Thursday, August 31, 2006

400-Year-Old Buddhist Monastery a Stumbling Block in India-China Border Deal

As reported in the Dalily News and Analysis, India on August 31, 2006

By Utpal Baruah

At first sight, a 400-year-old Buddhist monastery, tucked deep in the Himalayas in Arunachal Pradesh, hardly seems like a coveted piece of real estate. But Tawang Monastery, perched on a spur surrounded by clouds, is no ordinary abode for monks or nuns.

One of the last vestiges of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, the lamasery may hold the key to unlocking a decades-old border dispute between India and China.

China cites the lamasery as evidence that the mountainous district of Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh, once belonged to Tibet and that New Delhi should hand it back to help settle the row.

"We don't recognise the entire Arunachal state as being a part of India," commented a senior Chinese diplomat, who declined to be named. "But Tawang is particularly special. It has long-standing historic links with Tibet and it is important for us to be able to settle the border problem," he said.

The dispute over the 3,500-km India-China border is a complex web of claims and counterclaims that has eluded solution for more than half a century and led to a war in 1962.

New Delhi disputes Beijing's rule over 38,000 sq km of barren, icy and uninhabited land on the Tibetan plateau, which China seized from India in the 1962 war.

China, for its part, claims 90,000 sq km of territory ruled by India in the eastern part of the border, mostly in Arunachal Pradesh.

Within that disputed area is Tawang and its monastery.

The neighbours have held several rounds of talks since 1981 to resolve the dispute but have so far failed to make progress. Last year, they agreed on an 11-point roadmap to settle the border row in the light of booming bilateral trade and growing ties.

The proposal was seen as an attempt towards accepting the status quo and hammering out a swap whereby China would give up claims in the east in return for India's recognition of Chinese sovereignty in the strategic Aksai Chin area in the west.

Although both sides seemed amenable to such a deal, Beijing's demand for Tawang -- and New Delhi's refusal to part with any populated territories -- has created a stumbling block.

Indian officials reject the Chinese contention that Tawang was part of Tibet. They say the people of that region chose to become part of India when British colonial rule ended in 1947.

China covets the Tawang region not just because of the picturesque lamasery but because it is seen as being key to developing the long isolated Tibetan region. The Tawang area is a source of grains, vegetables, spices and furniture.

"The PLA has written several articles recently suggesting Tawang can sustain the Tibetan economy if it becomes a part of China," said Srikanth Kondapalli, a China expert at New Delhi's Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, referring to China's People's Liberation Army.

But Tawang residents see a hidden agenda in Beijing's designs over their mountainous district.

Some, like Tengye Rinpoche, the Tibetan abbot of Tawang Monastery, doubt if they can continue to preserve ancient Buddhist traditions if the region comes under Chinese control.

Others like Sonam Lama, 35, a Tawang tribal and a Buddhist monk, are more strident. "The Chinese will destroy Tawang's character if it becomes a part of Tibet," said Sonam, one of the dozens of monks in Tawang, conspicuous in their maroon and yellow robes.

"India respects all religions and gives freedom to practise any religion. So we should continue to remain a part of India," he said.

However, some locals say that if India wants to prevent any Chinese claim to the area then it should start developing the region which has a poor road network, electricity shortages, no college and high illiteracy levels.

"We hear that China is far ahead of India and everyone is equal in China," said Pema Wangchuk, head of the Monpa Welfare Association, an organisation of the Monpa tribal people who dominate Tawang.

"This feeling should not be allowed to linger. Otherwise, people may one day want to become a part of China."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Panchen Lama" Returns Home After 11-Year Absence

MW note: This is an interesting article, it comes from Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency and it discusses their (the Chinese government's) recognized Panchen Lama.

As most know, the Chinese-recognized Panchen Lama has not been accepted by the Tibetan community in Tibet and/or in exile as the authentic Panchen Lama, who as a boy was detained by the Chinese days after his public recognition by His Holiness Dalai Lama in 1995 and has not been seen since.

Rather, he is seen as the Chinese attempt to "take over" Tibetan Buddhism when the Dalai Lama passes away. This article is noteworthy as it provides a transparent glimpse into the Chinese spin and positioning, i.e., notice how the Chinese represent him as being as revered and loved as the Dalai Lama, refer to him as the "leader of Tibetan Buddhism" and mention the authenticity of the process by which he was "recognized."

The article is reprinted here verbatim.

2006-08-30 -- The 11th Panchen Lama on Tuesday ended a two-day visit to his hometown, the first since his ordination in 1995.

Gyaincain Norbu, the leader of the Tibetan Buddhism, arrived on Sunday at Lhari county, Nagqu prefecture in northern Tibet, where he was born on February 13, 1990.

Arriving at around 6:00 p.m., he was hailed by a huge crowd, including thousands of Buddhists who had waited for hours and a hundred headsmen in costume on horseback.

On Monday, he presided over a blessing ritual for nearly 4,000 local people.During his journey, he stopped his car more than a dozen times to give blessings to hundreds of followers.

Braving the rain, many came long distances to wait to be touched by the 11th Panchen Lama.

"My lifelong dream has come true. I finally met the Panchen Lama and received his blessing," said 69-year-old local headsman Gyaba, with a big smile on his face.

After the ritual on Monday, the 17-year-old Panchen Lama, wearing a golden cassock, rode a horse on the grasslands.

He told young fellow Tibetans to master their language and to get a good education, so as to build a more prosperous Tibet. During his visit, he donated money and goods to a local school, a hospital and 43 poor families.

He said he was happy with the great changes in his hometown and hoped to come back soon.

Gyaincain Norbu won the approval from the central government of China as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama in November 1995 after a lot drawing ceremony among three candidates in the Jokhang Temple in Tibet's capital Lhasa.

Drawing lots from a gold urn to decide on the final choice of the reincarnation of a high lama has long been a tradition in Tibetan Buddhism, and the custom of seeking approval from the central government dates back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

He studies Buddhism in Beijing and frequently visits Tibet and other Tibetan ethnic areas in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan.

Flagship Chinese Train to Tibet Derails

As reported by Ninemsn, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on Aug 30, 2006

One of China's new trains to Tibet, the world's highest railway, has derailed, disrupting the line for five hours and delaying thousands of passengers.

The 16-carriage train from the southwestern city of Chongqing derailed near Co Nag Lake, some 400km northeast of the Tibetan capital Lhasa, the Beijing News said, adding that only the dining carriage came off the tracks in the accident on Wednesday.

China opened the 1,140-km railway linking Golmud in Qinghai province to Lhasa on July 1, saying it would help modernise the isolated Himalayan region.

"Six trains were delayed along the line, affecting more than 4,000 passengers," Hong Kong's Beijing-backed Ta Kung Pao newspaper said. Trains were running normally five hours later and no one was injured, it said, adding that an equipment failure involved switches and signals.

China, which has ruled Tibet since its Communist troops invaded the region in 1950, extols the railway as an engineering feat that will bring economic prosperity to the underdeveloped area.

But critics argue the line could endanger the region's fragile environment and Tibetans' unique cultural identity.

More than 960km of the railway was built at 4,000 metres above sea level and 550km in areas of frozen earth, which researchers fear could melt as winter temperatures rise in coming decades and affect operations.

Three passenger lines are carrying tourists in pressurised cabins to Tibet from Beijing and the cities of Chongqing, Chengdu, Xining, Lanzhou.

Oxygen is on tap if needed

Time Running Out for Tibet: French Senators

As reported by Reuters

BEIJING, Wed Aug 30, 2006 -- Time is running out to reach an agreement on Tibet's future which, if not sorted out by 2008, could become a blemish on the Beijing Olympics, a French parliamentary delegation said on Wednesday.

After meetings with Communist officials in Tibet, the group said they had the impression the authorities took a more "nuanced" tone toward the region's problems than the propaganda would suggest, but questions on Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, were rebuffed.

"There is one chance for Tibet and that's before the Olympics," Louis de Broissia, president of the French Senate's Information Commission on Tibet, told a Beijing news conferenceafter returning from the remote far-western Himalayan region.

"With so much international attention, the Tibet question could become a stain on the Olympics. After that, it's all over," he said.

De Broissia said it was possible a new generation of Tibetan leaders could espouse more violent forms of protest once the Dalai Lama dies.

The Dalai Lama, accused by Beijing of being a separatist, has lived in exile in the Indian hill station of Dharamsala since fleeing Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese Communist rule.

"The youth in exile are very impatient," he said. "It's in the interests of China to work fast and concretely."

The group was allowed only very limited contacts with people in Tibet other than officials, de Broissia said.

When they asked about the Dalai Lama, officials responded with questions about unrest among young Muslims in France, or the problem of Corsican separatists, he added.

"They told us the Dalai Lama was forgotten, discredited," the senator said. "We couldn't get anyone to really talk about the Dalai Lama. They would hide behind a disarming smile."

De Broissia said that despite their concerns about the destruction of traditional Tibetan buildings, the French delegation found it a positive sign that they had been invited at all and that the reaction to their visit surprised them.

The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace laureate, is usually demonized in China's tightly controlled state-run press, although the government has maintained contacts with his envoys.

In July, an official Chinese newspaper commentary accused the Dalai Lama -- who has proposed a "Middle Way" policy, seeking autonomy but not independence for Tibet -- of collaborating with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Overseas rights activists have urged the International Olympic Committee to warn China that its right to host the 2008 Games could be revoked if it does not improve its human rights record.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Law and Karma: HHDL to Speak Publicly for First Time about the Law and Social Change

Dalai Lama to Partcipate in Two-Day "Law, Buddhism and Social Change" conference at Univ. of Buffalo Law School, Sept. 20-21.

As reported by the State University of New York at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In his very first visit to a U.S. law school conference, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama will publicly share for the first time his thoughts on how religion, particularly Buddhism, can influence law and bring about social change.

