaited the youth leaders back in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Tunisia; in Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic; in Myanmar and Afghanistan; and in Venezuela and Colombia.
They seemed happy, fulfilled and inspired as they left Dharamsala and the Dalai Lama.
They were, without question, inspiring.
Gregg Zoroya is a USA TODAY editorial writer and author of “The Chosen Few: A Company of Paratroopers and Its Heroic Struggle to Survive in the Mountains of Afghanistan.” Follow him on Twitter: @greggzoroya
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.
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.
TIBET AWARENESS – DEFEND RIGHTS OF ENDANGERED TIBETANS
I am sharing photo images of endangered Black-necked Cranes visiting Tibet to promote Tibet Awareness. Since 1950, Tibetans lost their Natural Freedom because of China’s military conquest and occupation. I am asking the global community of nations to defend the Rights of Endangered Tibetans and to restore the Political Rights of Tibetans.
A black-necked crane looks after its chicks in the Qiangtang nature reserve, Tibet, in June of 2017. Black-necked cranes are often seen in Tibet’s river valleys and the region’s barley and wheat fields in winter. With an estimated population of around 10,200, the species is classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). (Xinhua/Chogo)
LHASA, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) — Every year, black-necked cranes arrive in Tibet, where they are welcomed by locals and tourists.
“This is the only time of the year when we can see flocks of these birds. It’s spectacular!” said Toinzhub Cering, a wildlife ranger in Lhundrup County, which is about 87 miles northeast of Lhasa, Tibet’s capital.
Black-necked cranes are often seen in Tibet’s river valleys and the region’s barley and wheat fields in winter. And Toinzhub knows exactly where to find them.
For ten years, the 42-year-old has patrolled the nature reserve in Lhundrup, one of the major habitats of black-necked cranes.
With an estimated population of around 10,200, the species is classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The black-necked crane is the most recently identified among 15 kinds of cranes worldwide. They are also the only kind that inhabits plateau areas with an altitude of 2,500-5,000 meters.
Toinzhub Cering feels passionate about protecting the species and has been doing his part to help. He is always the first person to call media and authorities each year when the rare birds come and go.
Now that he has learned how to use social media, he often shares photos of the cranes with his friends.
Thanks to efforts made by locals and authorities, these exhausted birds, after flying for over 1,000 km, don’t have to face hunger, pesticide, or poachers.
Instead, they can now easily find pollutant-free highland barley and wheat left by farmers.
But endangered animal protection efforts in Tibet cover more than just birds, with the Tibetan antelope also under people’s watch, among other wildlife.
As for damage and losses caused by such animals, residents can claim compensation from the government.
Between mid-March and late April, black-necked cranes migrate to northern Tibet to reproduce in the lakeside marshes, far beyond human touch.
Yet not all journeys go so well for some cranes. Wounded birds are often left behind by the flock.
Two cranes with broken wings were found in Dazi County near Lhasa this spring. The local forestry authority has been caring for them ever since, and, hopes they can catch up with their flock during next year’s migration.
There have also been cases whereby wounded cranes have become permanent residents after recovery.
Black-necked cranes mainly live in the highlands of China, India, Bhutan, and Nepal. Tibet is home to about 80 percent of the world’s total.
A black-necked crane, once wounded during migration, becomes a permanent resident at a temple near Xigaze, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, Sept. 27, 2014. (Xinhua/Chogo)
Group of black-necked cranes flying over Lhasa River Valley, Tibet, Nov. 23, 2017. (Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi)
A black-necked crane looks after its chicks in the Qiangtang nature reserve, Tibet, June 24, 2017. (Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi)
Photo taken on Dec. 18, 2018 shows black-necked cranes in Linzhou County of Lhasa, capital of Tibet. (Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi)
Black-necked cranes are seen in the Linzhou County, Tibet, Jan. 9, 2015. (Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi)
Black-necked crane chicks are seen in the Qiangtang nature reserve, Tibet, June 24, 2017. (Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi)
Black-necked cranes are seen in a reservoir where they spend the winter in Linzhou County of Lhasa City, capital of Tibet, in January of 2017. (Xinhua/Liu Dongjun)
A black-necked crane looks after its chicks in the Qiangtang nature reserve, Tibet, June 24, 2017. (Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi)
Aerial photo taken on March 10, 2018 shows a black-necked crane in Linzhou County, Tibet. (Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi)
A black-necked crane, once wounded during migration, becomes a permanent resident at a temple near Xigaze, Tibet, Sept. 5, 2016. (Xinhua/Chogo)
A black-necked crane family are seen near Yamdrok Lake,Tibet, Aug. 16, 2009. The little black-necked crane (C) broke the wing during migration, and the whole family became permanent residents after the little one’s recovery near the lake. (Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi)
Two black-necked cranes, wounded in wings during migration, are cared at a forestry authority in Dagze County, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, April 12, 2016. (Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi)
Black-necked cranes fly in the Linzhou County, Tibet, Jan. 9, 2015. (Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi)
Wildlife rangers are seen in the Qiangtang nature reserve, Tibet, Sept. 22, 2012. (Xinhua/Liu Hongming)
THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS – THE UPLIFTING POWER OF CHRIST: HUMAN EXISTENCE AND THE GAME OF CHESS:
Human existence could be viewed as a game of chess. Depending upon the nature of the opponent, human existence faces challenges from several directions which may not be anticipated, and man may or may not be able to escape from the danger posed to his existence.
CHRIST – THE DIVINE CHESS PLAYER
The popular game of Chess is played on a Chessboard by two players each with 16 pieces. The game pieces have varying abilities of movement over the Chessboard. The piece identified as ‘King’ can move in all directions but can only move by one space during a given move.
Human Existence could be viewed as a Game of Chess. If I am the player, who would be my opponent?
In the Game of Chess, the King moves one space in any direction.
The object of the Game of Chess is to ‘Checkmate’ the opponent player’s King. The move that is known as ‘Checkmate’ wins the Chess game by checking the opponent’s King so that it cannot be protected. The condition of the King after such a move indicates complete defeat or that the King is dead.
The move known as ‘Checkmate’ – Its relevance to Human Existence
Human Existence could be compared to the Game of Chess. A variety of physical, chemical, and biological factors constantly challenge human existence. The man learns to survive by making the necessary moves and by deploying all his defensive mechanisms and resources. During his life’s journey, man eventually finds himself in a position without any escape route. Just like the ‘Checkmated’ King, man may get cornered in a situation which is beyond his control. The Chess game pieces have no ability other than the movement that is allowed by the rules of the Game. Unlike the Chess Game, the man whose existence is ‘Checkmated’, the man whose existence is undefended; the man who is not capable of making any more moves to protect his own existence, may get rescued by a ‘Uplifting Power’; and such an ‘Upward’ move is not described in the Game of Chess.
MAN, vs GOD – THE JOY OF GETTING ‘CHECKMATED’:
MAN, vs GOD – THE JOY OF GETTING ‘CHECKMATED’.
IN HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ‘SURPRISED BY JOY, C.S. LEWIS DESCRIBED A GAME OF CHESS.
Clive Staples Lewis (1898 – 1963), Oxford and Cambridge Scholar, novelist, writer of stories for children, and Literary Critic, in his Autobiographical Sketch titled ‘Surprised by Joy’ has visualized his existence as that of a ‘Divine Pursuit’. It is not man who searches and eventually finds God. It is rather God who pursues the man throughout his life’s moves. God is the one who searches for man and not vice versa. God goes about seeking the souls that are His. If man wanders off, God goes to man in order to reconcile him. God’s searching for man is serious and is not ostensible. If life could be described as Man vs God Chess Game; God skillfully places the man in a position which gives no option of escape and finally God captures man. C.S. Lewis has entitled the penultimate chapter of his Autobiography as “Checkmate”. Lewis describes God as the Divine Chess player who gradually maneuvers him into an impossible position. “All over the board my pieces were in the most disadvantageous positions. Soon I could no longer cherish even the illusion that the initiative lay with me. My Adversary began to make His final moves.” When God is the Divine Chess player, getting ‘Checkmated’ is only a moment of great Joy. The man who is defeated, the man who is pursued, and the man who is out maneuvered, is saved by the ‘Uplifting Power’ of Mercy, Grace, and Compassion of the Divine Chess player.
THE UPLIFTING POWER OF CHRIST:
THE UPLIFTING POWER OF CHRIST
In the New Testament Book of the Gospel according to John, in Chapter 10, Jesus has described Himself. In verse 11, He states: “I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” And He further clarifies in verses 14 and 15 by stating: “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
THE BOOK OF LUKE, CHAPTER 19, VERSE 10: “FOR THE SON OF MAN CAME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE WHAT WAS LOST.”
