“It was the year when George HW Bush took a stance against China’s repressive religious policy after he became the first-ever US President to receive the Dalai Lama officially at the White House.”
In my analysis, the time has come to share an old Tibet story. I am happy to tell about the meeting between His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the US President George Herbert Walker Bush in the White House.
A New start: China certainly requires India’s support to resolve the issue in its favour. Perhaps, the Wuhan meet was just about that!
At a recent academic presentation at Tibetology Research Centre, Beijing, Chinese experts on Tibet said when Deng Xiaoping was seeking an accommodation in Tibet in the 1980s, the Dalai Lama was exploring other options in the West to play mischief against China. On his part, Tibet expert Xiaobin Wang claimed that the most belligerent attempt at confronting China came from the Dalai Lama immediately after the dramatic collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It was the year when George HW Bush took a stance against China’s repressive religious policy after he became the first-ever US President to receive the Dalai Lama officially at the White House.
The Tibetan spiritual leader was perhaps prompted to believe that the mightiest of empires could be pulled down by shared power of religion. Whether or not such assessments are accurate, there was no doubting the Dalai Lama’s optimism about a Soviet spinoff effect to either opt for a ‘political process’ or face ‘bloody political struggles’ as he also decided to drop the dialogue path.
The US Tibet Policy Act Bill (2001) and Congressional gold medal to the Dalai Lama (2007) ensued worst riots across the plateau in 2008.
Wang insinuated how the West fostered the Dalai Lama to become a potent force and an icon of resistance against China to wage a psychic war against the Communist regime. China’s vitriol against the Dalai Lama as an ‘evil separatist’ never stopped until Xi Jinping came to power in 2013. But the dialogue interrupted in 2010 has never been resumed.
Tibet’s history and polity is rooted in China’s ritualistic order that can’t be changed, Wang asserted. The confusion arose after the British Empire (through eight key conventions between 1876 and 1914) tried to alter Tibet’s status, from a territory of China to a de facto independent nation.
The Dalai Lama’s ‘middle way’ policy is an attempt at regaining a ‘suzerainty’ status like ‘trying to change the liquid, but not the drug’, the Chinese said.
The briefing was a part of the rare trip to Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture organised by China’s foreign ministry to showcase China’s achievements in Tibet. Ganzi (thrice the size of Punjab) proved its economic vitality: the middle class population here drew income from hydropower, geothermal, mining and tourism. The world’s largest methyl card lithium ore reserve is found here. Its agro-products directly go to Hong Kong, to cite few examples.
One could feel the churning — ethnic Chinese own shops everywhere. Tibetans are moving towards Chengdu to buy properties. Most Tibetans were discreet in making political comments. A lama in Xiede town said Xi was revered as lingxiu (wise man) and people are ‘very respectful of Xi’.
Asked discreetly why they were not inviting the Dalai Lama back, the reply invariably was ‘why should we invite him, he left the country by himself!’ Any prospect of his return would be resisted by the power elite network; people are more interested in better living than risking uncertainty, an official said.
Obviously, China still suspects the Dalai Lama’s covert intention to split Tibet from China. It is wary of his ‘disruptive potentials’. It is not ready to risk the chaos ensuing upon his arrival. ‘Tibet is an outlying region and its vulnerabilities could be exploited by anti-China forces,’ noted an official in Khanding.
Yet, I felt, he is still revered as a ‘god-king’ by Tibetan folks, though this question was met with polite reticence by local Tibetan officials. Nobody I spoke to in Ganzi and Beijing thought reconciliation is coming anytime soon. No radical policy change is visible though more and more ordinary Chinese are seemingly getting drawn towards Tibetan Buddhism. I was amazed by the area’s development and natural beauty. But as for the political takeaways, a bit of self-censorship in observation is needed, not only to avoid blocking access by China, but also to be careful to not hurt Tibetan sentiments about narrating China’s ‘Tibet story’.
On the downside, despite China’s high development achievements, some unsettling elements could be felt. The situation concealed as much as it revealed. I could understand the Tibetan obsession for an epistemological and metaphysical-driven life, but failed to figure out why, as practitioners of the most erudite Buddhist philosophy like the Indians, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese and others, they fail in adopting the transformative changes.
Perhaps, the greatest challenge before the younger Tibetan masters should include: firstly, to recognise the hard geopolitical reality; secondly, to employ their brand of Buddhism as a bridge to find a common ground; and thirdly, to catalyse Buddhism for bringing about a transformative change in Tibet.
After all, Asian societies have succeeded in spurring an enduring socio-economic change this way.
As for India, the Tibet issue seems no longer a crucial sticking point in its relationship with China. But, China definitely requires India’s support if the issue is to be resolved in its favour. Probably, the Wuhan process was just about that!
The visit has given rise to the idea that it is now time for India to normalise its traditional trade and cultural ties with Tibet that should include reopening of an Indian Consulate in Lhasa. Equally apt to find ways to send high Tibetan lamas back to Tibet if the fruits of investments made by India on them for such a long time are to be reaped fully.
THE LIVING TIBETAN SPIRITS MAKE A DREAM TRIP TO MOUNT EVEREST
As my miserable mortal life journey crawls towards its end without giving me any clue about my destination, I can only afford to make a dream trip to Mount Everest. I give my thanks to photographer Bruce Connolly and ChinaDaily.com.Cn for sharing with me the story about ‘A Road Trip Across Tibet to Mount Everest’. In my analysis, Mount Everest or Qomolangma is my mighty witness testifying in support of true Tibetan Identity. Mount Everest proclaims that Tibet is never a part of China.