The conference, "Law, Buddhism and Social Change: A Conversation with the Dalai Lama," will be held Sept. 20-21 at the University at Buffalo Law School. An intimate two-hour discussion between the Dalai Lama and legal practitioners and scholars from around the world will open the conference at 9 a.m. on Sept. 20.

For more information, go to

"This will be one of the first times the Dalai Lama has been asked about legal subject matter," says UB Law School Professor and conference organizer Rebecca French, an international authority on Tibetan law and author of "The Golden Yoke," the first book on Buddhist legal traditions in Tibet.

"It will be fascinating to hear the Dalai Lama describe the best way, from a Buddhist perspective, to think about punishment, rehabilitation and retribution, and I suspect the conversation will address how Buddhist beliefs might influence the U.S. legal system," adds French, who notes that the Dalai Lama has participated in a series of similar public forums on the subject of science and the mind.

The conference is being organized by the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy and the UB Law School. It is being offered in conjunction with the Dalai Lama's visit to UB, Sept. 18-20,

French expects the conversation between the Dalai Lama and the scholars in attendance to be quite expansive, covering issues ranging from how constitutions provide social order, the purpose of criminal punishment and the Karmic consequences of legal decisions.

The Dalai Lama also may discuss his thoughts on governmental control of personal freedoms.

The Dalai Lama has spoken before on the detrimental effects of TV on American society, and may comment on whether the government has an obligation to restrict unhealthy behaviors, French says.

The UB Law School is home to the Law and Buddhism Project, the world's first and only center for the study of law and Buddhism. A goal of the conference and of the Law and Buddhism Project, directed by French, is to introduce Buddhist legal concepts to the U.S. legal system, says UB Law School Dean Nils Olsen.

"It is truly a great honor that the Dalai Lama has chosen to speak at our law school and discuss issues that go to the heart of law and morality," says Olsen.

A legal anthropologist who has spent several summers studying Tibetan law at the Dalai Lama's compound in India, French says Buddhist concepts of Karma, human interconnectedness and reincarnation could have a positive effect on the U.S. legal system, and should be studied.

"Buddhists believe that you can't have closure in a case unless all parties are in agreement with the decision, and unless the whole network of people affected by the case is compensated. From this process, you have a social catharsis; you have a feeling that society has been healed.

"In the U.S. legal system, one individual gets into friction with another individual, and from that spark of friction one person wins and one person loses," French explains. "Very little thought is given to interconnectedness of people and how the decision affects all the individuals involved in the case. This process often produces anger, social isolation and unhappiness with our legal system.

"Ultimately, I would like to coordinate all of the Buddhist lawyers in the U.S. and help bring people together to introduce compassion and Buddhism to the American legal system," she adds.

Death of a Supercentenarian

The New York Times on Impermanence

An editorial published on August 29, 2006

On Sunday, the oldest woman in the world died at age 116 in an Ecuadorian hospital. Her name was María Esther de Capovilla, and she was born in September 1889. We are all aware that there will be an end to our lives, but Ms. Capovilla’s death is a reminder of how absolute the boundary of human longevity really is.

You may escape all the actuarial fates there are, and yet the body has its own term limits, a point at which the warranty expires and something furls up inside you. The woman who succeeds Ms. Capovilla as the oldest woman on earth is also 116, and the oldest person on record died at 122.

In retrospect, the life of such a very old person becomes a kind of historical timeline, in which personal milestones are laid against the impersonal events of history. (Ms. Capovilla was born the same year as Charlie Chaplin and was married the year the United States entered World War I.) But then there’s always a question lurking in the obituary of a supercentenarian. How did she do it?

This is not the kind of question we ask of the oldest living tree. But there are so many choices lurking in human life, so many ways to live, that you can’t help wondering whether Ms. Capovilla’s life choices are what helped her last so long. Was it her refusal to smoke or drink hard liquor? The waltzing at parties? Or was it just good genes and a large and apparently supportive family?

There is always something a little poignant about the news that the oldest person has died. No matter what kind of life she has lived, it is always eclipsed by the strangely passive fact of having lived so long. No one sets out to be the oldest person alive.

You set out to be happy, prosperous, successful, content. But in time — lots of time — all your intentions fade away, and you become vastly closer to death than you ever were to life. We honor Ms. Capovilla, and we hope never to grow nearly so old.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tibet's Rail Link to Extend to Nepal Border

As reported by the Indo-Asian News Service; August 27, 2006

Lhasa -- China's newly built railway line to Tibet will be extended to the border with Nepal, an official said Sunday.

Meeting with visiting Nepali Deputy Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region, said Tibet is a remote place that is looking forward to being connected to South Asia. The railway extension will promote business exchanges, he said.

Oli said Nepal hopes China can extend the railway to the border.

China and Nepal have more than 1,400-km of common border and five open border crossings.

Nyalam, in Xigaze prefecture, is the only border crossing that boasts a highway. The Xigaze prefecture borders India, Nepal and Bhutan in the south.

According to current plans, a line will be built next year from Lhasa to Xigaze, the region's second largest city located at an altitude of about 3,800 metres and some 270 km from Lhasa. The project is expected to take three years.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which stretches 1,956 km from Xining, capital of Qinghai province, to Lhasa, was completed in July.

The city of Xigaze is the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, and the prefecture is also an important production base for Tibetan agriculture and animal husbandry.

Oli, who is also minister of foreign affairs, arrived in Lhasa Saturday for an eight-day official visit to China.

Ganesh Festival Begins in Hyderabad Amid Security

As reported by the Indo-Asian News Service, August 27, 2006

Hyderabad, India -- The 11-day Ganesh (Ganapati) festival began in Hyderabad Sunday with fanfare and religious fervour amid tight security arrangements.

Thousands of idols of the elephant-headed Lord Ganesh in different avatars, sizes and shapes were installed in this city, its twin city Secunderabad and outskirts.

:: :: :: :: ::

(Editor's Note: In Hinduism, Ganesa or Ganesh is one of the most well-known and venerated representations of God (Brahman). Considered a master of intellect and wisdom, he is depicted as a big-bellied, yellow or red god with four arms and the head of a one-tusked elephant, riding on, or frequently attended to, by a mouse.

He is frequently represented sitting down, with one leg raised in the air and bent over the other. Typically, his name is prefixed with the Hindu title of respect, 'Shree' or Sri.

Ganesha devotees are called Ganapatya. The Ganapati festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion throughout India but in Mumbai, the financial capital of the Country, the festival assumes a special significance because of the scale at which it is performed.)

:: :: :: :: ::

Slogans of 'Ganapati Bappa Morya' and 'Ganesh Maharaj ki jai' rent the air as devotees installed huge idols in neighbourhoods, commercial areas and public places even as police kept a tight vigil following intelligence reports that subversive elements could create trouble during the festivities.

A last-minute rush was seen at Dhoolpet, where idols worth millions of rupees are sold every year. Despite sharp increase in the prices of idols made of plaster of Paris, the traders made a brisk business. The price ranged between Rs.300 and Rs.20,000 (44 Rs. = $1 US) depending on the size of the idols.

Like in the past, businessmen and residents' associations vied with each other in installing idols made with innovative designs. The attractive idols range include those made from dry fruits, butter, icing sugar and the roles the lord of wisdom donned range from a solider to a crusader against corruption.

More than 15,000 huge idols have been installed in the city, which is second only to Mumbai in organising the festival on a massive scale. The idols were placed on decorated platforms and inside tents known as 'Ganesh pandals'.

As in the past, the tallest idol has been installed at Khairatabad in the heart of the city. The 40-foot tall idol is attracting thousands of devotees from all over the state, as it is believed that prayers offered here are answered.

Massive security arrangements have been made for the festival, which ends Sep 6, when the idols are immersed in the Hussain Sagar Lake in the heart of the city and dozens of other lakes.
The 'Nimmajanam' or immersion in the Hussain Sagar will be taking place under strict monitoring by state authorities as the Andhra Pradesh High Court has issued orders to minimise pollution.

About 22,000 policemen have been deployed in the city for the festival. Additional security arrangements will be in place for the immersion procession, which is expected to be attended by a million people and passes through the communally sensitive walled quarters.

Since the city has witnessed many communal clashes during this festival season in the past, authorities have requisitioned forces from other parts of the state as well as from central agencies to maintain law and order.

Of Shame and Fame

A New York Times editorial, published August 27, 2006

Someone in China’s autocracy may have a sense of shame -- or vulnerability. But only up to a point. Last week a Chinese court dismissed a specious state secrets charge against a New York Times researcher and journalist, Zhao Yan. Unfortunately, the court then sentenced him to three years in prison on a lesser but still specious charge of fraud.

Beijing’s political leadership has been rightly criticized, including by the White House, for its unfair treatment of Mr. Zhao, whose prosecution was seen as a warning to anyone who dared report the truth in China. The court’s decision to drop the more serious charge of disclosing state secrets, which could have brought Mr. Zhao a sentence of 10 years or more, is most likely a reaction to those criticisms.

But dictators always need to save face. Ergo the lesser conviction for fraud. Mr. Zhao — who has already been held for two years — could be released by September 2007. That is still unacceptable. And China needs to be told that it is not off the hook.

Mr. Zhao was arrested after this newspaper correctly reported that former President Jiang Zemin was ready to give up his final post as military chief. The article infuriated China’s political leadership, and Mr. Zhao was arrested, despite The Times’s insistence that he never provided any state secrets to the paper. The fraud charge was tacked on later. Mr. Zhao was not allowed to call any defense witnesses at his trial.

China should be ashamed of this abuse of its legal system and of the mistreatment of Mr. Zhao. There is no face to be saved so long as his conviction stands.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Cause Greater than the Individual: Will the Tibetan Cause Outlive the Dalai Lama?

As reported in the Bangkok Post; Saturday August 26, 2006

By Anurag Mohanty-Viswana

Speculation over the health of the 14th Dalai Lama has triggered questions regarding the future of the Tibet issue.