THE SHEPHERD AND HIS FLOCK:
As the shepherd marches ahead, the sheep of his flock follow him from behind and recognize him by the commands of his voice. In the Book of Matthew, Chapter 18, verses 12 to 14, Jesus describes the Parable of the Lost Sheep: “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.” God is not willing that any of us should be lost. In case we choose to wander off, He is willing to search for us, find us and take us back to His Home. And after saving the lost sheep, Jesus tells about the shepherd: “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” (Book of Luke, Chapter 15, verses 3 – 7). God delights Himself by finding the lost among us.
THE PROBLEM OF BLACK SHEEP:
BLACK SHEEP – WHAT IS THE PROBLEM???
The problem of “Black Sheep” is not about its color. The word ‘black’ reflects the discredited status of the sheep. Black Sheep means a member of a family or group regarded as not so respectable or successful as the rest. The flock rejects one of its own, and the discredited member is described as the “Black Sheep”. The Shepherd tends to His flock of sheep who recognize Him and follow Him. In the Book of John, Chapter 10, verse 9, Jesus describes Himself as the Gate of His sheep pen, and said: “If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” What happens to the “Black Sheep” who is not a member of His flock? The non-member could be described as a disbeliever. Who would rescue the “Black Sheep” that has wandered off? As a discredited member of my community and my country, the concept of “Black Sheep” and its “Uplift” is of a great interest and concern to me.
THE PROBLEM OF “BLACK SHEEP” – WOULD THE GOOD SHEPHERD LOOK FOR LOST “BLACK SHEEP”?
Jesus assures us that He is aware of the existence of sheep that may not belong to His sheep pen. In the Book of John, Chapter 10, verse 16, He gives a sense of great hope to others who may not know Him and may not live under His protection: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be One flock and One Shepherd.
JESUS WOULD ALSO FIND THE OTHER SHEEP THAT ARE NOT OF HIS SHEEP PEN. THERE SHALL BE ONE FLOCK AND ONE SHEPHERD.
THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS – THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS, CHAPTER 19, VERSE 16
The Joy of Christmas comes from the fact that God knows you, and He takes pleasure in finding you and He gets you back into His Protection even if you have wandered away from Him and got lost. He is aware of the sheep that are not in His sheep pen. Even the “Black Sheep” belong to His sheep pen and He would rejoice when He rescues one lost sheep.
In an interview with Hindustan Times, Dalai Lama said the dialogue process for reincarnation had not even started. He said that this should be decided through an international conference after his natural death.
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama addresses a gathering at Kalachakra ground, in Bodh Gaya on Monday. (Parwaz Khan / HTPhoto)
The temporal and spiritual world of Tibetan Buddhism seems headed for a period of uncertainty and possible turmoil in the near future with Lobsang Yeshi Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, leaving the question of his reincarnation and the continuation of the very institution of the Dalai Lama to Buddhists living in the Himalayan belt, Mongolia, and outside Tibet.
In an interview, he said this should be decided through an international conference after his natural death and that it is “not his business” to decide on his successor through either reincarnation or emanation. He admitted the dialogue process for reincarnation had not even started.
Talking exclusively to Hindustan Times, the Dalai Lama said that his anointed 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje “most probably” would return to India.
But that, he said, was a concern of the Karma Kagyu school head and the Indian government as he had no role to play in the matter.
While the highest lama and head of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism called the meeting of Ogyen Dorje and co-claimant Trinley Thaye Dorje in France this year a “rightful beginning”, he said he did not want to play the mediator between the two reincarnations of the 16th Karmapa.
Thaye Dorje, who was anointed by rival regent Shamar Rinpoche, is currently preaching in Bodh Gaya to many foreigners from the US and Europe and has not met the 14th Dalai Lama.
Ogyen Trinley Dorje, supported by both the Dalai Lama and China, left for the US in May 2017, ostensibly for medical reasons. He then acquired a Dominican passport in March this year without informing India. He has been laying down conditions for his return – for instance, that he be allowed to visit the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim which is the seat of the Karmapa outside Tibet and at the heart of the Karmapa controversy, with the two rival factions laying claim to its ownership – but New Delhi isn’t playing ball.
While he said that it was possible for the 16th Karmapa to have a few reincarnations, the Dalai Lama made it amply clear that there should be only one holder of the seat of the 17th Karmapa. The 14th Dalai Lama chose to remain quiet as to who will decide on the holder of the heads of Tibetan schools of Buddhism with the presence of two Panchen Lamas, two Karmapas and the Chinese government already initiating the process of anointing the 15th Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama confirmed that his anointed Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi was alive with another co-claimant. Gyaltsen Norbu is sponsored by the Chinese regime and said to be sitting on the throne in Shigatse and mostly stays in Beijing.
The Dalai Lama confirmed that there was only informal dialogue on with the Chinese government through retired officials and businessmen after all formal channels were closed in June 2010. He said that he did not want an independent Tibet since 1974 but wanted the protection of Tibetan people living even outside Tibetan Autonomous Region of China in terms of language, culture, religious affairs and environment. He said he was committed to “middle approach” when dealing with Beijing and admitted that the Tibetan people will gain financially from the rise of China.
The Dalai Lama dismissed news reports about Dr. Lobsang Sangay, President of the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamshala, not heeding his advice as “small rumors” and said that the politically elected leader trusted and believed in him.
The 84-year-old head of Yellow Hat Gelug school of Buddhism confirmed that he had been successfully treated for what he called “traces of prostate cancer” through radiation but added that he is in good health.
WHOLE CHRIST – WHOLE LOVE: The term “Whole Christ” refers to Jesus before His human birth, during His earthly existence, after His Resurrection, and to the Hope of His Second Coming to establish the ‘Kingdom of Heaven on Earth’.
The term “Whole Love” describes God’s Unconditioned Love that is not determined by human knowledge and rationality. The Birth of Jesus cannot be fully accounted by human knowledge and rationality for man lacks the ability to account for his own existence.
The word Christ (Greek. Christos) refers to the Messiah whose appearance is prophesied in the Old Testament and is used as a title to describe Jesus of Nazareth. I am using the phrase “WholeChrist” to describe Jesus before His human birth, Jesus during the years spent on this Earth, Jesus after His Resurrection, and Jesus who gives the Hope of the Second Coming to establish ‘The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth’. The word Christ may not communicate the entirety of Jesus and in the four Gospels, we do not obtain the full picture as the event called ‘The Second Coming’ has not yet taken place. The word “Love” (Hebrew. ‘Ahavah’, Greek. ‘agape’) is presented in Scripture as the very nature or essence of God, the supreme attribute in which all other attributes are harmonized. Love is a bond that unites all virtues. I consider the Power/Force/Energy of Mercy, Grace, and Compassion as the operating mechanism of God’s Love and could be simply called Divine Providence. I am using the phrase “whole love” to describe God’s Unconditioned Love that is not determined or fully accounted by human knowledge and human rationality. In other words, I have no ability to empower myself to receive Unconditioned Love. I cannot manipulate God’s Whole Love through my actions, behavior, or even prayers. I can experience Whole Love but, I cannot explain or fully account for the existence of that Love.
WHOLE CHRIST – WHOLE LOVE – WHOLE CREATION: THE BIRTH OF JESUS:
Whole Christ – Whole Love – Whole Creation: The Birth of Jesus as a Spiritual Being cannot be fully accounted for by using human knowledge and human rationality.
Man must try to know and understand as to where he exists and as to how he exists. God uses the dimension called WholeLove to bring Unity and Harmony between the dimensions of Matter, Energy, Time, and Space to create man and the World in which man exists.
Man cannot explain the Birth of Jesus using his scientific knowledge. The Birth of Jesus can only be understood as a fact of Creation, a creative event. It should not come as a surprise as each human being who took birth on Earth has always arrived as an original, unique, distinctive, and one of its own kind of object with a genome that never existed in the past and would also never exist again in the future. Each man is born as a created being and the birth of Jesus as a singular event reveals a creative mechanism not known to man and not subject to the limitations of man’s rational power. God uses the dimension called WholeLove to bring Unity and Harmony between the dimensions of Matter, Energy, Time, and Space to create man and the World in which man exists.