Lhasa – the start of the road trip in 2000. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
In 2000, Lhasa was a different city in many ways, compared to what it is today. High on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, it was much more isolated back then. Its airport, a roughly 90-minute drive from downtown, was at that time the only one operating across all of Tibet. In earlier years, flying into Lhasa had been restricted to early morning flights from Chengdu in Sichuan. By 2000, however, it was well-served by modern, powerful jet aircraft capable of landings and takeoffs at high altitudes, able to cope with occasionally difficult afternoon weather conditions. In recent years several new airports have also opened across Tibet.
Despite the advances in aviation technology, flying into Tibet was expensive. Before the completion of the Tibet railway in 2006, roads were the only feasible option for most freight and passenger traffic. It amazed me during my time in Lhasa how so much that made my stay both pleasant and comfortable must surely have come up to the city by road. Two main highways served Lhasa at the time. From Golmud to Xining, Highway G109 was a long, lonely journey through an empty upland plateau. The other route, Highway G318, runs 5,476 kilometers from Shanghai’s People’s Square, via Sichuan and southeastern Tibet ultimately to Zhangmu, the border crossing with Nepal. I would leave Lhasa along G318 on a road trip initially to the base of Qomolangma, known in the West as Mount Everest.
I noticed several oxygen bags loaded into what was a comfortable but strong SUV. Lhasa was modern and well-planned, but outside the city, infrastructure such as road quality was quite variable. The physical terrain often proved very challenging for highway construction, even between Lhasa and Xigaze, Tibet’s second city. Geologically, much of the area is still active. Landslides remained a danger during the rainy season.
Highway 318 at Tingri. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Initially, my departure from Lhasa along G318 followed the road that had brought me a few days earlier from the airport. Nearing the Yarlung Tsangpo Bridge, we turned right for Xigaze. Initially, the route followed a wide valley and the river braided into many channels, with sweeping views toward glacial mountain peaks and ridges. Villages sat near intensively cultivated, irrigated farmland. Then it started narrowing, with scenery becoming increasingly breathtaking. Settlements perched on any patches of level terrain available.
The road started along a ledge cut below almost vertical cliffs. High gullies were filled with long fingers of snow. Below the road, sheer drops reached the river that appeared to be cascading around huge rocks. Workers tirelessly cleared fallen boulders from roadside ditches. Flocks of sheep and goats also shared the road space, with drivers carefully edging past. Gradually the valley widened, and the river slowed, allowing flat-bottomed ferry boats to carry villagers across. Both road width and quality improved. Where bridges spanned river junctions, small restaurants and shops had opened, providing supplies for travelers. At intervals, pack horses gathered beside narrow trails leading to seemingly inaccessible villages.
Eventually, the valley really did widen and the waters calmed, becoming almost lake-like. A tugboat pulled a pontoon carrying vehicles across to the far shore. Some of the landscape appeared as a small sandy desert with protective trees planted along the highway. I noticed poles being erected to carry electricity to some villages while concrete-lined aqueducts helped irrigate reclaimed land for arable farming.
Rounding a bend, I saw a concentration of modern buildings, some even medium-rise. We arrived at Xigaze, at an altitude of 3,836 meters, the highest city I had ever reached. Since that 2000 road trip, travel to and from Xigaze has greatly improved. Not only has the road been upgraded but the railway has been extended from Lhasa and a modern airport opened. Partly in response to such infrastructure investments, tourism has grown significantly, not just to Xigaze but across much of Tibet.
I stayed at the Xigaze-Shandong Hotel, which then was the city’s tallest building. I discovered at that time a certain arrangement existed, where the more developed parts of China were paired up with areas of Tibet to assist in regional assistance programs such as infrastructure projects. Xigaze had relationships with Shanghai and Shandong, Lhasa with Beijing, and so on.
It was an unexpected joy to find excellent accommodation in what in theory was then a remote location. After a spicy Sichuan-style lunch in the hotel, I spent the afternoon visiting Tashilhunpo Monastery. Founded in 1447, it was the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama — Panchen meaning “great scholar”, the title bestowed on the abbots of Tashilhunpo.
I was spellbound by the magnificence of the monastery as I walked through its halls illuminated by trays of butter lamps. One chapel was home to a 26-meter-high copper image of the Maitreya, or Buddha of the future. Around the walls were around 1,000 gold paintings of the Maitreya.
Within an assembly hall dating from the 15th century, chanting monks sat on carpets while above them long thangka images and colored scarves hung from the ceiling. A large throne in the middle was where the Panchen Lamas once sat.
A doorway within Tashilhunpo Monastery Xigaze. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
I wandered the alleys between prayer halls crowded by people chanting, prostrating themselves, walking clockwise along balconies or spinning personal prayer wheels. Some, along with young monks, scooped up chunks of butter from large bowls and smeared it into lamp bowls. The butter produced a distinctive aroma that seemed to permeate everywhere. Above the monastery’s perimeter wall, people quietly followed the Tashilhunpo Kora (pilgrimage).
That evening I tried writing in my diary but found it a challenge because I had experienced so much throughout the day. I did realize that this hotel would offer the last comfortable bed for the next few days, as there were no more cities ahead on this route, with only small trading towns and to look forward to.
Leaving Xigaze early next morning, I saw many people already walking around the monastery. The road was initially unpaved, passing many exposed multicolored rock formations that stood as a testament to the massive tectonic movements that had uplifted the area’s geology. The land became increasingly dry with small patches of cultivation, mostly barley and potatoes, where water could be sourced. Occasionally someone on horseback would tend herds of black-coated yaks.
Villages. Photo by Bruce Connolly/ChinaDaily.com.Cn
The road would climb up and over several passes usually crowned with prayer flags, such as the 4,500-meter-high Tso-La Pass and the 4,950 meter-high Yulang-La Pass. The visibility was so clear, giving excellent views of distant peaks. At one point I saw the heavy walls of what had been a fort guarding a pass. Descending, lower areas would have limited cultivation, although I did observe groups of farmers scattering seed potatoes onto plowed soil. Ponies pulled wooden carts along the farmers.