Political developments in the Tibetan government-in-exile (TGE) headquartered in Dharamsala, northern India, however, attest to the fact that a slow but steady move has been on the anvil to strengthen the democratic process of the TGE, as well as prepare the exile community for a future -- without the Dalai Lama.

The recently re-elected Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister of the Central Tibetan Administration), Prof Samdhong Rinpoche, took office on Aug 15, after being elected by a thumping majority: 91% of the total votes cast. This election was the second since 2001.

Prof Rinpoche, on assumption of office, pointed out that the process of elections was to nurture young and progressive Tibetans to take up leadership roles.

In his oath-taking ceremony, he said, ''This trend, once firmly established, will also send a clear message to the other side [China] that the Tibetan political leadership does not depend upon a few individuals, and that there exists a huge potential and choices for leaders among the broad masses of the Tibetan people."

His indication was that the Tibet issue was over and above an individual; at stake was the future of six million Tibetans, thus ''untying'' the destiny of the issue with that of the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama has also indicated once again (this year) that should the resolution of the dispute occur with China conceding to grant ''genuine autonomy'', then his rebirth will be in Tibet (since there will be no more exile community) and if it not, the rebirth of the 15th Dalai Lama will be in exile.

While preparations are on for the sixth round of talks between the TGE and China, this move not only pre-empts a closure of the issue, should anything untoward occur to the present Dalai Lama, but also discourages any move by China of a scenario for a Chinese-appointed Dalai Lama, as has been the case with the 11th Panchen Lama, the second highest spiritual leader after the Dalai Lama.

China claims that both the titles, Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama were conferred by the Qing Dynasty.

In the past it has also said that the Kuomintang government played an important role in installing the 14th Dalai Lama in 1939, thereby leaving the room open for a future Chinese role.

Since the Panchen Lama identifies the re-incarnated Dalai Lama, China would like to hope that the ball is in its court -- but this might turn out to be wishful thinking.

Tibetans claim that the title Dalai Lama was offered by the Mongol King Altan Khan to Sonam Gyatso in 1578.

Dalai Lama is, in fact, a Mongol title meaning ''Ocean of Wisdom'' and is considered to be one of the innumerable incarnations of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion.

Tibetan scholars also point out that it was the Fifth Dalai Lama who conferred the title of Panchen Lama (meaning Great Scholar) to his teacher, the abbot of Tashilhunpo monastery in Shigatse in 1642.

Tibetan scholars also dismiss the clear claim that Panchen Lamas have a role to play in selecting the re-incarnate, saying that through history ''some Panchen Lamas played important roles, others had no role''.

There is an ongoing dispute as both the Dalai Lama and Chinese authorities back different candidates as the Panchen Lama.

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Dalai Lama-recognised Panchen Lama who turned 17 years old this April, according to the Tibetan claim, ''is the youngest political prisoner'' detained (arbitrarily) since 1995 by the Chinese authorities.China, however, claims that ''he has been put under the protection of the government at the request of his parents''.

China recognises Gyaltsen Norbu as the Panchen Lama, whom Tibetans dismiss out of hand as ''Panchen Zuema'' -- which literally means ''fake Panchen''.

Notwithstanding re-incarnation woes, the smooth conduct of elections was a crucial step forward in the political configuration of the government in exile.

Ever since the TGE moved to Dharamsala in 1960, it established the Tibetan parliament in exile, named the Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies.

Today, this Assembly consists of 46 members. U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo -- the three provinces of Tibet before it was dismembered by China and incorporated into neighbouring Chinese provinces -- elect 10 members each, while the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism (Nyingma, Kagyud, Sakya and Gelug, and the traditional Bon religion) elect two members each.

Three deputies are elected from North America and Europe and three distinguished members nominated by the Dalai Lama.In 1990, the Dalai Lama also introduced reforms in the exile administration, empowering the popularly elected Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies to elect the cabinet ministers of the TGE.

In 1991, the Assembly adopted a new democratic constitution, known as the Charter of Tibetans in Exile.

In 2001, the Dalai Lama announced his decision to hand over all administrative responsibilities of the exile administration to the directly-elected executive chief and parliament. Prof Samdhong Rinpoche, who was the first elected executive chief of the exile administration, formed a four-member cabinet in 2001.

He has been re-elected in the 2006 elections. The elections have institutionalised the democratic process, giving the exile community a say in their internal affairs. The Kashag (cabinet) today manages major departments such as Religion and Culture, Home, Finance, Education, Security, Health and Information and International Relations.

The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) also has three constitutional bodies: Election Commission, Public Service Commission and Audit Commission.

While the controversial assistance from the CIA has dried up since 1974, the exile community has not only managed to organise itself, but also institutionalise the democratic process as well as garner support from high-profile activists and sympathisers.

Thus far, the Dalai Lama has guided the direction of the struggle. His charisma as well as his political manoeuvring has ensured that the struggle for freedom has not withered.

By choosing to empower and strengthen the exile community, he has chosen to leave his indelible imprint on the future road map of a cause being greater than an individual.

Only time will tell.

Anurag Mohanty-Viswanath is a political scientist specialising in China affairs.

Rare Portrait of Genghis Kahn Found in Tibetan Buddhist Temple in North China

As reported by Zee News; August 24, 2006

Beijing, August 24 -- A rare Thangka portrait of legendary Mongol leader Genghis Khan has been discovered in a Tibetan Buddhist temple in north China`s inner Mongolia autonomous region, a local cultural heritage official announced.

The painting was drawn by a Late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Mongolian artist, probably in the nineteenth century, Wang Dafang, an official with the Cultural Heritage Bureau of Inner Mongolia said.

The portrait is painted on a piece of cloth 28.5 cm long and 21 cm wide.

The painting shows Genghis Khan in martial attire, riding a white horse and holding a banner in his right hand, with a bow and a quiver of arrows on his back, according to Wang.

Thangka is a Tibetan art form that dates back 1,000 years and which mainly depicts images from Tibetan Buddhism.

It was discovered in Wudangzhao temple, in Baotou city, a Tibetan Buddhist temple that was restored in 1749.

"It is rare to have a Thangka painting of Genghis Khan, though there are different portraits of this Emperor in history," he said.

The painting indicates that Tibetan Buddhists also regarded Genghis Khan as a hero, said Wang.

Genghis Khan, whose grandson Kublai Khan founded the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), unified Mongol tribes and conquered most of Eurasia.

He was later given the title "Genghis Khan", which means "universal ruler".

Kolkata (Calcutta) Celebrates Mother Teresa's 96th Birthday

As reported by the Asian News Service; August 26, 2006

Kolkata, India -- Birthday celebrations and special prayers were held at the headquarters of Missionaries of Charity here on Saturday to commemorate the 96th birth anniversary of Mother Teresa.

Hundreds of people joined nuns at the Missionaries of Charity for a special morning mass at Mother's House here. Sister Nirmala, the Superior General of the Charity, said that prayers were held to make their lives as fruitful as that of the Mother.

"We all thank God for Mother's life. We are having prayers and rejoicing and we are also praying that we all of us make our life something beautiful for God as Mother has done," she said.
Selfless love and devotion of Mother towards humankind has earned her followers from far and wide.

"I have never met the Mother but in 2000, I have worked with sisters of the Mother Teresa's Missionary of Charity in Barcelona and Liverpool. After that I began to know Mother and after a few months I began to learn the love for the people, that she had for each of us," Alex, a volunteer said.

Albanian born Mother Teresa made Kolkata her home and dedicated her life to the service of poor and destitute children. She was beatified by the Pope in October 2003, paving the way for her canonization.

Mother Teresa qualified for beatification after Vatican officials acknowledged that she was responsible for a miracle in which an Indian woman was cured of stomach cancer through her intervention.

Mother Teresa who died on September 5, 1997, at the age of 87, was popularly known as the "Saint of the Gutter" for her extraordinary love and dedication to poor, homeless and diseased people.

She came to India in 1929 at the age of 18 and took up teaching and became an Indian citizen in 1948. She started working in slums and later set up her Missionaries of Charity, which was approved by the Vatican in 1950.

The Missionary now runs more than 500 homes in over 100 countries.

Mother received several national and international awards for her social service during her lifetime. They include the Magsaysay Award in 1962, the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize in 1971, the John F. Kennedy International Award in 1971 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

HH Dalai Lama Initiates Mongolian Monks

As reported by the Associated Press

By Christopher Borden

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — The Dalai Lama elevated a group of Mongolian monks into the Buddhist priesthood's higher ranks Friday, bolstering the country's traditional faith as it struggles to re-establish itself following decades of communist persecution.

With hundreds of onlookers gathered outside, the secret initiation ceremony was held in a temple at Gandantegcheling monastery, the main seat of Mongolian Buddhist worship and learning in Ulan Bator, the capital.

No details were released and it was not known how many monks had been promoted.

The ceremony is believed to involve an examination and instructions from the Dalai Lama on adhering to 256 rules of Buddhist conduct, including celibacy.

The ceremony came in the middle of the exiled Tibetan leader's weeklong visit to Mongolia, which shares strong historical links to Tibet.

Tibet's esoteric, or tantric, school of Buddhism, of which the Dalai Lama is the leader, was adopted as Mongolia's de facto state religion in the 17th century.

Three centuries later, communist purges killed more than 10,000 monks and destroyed most of the country's temples. By 1944, Gandantegcheling was the only official Buddhist institution left functioning.

New monasteries have since been built and the Dalai Lama's seven visits to Mongolia have been credited with helping to revive such institutions.

However, the lack of a central figure of authority in Mongolia has led to internal squabbling between monasteries and many young Mongolians also say they find the religion difficult to approach.

Buddhism is also increasingly being challenged by Christianity and other missionary faiths that have attracted thousands of converts, especially among the young and well educated.