WHOLE CHRIST – WHOLE LOVE – WHOLE EXISTENCE:
Whole Christ – Whole Love – Whole Existence: The Birth of Jesus and His earthly existence describes the operation of a Supreme, Spiritual Whole Law that harmonizes all Laws of Nature that operate in the physical world to establish Whole Existence which may be stated as a Law of Conservation:” Matter is neither created nor destroyed.” Similarly, it can be stated: “Life is neither created nor destroyed.”
Whole Christ – Whole Love – Whole Existence: God Exists. Very often people raise the question about God’s place of existence in this vast universe of unknown dimensions. Where does man exist? How could the man be certain about the location of his own existence in this universe which is constantly moving every instant?
Whole Christ – Whole Love – Whole Existence: Where does man exist? It is easy to describe man’s place of existence in the Solar System, and Milky Way Galaxy. In reality, man exists in Space without any awareness of his position that is changing every instant. No object that is known in this universe continues to exist in the same position at two different instants. Man exists in a restless universe under the Blissful influence called Whole Love which shields man from the harsh realities of the physical universe.
To experience the Joy of Christmas, to seek the uplifting power of Jesus Christ, man must know the truth and reality about human existence. Human knowledge and rationality in themselves do nothing to justify human existence or the existence of this universe. To establish the fact of this human existence on one known planet called Earth is beyond the abilities of human cognitive powers. The biological basis of human existence demands the support of Love whose operating principles are Mercy, Grace, and Compassion. This Love is not conditioned by human behavior and human actions and not even prayers. Man cannot empower himself to acquire God’s Love using his free will. The good and evil actions of man, the right and bad conduct of man will be possible if and only if man’s existence precedes his actions and behavior. It is often argued that the evil and suffering in the world seems to count against the existence of God. I have to account for my physical existence before I can share the experience of pain, misery, disappointment, frustration, and suffering of my life’s condition. The fact or the reality of human pain and suffering cannot exclude the fact of God’s existence. The man at any given age and any given stage of his existence, from conception, physical birth, infancy, youth, adult, old age and death, in ill-health or good health depends upon an Unchanging Spiritual Principle to bring Unity and Harmony to maintain that condition or state called existence. This concept of God’s Unconditioned Love or WholeLove for man is shared by the Birth of Jesus. When I think of this Whole Love, I feel better, my mood gets uplifted, the burden of my painful existence is eased, and I can sense the Joy of the Season.
WHOLE CHRIST – WHOLE LOVE – WHOLE LAW:
Whole Christ – Whole Love – Whole Law: Love is defined by stating its attributes. Love is Patient. Love is Kind. Love does not envy. Love does not boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude. Love is not self-seeking. Love is not easily angered. Love protects, trusts, hopes, always persevere and Love never fails. Divine Mother Mary is seen expressing such Love for her baby Jesus.
Apostle Paul in his First Epistle to Corinthians, in the New Testament Book of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, verses #4 to 8 describes the attributes of Love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” Jesus Christ while teaching the operating principle called Love, names Love as a Law, a Law above all other laws of nature, and above all other Commandments. In the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 22, verses #37 to 40 “Whole Love” is explained as “Whole Law”: Jesus replied:” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Love is the supreme attribute, nature, and essence of God and at the same time, it operates as a Law above all other Laws of Nature and the commandments shared by Prophets. Whole Love can be stated as the Whole Law that governs the existence of man and gives the man the chance to experience Peace, Harmony, and Tranquility in his living condition.
WHOLE CHRIST – WHOLE LOVE – WHOLE REALITY:
Whole Christ – Whole Love – Whole Reality: The Birth of Jesus Christ. Life is neither created nor destroyed. The term Whole Christ describes Jesus as an eternal, immortal, unborn Spiritual Principle that existed before His birth, that existed in the Middle or during His earthly Life and continues to exist in Future without being influenced by Time.
Apostle Paul in his First Epistle to Corinthians, in the New Testament Book of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, verse#13 states the Principle of Conservation: “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Man exists in a world that is restless and is constantly changing. The Individual, the created human being, is born, grows and develops, exists with a physical identity that constantly changes under the powerful influence of Time. The event called Death records the loss of that Physical Identity that is never constant at any time of its earthly existence. In the natural world, such changes in appearance are governed by the Laws of Conservation such as the Laws of Conservation of Mass, Energy, and Momentum. During man’s physical existence, the physical form and appearance change and yet the Spiritual Principles of Faith, Hope, and Love are conserved. Man cannot depend upon his knowledge and rationality as they are always subject to change. To know the Subjective and Objective Reality or the “whole Reality” of his ‘WholeExistence’, man needs to know the Law of Conservation of Faith, Hope, and Love.
WHOLE CHRIST – WHOLE LOVE – WHOLE PRAYER:
Whole Christ – Whole Love – Whole Prayer: The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 6 gives the account of “Whole Prayer” that is popularly known as ‘Lord’s Prayer’. Father knows what you need before you ask Him. We pray, for His “WILL” be done on earth as it is in Heaven. The ‘Whole Prayer’ gives virtues such as Patience, Perseverance, Tolerance, and Kindness the attributes of ‘Whole Love’.
The word Prayer refers to man’s communication with God. It is a spiritual or devotional communication to make a humble, sincere request. Prayer is the act of supplication and it includes words of praise, words of thanksgiving, words of confession, and words of a plea seeking the sanction of favor to transform a mental desire into a physical reality in the external world. If God is omniscient, He must know of the evil; and if God is omnipotent, He must be able to remove the evil; and if God is perfectly benevolent and is loving, there should be no pain and suffering. To experience pain and misery, to experience suffering, disappointment, and frustration, I have to maintain the condition called existence. At a fundamental level, I have to understand my ability to know things, my power to rule or govern things, and I must know my ability to make choices to change things in my external environment. Jesus in the New Testament Book of Matthew, Chapter 6, verse# 8 instructs: “Do not be like them(pagans), for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” In Lord’s Prayer, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that the purpose of the ‘Whole Prayer’ is that of asking, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Using my human knowledge and rationality, I can neither account for my existence nor account for my experience of pain and suffering which describes the nature of my existence. I describe ‘WholePrayer’ as an act of Faith, and Hope in recognition of the fact or reality called WholeLove that imparts its qualities and virtues such as Patience, Perseverance, Tolerance, and Kindness. Even if I cannot change the circumstances of my life that cause or give the experience of pain, suffering, and misery, the acceptance of Whole Love makes me pain-tolerant and pain-resistant. It gives me the strength called ‘Endurance’ to overcome the challenge called the ‘Stress of Life’.
Whole Christ – Whole Love: “That which is done out of Love always takes place beyond Good and Evil.” (Nietzsche). Man, with his Good or Evil actions and behavior cannot control the flow of God’s Unconditioned or ‘WholeLove’.
In my analysis, the natural phenomenon called ‘Winter Solstice’ describes the Magic of Creation.
While the Sun shines all the time, man experiences alternating periods of light and darkness and varying Seasons as if there are two worlds on the same Planet. Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere is called Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. This separation of Light from Darkness is unique to planet Earth. The man has already discovered thousands of other planets. None of them share the ‘Rotational Spin’ characteristics that set Earth apart from all other heavenly objects.
The map below indicates the position of the Sun and areas of sunlight versus darkness at sunset today in New York City, 4:32pm EST.
Winter Solstice 2018: 10 Facts About the Shortest Day of the Year
BY Jane Rose
December 20, 2018
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Amid the whirl of the holiday season, many are vaguely aware of the approach of the winter solstice, but how much do you really know about it? Whether you’re a fan of winter or just wish it would go away, here are 10 things to note—or even celebrate—about the solstice.
1. IT HAPPENS ON DECEMBER 21 UTC THIS YEAR.
The date of the winter solstice varies from year to year and can fall anywhere between December 20 and December 23, with the 21st or 22nd being the most common dates. The reason for this is because the tropical year—the time it takes for the sun to return to the same spot relative to Earth—is different from the calendar year. The next solstice occurring on December 20 will not happen until 2080, and the next December 23 solstice will not occur until 2303.
2. IT HAPPENS AT A SPECIFIC, BRIEF MOMENT.
Not only does the solstice occur on a specific day, but it also occurs at a specific time of day, corresponding to the instant the North Pole has aimed furthest away from the sun on the 23.5-degree tilt of the Earth’s axis. This is also the time when the sun shines directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. In 2017, this moment occurs at 4:28 p.m. UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). For those of us on Eastern Standard Time, the solstice will occur at 11:28 a.m. on December 21. And regardless of where you live, the solstice happens at the same moment for everyone on the planet.