Along G318 there also was a regular procession of blue trucks laden with goods, for this road was also the main lifeline to western Tibet.
Some 150 kilometers from Xigaze is Lhaze, a small county whose main street had many small restaurants with name boards in English such as “Chengdu Restaurant”, for it was where G318 to the Nepalese border splits from the highway to western Tibet. Apparently, travelers heading up toward Mount Everest maybe would stay one or two nights, for it was the last real town on the route.
Rongphu Monastery at 5030 meters. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
The road climbed again up a narrow valley where herders would camp while tending their yaks. This led up to Gyatso-La Pass, at an altitude of 5,220 meters, one of the highest along the route. Stopping briefly, I thought it was amazing how people gathered around, yet there was no sign of any habitation. The landscape felt like arctic tundra vegetation, and beyond it, I could finally see the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas. However, clouds were building up over those peaks for the monsoon would soon push up from the Indian sub-continent. In this area, the road was not surfaced and it was a constant struggle for work crews to keep it open.
When we reached distance marker 5,115, a sign declared we were entering the Mount Everest Protection Area. Scattered trees indicated the approach toward a small village, Tingri, where the main road turned off to Shegar. Notices proclaiming “guesthouse” and restaurant adorned building exteriors signaled the area was used to visitors. I had lunch in a restaurant that amazingly had television, hi-fi, and a fridge! Boys tried to sell fossils dug up locally while people gathered for onward transport by truck or bus.
Soon after the village was the 63-kilometer route leading up to Mount Everest. As we drove gradually higher, I was enthralled with the geology exposed everywhere, often showing bedding planes of the rocks tilted vertically. That gravel road gradually climbed up through a wide valley with an increasing sensation of being on the roof of the world as we reached the 5,120-meter-high summit of Pang-La Pass. Beyond it lay one of the most spectacular views in the world. Along the horizon stood the glacial peaks of the Himalayas, with Mount Everest, or Qomolangma, at the center. It was so stunning I could easily have stayed there all day.
A wide section of Yarlung Tsangpo near Xigaze. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
From the summit, the road descended through a moon-like landscape reaching a small agricultural village, Tashi Dzom. Notices again in English advertised accommodation and dining. Turning right into a broad valley, we encountered a river spreading over a wide terrain of gravel and stones, which was actually meltwater draining off the northern slopes of Mount Everest. Jeeps carrying tourists descended as we headed higher, passing Chodzom, possibly the world’s highest village, again offering a hotel built in a local Tibetan style. The route went up through boulder fields, the descending river now milky white as it carried so much gravel and crushed stones. At an altitude of 5,030 meters sat Rongphu Monastery, the last inhabited building before the base of Mount Everest. I would stay there overnight, but first, the last section of the road had to be skillfully accomplished.
The going was extremely rough, bumping over many rocks and glacial debris while driving through streams. Great mounds of stones and silt had been carried down and deposited by the Rongphu Glacier. Reaching the road’s end, I found myself lacking the energy to manage anything beyond a slow walk up a gravelly hill. There was no vegetation on this stark landscape, but it was very inspiring. My only disappointment was that Everest was wrapped in clouds. It was windy and felt very cold.
Across the high, arctic, plateau lands. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
I returned to the guesthouse for a simple meal of egg fried rice and pot noodles, and went to bed, trying to sleep, an almost impossible task. This proved fortuitous. As dawn was breaking I went outside for a glimpse of the grandeur of Mount Everest exposed before me. I sat on a rock trying to take it all in, the world’s highest peak. At last, I had arrived at this breathtaking vista, which I had seen so many times in books from years back. Within 30 minutes the clouds once again enveloped it!
I enjoyed a simple breakfast, and then weathered a bumpy descent as villages such as Chodzom were waking up. I watched people heading out to the fields, some by horseback, and children going to school.
Back over the Pang-La Pass, with its many prayer flags, it felt like time for a memorable look back toward Mount Everest, sadly almost obscured by clouds. Soon we returned back to the G318, stopping for lunch at Tingri before arriving in Xigaze once again. I had accomplished an incredible journey, thanks in part to the amazing skills of my Tibetan driver.
Amazing colors of the land alongside the highway. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Dawn over Mount Everest – thirty minutes later it clouded over. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
End of the road to Everest. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Glacial meltwater river from Mount Everest. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Groups of monks at Tashilhunpo Monastery Xigaze. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn ]
Highway 318 to Xigaze along Yarlung Tsangpo River. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Incredible geological formations alongside road up to Pang-la Pass. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Pang-la Pass 5120 meters. Looking towards the Himalayan foothills. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Prayer flags on high passes along the highway. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Rough driving on G318 and a former fort above the road. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Villages along the road to Everest. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
Villages and a mill where there was water. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]
NOVEMBER 14, 1962 – FIRST PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA SHARES HIS BIRTH DATE WITH SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE
On Wednesday, November 14, 2018, I pay my respectful tributes to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. On November 14, 1962, he shared his birth date with Special Frontier Force without hosting any public ceremony.
Jawaharlal Nehru was born to Motilal Nehru and Swaruprani Thussu on November 14, 1889, in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. His birthday is celebrated as Children’s Day. Jawaharlal Nehru remained in office (as prime minister) until his death in 1964.
November 14, Jawaharlal Nehru’s birth anniversary, is celebrated as Children’s Day in India
President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday paid tributes to India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru on his 129th birth anniversary.
Jawaharlal Nehru was born to Motilal Nehru and Swaruprani Thussu on November 14, 1889, in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. His birthday is celebrated as Children’s Day. Jawaharlal Nehru remained in office (as prime minister) until his death in 1964.