China, which regards the Dalai Lama as a troublemaker seeking to overthrow its rule over Tibet, issued a mild protest over his visit to Mongolia. However, there were no reports of China cutting rail connections with Mongolia, as it did during the Dalai Lama's 2002 visit.

Mongolia has made public assurances that the Dalai Lama would not take part in political activities during his stay.

Chinese communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951 and the Dalai Lama fled to exile in India following an abortive 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Nepal Maoists Accuse Koirala of Towing US Line

As reported by Asian News International; August 25, 2006

Kathmandu, Nepal -- Maoists in Nepal have accused Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala of not taking his own decisions and following the dictates of the US.

During talks with Government leaders, Koirala said that until the Maoists give up their weapons, they would not be given the status of a political party in Nepal.

"This is not the voice of Girija Prasad Koirala, it is the voice of America. We have been noticing that America is not removing us from the list of terrorists," said Krishna Bahadur, an organizer of the Maoists in Varta Toli.

"We are observing that Girija Prasad Koirala is not ready to look forward. The major agenda of Nepal is to establish and maintain democracy in the country but he (Koirala) is focusing on the agenda. If they don't see us like a political party and find our weapons a hindrance, then it means that he is moving against democracy. We took up arms to fight for democracy and till the time, Nepal remains undemocratic we will keep fighting in the form of a political force," Bahadur added.

The Maoist verbal backlash comes almost four months after King Gyanendra failed to suppress a popular movement against his rule and had to give way to a seven party Alliance (SPA) Government led by Girija Prasad Koirala.

Once Koirala was in power, negotiations began with the rebel Maoists to convince them to rejoin the social mainstream. An agreement was reached in June between two sides, which included plans for arms surrender management under the auspices of the United Nations.

HHDL Still Has the Power to Unsettle China

As reported in The Age (Melbourne, Australia); August 24, 2006

WHEN the first cracks appeared in the concrete base and bridges of the Qinghai Tibet railway, just weeks after the carefully staged, triumphal opening on July 1 (the 85th birthday of the Chinese Communist Party), they were not the only sign that all is not well with China's policies in Tibet.

The cracks seem to be the result of the unstable geology of the Tibetan plateau.

Equally worrying to Beijing, shifts in Tibetan political geology have caused cracks in the official Chinese narrative of unity and harmony between Tibet and China.

There had been sporadic unrest for several months.

In November last year, the monks of Drepung monastery, in central Tibet, staged a sit-down demonstration against "patriotic education" -- the Government's enforced propaganda campaign. The demonstration was echoed in other important monasteries in the region.

Then, in January, in a religious address delivered in India, the exiled Dalai Lama called on Tibetans to stop wearing wildlife skins, to save animals from extinction. The results were dramatic: from Lhasa to Gansu, Tibetans gathered for public fur burnings.

Confronted with this evidence of his continuing influence, the Government accused the Dalai Lama of promoting "social disorder" and responded, bizarrely, with a pro-fur campaign in which TV presenters were ordered to wear fur on air.

At the end of May, the arrival in Lhasa of a new, hardline party secretary, Zhang Qingli, signalled a renewed campaign against the Dalai Lama's influence, with a tightening control of religious practice.

Zhang announced that the Communist Party was engaged in a "fight-to-the-death struggle" against the Dalai Lama.

In Lhasa the campaign took on a renewed virulence as the opening day of the railway approached. But in mid-July, in the great monastery of Kumbum in Qinghai, people began to gather spontaneously, in unusual numbers.

They had come, they explained, to wait for the Dalai Lama. A rumour of his imminent arrival had swept the province with an extraordinary and, for the Government, dismaying effect. The Chinese authorities are engaged in a slow-motion exchange of views with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, but they do not anticipate his return any time soon.

And from their point of view, they are right to be cautious. If merely the rumour of the return of a spiritual leader who left Tibet in 1959 can still cause thousands of devotees to gather, then decades of Chinese propaganda have failed to extirpate his influence.

From Malaysia: Follow HHDL on the Environment

As published on; August 25, 2006

By Harban Singh

I read so much of concern and rumbling for the environment when it is obvious that Malaysians cannot come to a consensus where the environment is concerned.

This is seen in Perak’s Belum forest reserve which is yet to be gazetted to a national park after umpteen years and the chief minister of Pahang echoing his controversial view of compensation if logging is ceased in his state.

It really does not reflect well on us Malaysians.

It shows we are a very long way from achieving a developed status as envisaged in Vision 2020. We still take our rich biodiversity for granted. This which is found in our very own rainforests, the oldest in the world (older than the Amazon’s and Congo’s).

Imagine having such assets which can be utilised in a more sustainable way for the better of mankind rather than for short-term logging. What about the indigenous people? What about the habitat of our flora and fauna?

Does anyone care for them?

Do we want to be a ‘cursed generation’ despised by the next generation for the greed, apathy and the blatant raping of our dear environment? We need to change our mindset and be more transparent and honest on the consequences of our actions or inactions. Eighty percent of the logging in Indonesia is illegal.

I wonder what the percentage is in Malaysia. Obviously there is cold hard cash to be gained from logging but what about the environmental crisis signs such as the shortage of water, erosion, landslides, serious river pollution, increased global temperatures just to name a few?

I would like to quote an excellent message by His Holiness The Dalai Lama, which should be viewed holistically by all Malaysians. It is especially dedicated to include all the politicians, heads of states, CEOs, decision-makers, parents, teachers and education syllabyi planners who significantly influence and determine the future of our environment.

"Nature’s law dictates that, in order to survive, bees must work together. As a result, they instinctively posses a sense of social responsibility. They have no constitution, no law, no police, no religion or moral training but, because of their nature, the whole colony survives.

"We human beings have a constitution, laws and a police force. We have religion, remarkable intelligence, and hearts with a great capacity to love. We have many extraordinary qualities but, in actual practice, I think we are behind those small insects. ‘In some ways, I feel we are poorer than the bees."

Do you have a viewpoint you want to share? Speak up! Send your 'Letters to the Editor' to Your letter may be published in Malaysiakini, and do let us know if you wish to remain anonymous.


HHDL Visit Shines Spotlight on Mongolia's Explosion of Faiths

As reported by the Associated Press, August 25, 2006

By Vincent Yu

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — The Dalai Lama, Mongolia's most revered religious figure, is visiting this week, but some here sway with religious fervor for another stripe of holy man.

"Hallelujah," a crowd shouts at a stage where Canadian evangelist Peter Yongren is calling out, "Jesus will come to you tonight," echoed in Mongolian by a translator.

There isn't a lama or dharma wheel in sight.

"Certainly Tibetan Buddhism is part of our culture, but it shouldn't be our religion," said Tsendkhorol, 53, a retired actress wearing a pink T-shirt emblazoned with the English message "Thy kingdom come." Like many Mongolians, she uses only a single name.

Mongolia's capital is hosting not only the Dalai Lama and Yongren this week, but also Indian guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, underscoring the explosion of faiths this nation has seen since the end of communist rule in 1990.

The Mormon church has its own temple and missionaries, and Hindu and Muslim groups are expanding.

While only a small minority seems to have taken up new faiths, the increasingly crowded market of religions is posing a challenge to the traditional authority of Buddhist monks, already crippled by six decades of communist persecution and riven with internal divisions.

Mongolia has a long tradition of religious tolerance and respect.

Even while Mongol armies were sacking and looting their way across Asia and Europe in the Middle Ages, their leaders allowed Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and others to freely proselytize throughout conquered regions.

"It's really not so bad to have lots of types of religion operating here," said D. Damba, a professor of Mongolian language, literature and religion at Mongolian State University.
"It's helpful for us to better know one another and it teaches respect, not hatred," Damba said.

Tibetan Buddhism was adopted as Mongolia's de facto state religion in the 17th century and thrived for three centuries, until communist dictator Horloogiyn Choybalsan's purges beginning in 1937 killed more than 10,000 monks. By 1944, Ulan Bator's main monastery, Gandantegcheling, was the only official Buddhist institution left functioning.

Today, new monasteries have risen across the capital and the rest of this landlocked country.
Yet the Buddhist groups recognize no common high authority within Mongolia, and internal squabbles are common, even during the Dalai Lama's visit to Gandantegcheling.

Left off the guest list and barred at the gate, Sanjdorj Zandan, the abbot of Ikh Khree Monastery, startled the visiting Dalai Lama by shouting, "We could have organized this much better!"

Monks also are in conflict over who may marry and have a family. While Buddhism in Mongolia permits initiate lamas to marry, many of those higher up in the church also have children in defiance of tradition. The Dalai Lama has spent much of his time in Ulan Bator trying to resolve such disputes.

So far, only about 10,000 of Mongolia's 2.6 million people have joined Christian groups.

Yet perhaps a bigger threat to the lamas comes from simple indifference. Many among Mongolia's increasingly urban young people see Tibetan Buddhism as unapproachable and medieval, with little relation to their own lives and aspirations.

Gandantegcheling's abbot, Choijamts, says believers are addressing those concerns by translating more of the faith's texts into Mongolian and by starting Buddhist youth groups.
He accuses Christian groups of showboating and creating a culture of dependency through soup kitchens and other forms of social outreach.

"We Buddhists also help the poor and needy, but we do it in private and away from the media," Choijamts said in a television interview Monday night as the Dalai Lama arrived.

Many people at the Dalai Lama's public appearances are elderly men and women in traditional dress, while the crowd at Yongren's rally was mostly young and dressed in western sports wear.
Among them was Shinegorav, a 28-year-old pastor who said a foreign missionary introduced him to Christianity a decade ago.

"It just felt very different from Buddhism. It was very friendly in the church and I could read the Bible in Mongolian," Shinegorav said.

As for the Dalai Lama?

"He's just a man," said Shinegorav. "I really don't have too much to say about him."

Pssst. Wanna Buy a Potala Ticket?