3. IT MARKS THE LONGEST NIGHT AND SHORTEST DAY OF THE YEAR FOR THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE.
As most are keenly aware, daylight hours grow shorter and shorter as the solstice approaches, and begin to slowly lengthen afterward. It’s no wonder that the day of the solstice is referred to in some cultures as the “shortest day” or “extreme of winter.” New York City will experience 9 hours and 15 minutes of sunlight, compared to 15 hours and 5 minutes on the summer solstice. Helsinki, Finland, will get 5 hours and 49 minutes of light. Barrow, Alaska, will not have a sunrise at all (and hasn’t since mid-November; its next sunrise will be on January 22), while the North Pole has had no sunrise since October. The South Pole, though, will be basking in the glow of the midnight sun, which won’t set until March.
4. ANCIENT CULTURES VIEWED THE WINTER SOLSTICE AS A TIME OF DEATH AND REBIRTH.
The seeming death of the light and the very real threat of starvation over the winter months would have weighed heavily on early societies, who held varied solstice celebrations and rites meant to herald the return of the Sun and hope for new life. Scandinavian and Germanic pagans lit fires and may have burned Yule logs as a symbolic means of welcoming back the light. Cattle and other animals were slaughtered around midwinter, followed by feasting on what was the last fresh meat for several months. The modern Druidic celebration Alban Arthan reveres the death of the Old Sun and birth of the New Sun.
5. THE DAY MARKS THE DISCOVERY OF NEW AND STRANGE WORLDS.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth on December 21, 1620, to found a society that would allow them to worship freely. On the same day in 1898, Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radium, ushering in an atomic age. And on December 21, 1968, the Apollo 8 spacecraft launched, becoming the first manned moon mission.
6. THE WORD SOLSTICE TRANSLATES ROUGHLY TO “SUN STANDS STILL.”
Solstice derives from the Latin scientific term solstitium, containing sol, which means “sun,” and the past participle stem of sistere, meaning “to make stand.” This comes from the fact that the sun’s position in the sky relative to the horizon at noon, which increases and decreases throughout the year, appears to pause in the days surrounding the solstice. In modern times, we view the phenomenon of the solstice from the position of space, and of the Earth relative to the Sun. Earlier people, however, were thinking about the Sun’s trajectory, how long it stayed in the sky and what sort of light it cast.
7. STONEHENGE IS ALIGNED TO THE SUNSET ON WINTER SOLSTICE.
The primary axis of the megalithic monument is oriented to the setting sun, while Newgrange, another structure built around the same time as Stonehenge, lines up with the winter solstice sunrise. Some have theorized that the position of the Sun was of religious significance to the people who built Stonehenge, while other theories hold that the monument is constructed along natural features that happen to align with it. The purpose of Stonehenge is still subject to debate, but its importance on the winter solstice continues into the modern era, as thousands of hippies, pagans, and other types of enthusiasts gather there every year to celebrate the occasion.
8. ANCIENT ROMANS CELEBRATED REVERSALS AT THE MIDWINTER FESTIVAL OF SATURNALIA.
A Saturnalia celebration in England in 2012.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
The holiday, which began as a festival to honor the agricultural god Saturn, was held to commemorate the dedication of his temple in 497 BCE. It quickly became a time of widespread revelry and debauchery in which societal roles were overturned, with masters serving their slaves and servants being allowed to insult their masters. Mask-wearing and play-acting were also part of Saturnalia’s reversals, with each household electing a King of Misrule. Saturnalia was gradually replaced by Christmas throughout the Roman Empire, but many of its customs survive as Christmas traditions.
9. SOME TRADITIONS HOLD THAT DARK SPIRITS WALK THE EARTH ON THE WINTER SOLSTICE.
The Iranian festival of Yalda is celebrated on the longest night of the year. In pre-Islamic times, it heralded the birth of Mithra, the ancient sun god, and his triumph over darkness. Zoroastrian lore holds that evil spirits wander the earth and the forces of the destructive spirit Ahriman are strongest on this long night. People are encouraged to stay up most of the night in the company of one another, eating, talking, and sharing poetry and stories, in order to avoid any brushes with dark entities. Beliefs about the presence of evil on the longest night are also echoed in Celtic and Germanic folklore.
10. SOME THOUGHT THE WORLD WOULD END ON THE 2012 WINTER SOLSTICE.
December 21, 2012, corresponds to the date 220.127.116.11.0 in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar used by the ancient Mayans, marking the end of a 5126-year cycle. Some people feared this juncture would bring about the end of the world or some other cataclysmic event. Others took a more New Age-y view (literally) and believed it heralded the birth of a new era of deep transformation for Earth and its inhabitants. In the end, neither of these things appeared to occur, leaving the world to turn through winter solstices indefinitely, or at least as long as the Sun lasts.
In my analysis, the ‘Tibet Crisis’ began with the Communist takeover of mainland China in 1949. Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong took the blessings of the Soviet Union to launch a military attack on Tibet for China wanted to resolutely oppose the US-Tibet relations formulated by the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
People walk past snow-covered trees outside the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China, Dec. 19, 2018.
President Trump signs Reciprocal Access to Tibet into Law: “A Message of hope and justice to Tibetans in Tibet….”
Lobsang Sangay @Drlobsangsangay Following @Drlobsangsangay
I extend profound appreciation to the President Donald Trump for signing the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act into law,” CTA President said.
Dharamshala: US President Donald Trump has signed into law the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018, which will impose a visa ban on Chinese officials who deny American citizens, government… tibet.net
China denounced the United States on Thursday for passing a new law on restive Tibet, saying it was “resolutely opposed” to the U.S. legislation on what China considers an internal affair, and it risked causing “serious harm” to their relations.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed into law the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act.
The law seeks to promote access to Tibet for U.S. diplomats and other officials, journalists and other citizens by denying U.S. entry for Chinese officials deemed responsible for restricting access to Tibet.
Beijing sent troops into remote, mountainous Tibet in 1950 in what it officially terms a peaceful liberation and has ruled there with an iron fist ever since.
China: wrong signals
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily briefing that the law “sent seriously wrong signals to Tibetan separatist elements,” as well as threatening to worsen bilateral ties strained by trade tension and other issues.
“If the United States implements this law, it will cause serious harm to China-U.S. relations and to the cooperation in important areas between the two countries,” Hua said.
The United States should be fully aware of the high sensitivity of the Tibet issue and should stop its interference, otherwise the United States would have to accept responsibility for the consequences, she added, without elaborating.
Difficult life in Tibet
Rights groups say the situation for ethnic Tibetans inside what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region remains extremely difficult. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in June conditions were “fast deteriorating” in Tibet.
All foreigners need special permission to enter Tibet, which is generally granted to tourists, who are allowed to go on often tightly monitored tours, but very infrequently to foreign diplomats and journalists.
Hua said Tibet was open to foreign visitors, as shown by the 40,000 American visitors to the region since 2015.
At the same time, she said it was “absolutely necessary and understandable” that the government-administered controls on the entry of foreigners given “local geographic and climate reasons.”
Rights groups welcome law
Tibetan rights groups have welcomed the U.S. legislation. The International Campaign for Tibet said the “impactful and innovative” law marked a “new era of American support” and was a challenge to China’s policies in Tibet.
“The U.S. let Beijing know that its officials will face real consequences for discriminating against Americans and Tibetans and has blazed a path for other countries to follow,” the group’s president, Matteo Mecacci, said in a statement.
Next year marks the sensitive 60th anniversary of the flight into exile in India of the Dalai Lama, the highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
China routinely denounces him as a dangerous separatist, although the Dalai Lama says he merely wants genuine autonomy for his homeland.
Tibet Crisis began soon after the expansion of Communism to Asia with the emergence of the People’s Republic of China on October 01, 1949. Tibetans anticipated great ‘Trouble’ but hoped to ward off belligerent Communist Regime through peaceful negotiations.
Tibet to defend vital national interests agreed to accept military assistance from the United States with the cooperation and help from India. Communist China used this Tibetan response for nationalistic survival as an excuse to invade Tibet. This illegal invasion of Tibet by Communist China in 1950 precipitated the Tibet Crisis.
To move forward, Tibet requested “Meaningful Autonomy” to reconcile with China’s military occupation. In 1951, using deception and intimidation tactics, China forced Tibetans to sign the 17-Point Plan or the Seventeen-Point Agreement for Peaceful Liberation of Tibet. This Agreement grants “Autonomy” to Tibetans to manage their internal affairs. By 1957, Tibetans recognized China’s deception. They watched helplessly as China launched measures to fully consolidate the hold over every aspect of Tibetan National Life.