Former president Pranab Mukherjee, former vice president Hamid Ansari, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, and Sonia Gandhi paid their respects to Jawaharlal Nehru at Shantivan.
“Remembering Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, our first Prime Minister, on his birth anniversary,” read a post on the official Twitter handle of the President Kovind.
PM Modi recalled Jawaharlal Nehru’s contribution to India’s freedom struggle and during his tenure as prime minister. “Remembering our first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on his birth anniversary. We recall his contribution to our freedom struggle and during his tenure as Prime Minister,” he tweeted.
Balloons in the colors of the Indian flag were released amid playing of bands and singing of patriotic songs by school children at Jawaharlal Nehru’s memorial Shantivan.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan led parliamentarians in paying tributes to the first prime minister at the Central Hall of Parliament.
Besides Ms. Mahajan, senior leaders LK Advani, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge, Union minister Vijay Goel, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda among others paid homage to Jawaharlal Nehru.
NOVEMBER 11, 2018 – HONORING THE VETERANS OF SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE
Veteran’s Day is a tribute to military veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Originating in 1919 when President Woodrow Wilson marked a year since the end of the First World War, the day coincides with other days of remembrance around the world including Armistice Day in the United Kingdom and Remembrance Day across the Commonwealth of Nations. Not to be confused with Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in service, Veterans Day honors all military veterans, including the living.
On Sunday, November 11, 2018, I honor the veterans of Special Frontier Force while Tibet, India, and the United States remain silent about the contributions of the living and the dead veterans of Special Frontier Force in support of Freedom.
In my analysis, the military veterans of Special Frontier Force serve the United States for they use the military weapons and military supplies provided by the United States. A soldier is always identified by the military weapon that he uses in his fight against the enemy.
Many Americans mistakenly believe that Veterans Day is the day America sets aside to honor American military personnel who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained from combat. That’s not true. Memorial Day is the day set aside to honor America’s war dead.
Veterans Day, on the other hand, honors ALL American veterans, both living and dead. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for dedicated and loyal service to their country. November 11 of each year is the day that we ensure veterans know that we deeply appreciate the sacrifices they have made in the lives to keep our country free.
To commemorate the ending of the “Great War” (World War I), an “unknown soldier” was buried in the highest place of honor in both England and France (in England, Westminster Abbey; in France, the Arc de Triomphe). These ceremonies took place on November 11th, celebrating the ending of World War I hostilities at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). This day became known internationally as “Armistice Day”.
In 1921, the United States of America followed France and England by laying to rest the remains of a World War I American soldier — his name “known but to God” — on a Virginia hillside overlooking the city of Washington DC and the Potomac River. This site became known as the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” and today is called the “Tomb of the Unknowns.” Located in Arlington National Cemetery, the tomb symbolizes dignity and reverence for the American veteran.
In America, November 11th officially became known as Armistice Day through an act of Congress in 1926. It wasn’t until 12 years later through a similar act that Armistice Day became a national holiday.
The entire World thought that World War I was the “War to end all wars.” Had this been true, the holiday might still be called Armistice Day today. That dream was shattered in 1939 when World War II broke out in Europe. More than 400,000 American service members died during that horrific war.
Veterans Day Creation
In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day and called upon Americans everywhere to rededicate themselves to the cause of peace. He issued a Presidential Order directing the head of the Veterans Administration (now called the Department of Veterans Affairs) to form a Veterans Day National Committee to organize and oversee the national observance of Veterans Day.
Veterans Day National Ceremony
At exactly 11 a.m., each November 11th, a color guard, made up of members from each of the military branches, renders honors to America’s war dead during a heart-moving ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.
The President or his representative places a wreath at the Tomb and a bugler sounds Taps. The balance of the ceremony, including a “Parade of Flags” by numerous veterans service organizations, takes place inside the Memorial Amphitheater, adjacent to the Tomb.
In addition to planning and coordinating the National Veterans Day Ceremony, the Veterans Day National Committee supports a number of Veterans Day Regional Sites. These sites conduct Veterans Day celebrations that provide excellent examples for other communities to follow.
Veterans Day Observance
Veterans Day is always observed on November 11, regardless of the day of the week on which it falls. The Veterans Day National Ceremony is always held on Veterans Day itself, even if the holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday. However, like all other federal holidays, when it falls on a non-workday — Saturday or Sunday — the federal government employees take the day off on Monday (if the holiday falls on Sunday) or Friday (if the holiday falls on Saturday).
This federal law does not apply to state and local governments. They are free to determine local government closings (including school closings) locally. As such, there is no legal requirement that schools close on Veterans Day, and many do not. However, most schools hold Veterans Day activities on Veterans Day and throughout the week of the holiday to honor American veterans.
Allied Veterans Day Around the World
Many other countries honor their veterans on November 11th of each year. However, the name of the holiday and the types of ceremonies differ from the Veterans Day activities in the United States.
Canada, Australia, and Great Britain refer to their holidays as “Remembrance Day.” Canada and Australia observe the day on November 11, and Great Britain conducts their ceremonies on the Sunday nearest to November 11th.
In Canada, the observance of “Remembrance Day” is actually quite similar to the United States in that the day is set aside to honor all of Canada’s veterans, both living and dead. One notable difference is that many Canadians wear a red poppy flower on November 11 to honor their war dead, while the “red poppy” tradition is observed in the United States on Memorial Day.
In Australia, “Remembrance Day” is very much like America’s Memorial Day, in that it’s considered a day to honor Australian veterans who died in the war.