As reported by the India Times News Network

By Ranjan Roy

24 Aug, 2006; LHASA -- Qiangba Gesang sits in a room draped in crimson and yellow, the harsh northern sunlight streaming in from behind him, talking of the days when he would tie his horse to a stone pillar and run up the steps of the Potala Palace to meet his uncle.

That was when Potala was home to a young Dalai Lama, training in worldly and spiritual ways to lead Tibetans.

Gesang is now the curator of Potala, where his uncle was once an official.

Sitting in what is arguably Tibetan Buddhism's landmark building, Gesang, who was appointed by communist officials, declares that now Potala isn't a temple or a shrine any more. It's just a museum -- a tourist attraction. An abandoned home containing Dalai Lama's relics, restored for tourism.

"It's just the winter home of the Dalai Lama. No religious activity takes place," he says.

That may be officially so. But both inside and outside the 13-storey structure that looks like it's painted on a blue canvass, the rarified air at 12,000 feet is thick with reverence.

At the base of the hill, Tibetans whirling the prayer wheel circumvent the perimeter chanting religious verses. Inside, they stand with folded hands in front of barricaded rooms where Tibetan leaders once lived . . . Potala Palace, from where the Dalai Lama fled in 1959 as the Chinese army marched in to crush a Tibetan uprising, is today again the epicenter of a new battle.

A battle to win hearts and minds of Tibetans and dazzle them into joining China's economic boom.

Freshly painted, the palace, parts of which are 400 years old, is advertised by Chinese authorities as the biggest tourist draw.

Long before the train chugged into Lhasa on July 1, Potala was being dressed up, both Chinese and Western tourists who would be a key source of revenue.

China spent 223 million yuan ($40 mln) between 1989 to June 2002 on Potala, says Gesang.

Now Potala can barely handle the rush and visitors are limited to 2,300 per day. Tickets are sold out and tourists who aren't organised land up buying tickets in the black market for as much as 500 yuan.

The palace is open for 11 hours a day from 7.30 in the morning round the year, except for September 30, the one day kept aside for maintenance.

From a shuttered and impoverished backwater, China is on the verge of turning Lhasa into a tourist heaven and hopes that with the gradual opening of road links into India it will be on a modern Silk Route between Kolkata and Beijing.

Most of Tibet's 500-odd hotels are booked through summer as tourists pour in on the 20 flights landing in Lhasa daily.

The new train connecting Lhasa to Beijing and three other cities bring in more than a thousand daily.

All this is translating into dollar-dreams, not just for the Han Chinese who still control state levers and most businesses in Tibet, for also many Tibetans.

While Barkhor Street near Jokhang Monastery is teeming with local artisans selling Tibetan ware, multi-cuisine cafes and pubs are bustling until midnight.

Lhasa's tarred streets are jammed with SUVs and gleaming sedans, many with Tibetans at the wheel. "I came in here a few years ago and the business is good," says a Tibetan in his thirties, who migrated from Delhi.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Walking Into History in the Himalayas: The Nathu La Pass

As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald; August 22, 2006

In his youth, the old man tramped along Himalayan mountain trails carrying truck and car parts on his back.

He was a trader, a Buddhist entrepreneur who walked the high, lonely trails between Sikkim, now part of northern India, and Tibet.

He took apart old vehicles and carried them, piece by piece, into Tibet through passes that topped 4,200m.

One foot at a time, from the 1940s into the '60s, the trader earned his living in what was then a deeply isolated, impoverished mountainous land. As he walked across the top of the world, geopolitics swirled.

China took over Tibet, his family's ancestral land. India annexed the trader's homeland of Sikkim, once a Buddhist kingdom, that borders Tibet. After a border war, China and India shut their border in 1962, walling off Sikkim from Tibet.

This July, after Chinese-Indian hostilities waned, the two countries finally reopened the border.

With flags waving and soldiers decked out in ceremonial dress, the 4,330m-high Nathu La pass between the Sikkim and Tibet regions was reopened, after 44 years, to limited commercial traffic.

I wonder if the old trader was alive to see it.

When I met him years ago in a simple Sikkim restaurant, the trader was already elderly, a wizened man with eyes as milky as his tea. Between puffs on his hand-rolled cigarettes, he told of his youth, of walking for weeks bent under the weight of old Ford parts that he carried through various passes into Tibet.

He told of the Dalai Lama, of how the Tibetan Buddhist religious leader supposedly had a car disassembled and carried through the Himalayas to his palace in Lhasa (before fleeing to exile in India).

Today's cross-border traders will have it much easier.

Nathu La pass, an offshoot of the centuries-old Silk Road that linked Asia to Western Europe, has vaulted into the modern age.

A narrow two-lane road now snakes through the pass. An Internet cafe, proudly billing itself the world's highest, and an Indian bank have opened on the Sikkim side of the border.

Customs buildings have sprouted on both sides of the windswept, rugged pass.The reopening of the border between the two nations could usher in a landslide of change, including tourism, once the road is improved.

For now, however, access is tightly controlled. Nathu La is open only a few days a week and just to commercial traffic. There are strict limits on what can be traded, mostly a few dozen traditional items including silk, spices and animal skins. And the pass will close during the winter snows.

But some commentators envisage container trucks pouring between India and China, the world's two most populous nations, after the Nathu La road is improved.

Cross-border tourism could take off, too. Sikkim wants to start a bus service via the pass between its capital city of Gangtok and Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. The two cities are about 500km apart, and the route could be covered in a long day.

There's no word on when the pass will open to individual - and foreign - travellers. But adventurous tourists already head to Lhasa, drawn by the Tibetan mystique. And Sikkim entices travelers with its historic Buddhist monasteries and treks to high alpine meadows with views of 8,598m-high Kanchenjunga, the world's third-highest mountain.

Yet the opening of the border brings concerns, too.

Tibetans are struggling to keep their traditions alive as mainstream China engulfs the region.

A week before the border opened, China started a new train service between its major cities and Lhasa; some Tibetans fear the easier access by rail and road will further swamp their culture.

There are similar fears in Sikkim, where Buddhists have become a minority in recent decades.And now roads once again link the two countries.

What would the old trader think? I'd like to sit with him in a cafe again, hearing his tales over a cup of tea. He'd probably tell everyone to go take a hike.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

HH Dalai Lama: The Voice of Buddha

As reported by Manila Standard Today

By Kamilla Hemandas

I am a Buddhist monk who practices infinite compassion and I pray on a daily basis for the happiness of the entire sentient beings. I believe in the promotion of human values. I instinctively want a happy life for all the six billion humanity because we are all part of them. . If they are in difficulty, we also suffer. That is why I have committed fully and voluntarily in my concern for their well-being.”-- His Holiness the Dalai Lama


At a time when religious violence is justified by many, the Dalai Lama is admired as one of the few religious leaders who to this day stands his ground. For him, the end still does not justify the means.

At his official residence in Dharamshala in the Himalayas of India, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in an in-depth interview with CSS Latha of Society magazine, related how he has not changed his stance despite the long years of living in exile away from his native Tibet.

He is firm in his conviction that Buddhism is all about spirituality and not politics.

“Politics is the business of the human community. But if the people who carry politics are more religious-minded then their political activities would be more truthful, honest and compassionate. Practicing “Buddha dharma” or the preservation of Tibetan spirituality and culture may provide better platform for the Tibetan freedom struggle. Tibetan freedom and Tibetan Buddhism are very much related. I am a Buddhist monk and Tibetan freedom struggle is purely political. That’s why I have to consider whether I must involve myself in this or not.”

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, benevolent, humble leader of Tibetan Buddhism and Nobel Peace Prize awardee has been living in India since he fled Tibet in 1959.

For years his struggle to lead Tibet through his dynamic compassion as both its political and religious head has incurred the ire of the Chinese government.

In 1960, then Indian Prime Minister Nehru granted him and his community refuge in India after he was driven out of his domicile, the Potala Palace, during the height of communist rule in China.

Today, people from all over India come to listen to his personal teaching sessions as his views are considered “the voice of the Buddha himself.” He confides: “Deep down inside I will always consider myself a monk. I feel myself more as a religious person. Even in my daily life, I can say that I spend 80 percent of my time on spiritual activities and 20 percent on Tibet as a whole. I have no modern education in politics except for a little experience. It is a big responsibility for someone not so well-equipped “

Indeed, the Dalai Lama walks his talk.

He leads an austere, disciplined life characterized by long hours of meditation and study.

According to the Joint Secretary of his office, Chhime Chhoekyapa, “when His Holiness is in Dharamsala, he wakes up at 3:30 in the morning. After his morning shower, he begins the day with prayers, meditation and prostrations until 5 a.m. After which he takes a short morning walk around the residential premises. If it is raining, His Holiness uses a treadmill.

Breakfast is served at 5:30 a.m. For breakfast, he has hot porridge, tsampa (barley powder), bread and tea. His Holiness tunes his radio to BBC World News in English while having his breakfast. From 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., His Holiness continues his morning meditation and prayers. From around 9 a.m. till 11:30 a.m., he studies various texts written by Buddhist religious masters. 11:30 to 12:30 is lunchtime.

His Holiness kitchen in Dharamsala is vegetarian. But during visits outside of Dharamshala, he makes allowances for nonvegetarian food.

As an ordained Buddhist monk, His Holiness does not have dinner.

Should there be a need to discuss some work with his staff or hold audiences, or interviews, His Holiness visits his office from 12:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. Typically, during an afternoon at the office, one interview is scheduled along with several audiences, both Tibetan and non-Tibetan.

Upon his return to his residence, His Holiness has evening tea at 6 p.m. He then has time for his evening prayers and meditation from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. After a long 18 hour day, His Holiness retires for bed at 8:30 p.m.

Sounds like an exhausting regimen for a man in his 70s.

In the past two years the Dalai Lama has traveled to 25 nations emphasizing the basic human values of tolerance, compassion, forgiveness and sense of responsibility. “All religions speak of the same things . . . love, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness. It is the same message given in different methods and we need different methods. Seeking genuine harmony on the basis of mutual respect is the voluntary commitment I take as a Buddhist monk and will follow them till my death”.