In 1959, Tibetans launched an unsuccessful, massive, National Uprising to break China’s military grip over Tibet. As a consequence of this public revolt, the Supreme Ruler of Tibet was forced to live in exile. Tibet Crisis remains unresolved as the tyrannical Communist Regime always finds justification to deny the just demands of Tibetan people. Tibetans are not able to move forward to bring the Tibet Crisis to a peaceful conclusion.
In my analysis, ‘The Middle Way Approach’ or the ‘UMAYLAM’ does not help to move forward. It represents a Circular Movement taking Tibetans Backwards from 2018 to 1953 when Tibet and China agreed upon the grant of Autonomy to Tibetans under the Chinese Rule.
CTA releases a film titled ‘Umay Lam: Middle Way-The Way Forward’.
A screenshot of the film Umay Lam Middle Way – The Way Forward. (Photo: SNS)
The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) on Wednesday released a film titled ‘Umay Lam: Middle Way-The Way Forward’ to resolve Tibet issue.
A CTA official said Umay Lam in Tibetan means the Middle Way Approach and this policy is proposed by Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama to peacefully resolve the issue of Tibet.
The policy also aims to bring about stability and co-existence between the Tibetan and Chinese people based on equality and mutual co-operation.
It is also a policy adopted democratically by the CTA and the Tibetan people through a series of discussions held over a long time, he added.
Produced by Tibet TV and directed by Tibetan filmmaker Tenzin Kalden, the film showcases the relevance of the Middle Way Approach as the Tibetan freedom struggle enters its 60th-year threshold.
The film shows the first generation of Tibetans who lived through the invasion, are now slowly phasing out and the new generation of Tibetans have taken over the mantle of the freedom struggle.
The 18-minute film features leading Tibetan political personalities engaged in Sino-Tibetan negotiations to share their experience and provide commentary on the Middle Way Approach.
The film also highlights how in their own homeland, Tibetans continue to resist the repressive Chinese policies threatening their religion, culture, and identity.
The film illustrates how Umay Lam (Middle Way Policy) which proposes a mutually beneficial solution for Tibet and China wherein Tibetans seek ‘Genuine Autonomy’ within the framework of the People’s Republic of China.
And in return, China maintains, its territorial integrity, is the way forward and the most viable solution to resolving the longstanding Sino-Tibetan issue.
Whoops! It’s Hoop Time in Tibet. I am praying for the time to announce Tibetan Victory in the Hoops Game. Freedom does not come automatically even if you live at the ‘Rooftop’ of the World. Tibetans need to ascend to a new level where they can outplay their opponents in a Game of Strength and Will Power.
Monks, nomads, and a sport’s unlikely ascent in a remote corner of the globe
An Rong Xu
ALONG the northeastern edge of the Tibetan plateau, a treacherous landscape where yaks graze above the clouds, basketball hoops are everywhere: at the bases of cliffs; in the courtyards of centuries-old, golden-roofed monasteries; in nomadic villages tucked into the hills.
It was within such a village, Zorge Ritoma, that Dugya Bum, a sheep and yak herder from the Golden Stone Clan, took up the sport. He’d played in school, but after dropping out at 16 he became a full-time nomad, the livelihood of his ancestors. During winter, his family lived in a mud-walled house about four miles from Zorge Ritoma’s center, grazing yaks and sheep at the foot of the mountains. In the summer, when the weather improved, they took the herds up to rich, high-altitude pastures and resided in temporary tents. In the fall, they would gradually make the journey back down.
As a teenager, Dugya Bum grew his hair long and smoked cigarettes. He avoided eye contact. His parents, all too familiar with the physical demands of a permanent nomadic existence, encouraged him to explore alternative life paths. So in 2011, he took a job at Norlha, a textile company that had opened in the village a few years earlier and was hiring nomads as yak-wool artisans. But the routines of office and factory work didn’t suit him.
Then, in 2015, a tall, gangly stranger arrived from the United States. The newcomer set about putting together a real basketball team, with practices and drills and tournaments and all the rest. Dugya Bum signed on to play after work. The sport became central to his life. The team generated excitement throughout the village, and in the nomadic communities beyond. Now, going on four years later, a semi-professional sports program is flourishing and spreading hope, in a region better known for its reincarnated lamas than its athletes.
A few years ago, while living in Queens, I began to wonder whether any Buddhist monks played hoops. I’d loved the sport since childhood and had recently become fascinated by practitioners of Buddhism. And while the pairing may seem far-fetched, it made a certain sense to me. Devotion to the sport involves countless hours in the solitude of echoing, dimly lit places—rickety old gymnasiums, empty playgrounds, driveways late at night—where one undergoes a genuinely meditative sensory experience: the rhythmic bouncing of a ball; the mental focus and repetition essential for knocking down free throws; the visualizations, such as imagining oneself sinking a last-second shot. There’s a reason Phil Jackson—a.k.a. the Zen Master—didn’t coach football.
I visited a few Buddhist monasteries in the New York area, where I was met with a consistent response from the polite but puzzled residents: No, monks don’t play basketball. That seemed to be that.
But there’s always the internet. Late one evening in 2017, I Googled basketball and Buddhist monk and eventually found a Facebook page on which a grainy video had been posted. It showed a red-robed monk on an outdoor court effortlessly leaping up, grabbing the rim, and shattering the backboard. I initially suspected this was a hoax, but if so, it was an elaborate one. In one picture on the page, a man stood on a mountaintop amid rising smoke. “Team captain Jampa making offerings and passionate prayers to his village’s mountain gods before a basketball match,” the caption said. In another picture, a flock of sheep approached a basketball court beside a barren hill. “And the fans rush the court!” that caption said. I saw a picture of young nomadic women shooting baskets on a snowy, icy court, and a video of a young monk executing a pretty up-and-under move to evade a shot-blocker and put the ball in the hoop. This, it turned out, was Norlha basketball.
A red-robed monk effortlessly leaped up and shattered the backboard.
I contacted Willard “Bill” Johnson, the team coach and the moderator of the Facebook page. He told me, in a dreamy voice, that the people of Tibet were mad for hoops.
Johnson described to me the upcoming Norlha Basketball Invitational and Tibetan Hoop Exchange, featuring a tournament that he said would showcase the top teams—some composed of nomads, others of monks—in the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. (Gannan is part of China’s Gansu province and is located in the traditional Tibetan region of Amdo.) Johnson called it a “turning point” for his team— “our big test.” The tournament would gauge his players’ strength against tougher competition than they had yet seen. Excited, I made travel arrangements to attend the tournament. The next day, alas, it was postponed. The tournament would have coincided with the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, for which security was being tightened throughout the country. Local police from China’s Public Security Bureau, concerned about large gatherings, had asked Norlha for the postponement.
I decided to make the journey, nonetheless.
Basketball first appeared in the Tibetan highlands about 100 years ago. At that time, the rugged, sparsely populated Tibetan plateau was ruled by warlords on its eastern frontier and in central and western Tibet by the Buddhist government of the Dalai Lama.
According to Chinese historical records, in 1935 central Tibet sent a basketball team to the Sixth National Games in Shanghai, more than 2,500 miles from the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. But the team didn’t arrive until after the tournament was over. An overland trip would have taken several months on horseback, Tibet historians told me, with provisions carried by yaks or mules.
Sheep being herded in Zorge Ritoma. (An Rong Xu)
In his book Seven Years in Tibet, the Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer wrote that upon his arrival in Lhasa in 1946, the city “made no provision for games,” with one exception: “a small ground for basketball.” Particularly in eastern Tibet, the sport spread in part for topographic reasons: The uneven and rocky landscape encouraged basketball over soccer, which requires a much more level ground.
In 1951, China’s People’s Liberation Army, including a military basketball team, marched into central Tibet and occupied—or “peacefully liberated,” in the Chinese view—the region. It would be another eight years before the Dalai Lama fled from Lhasa into exile in India. During the interim, championship basketball games were held in a large open space in front of the Potala Palace, the Dalai Lama’s enormous hillside residence. Dongak Tenzing, 83, a former Tibetan soldier who grew up in Lhasa and now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, described them to me. Thousands of people would attend, Tibetan townspeople, government and palace officials, uniformed Chinese military personnel, aristocrats, and monks. Food and drink stalls surrounded the manicured dirt court, and the score was displayed on a blackboard. The games—which were organized by the Chinese—were clean and disciplined, Dongak remembered. Rough play was prohibited, as were displays of emotion, which were considered rude.