In Great Britain, the day is commemorated by church services and parades of ex-service members in Whitehall, a wide ceremonial avenue leading from London’s Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square. Wreaths of poppies are left at the Cenotaph, a war memorial in Whitehall, which was built after the First World War. At the Cenotaph and elsewhere in the country, a two-minute silence is observed at 11 a.m., to honor those who lost their lives in wars.
PRAYERS FOR THE DAWN OF FREEDOM AT THE GRAND SEAT OF THE SUN
“Nyingchi” means “the Grand Seat of the Sun” in the language of Tibetan. It is noted for its green mountains and clear water. The Himalaya and Tangula Mountains wind their ways from west to east like two colossal dragons and join the Henduan Mountains in the east. The city of Nyingchi, lying in the southeast of Tibet, is in the embrace of these three mountain ranges. Nyingchi is also called “the Switzerland of Tibet” and “the Jiangnan of Tibet” (Jiangnan means the fertile and prosperous area in the south of the Yangtze.)
The primitive forest of Nyingchi is well preserved in which one can easily find the upright ancient plateau Tibetan cypress, the Himalaya cold cedar, the “living plant fossil”- the tree bracken and a vast variety of azaleas. Nyingchi is therefore entitled “the Natural Museum and “the Natural Gene Pool”. The area around the Buqun Lake is deemed to be the place where the wild man was living.
I am offering my prayers for the dawn of freedom at ‘The Grand Seat of the Sun’.
SEPTEMBER 08, 2018 – INTERNATIONAL LITERACY DAY TRIBUTE TO THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA
On Saturday, September 08, 2018, International Literacy Day, I pay my tribute to the Seventeen Great Masters of Nalanda Buddhist Monastery. I invite my readers to know about these great teachers and their contributions to the Literacy Traditions of Humanity.
International Literacy Day is a holiday which is celebrated annually on September 8th. The purpose of this day is to raise the world’s awareness of literacy issues that are faced by people all over the world and to endorse campaigns that help increase literacy for all people. It was originally established by UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization – in 1965.
To combat worldwide issues of illiteracy, UNESCO proclaimed September 8th as International Literacy Day in 1965. The purpose of this observational day was not only to combat illiteracy but also to promote literacy as a tool that could empower individuals as well as whole communities. It is from these humble beginnings that International Literacy Day has bloomed into a tool that could help millions of people around the globe.
As of 2016, about 775 million adults lack even the most basic, minimum literacy skills all over the world. This means that about 1 in 5 adults in the world – or about 20 % of all people – are not literate. Of that 20%, about 66% of those are women. About 75 million of the world’s children are not in school or have dropped out before they have finished. However, thanks to the efforts of UNESCO & World Literacy Day, more and more people are becoming literate and about 4 billion people are currently literate, as of now.
International Literacy Day Customs & Traditions
Every year, UNESCO issues a theme for the celebration of International Literacy Day. For instance, in 2011, the theme was “Literacy & Peace,” in 2013, the theme was “Literacy for the 21st Century” and in 2015, the theme was “Literacy and Sustainable Societies.”
UNESCO and its partners use these themes to highlight the programs which it and its partners use to tackle various parts of the literacy issues in the world. As a result of some of these programs, attention is often raised in the media about literacy issues. Especially on the Internet where the hashtag #literacyday has been trending for the last few years.
International Mother Language Day
International Mother Language Day is an annual worldwide observance that falls on February 21st. This day not only celebrates language diversity all over the world but also remembers the killing of four students on February 21, 1952. These students were killed because they campaigned to officially use their mother language in Bangladesh.
History of International Mother Language Day
International Mother Language Day was originally a social movement that started to defend a person’s right to speak and write in one’s mother language. February 21st was picked as the date because that is when students who were attending the University of Dhaka, Jagannath University and Dhaka Medical College were murdered by police while they were demonstrating for the right to speak in their mother tongue – Bengali. This started a social movement that began to snowball over the next few decades.
Eventually, this social movement was picked up by a Bengali named Rafiqul Islam that was living in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. He decided to send a letter to the United Nation to ask for a day to be established that would preserve and protect the languages of the world. In his letter, he stated that February 21st should be the day on which it is celebrated in honor of the killings in Dhaka. This would eventually lead to the proposal of resolution A/RES/61/266.
Finally, in 1999, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution A/RES/61/266. This resolution set February 21st as International Mother Language Day and called on all member states to promote this observational holiday as a way to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by people all over the world.
International Mother Language Day Customs & Traditions
Officially, UNESCO and many of its partners promote a number of linguistic and cultural diversity events on International Mother Language Day. Many universities all over the world will host a mother language day and some governments will issue a proclamation on this day. In Bangladesh, people lay flowers at the martyr’s monument known as Shaheed Minar. Also, there are various awards and prizes for the literacy competitions that promote multiculturalism and multilingualism are held on this day.
DALAI LAMA LAUDS NALANDA PRIESTS FOR LOGICAL BUDDHIST TEACHINGS
Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.(Photo: IANS)
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama on Monday praised the seventeen pandits (priests) of Nalanda for their logical way of teaching Buddhism and said he himself is one of their biggest admirers.
“The only complete and detailed explanation of the ancient Nalanda teaching has persevered in the Tibetan language which is the reason that the Chinese people who are interested in learning Buddhism, are learning the Tibetan language,” he said.
He said the ancestors of Tibetan people had well preserved this knowledge for thousands of years, which enabled Tibetans to expertise in promoting the knowledge in the Tibetan language.
“It is the duty of Tibetan people to continue the practical teachings of those ancestors while at the same time take pride in possessing such vast and profound knowledge passed by them,” he said.
He said he respects all kinds of religious beliefs which only teach love and compassion as the ultimate source of human happiness.