When asked about the current plight of his fellow monks in Tibet where a few monasteries still stand, the Nobel Laureate laments, “I am very much concerned about them because their lives remain under fear. When I came to India, I was 25 years old. Today, I am over 70. So the best and most important years were spent in India where I enjoy a complete freedom.”

On the current suppressed Tibetan society who are growing restless with the oppressive way of life, “Many Tibetans particularly the younger generation who are inside Tibet, want complete separation. But according to me, Tibet is still quite backward, materialistically speaking. Therefore, as far as material development is concerned, if we remain within the purview of China, we might get greater benefit provided the Chinese government gives us a meaningful autonomy.”

The Lama is a cheerful jovial man who readily breaks into a smile. Bliss and contentment seem to permeate his personality.

Despite the tall order he faces as both the head of state and an institution that evolved 500 years ago, he remains optimistic for the future.

In another much publicized earlier interview, he has said that the next Dalai Lama would probably be born outside of Tibet if the situation of religious persecution still remains.

Meanwhile, this soldier of peace and icon of spirituality is in the lofty snow-capped Himalayas touching the hearts and minds of everyone he meets as he walks the eight fold path of the Buddha.

Pangs of Conscience at Bhagsu Falls

Anyone who spends time in Dharamsala or McLeod Ganj makes the hike up through Bhagsunag to the waterfall up the canyon.

It is a popular spot: while people go to enjoy the rough mountain scenery or swim in the pool at the waterfall's base, many wash their clothes in the cold, clear monsoon-swollen river that flows down toward the Indian plains.

Last week a boy died there.

As reported on TibetNet

Dharamsala, August 23, 2006 (TibetNet) -- "Gosh, if only we were there! That Punjabi lad could have been alive today."

The idea conjures up, every time the memory of a local Tibetan hunk, Thinley, is jogged on the grisly goings-on of last Wednesday.

The day when the scene at the exquisite waterfall near Bhagsunag, a favourite backdrop for snapshots, suddenly turned horrid at about 9:30 a.m., when a youth from Phagwara in Punjab, slipped and fell into the rivulet, right where it was over 20 feet deep.

As the force of the cascading water sank Mohit deep into the water, his fellow holidaymakers, Rohit, Adarsh and Parminder, went about making frantic calls for help.

Soon, the local police fetched rescue teams. And efforts went on, all day long, to retrieve the boy's body. Then, at about 4:30 in the evening, three local Tibetans, Torten, Thinley and Ka-thu, who frequented the swimming pool at Bhasunag, caught sight of the human melee at the waterfall."

When we reached the spot, the first thing we felt was the pangs of the wailing relatives, who don't want to leave their boy, without a descent burial," recalled Thinley.

"We felt we should do something. As all of us are quite good at swimming, we volunteered to dive."

A pell-mell rescue plan was thus chalked out. Torten was to make the first dive, with a rope tied around his waist. The other end of that rope was held by Kathup, in a standby mode, at the opposite bank, with Thinley, floating in life jacket, ready to dip into the water, at the sign of anything untoward happening.

Much of the grand strategy remained dormant, as Torten hit the spot in his very first dive.

The crowd heaved a collective sigh of relief, when he resurfaced with the victim's body, which was stuck beneath the boulders, deep inside the rivulet.

"The Deputy Superintendent of Police and the various other bigwigs, gathered at the spot, gave us a hefty pat on the shoulders," Thinley recalled.

"The most touching was the way the boy's relatives thanked us for our small effort, which we simply thought was our duty in the hours of need."

"But, I still feel," Thinley adds, "if only we were there, when the boy slipped into the rivulet, we could have saved him."

Media reports say that some two months ago, a person met the same fate at the same spot, in addition to the two similar cases, reported last year.

Still No Coke or Pepsi Products in Indian States

As reported by the Associated Press, August 23, 2006

By Rajesh Mahapatra

NEW DELHI, India -- Several Indian states on Wednesday insisted they would continue to ban the sale of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo soft drinks even though the federal Health Ministry dismissed allegations that the beverages contained pesticide residues.

Analysts said Indian authorities need to do more to end the health scare, which erupted three weeks ago, saying it could hurt India's image.

At least seven Indian states have banned sale of soft drinks made by the Indian subsidiaries of Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. at schools, colleges and government offices after the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi said the levels of pesticides in the drinks made them unsafe for humans.

The southern state of Kerala went even further, imposing a total ban and asking the two companies to shut plants there.

But Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss told Parliament on Tuesday that his ministry found the center's data flawed. He said a government-appointed committee found that the sampling method followed by the Center for Science and Environment didn't have "a scientific and statistically valid basis."

While Coca-Cola India and PepsiCo India welcomed the announcement, the CSE claimed the Indian government was trying to shield the companies.

The CSE said almost all soft drinks sold in India contain high levels of pesticides, but the focus was on Coke and Pepsi because the two account for nearly 80 percent of India's $2 billion soft drink market.

Similar allegations of pesticide contamination in drinks surfaced in India in 2003, but the government has yet to set and enforce quality standards for such products.

"The issue has been around for three years. It impacts India's image," said Rajeev Malik, a JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst based in Singapore.

Malik said the ban imposed by some of the states will unlikely have any immediate impact on foreign companies looking to invest in India and its booming economy. But "it doesn't speak well of how things are done there, and in the long term there could be some impact," he said.

Still, authorities in Kerala insisted the state's ban stands.

"Repeated studies have proved that the colas are not good for health. So we have banned them for people's welfare," said P. K. Sreemathi, Kerala's health minister. "Our decision is final ... We will enforce it strictly."

Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi have bottling plants in Kerala. Both insist their products are safe and have already challenged the ban in the state's High Court. The case is scheduled to be heard Thursday.

Authorities in three other states — Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh — said they had no plans to reverse the ban on sale of the soft drinks at schools, colleges, hospitals and government offices.

"There is no question of going back on the (ban) order," said Gujarat Health Minister Ashok Bhatt.

It was not immediately clear if the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, which also imposed a similar ban, would review their decisions.

Indian states have broad autonomy to make their own health and education policies, and they cannot be overruled by the federal government.

In Karnataka, authorities have filed a case of food adulteration against Coca-Cola India and PepsiCo, said R. Ashok, the state's health minister. Ashok said the state had conducted independent tests at its government laboratories, which supported the disclosure made by the Center for Science and Environment.

He said the federal health minister's statement on Tuesday "surprised" him.

A billboard welcoming HHDL to Mongolia on UlaanBaator street.

HHDL "Drops Bomb" on Mongolia's Monastic Community

As reported by Ulaanbaatar correspondent (and American monk) Konchog Norbu at Gandantegchenlin Monstery, the center of Mongolia’s Buddhism on on Wednesday, 23 August 2006

I see that the global media are nicely covering His Holiness’ visit to Mongolia . . . but through my being a monk . . . I can tell you what no one else can: His Holiness dropped the bomb on Mongolia’s monastic community today.

During the Communist era, Gandan was the only monastery permitted to function, though under tight scrutiny (including monastic spies) and constant interference.

The few who were allowed to serve there were constantly “encouraged” (read: just short of forcibly compelled) to marry and maintain households.

Precious few were able to resist.

And it is these “married monks” who became the teachers of the post-independence generation.

As a result, there’s this pervasive idea that “Mongolian Buddhism is different” and that it’s really not that big a deal to have a secret girlfriend, or even a wife and family, and still maintain the appearance of a monk. As far as I can tell, this idea has its roots mostly in Communist propaganda.

His Holiness exposed this thinking today to the bright glare of the Vinaya, the Buddha’s teachings on a monk’s discipline.

He began by remarking that during his 1997 visit, there were about 150 monks, but now there were hundreds more in robes. He said that the number of monks is not at all important, however, it’s the purity of their lives that matters.

In fact, if they’re not keeping their precepts, the number of monks is pointless.

Then he said it straight out: if you have girlfriends or wives or are not keeping the precepts of a monk in other ways, you should disrobe.

Do it 100% or don’t do it. Period.

Stop wearing the clothing of a monk altogether and confusing people and staining the lineage. Try to be a good lay Buddhist but stop pretending to be a monk.

Before 1990, there was some excuse. But for those who chose a monastic life after 1990, there’s no excuse.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

How an Influential Exile Defies China

As the Olympics near, Beijing is ever more concerned to check the Dalai Lama's influence

As reported in The Guardian

By Isabel Hilton

When the first cracks appeared in the concrete base and bridges of the Qinghai Tibet railway, just weeks after the carefully staged, triumphal opening on July 1 (the 85th birthday of the Chinese Communist party), they were not the only sign that all is not well with China's policies in Tibet.

The cracks seem to be the result of the unstable geology of the Tibetan plateau.

Equally worrying to Beijing, shifts in Tibetan political geology have caused cracks in the official Chinese narrative of unity and harmony between Tibet and China.

There had been sporadic unrest for several months: in November last year the monks of Drepung monastery in central Tibet staged a sit-down demonstration against "patriotic education" - the government's enforced propaganda campaign.

The demonstration was echoed in other important monasteries in the region.

Then last January, in a religious address delivered in India, the exiled Dalai Lama called on Tibetans to stop wearing wildlife skins to save animals from extinction. The results were dramatic: from Lhasa to Gansu, Tibetans gathered for public fur burnings.

Confronted with this evidence of his continuing influence, the government accused the Dalai Lama of promoting "social disorder" and responded, bizarrely, with a pro-fur campaign in which TV presenters were ordered to wear fur on air.

At the end of May, the arrival in Lhasa of a new, hardline party secretary, Zhang Qingli, signalled a renewed campaign against the Dalai Lama's influence, with a tightening control of religious practice.

Zhang announced that the Communist party was engaged in a "fight-to-the-death struggle" against the Dalai Lama.