Nomads have lived in the Zorge Ritoma area since at least the 17th century. Until the late 1950s, they lived in yak-wool tents year-round; by the 1960s, when they started building dwellings with mud walls to stay in during the winter, basketball was an important part of village life for young men, according to Dugya Bum’s grandfather Gonpo Tashi, who played as a child. The basketballs used at that time, he said, were made from the bladders and skin of freshly slaughtered animals; while lacking the bounce necessary for proper dribbling, they were adequate for passing and shooting.
In Zorge Ritoma, villagers played a rough, unusual variation of basketball using a wooden hoop, Jampa Dhundup, a point guard and leader for Norlha’s team, told me. According to the rules, the ball couldn’t touch players below the waist. And “whichever team fought the best won—no one thought about skill.”
In the late 1990s, television started trickling into remote areas. At the same time, basketball was becoming a favorite pastime of Tibetan monks. Johnson mentioned to me an old tradition of “big, strong monks who were athletes”—an apparent reference to the dobdobs, the physically aggressive monks who carried weapons, engaged in sporting competitions, and served as monastic police and bodyguards for important lamas and other travelers.
Alex McKay, a Tibetologist and sports historian of the Himalayan region, suggested to me that the macho image of the American basketball star likely appeals to eastern Tibetans because they have roots in a warrior culture. As one Tibetan player from Amdo told Chinese media during a tournament in March: “We don’t have professional coaches back home. All of us learned to play by watching NBA and CBA games on TV, by following the players’ movements. No one gave us any direction.”
Zorge Ritoma, known among locals simply as Ritoma, sits at the base of four sacred peaks. Its 275 families are scattered across several valleys in red- and pink-roofed houses, now mostly made of brick or stone. Much of the village’s food is derived from yaks—meat, cheese, butter, and yogurt—and religion is embedded in everyday life. “Sky burials,” in which the body is taken to a mountaintop and prepared for vultures, are performed on the dead.
In 2007, Kim Yeshi—a French American who studied anthropology and Tibetan Buddhism in college and married a Tibetan man in 1979—along with her daughter, Dechen Yeshi, co-founded the Norlha plant in Ritoma. The intent was both to preserve Tibetan culture and to offer a consistent source of income to the villagers. A year later, Kim decided to have a basketball court built to accommodate the community’s obsession with the game. It’s a paved surface adjacent to a workshop on a narrow, relatively flat stretch between Ritoma’s main road and a hill whose incline doubles as makeshift bleachers.
The employees played after work. Using one or two basketballs, they congregated around the hoop and heaved up shots. A regular at the court was Dugya Bum. As the eldest son, he would normally have been expected to carry on as the nomadic heir to the family’s herds and have a wife chosen for him. Instead, shortly after he dropped out of school, his grandfather approached Norlha’s executives and asked, “Do you have something he can do?” Norlha trained Dugya Bum to use an office computer, speak rudimentary English, and take photographs of models wearing the scarves the company manufactures from yak wool. He liked the photography, but didn’t excel at it; principally, he saw it as an opportunity to get closer to a particular model, Lhamo Tso, with whom he had fallen in love.
Dugya Bum, who is the best player on the Norlha basketball team. (An Rong Xu)
Dugya Bum was a rebellious, immature employee. He ignored the no-smoking rule and routinely snuck into the guesthouse kitchen to take food. He was transferred to the factory workroom, where he eventually became a dyer. He complained about his pay.
In the felting section upstairs, a quiet, skinny man of 20 named Jamphel Dorjee was having his own troubles. Jamphel had grown up herding animals in a village down the road. He had married a woman in Ritoma, where he didn’t know anyone. His wife worked at Norlha, so he had gotten a job there too. Jamphel was shy, and his workstation was isolated from other employees’. After work, he had nothing to do. But he noticed that every evening, the other male employees played basketball. One night, he followed them to the court. Soon, he was trying to play. But neither he nor Dugya Bum knew that basketball would transform their lives.
Bill Johnson, 32, grew up in Everett, Washington, north of Seattle. In high school, he was into math and theater. But when he sprouted to 6 foot 8, he began to focus on basketball. He could shoot well, but because of his skinny frame, he struggled with rebounding and defense. He wasn’t recruited by any major basketball schools, so he enrolled at MIT. He worked hard at his game, and in 2009, when he was a senior and co-captain, MIT advanced to the Division III NCAA tournament—the first berth in its history.
Norlha coach Bill Johnson (left) and veteran point guard Jampa Dhundup (right). (An Rong Xu)
When he wasn’t on the court, Johnson had a slightly offbeat vibe. He won a school talent show with an interpretive dance involving streamers and tight pink shorts. (“If you’ve seen the movie Napoleon Dynamite, it was almost like that,” Jimmy Bartolotta, an MIT teammate, told me.) Rather than spend spring break in Cancún with his friends, he volunteered to teach dental hygiene in Nicaragua.
After graduation, Johnson became an MIT assistant coach, then played in a league in Costa Rica. “I was nickel-and-diming it,” he says, “barely getting by.” While visiting Bartolotta, who played professionally in Iceland, Johnson partied and drank with fans; soon after, he signed a short-term contract to play there. After that, he went to play for six months in Australia.
In 2014, after a stint playing in Cape Verde, Johnson returned to the United States. His MIT friends were now neurosurgeons and engineers, real-estate investors and CEOs. Johnson—who had grown out his beard, and often bundled his hair into a man bun—had no real career plan. He was scrolling through Facebook when he noticed a post from a cousin in India about a former classmate, Dechen Yeshi, who was hiring a tutor for her young daughter in Ritoma. Johnson began researching Norlha online. When he saw a photo of its basketball court, that “sealed the deal,” Johnson says.
One player sported dress shoes; another, a worn business suit; and another, mittens.
He applied for the job opening and was immediately rejected. Dechen considered him overqualified. Also, she was puzzled by the degree to which his application emphasized basketball. But over the next several months, he emailed repeatedly. Even after the tutor position was filled, Johnson told Dechen he was willing to help the company in any capacity.
Dechen, in turn, researched Johnson online. His persistence and academic credentials impressed her, as did his attitude. So, she invited him to Ritoma to be a volunteer basketball coach for the Norlha team. The ragtag group of Norlha workers occasionally competed in ad hoc tournaments, and she thought Johnson could perhaps instill discipline and teamwork—values that might also benefit the company. Plus, he’d offered to pay his own way. “All I need is a bed,” he’d written.
Left: Dechen Yeshi (center), a co-founder of Norlha, inspects a new product in the company’s workshop. (An Rong Xu)
Johnson arrived in Ritoma in August 2015. The place felt empty: The nomads and their animals were off in the high summer pasture.
At the Norlha guesthouse, where he’d be staying, he met with Jampa, the team’s soft-spoken veteran guard. Jampa, now 30, is also a poet, whose work has been published as far off as Lhasa, some 1,400 miles away. “We want to be the best team in Gannan,” Jampa said. “We can start tomorrow. Tell us what to do.”
At the first practice, about 25 Norlha employees gathered on the court. To them, the moment was surreal: Here stood a professional player from the United States. (“We all thought, NBA,” Jampa recalls.)
For his part, Johnson saw a “hodgepodge of guys.” Most of the players were wearing jeans. One sported dress shoes; another, a worn business suit; and another, mittens. Moments before practice was to begin, there was a roar and a cloud of dust as a motorbike bearing another player screeched to a stop at mid-court. “Holy shit,” Johnson muttered to himself. “What is this?”
Johnson is careful to describe his coaching style as a collaborative effort between himself and the players. Still, he knew what he saw when practice began. Players hogged the ball. They made clumsy attempts at virtuoso dribbling. Shooting forms were askew. “Nothing was right,” Johnson says. “These guys just beat the crap out of each other.”
Johnson’s first impression of Dugya Bum was negative. He had an arrogant vibe, and off the court, he dressed in flashy clothes: big coral necklaces, orange bandannas, porcupine-style hair. His jump shot was herky-jerky, and his skills were underwhelming. But at 6-foot-1, Dugya Bum at least carried himself like a basketball player. He was fast, and he was fluid.
Constantly following Dugya Bum to practice was Jamphel, who admired his co-worker’s athleticism. Unlike Dugya Bum, though, Jamphel, at 5-foot-10, was timid and constantly had the ball stolen from him. His shot resembled an overhead catapult and was wildly inaccurate.