He cited an example of how humans are born out of love and how they survive on love. He emphasised that the masters of Nalanda encourage its followers to approach their teaching with logic and reason rather than following it blindly. Thus, people should experiment and research on the teachings of those masters in light of reason, he added.
He urged the Tibetan people to preserve the rich Tibetan language as it has the potential to serve all the sentient beings on earth. He assured the people that he would live for hundred years to serve humanity and especially to lead the cause of Tibet under his guidance.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA
I am pleased to share an article titled ‘The Seventeen Pandits of Nalanda Monastery’ by Professor James Blumenthal Ph.D. who gives a brief account of Nalanda University and its great influence upon Tibetan Buddhism. I pay my respectful tribute to Professor Blumenthal who passed away on October 09, 2015. May LORD GOD bless his soul.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-4162, USA
THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA – CENTER OF BUDDHIST LEARNING IN ANCIENT INDIA:
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. ACHARYA NAGARJUNA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. ACHARYA NAGARJUNA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. ARYADEVA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. ASANGA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. VASUBANDHU.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. DIGNAGA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA – DHARMAKIRTI.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. GUNA PRABHA AND HIS DISCIPLE SHAKYA PRABHA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. BUDDHAPALITA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT TEACHERS OF NALANDA. BHAVAVIVEKA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. ACHARYA BHAVAVIVEKA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. CHANDRAKIRTI.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. SHANTARAKSHITA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. SHANTARAKSHITA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. KAMALASHILA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. KAMALASHILA. BHAVANAKRAMA – THREE STAGES OF MEDITATION.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. HARIBHADRA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. VIMUKTISENA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. SHANTIDEVA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT MASTERS OF NALANDA. ATISHA.
TIBET AWARENESS – THE GREAT TEACHERS OF NALANDA. ATISHA.
THE SEVENTEEN PANDITS OF NALANDA MONASTERY
BY JAMES BLUMENTHAL, INFO-BUDDHISM.COM
Posted on October 8th, 2015
Oregon, USA — Nalanda Monastic University was the greatest center of Buddhist learning in India’s glorious past. With upwards of 30,000 monks and nuns including 2,000 teachers living, studying and practicing there during its heyday, Nalanda was unmatched.
Established during the Gupta Dynasty in the late 5th to early 6th century C.E. under the patronage of the Gupta king Shakraditra, the institution survived for six hundred years, through the Pala Dynasty, until ultimately being destroyed in 1203 by Turkish Muslim invaders. In 1204 the last throne-holder (abbot) of Nalanda, Shakyashribhadra, fled to Tibet. In the intervening centuries, however, many of India’s greatest Buddhist masters trained and taught at Nalanda.
Nalanda’s renown as a center for higher learning spread far. It attracted students from as far away as Greece, Persia, China and Tibet. Although Buddhism was naturally the central focus of study, other subjects including astronomy, medicine (Ayurveda), grammar, metaphysics, logic, philosophy of language, classical Hindu philosophy, non-Indian philosophy and so forth were all regularly studied. Chinese pilgrims who visited Nalanda in the 7th century C.E. give detailed accounts of the physical premises and activities in their travelogues. For example, they describe three nine-story buildings comprising the library that housed millions of titles in hundreds of thousands of volumes on a vast variety of topics!
Much like the large Gelug monasteries of Sera, Drepung and Ganden, living quarters were divided according to regions of the world from which the monks and nuns came. There are clear records of a well-populated Tibet Vihara at Nalanda during the later period. In fact, history reveals that at one point there was a Tibetan gatekeeper at Nalanda. The gatekeepers were traditionally the top scholars/debaters at the institution. Their job was to stand “guard” at the gate and defeat in debate any non-Buddhist who proposed to challenge the scholarship and ideas of the institution. If they could not defeat the gatekeeper in debate, they would not be allowed further into the monastery.
The Seventeen Pandits of Nalanda Monastery refers to a grouping of seventeen of the most important and influential Mahayana Buddhist masters from India’s past. His Holiness the Dalai Lama frequently refers to himself as a follower of the lineage of the seventeen Nalanda masters today. He even wrote an exquisite poem in praise of the seventeen.
So who were they? Historically speaking, this particular grouping of Indian masters seems to have become prominent quite recently and to be based on attributions of lam-rim (stages of the path) lineages in Tibet. A likely predecessor to this grouping is an Indian reference to the Six Ornaments of the Southern Continent (i.e., India) and the Two Excellent Ones. These eight form the core of the seventeen.
The Six Ornaments first include Nagarjuna (c. 2nd century C.E.), the revealer of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras and the systematizer and founder of the Middle Way (Madhyamaka) school of Buddhist philosophy. The most famous treatise of his six texts of reasoning is The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, probably the single most analyzed, commented upon and discussed philosophical treatise in Buddhism’s history.
The second of the six ornaments is Aryadeva (c. 3rd century C.E.) who is sometimes referred to as Nagarjuna’s heart disciple and sometimes simply as his first authoritative commentator. Like Nagarjuna, Aryadeva is universally revered as an authoritative voice for all subsequent Middle Way commentators and is most well-known for his treatise The Four Hundred Stanzas.
Aryadeva was born as the son of a Sinhalese king and is considered the co – founder of Mahayana philosophy
In addition to the two Middle Way school masters, included among the six ornaments are the two earliest masters from the Mind-Only school (Yogachara/Chittamatra): Asanga (300–390 C.E.), the founder, and his disciple and half-brother, Vasubandhu (c. 4th century C.E.) one of the system’s earliest and most authoritative commentators. In addition to his own treatises, Asanga is also famous, according to tradition, for retrieving the five Maitreya Buddha texts¹ directly from Maitreya in his pure land, Tushita. With regards to Vasubandhu, before becoming a leading exponent of the Mind-Only school, he wrote a famous treatise from the perspective of the Great Exposition school (Vaibhashika) entitled The Treasure of Knowledge (Abhidharmakosha) which is utilized extensively in Tibetan scholastic studies. Traditionally, seven years is dedicated to the study of this text in the Gelug geshe curriculum.