In Lhasa the campaign took on a renewed virulence as the opening day of the railway approached.

But in mid-July, in the great monastery of Kumbum in Qinghai, people began to gather spontaneously, in unusual numbers. They had come, they explained, to wait for the Dalai Lama.

A rumour of his imminent arrival had swept the province with an extraordinary and, for the government, dismaying effect.

The Chinese government is engaged in a slow-motion exchange of views with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, but they do not anticipate his return any time soon. And from their point of view, they are right to be cautious.

If only the rumour of the return of a spiritual leader who left Tibet in 1959 can still cause thousands of devotees to gather, then decades of Chinese propaganda have failed to extirpate his influence. (The authorities watched the crowds in Kumbum grow for the best part of a week, then sent in the security forces.)

The upsurge in tension has come at a critical moment for a Chinese government anxious to project an image of harmony to chime with China's self-proclaimed "peaceful rise".

One impetus for the talks with the Tibetan government in exile is the hope that they might lower the risk of embarrassing demonstrations at the Olympic games in 2008 -- in which Beijing has made a heavy investment of cash and prestige.

But how solid is Beijing's commitment to the talks?

Reports are sketchy, though the Dalai Lama regards the process as positive.

Sceptics believe that the drawn-out nature of the exchanges signals only a slight modification of Beijing's policy of waiting for the death of the 71-year-old Dalai Lama to deprive Tibetans of a rival focus of authority.

If the talks are to have any positive outcome, both sides will have to overcome a long history of mutual suspicion. On the evidence of Beijing's continuing campaigns against the Dalai Lama and ever tighter restrictions on Tibetan religious practice, that is still a long way off.

Beijing Blocks Flights as Mongolia Welcomes HHDL

China has hit out at its neighbour for hosting the Tibetan leader, a "separatist".

As reported by Asia News, Italy

22 August, 2006; Ulaanbaatar (AsiaNews) -- Defying Chinese criticism, thousands of Mongolians welcomed the Dalai Lama, who reached their country yesterday for an eight-day visit.

Beijing has come out publicly against the decision to host him and has blocked flights to Mongolia.

The head of Tibetan Buddhism went first to Gandantegchenlin monastery, Mongolia's largest centre of Buddhism. Outside the Janraiseg temple, the largest pagoda in the monastery, he blessed the crowd hailing him.

"We need to focus on modern, current education, but not forget about our traditional ways of life," said the Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan leader dared to make a comparison between Mongolia and Tibet: "Many years ago Mongolia was much like Tibet, and the citizens of both countries were barbarians. But after education and learning, we have grown to be the states we are today."

Beijing is livid about the visit and the space given the Dalai Lama by its neighbouring state.

Today, the Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister said: "The Dalai Lama is not only a religious figure but a political exile who has long been involved in separatist activities that undermine national unity."

He added: "China is resolutely against any country offering him a platform to publicize these activities."

Today, Air China flights on the Beijing-Ulaanbaatar route were cancelled, officially because of "bad weather" although meteorological forecasts predicted good weather.

Four years ago, when the Dalai Lama visited Mongolia, China closed its borders.

The Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet that had been occupied militarily by the Chinese in 1959. He persists in calling for a sort of autonomy for Tibet although it could remain bound to China. But his proposal has been turned down by Beijing.

The head of Tibetan Buddhism arrived at the Genghis Khan airport in the Mongolian capital last night, on a flight from Japan. He was welcomed by official personalities, monks of Gandantegchenlin and representatives of the Indian embassy.

In the coming days, the Dalai Lama will hold lectures in a stadium, open to all. He will have special meetings with personnel of the monasteries and will hold some television conferences.

HH Dalai Lama Begins Visits in Mongolia

As reported by the Associated Press

By Christopher Bodeen

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia - The Dalai Lama met with worshippers in Mongolia on Tuesday, and the Chinese Embassy said it had no plans to protest his visit following assurances he wouldn't take part in political activities.

The exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader was greeted by thousands of believers and tourists at Mongolia's largest Buddhist monastery, Gandantegcheling temple, in the capital Ulan Bator.

Seated on a cushioned throne before the main temple hall of whitewashed brick, he delivered an address stressing the importance of traditional family values while worshippers strained against police lines to get closer.

"These are the values that sustain us through difficult times of change," the Dalai Lama said.

China, Mongolia's powerful neighbor to the south, considers the Dalai Lama a troublemaker bent on freeing Tibet from Beijing's rule. It had been widely expected to protest his visit.

Beijing responded to the Dalai Lama's 2002 visit to Mongolia by cutting off rail links for two days. But asked whether China was planning a new protest, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Ulan Bator referred reporters to a statement issued Monday night by the Mongolian Foreign Ministry describing the Dalai Lama's visit as a "purely religious matter and nonpolitical."

"We do not have any additional statements or comments on the issue at present," said the spokesman, who declined to give his name as is common practice among Chinese bureaucrats.
That stance appeared to indicate a wait-and-see attitude to the visit -- the seventh to Mongolia by the Dalai Lama since 1979 -- a likely result of Mongolia's efforts to keep the weeklong trip low-key.

Organizers didn't publicize the visit until last week and have kept the Dalai Lama's schedule under tight wraps. He is being housed at a secluded guest house 45 miles from the capital and much of his time here will be spent in closed meetings with local Buddhist clergy hoping to settle factional disputes.

China routinely calls on countries not to let the Dalai Lama visit, often hinting at possible diplomatic or commercial retaliation. Communist Party newspapers this month have criticized such trips as an effort to rally anti-China forces and realize Tibetan independence.

Beijing claims to have ruled Tibet for centuries, though the country was effectively independent when communist troops arrived in 1950. The Dalai Lama fled to India following an abortive 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

A recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, he travels widely as a speaker on religion and morality and a representative of Tibetan culture.

Earlier Tuesday, the Dalai Lama arrived at the temple, smiling and waving to the crowd, many of whom held up silk scarves as a sign of greeting. A group of elderly women chanted Buddhist scripture while other visitors spun prayer wheels.

The Dalai Lama then entered an inner compound where he walked up a yellow silk carpet beneath a yellow parasol amid swirling incense smoke as monks blew trumpets and crashed cymbals. Entering a prayer hall, he mounted a raised dais while bowing monks chanted, receiving food offerings and bestowing blessings.

"Every time he visits, he brings good fortune to Mongolia," said Baamba, a retiree who like many Mongolians uses just one name.

Mongolians have strong historical links to Tibet and have traditionally followed Tibet's esoteric, or Tantric, school of Buddhism. A 16th-century Mongolian king is thought to have bestowed the first Dalai Lama title -- a designation which means "Ocean of Wisdom." In 1904, the 13th Dalai Lama took refuge in Mongolia, a landlocked nation sandwiched between China and Russia, when the British invaded Lhasa, Tibet's capital.

On Wednesday, the Dalai Lama was due to lecture to a public audience in Ulan Bator's main stadium.

Indians Rush to Temples to Feed "Thirsty" Idols

"It is amazing. Lord Ganesha drank milk from my hands."

As reported by Reuters

LUCKNOW, India -- Thousands of people flocked to temples across India on Monday following reports that idols of Hindu gods were drinking milk given by devotees as sacred offerings, witnesses said.

Teenagers, adults and the aged stood in long lines with garlands and bowls of milk to feed the idols of Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna and the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha, they said.

Hundreds chanted hymns in the northern city of Lucknow and the eastern city of Kolkata and went into hysterics when the milk held against the idols disappeared.

"It is amazing, Lord Ganesha drank milk from my hands. Now he will answer all my prayers," said Surama Dasgupta, a middle-aged woman in Kolkata.

The frenzy began late on Sunday in some northern cities and soon spread across the country, including the capital New Delhi, even as rationalists and non-believers called it mass hysteria.
A similar mania gripped the country in 1995 when thousands of Hindus fed milk in spoons to marble idols of Lord Ganesha.

That rumor spread across the globe and there were reports of Hindu deities drinking milk in London, New York and Italy.

"It is very natural for any stone idol to absorb any liquid and the older the stone the more it absorbs," M.P. Singh, a geology professor at Lucknow University, told Reuters.

The "milk miracle" came days after thousands of people in the financial hub of Mumbai drank water from a murky Arabian Sea creek as they thought it had miraculously turned sweet and could cure illnesses.

But police stepped in and stopped people after Mumbai's civic officials said the water could have temporarily lost its salinity due to pollution and inflow of freshwater from a nearby source.

China Warns Mongolia Over HHDL Visit

As reported 8.22.06 by Agence France-Presse

BEIJING -- China warned again Tuesday it was opposed to any country offering the Dalai Lama a political stage, after the Tibetan spiritual leader began his seventh visit to neighboring Mongolia.

"The Dalai Lama is not merely a religious figure, but a political exile that over a lengthy period has engaged in splittist activities and hurt national unity," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"China is resolutely opposed to any country offering him a stage to engage in the above-mentioned activities," it said.

The faxed statement to Agence France-Presse was in response to a request for comment on the Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia, which began late on Monday and is expected to last a week.

Mongolia's biggest monastery, Gandantegcheling, which is officially hosting the Buddhist leader, said he would give several lectures and make public appearances during his week-long visit, including one at a sports stadium.

But in a sign of the sensitive nature of the trip and its potential to impact on Mongolia-China ties, the monastery did not give details on whether the Dalai Lama would meet with government officials.

Beijing has ruled Tibet since 1951 and opposes any countries receiving the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 amid a failed uprising crushed by the Chinese military.

Despite the Dalai Lama insisting he only wants limited autonomy for his homeland under Chinese rule, China considers him a politician bent on independence for Tibet.

In 2002, the last time the Dalai Lama visited Mongolia, China showed its anger by blocking trains at the border and warning Mongolian officials not to meet with him.

The Mongolian government was avoiding appearing as the organizer of this week's visit, with all press inquiries and journalist accreditations handled by the monastery.