Still, Johnson was enthusiastic as he ran his new players through drills for the first time. Practices, which lasted from 5:30 p.m. until sundown, became must-see events. Villagers brought stools and thermoses of hot water. They laughed when shots were missed and clapped when they went in. They watched as Johnson shouted at his guys and occasionally played alongside them. Sometimes, to everyone’s delight, he would dunk the ball.
Johnson led the players on jogs through the village and sat with them to meditate. During lunch, he had them lift weights—mostly bricks and bags of flour or rice—in the factory courtyard. He showed them film of the San Antonio Spurs, whose style emphasized teamwork. The players called Johnson gegen, meaning “teacher.”
Jampa phoned representatives of rival teams to schedule games. Occasionally, local businessmen sponsored tournaments. Nomadic teams traveled to them by motorbike and camped out in tents. All-monk teams also joined the competitions. Across the region, Johnson noticed, were passionate players without coaches or “any concept of what we would consider organized play.”
At times, the most effective way to guide and motivate his team, Johnson realized, was to play himself. So he suited up for one tournament in August 2016, in a cavernous gym full of cigarette smoke in Maqu, 125 miles from Ritoma. Despite Johnson’s participation, Norlha was overwhelmed by a more aggressive, better-shooting team and lost in the first round of the playoffs. Dugya Bum had scored a few baskets, but he hadn’t played impressively. Johnson had forbidden him to shoot anything but layups because of his faulty jumper. As for Jamphel, “I wouldn’t even consider putting him in,” Johnson says.
With winter approaching, the practice was put on hold until April. Nonetheless, Dugya Bum began messaging Johnson, requesting one-on-one instruction. They met at the court at 6:30 a.m., or during lunch, or before dusk, to run drills and lift weights. Johnson deconstructed Dugya Bum’s jump shot. Jamphel tagged along. Together, over the long, brutal winter, the two teammates worked on their game. Dugya Bum quit smoking. “I’d give up my life for basketball,” he told fellow Norlha employees.
By the summer of 2017, Dugya Bum was a different player. He blew past defenders for easy baskets. He dished the ball off to teammates for assists. His jump shot had improved; he got the green light to shoot from mid-range. With added muscle, he finished more easily at the rim, powering through contact with opposing players. There were moments, Johnson thought when Dugya Bum could have held his own playing New York City streetball.
Players informed Johnson they couldn’t practice because they had to chase mastiffs that were roaming around the village and terrifying people.
Norlha was also playing better as a team. Players no longer ignored their teammates to go one-on-one. Now they worked the ball around for an open shot. At summer’s end, Dugya Bum was selected as an all-star to play in Gannan’s annual tournament. Afterward, he was named one of Gannan’s top 10 players.
In the workroom, meanwhile, Dugya Bum’s attitude had improved. He made eye contact with co-workers and talked more openly. Basketball had helped him “find meaning,” Dechen Yeshi, who called him a “model employee,” told me. By this time, he had also married Lhamo Tso, the Norlha model.
Jamphel had also progressed on the court and was earning minutes. He was a more adept ball handler, had improved his court awareness, and made open shots. But what Johnson admired most were his intangibles: Whatever Johnson asked him to do, he did without hesitation.
Even more significant was Jamphel’s evolution off the court. The once-quiet young man was now opening up to teammates. “We’ve become best friends,” Jamphel recently said of them.
Jamphel’s wife, Jamyang Dolma, works at Norlha as a tailor and a model. Like other nomadic women suddenly thrust into a 9-to-5 job, she had found the concept of free time after work completely alien.
For women especially, nomadic life is difficult. Days are long and dominated by chores: starting fires, milking animals, chopping wood, churning butter, cooking meals, collecting dung for use as fuel, cleaning pots, caring for children. The idea of a hobby never came up. “In traditional life, women don’t play basketball, but it doesn’t mean women don’t like it,” Jamyang Dolma told me. “It may be because they never had the opportunity or anybody to lead them.”
In 2016, a female Norlha employee, Wandi Tso, asked Johnson whether women at the company could form a team.
“Whenever you want to play,” Johnson told her, “let’s do it.”
The women who signed up were initially too afraid to even catch the ball. But as they learned the fundamentals, their confidence rose. Their shooting form was generally “textbook,” Johnson says, unlike the men’s, whose years of bad habits had to be trained out of them. Villagers in Ritoma gradually grew accustomed to seeing women on the court.
Dugya Bum and Jamphel helped Johnson train the women’s team, which included both of their wives. Lhamo Tso became the team’s best all-around player, and Jamyang Dolma the team’s best shooter. At home, she and Jamphel would discuss the drills they’d worked on that day.
Left: Jamphel Dorjee, the most improved player on the men’s team. Above right: Players from the Norlha women’s team, including Lhamo Tso (far left), the team’s best all-around player, and Jamyang Dolma (second from right), the team’s best shooter and Jamphel Dorjee’s wife. (An Rong Xu)
In September 2017, the Norlha women played competitively in front of the villagers, in a three-on-three tournament organized by Johnson. Wearing light-blue jerseys, the Norlha players giggled each time they blundered and clapped whenever their team scored.
When I was there, I watched one of the women’s team’s practices. Two female coaches were visiting for the week: Ashley Graham, a former professional player in Europe who owns the training group Pinnacle Hoops, and Carly Fromdahl, a Pinnacle instructor who played college ball at Seattle University. They ran the Norlha women through drills, including layup lines (the women dribbled slowly but made most of their shots), ball-handling exercises, and chest-and-bounce passes.
Basketball, Dechen told me, has become a “gateway for the women to try new things.” They started doing yoga and meet regularly outside of work. They eat meals together now and have begun discussing their jobs, lives, and plans for the future.
Basketball has “made them more courageous,” Dechen said.
For the men’s team, however, hurdles began to emerge. At MIT, Johnson had considered practice time sacred—something to be missed only because of serious illness or a family member’s death. In Ritoma, Johnson scheduled mandatory practices three days a week. But aside from Dugya Bum and Jamphel, attendance was spotty. Once, Johnson’s players informed him they couldn’t practice, because they had to chase after fearsome Tibetan mastiffs that were roaming around the village and terrifying people. Another time, they said they couldn’t practice because they had been up all night circumambulating the village monastery, a Buddhist ritual performed to accumulate merit toward future rebirths. Often, players had to help relatives with nomadic duties, such as finding lost sheep.
So early in the 2017 season, Johnson set a benchmark: To play in a major tournament in Maqu scheduled for August, the team was required to hold 20 practices with at least 10 players in attendance. But at summer’s end, the standard hadn’t been met. At a team meeting, Johnson said Norlha wouldn’t play in Maqu. (He later discovered that multiple players had joined the team solely for the trip, during which they would have been able to skip work and stay in a hotel.) All but three of the players quit. The holdouts: Dugya Bum, Jamphel, and Jampa.
Soon afterward, Johnson and Dechen met to discuss the program’s future. Norlha’s team was open only to employees, and it had become clear that the company’s 120-person workforce was not a large enough pool from which to draw a committed squad. During their chat, Johnson noted that among the villagers who didn’t work at the factory were many good players who were eager to train but had no coach.
Korchen Kyap, for example, was a 23-year-old nomad who had proved to be one of Ritoma’s best players—6-foot-2, with excellent leaping ability. Throughout the previous winter, when Johnson returned to the United States to visit family, Korchen Kyap and other nomads who had been playing without a coach flocked to Norlha’s court daily for pickup games, braving the ice and snow. But during the summer, the heart of the basketball season, it was impossible for Korchen Kyap to play with the team, even without Norlha’s employees-only rule. The up-mountain pasture to which he herded his animals each morning was too far from the village center for him to return for practice at 5:30 p.m.
Dechen had seen how Johnson’s brand of team-first basketball had brought Tibetans together, spread the Norlha name, and raised revenue by earning cash prizes—anywhere from the equivalent of several hundred to several thousand dollars—at tournaments in the region.
So Dechen decided to open up the team to the nomads—and pay the players. She set aside an annual budget of 145,000 yuan, or about $21,000. Two players, Dugya Bum and Chökyong Kyap—a fiery, talented guard from the White Horse Clan—would become full-time basketball players, with Dugya Bum earning a monthly salary of 2,500 yuan (about $365, or four times the average local income) and Chökyong Kyap earning 2,000 yuan. Eight players making 1,000 yuan a month would round out Norlha’s traveling team. Five practice players, including three developmental players, would earn 500 yuan apiece. (Johnson himself was now earning a salary as Norlha’s e-commerce manager, a job he’d taken on in 2016.)