Two additional Mind-Only school proponents round out the six ornaments: Dignaga (6th century C.E.) and Dharmakirti (600–660 C.E.). The two are most famous as the groundbreakers in Buddhist logic and epistemology. Specifically, they wrote philosophical treatises on the contents and means of accruing valid knowledge. They argued that from the Buddhist perspective there were two sources of valid knowledge: logical inference and direct perception. Much of their writings were detailed elaborations on these topics.
The Two Excellent Ones refers to the two great Vinaya masters: Gunaprabha (c. 9th century C.E.) andShakyaprabha. Gunaprabha was a disciple of Vasubandhu’s and is most famous for his treatise, the Vinaya Sutra. Shakyaprabha was a disciple of Shantarakshita (also among the seventeen) and the other major teacher of vinaya among the seventeen. He is particularly associated Mulasarvastivada-vinaya line which has been followed in Tibet since the time of the early Dharma King, Ralpachen (born c. 806 C.E.). His teacher Shantarakshita began this ordination lineage in Tibet when he ordained the first seven Tibetan monks and founded Samye Monastery.
Beyond the Six Ornaments and Two Excellent Ones, are nine additional Indian Buddhist masters, each of whom profoundly impacted the shapes of Indian and/or Tibetan Buddhism for centuries.
Buddhapalita (470–550 C.E.) was one of the great commentators on Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka thought. He is the earliest Indian Madhyamaka specifically identified as a proponent of the sub-school of Madhyamaka known in Tibet as the Middle Way Consequence school (Prasangika-Madhyamaka). He received this designation in Tibet due to his use of a form of reasoning that drew out the absurd logical consequences of the philosophical rivals of Madhyamakas when he commented on Nagarjuna’s root text on wisdom.
Buddhapalita was subsequently criticized by another Madhyamaka master, Bhavaviveka (500–578 C.E.). He argued that a proper Madhyamaka commentator ought to do more than show the absurdities of other’s views; they also have a responsibility to establish the view of emptiness and to do so with autonomous inferences (svatantranumana). He subsequently became known in Tibet as the “founder” and primary proponent of a sub-school of Madhyamaka known as the Middle Way Autonomy school (Svatantrika-Madhyamaka).
Chandrakirti (600–650 C.E.) is revered by many in Tibet as the founder of the Middle Way Consequence school, often regarded as the highest Buddhist philosophical explanation of reality. He famously came to the defense of Buddhapalita’s use of consequentialist reasoning contra Bhavaviveka’s criticism. In a line of thinking further developed by Je Tsongkhapa (1357–1419 CE) they argued that a Madhyamaka philosopher ought not to utilize autonomous inferences because the very use of that sort of reasoning entailed the acceptance of an inherent nature in the subject of the argument. Since the existence of an inherent nature in anything was precisely what Nagarjuna was refuting, the use of autonomous inference seemed like a fatal flaw for a Madhyamaka. Though historical evidence suggests that Chandrakirti’s views likely did not have extensive support in India until the late period there, by the 13th century in Tibet, his views on a proper understanding of Madhyamaka began to dominate the philosophical landscape and continue to today.
Shantarakshita (725–788 C.E.) was a towering figure in late Indian Buddhist philosophy and immensely influential in Tibet. Philosophically, he is famous for integrating the three major lines of Mahayana philosophy into an integrated coherent system. These were the Madhyamaka, the Yogachara and the logico-epistemological thought of Dharmakirti. Beyond India, he spent the last seventeen years of his life in Tibet, ordaining its first monks and serving as abbot of it first monastery. Moreover, probably nobody has exerted a greater influence on Tibetan Buddhism in terms of the way in which Tibetans approach philosophy. Shantarakshita virtually taught Tibetans how to do philosophy during the early dissemination of the Dharma there.
Two of Shantarakshita’s disciples (in addition to Shakyabhadra mentioned above) are also included in the list of seventeen. Kamalashila (c. 8th century C.E.) likewise was an immensely important figure in India and Tibet. Like his teacher, Kamalashila wrote extensively on Madhyamaka and pramana (logic and epistemology) as well as on meditation theory and practice.
His three Stages of Meditation (Bhavanakrama) texts are among the most cited in traditional Tibet expositions on the topics. Moreover, also like his teacher, he spent extensive time in Tibet during the early dissemination. He famously and successfully defended the Indian gradual approach to enlightenment at the Great Debate at Samye (also called the Council of Lhasa) against the instantaneous approach advocated by Hvashang Mohoyen, the Chinese master. Tibetan histories often recount that since that time Tibetan have followed the Indian method.
Haribhadra (700–770 C.E.), the last of Shantarakshita’s disciples included in the group of seventeen, wrote the most famous and commonly utilized of the 21 Indian commentaries on The Ornament of Clear Realizations by Maitreya and the Mahayana path system in general. The other major commentator on The Ornament of Clear Realizations to be included among the seventeen is Vimuktisena (c. 6th century C.E.) whose text Illuminating the Twenty Thousand: A Commentary on the Ornament is likewise extensively cited by subsequent Tibetan authors.
Shantideva (c. 8th century C.E.) composed what is perhaps the most important and influential classic on how to practice in the Mahayana tradition: A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Bodhisattvacharyavatara) while a monk at Nalanda. His text on the development of bodhichitta and the practice of the six perfections is revered and studied extensively by all Tibetan traditions. His Holiness the Dalai Lama often refers to his favorite passage in Buddhist literature as coming from the dedication section of this text: “As long as space endures, as long as sentient being remain, may I too remain, to dispel the miseries of the world.”