Monday, August 21, 2006

After 42 Years, HHDL's Sister Retires as TCV Head; To Oversee Building of Tibetan College in Bangalore

As reported by the Indo Asian News Service

Dharamsala, Aug 20, 2006 -- Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama's younger sister Jetsun Pema has retired as the president of a chain of schools run by them for Tibetan children in India.

Tsewang Yeshi, who served as the executive director of the Tibetan Children's Village (TCV) Schools, has succeeded Pema.

Though she may have officially stepped down last week, Pema has vowed to contribute in whatever way she can to the education of Tibetan children. 'My retirement doesn't mean I will just sit back and say mantras (prayer chantings).'

She will, in particular, oversee the construction of a Tibetan college being built in Bangalore at the cost of $10 million.

She said a Tibetan college has long been needed to educate the youth in an environment where they can learn and retain their 'Tibetan-ness'.

Pema took charge of the administration of the TCV schools in June 1964 at the behest of the Dalai Lama. She has since then been a motherly figure for thousands of orphaned Tibetan children.

Pema's hardest times at the school were in the early days when it was difficult to accommodate the growing number of destitute Tibetan children and there was very little food to feed them.

'My greatest times are when our students fare well in the national level exams,' she remarked.

TCV looks after the well-being of more than 15,000 children and youths and has an over 1,200-member strong staff. Apart from schools, TCV also runs vocational training centres, youth hostels, old people's homes and day care centres.

Pema has served in various capacities in the exiled Tibetan society as a youth and women's leader. She also held the position of education minister in the Tibetan government-in-exile.

In 1995, the exiled Tibetan parliament awarded her the title "Mother of Tibet" in recognition of her dedication and service to Tibetan children. She wrote her autobiography "Tibet: My Story", which was published in 1996.

Pema also dabbled in acting and played the role of the great mother in Jean-Jacques Annaud's Brad Pitt-starrer "Seven Years in Tibet". The film was an account of Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer who set out to climb the Nanga Parbat in the Indian Himalayas in 1939.

Born in Tibetan capital Lhasa on July 7, 1940, Pema came to India in 1950 and studied first at St. Joseph's Convent in Kalimpong and later at the Loretto Convent in Darjeeling (both in West Bengal) from where she completed her Senior Cambridge in 1960.

She later studied in Switzerland and pursued higher studies in Britain.

Mongolia to Welcome HHDL's "Secret" Visit

As reported by the Associated Press

Monday, August 21, 2006

ULAAN BAATOR, Mongolia (AP) -- Mongolian Buddhists today prepared for a visit by the Dalai Lama, defying possible retaliation by China, which accuses the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader of being a separatist rebel.

The Dalai Lama was expected to arrive Monday on his first trip to this predominantly Buddhist nation since 2002.

Travel details weren't released, in an apparent effort to thwart potential Chinese efforts to persuade other governments to block his trip.

During the 2002 visit, Beijing blocked railway traffic from Mongolia for two days, disrupting copper exports, in apparent retaliation after Ulan Bator allowed the trip to proceed despite Chinese protests.

This week, the Dalai Lama was to be a guest of Mongolia's largest monastery, Gandantegcheling, where monks touched up painting over the weekend in preparation for his arrival.

The main road from the airport into Ulan Bator, the Mongolian capital, was decorated with dozens of posters bearing the Dalai Lama's image and slogans wishing him long life.

The Dalai Lama was expected to hold a series of lectures for the public and Buddhist clergy and is to stay at a government guesthouse outside the capital.

It wasn't clear whether Mongolia's president, Nambaryn Enkhbayar, a practicing Buddhist, would meet him.

Mongolians say they regard the Dalai Lama as a voice for morality and his visit as an affirmation of their country's newfound freedoms, 16 years after the end of one-party communist rule."I'm glad the Dalai Lama is coming to Mongolia despite China's displeasure," said Batkhuu, a 46-year-old high school teacher. (Like many Mongolians, he uses only one name.)

The Dalai Lama travels widely as a religious leader and representative of Tibetan culture. He fled into exile in India in 1959 during a failed uprising against communist rule. Beijing says the Himalayan region has been Chinese territory for centuries, but the area was effectively independent when communist troops arrived in 1950.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of agitating for independence and presses governments not to let him travel.

In 2002, Russia and South Korea refused the Dalai Lama transit visas, apparently under Chinese pressure. He reached Mongolia by traveling through Japan.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

In Today's Lhasa: Dalai Who?

As reported on NDTV (New Delhi Television LImited)

By Nitin Gokhale

Sunday, August 20, 2006 (Lhasa) -- In Lhasa, Tibet's most famous icon is persona non grata. But officially, the Dalai Lama does not exist there.

Ever since he was forced to flee Tibet in 1959, the Chinese government has done everything possible to obliterate his presence.

Each day tourists flock to the 13-storey Potala Palace, Tibet's most recognisable landmark.But at the Dalai Lama's former winter headquarters they learn little about the man or his government in exile.

The Potala Palace is in fact so popular that the curator has had to put a daily ceiling of 2,300 visitors, to ensure the largely clay and wood structure does not crumble under the weight of eager tourists.

But the otherwise reasonable rulers of the Tibetan Autonomous Region go ballistic at the very mention of the Dalai Lama.

The deputy chief administrator insists there is no support for the Dalai Lama in Tibet."I would like to make two points, one is, that the Dalai Lama has no or very little popularity in Tibet. Secondly since his fleeing overseas, the Dalai Lama has not done anything for the well-being of the Tibetan people," said Hao Peng, Deputy Chief Administrator, TAR.Local support

But out on the streets, it's clear that ordinary Tibetans have neither forgotten nor given up on the Dalai Lama.

At Lhasa's famous Barkhor street, most vendors are eager to talk as soon as they realise the NDTV team was from India. But on camera, they were rather candid.

NDTV: How is it here for the Tibetans?

Karma, a vendor: The Chinese are terrible people. They run the big business. We are all marginalised. I will be in trouble if they see me talking to you.

NDTV: What about Tibet's development? Doesn't it help the ordinary Tibetans?

Karma: No, all benefits are taken by the Chinese. We are nowhere.

The vendor took a great risk in talking to NDTV but his feelings mirror those of very many Tibetans who spoke off camera.

Beijing has brought many changes to Lhasa's skyline -- tall buildings, swanky shopping malls, wide streets -- all the trappings of a modern city but at heart it pines for its most famous son, the Dalai Lama.

Today, the place where the Dalai Lama used to live in winters before he fled Lhasa, is a must see place for every tourist who comes to Tibet, but there are no memories of the Dalai Lama there.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Canuck Students, HHDL to Discuss Kindness

Reported in the Vancouver Sun; August 18, 2006

Nine teenagers to share Vancouver's Orpheum stage with Tibetan leader Sept. 8

By Nicholas Read

Nine high school students will receive a first-hand lesson in empathy and compassion next month when they share centre-stage with the Dalai Lama at a special gathering at the Orpheum Theatre.

The students, who range in age from 13 to 17 and represent school districts throughout Greater Vancouver, will get a chance to speak personally with the Tibetan spiritual leader in front of 1,500 of their peers.

There will be no adults on stage with them except the Dalai Lama and his interpreter during the Sept. 8 meeting.

Two of the students -- Stephen Boles, 15, from Pinetree secondary school in Coquitlam and Angali Appadurai, 16, from Gleneagles secondary school in Coquitlam -- will act as emcees, while the rest will pose questions and help moderate a theatre-wide discussion.

Next month's visit will be the second time in three years that the Dalai Lama has been in Vancouver. This visit, scheduled for Sept. 8 to 10, coincides with the inauguration of the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education, a non-political, non-religious cultural institution scheduled to be built in downtown Vancouver at a site not yet determined.

The idea for the student gathering -- which will focus on the importance of compassion and kindness -- is called Nurturing Compassion. It was conceived last spring by educators who wanted to debunk the notion that teenagers are a selfish, self-centred lot.

"Most are not like that," said University of B.C. education professor Kim Schonert-Reichl. "They are compassionate and kind. This is an opportunity to listen to what they have to say.

"Also, what we know from research is that kids don't learn from an adult lecturing to them. It's only through peer dialogue that they learn. It's only when they have the opportunity to hear each other that they can move forward and reach higher levels of understanding."

In addition to Boles and Appadurai, the students are: Lucy Wang, 17, from Point Grey secondary school in Vancouver; Kit Sauder, 17, from Earl Marriott secondary school in Surrey; Vinny Locsin, 17, from St. George's secondary school in Vancouver; Irene Hong, 16, from West Vancouver secondary school; Angela Tsui, 17, from Richmond secondary school; Bennett Chung, 13, from Burnaby Central secondary school; and Janny Gao, 17, from New Westminster secondary school.

The nine were chosen from among hundreds of students around the Lower Mainland, based on essays they wrote about their own experiences with kindness and compassion.

Some of their stories will be told on stage Sept. 8.

The event will also be shown via a Vancouver school board webcast, Schonert-Reichl said.

Boles, who has spent several weeks of his summer holiday working on and rehearsing an emcee script, said he was surprised and honoured to be chosen for the job, even though he had only a vague idea of who the Dalai Lama was when the essay contest was launched.

"I knew he stood for peace and compassion, and was a leader of the Buddhist religion, but that was pretty much it," Boles said Thursday.

He also says he isn't nervous -- yet.

"But as the time gets closer, I'll get more butterflies in my stomach," he said.

Asked if his schoolmates might think it's nerdish of him to want to meet the Dalai Lama, Boles, who wrote his essay about getting to know someone with autism, said no.

"Cool's maybe not the right word to use about it, but people are amazed by him and what he stands for," he replied. "So I guess you could say it is cool."

Boles said he and Appadurai have been told to have fun with their script, but not to be too silly.

"It's not supposed to be teenager fun -- goofball fun. It's supposed to be serious fun," he said. "We're not supposed to be uptight, but we can have fun."