Johnson is hoping to eventually add monks to the team. Ritoma’s best monk player is Dugya Bum’s brother, Sonam Drakpa. (He is the backboard-shatterer I saw in the video on Norlha’s Facebook page.) He and two other monks—Korchen Kyap’s brother and a 6-foot-4 bruiser named Sherab—scrimmage with Norlha during the monastery’s brief summer break. But as far as playing full-time, “it’s tough with the monks’ schedules,” Johnson told me sadly.
Photographs were taken in October 2018 in Zorge Ritoma (An Rong Xu)
I wasn’t the only visitor who had planned to attend Johnson’s Norlha Basketball Invitational and Tibetan Hoop Exchange. Eight other Americans made the trip as well, including four basketball players: Graham and Fromdahl from Pinnacle Hoops; Andrew Greenblatt, a former Division III men’s basketball player at Swarthmore College who had helped Johnson raise funds for the tournament; and Isaac Eger, a writer who was traveling the world playing pickup basketball. Johnson had arranged for some low-key pickup games against monks in the region. Building relationships with them, he said, is “priceless.”
With this in mind, Johnson planned a scrimmage with the top team from Labrang, one of Amdo’s largest monasteries. But first, we were given a tour. Pressed up against a big green mountain, the monastery’s white, red, and yellow structures, some with gilded roofs, are connected by a labyrinth of dirt alleyways through which monks and pilgrims roam. A monk leading tours collected my ticket stub, crumpled it up, and tossed it into a trash bin. “NBA,” he said, bumping my fist.
The day of the scrimmage, as we drove along a narrow mountain pass, Johnson warned our group of Labrang’s physicality and offered an advance apology: “No one’s purposely trying to hurt you,” he said. “They’re still Buddhist.” (I’d intended to play but was sidelined after pulling a muscle the previous day while demonstrating a jump hook.)
We made a winding descent into a valley, then turned off the road and drove unsteadily on rocky grasslands. The court appeared, its weathered surface riddled with cracks and wet spots. A stream flowed alongside it. In all directions, empty plateau stretched for miles.
A green taxi wobbled up behind us. It stopped shy of the water’s edge, and several 20-something monks in robes got out, holding bags and basketballs. More taxis followed, also filled with monks. The men vanished into a nearby hut and emerged wearing basketball gear, including white “USA” jerseys. They splashed across the stream and onto the court.
The athleticism and creativity of Labrang’s players were immediately evident. They hung in the air on jump shots and made Kobe Bryant–esque fadeaways. They played hard, and they fouled hard. At one point, Greenblatt got clocked by the opposing point guard and fell. “They don’t mean any harm!” Johnson shouted.
A stray ball rolled onto the court, and some of the Americans stopped playing. Labrang seized the chance to make an uncontested layup. “Guys!” Johnson shouted, “There’s gonna be hawks, vultures, balls rolling onto the court—you gotta play through!”
The teams played two games to 20, and both went down to the wire. The monks won the first one, 20–19. The second went to the Americans, 20–18. After that game, Greenblatt, Graham, and Fromdahl sprawled onto the court exhausted, unaccustomed to playing at that altitude.
“These guys are tough,” Johnson said.
“Super tough,” Greenblatt replied.
The Norlha basketball team prepares for a game against the Sichuan All-Stars at a tournament in Hezuo, the capital city of the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. (An Rong Xu)
Although the Norlha Invitational tournament had been postponed, Johnson was still planning to lead, with the visiting Americans, several days of clinics for Norlha’s teams. But after the first day—a cool, sunny afternoon of spirited drills and pickup games—Johnson received more bad news: False rumors had reached the Public Security Bureau that the Americans, me included, were NBA players; apparently worried that our presence would attract large crowds, the authorities urged the Norlha team to stay away from the court. All remaining basketball activities were called off.
The following day, a damp snow fell, blanketing the court. Entire streets were reduced to mud. The village was quiet.
I took the opportunity to visit Dugya Bum’s house. I walked through his front gate into a muddy outer courtyard, and then into a room with a red carpet and wood-paneled walls. Displayed high on one was an elegantly framed picture, bordered by Tibetan letters, of LeBron James in front of a grasslands backdrop of horses and mountains. Basketball trophies were perched on a shelf.
Sipping butter tea, we spoke about his dream, nearly realized, of making a living playing basketball. When I asked him what his life would be like without hoops, he chuckled uncomfortably, then paused. “If basketball disappeared,” he said softly, “my love would be finished. Everything would be finished.”
Shortly after I left the plateau, good news arrived at last: A monk had built a new gymnasium in Hezuo, the capital city of Gannan, 16 miles away, and there would be a tournament in late November. In a preliminary-round game, Norlha faced the Zorge All-Stars, a brutally physical, all-nomad team. Norlha lost in overtime by one point. But the team won its three other matchups, qualifying for the playoffs.
Norlha won a quarterfinal rematch against Zorge, 48–39. In the semifinals, Norlha defeated a university team from Zhuoni County by one point, setting up an evening final against White Khata, a team featuring standout players from across the vast Amdo region.
Before sunrise on the day of the championship, Norlha’s players rode their motorbikes up to Amnye Tongra, Ritoma’s highest peak. They made offerings of sugar, barley, and fruit to the mountain deity believed to protect Ritoma and shouted, “Lha gyal lo!“— “Victory to the gods!”
A large contingency of Ritomans—nomads, monks, and Norlha employees—drove to Hezuo, where fans of both teams squeezed into the tiny, high-ceilinged gym, stuffing it beyond capacity. Fans bled onto the court; some climbed up the basket supports. Norlha wore its standard blue jerseys; Khata wore red. On the walls behind the baskets hung billboard-size posters of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
Eventually, officials locked the gym door; outside, latecomers climbed onto one another’s shoulders and peered in through the windows. Back in Ritoma, in the monastery and in households alike, people huddled around their smartphones, which were illuminated with shaky video feeds of the match.
When the game began, Dugya Bum seemed overhyped and anxious. On his first offensive touch, he rose up for a 10-foot jump shot that clanked long off the backboard. Twice in the ensuing minutes, he turned the ball over.
Meanwhile, Khata’s blazing-fast guards penetrated at will. The score, indicated on a small flip-style board at center court, seesawed back and forth. At halftime, Norlha led 18–16.
In the second half, Dugya Bum’s nerves settled. He soared in for rebounds and, low in his defensive stance, kept Khata’s ball handlers at bay. Norlha led 28–24 entering the final quarter.
Johnson hopes that his team will become so well-respected that it will attract players from across the Tibetan plateau. (An Rong Xu)
Khata bounced back, tying the score and then taking a narrow lead. In the waning minutes, with Norlha trailing 36–35, Johnson hit a three-pointer from the top of the key. Khata replied with a three of its own and followed that with a lay up to pull ahead by three. A Norlha player then made one of two free throws to cut the lead to two.
But that was as close as the team got. In the final seconds, there was scrambling and desperation from Norlha. Whoops and hollers filled the gym. But the clock wound down. A horn rang and Khata fans burst onto the court. Norlha had lost 41–39. Dugya Bum kneeled on the floor and covered his eyes, hiding tears.
Johnson huddled his team close. “We played our hearts out!” he shouted. “I know this hurts. But use this hurt, this feeling that you have right now, to fuel you over the winter.”
Jampa drove Johnson and Dugya Bum back to Ritoma. Dugya Bum was in the back seat, silent. It was almost midnight when they arrived back in Ritoma. Jampa dropped off Dugya Bum and Johnson at Norlha’s gate.
In a few months, Johnson would move out of the guesthouse and into his own place in the village. “I’m still scratching the surface of this way of life, this culture, Buddhism,” he told me, adding that he’s “definitely here for the long haul.”
Johnson’s vision for Norlha basketball is to build a program so well respected across the plateau that the best and most driven players will flock to train in Ritoma and then return to their towns and villages as player-coaches to spread what they have learned. Johnson knows achieving this goal is in large part dependent on Dugya Bum: If his commitment remains steadfast, Johnson believes he could become one of the best players in all of Tibet.
It was with these aspirations in mind that Johnson, late that night after their championship loss, gathered his thoughts as he and Dugya Bum stood together in the darkness. Before heading their separate ways, they embraced. Then Johnson looked Dugya Bum in the eye. “What you’ve done this last year was amazing,” Johnson said. “But keep it going. You’re our leader now. This is just the beginning.”
Support for this article was provided by a grant from the Pulitzer Center. It appears in the January/February 2019 print edition with the headline “How Tibet Went Crazy for Hoops.”