The final master included among the seventeen was the Bengali scholar-adept Atisha (980–1054 C.E.), who was a critical figure in the later dissemination of Buddhism in Tibet. Like many of the others on this list, Atisha’s impact on the shape of Tibetan Buddhism was immense. His classic, The Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (Bodhipathpradipa) is widely regarded as the root text on the graduated stages of the path presentation found in Tibetan classics like Je Tsongkhapa’s The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (also commonly referred to by the abbreviated Tibetan name, Lamrim Chenmo), Gampopa’s Jeweled Ornament of Liberation and Patrul Rinpoche’s The Words of My Perfect Teacher among others. In addition to the stages of the path teachings, Atisha also introduced the lojong, or mind training, tradition of Mahayana practice in Tibet. Lojong teachings are quintessential Mahayana teachings in that their aim is to eliminate both the self-cherishing attitude and self-grasping by teaching means to cultivate the altruistic compassion of bodhichitta and the direct realization of emptiness. Like the stages of the path teachings, the mind training tradition is one that is embraced by all Tibetan lineages.
Together the seventeen great masters of Nalanda monastery represent the real high points of Indian Mahayana. The inspiration and teachings of these great masters continue to bless practitioners of the Mahayana to the present day.
¹ The five Maitreya texts are: The Ornament of Clear Realization (Abhisamayalamkara), The Ornament of Mahayana Sutras (Mahayanasutralamkara), Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes (Madhyantavibhaga), Distinguishing Phenomena and the Nature of Phenomena (Dharma-dharmata-vibhaga), and The Sublime Continuum (Uttaratantra).
JAMES BLUMENTHAL, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Buddhist philosophy at Oregon State University and professor of Buddhist Studies at Maitripa College. He is the author of The Ornament of The Middle Way: A Study of the Madhyamika Thought of Shantarakshita along with more than 40 articles in scholarly journals and popular periodicals on various aspects of Buddhist thought and practice. He recently finished work with Geshe Lhundup Sopa on Steps on the Path: Vol. IV, a commentary on the ‘ Shamatha’ chapter of Lamrim Chanmo of Tsongkhapa which is due for publication in the fall.
FBI Director’s threat assessment demands US–Tibet Direct Dialogue
In FBI Director Christopher Wray’s evaluation, China is ‘most significant’ threat to US. In my analysis, the threat posed by Communist China requires an immediate response. On behalf of Living Tibetan Spirits, I recommend US-Tibet Direct Dialogue to confront threats arising from spread of Communism to mainland China. It must be said, Tibetans understand China’s deception better than any other people of our world.
FBI Director Christopher Wray at the Aspen Security Forum. Screenshot/Aspen Security Forum
Amid rampant discussion about Russian election interference and espionage, FBI Director Christopher Wray has deemed China the largest, most concerning threat to the US.
Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday, Wray was asked whether he saw China as an adversary and, if so, to what level.
“I think China, from a counterintelligence perspective, in many ways represents the broadest, most challenging, most significant threat we face as a country,” Wray answered.
“And I say that because for them it is a whole of state effort. It is economic espionage as well as traditional espionage; it is nontraditional collectors as well as traditional intelligence operatives; it’s human sources as well as cyber means.
“We have economic-espionage investigations in every state, all 50 states, that trace back to China. It covers everything from corn seeds in Iowa to wind turbines in Massachusetts and everything in between. So the volume of it, the pervasiveness of it, the significance of it, is something I think this country cannot underestimate.”
The comments follow a 2017 report by the US trade representative that accused China of “trade secret theft, rampant online piracy and counterfeiting, and high levels of physical pirated and counterfeit exports.” The report found intellectual-property theft by China was costing the US up to $600 billion annually.
It seems a far more strategic and wide-ranging effort than Russia’s ongoing interference efforts, which dominated headlines in the US this week amid President Donald Trump’s widely panned summit with President Vladimir Putin.
Wray said Russia needed to be dealt with “aggressively,” but he seemed far more concerned with what he called China’s efforts to position itself as “the sole dominant superpower, the sole dominant economic power.”
“They’re trying to replace the US in that role, and so theirs is a long-term game that’s focused on just about every industry, every quarter of society in many ways,” Wray said. “It involves academia, it involves research and development, it involves everything from agriculture to high-tech. And so theirs is a more pervasive, broader approach but in many ways more of a long-term threat to the country.”
This isn’t the first time China’s patience and willingness to play the long game have been described as reasons its interference campaigns are more successful than those of Russia.
John Garnaut. Screenshot
Earlier this year, John Garnaut, who led a secret government inquiry into China’s political influence in Australia, told the US House Armed Services Committee that Russia preferred “focused, sharp strikes,” while Beijing’s actions were more incremental.
“Unlike Russia, which seems to be as much for a good time rather than a long time, the Chinese are strategic, patient, and they set down foundations of organizations and very consistent narratives over a long period of time,” Garnaut told the committee.
Garnaut’s report found China had attempted to influence politics at all levels in Australia. The Australian government has since introduced new foreign-interference laws— much to Beijing’s ire — and the issue is frequently discussed and debated in the public sphere.
It’s this widespread shift toward a consensus on China’s influence and interference attempts that Wray described as “one of the bright spots” since he became FBI director just over 10 months ago.
“It’s one of the few things I’ve seen that, in a country where it feels like some people can’t even agree on what day of the week it is, on this I think people are starting to come together,” Wray said.
“I see it in the interagency, I see it up on the Hill when I’m talking to the intelligence committees across the spectrum. I think people are starting to wake up and rub the cobwebs, or sleep, out of their eyes. And my hope is we’re in a moment where we can pivot and start to take this much more seriously.”