Just my two cents worth


February 2009

Thoughts on the Self-immolation in Tibet

Yesterday afternoon we heard the profound and heart-rendering news about Ven. Tapey, a young Tibetan monk from Kirti Monastery in north-eastern Tibet, committing what is certainly a self-immolation.

As I pen my thoughts here we do not have complete information about the incident (China has confirmed it, however, after a day later), but what is clear is that this is yet another indication of the desperation of the Tibetans, who are not able to tolerate the Chinese Government’s attitude towards His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the issue of Tibet.

Reports suggest that the monk was raising slogans reflecting such a message and that he was carrying a Tibetan flag on which a photo of the Dalai Lama was pasted. It seems the immediate cause for this courageous act by the monk was the Chinese authorities’ interference in the monastic program of undertaking their annual prayer festival called Monlam. Continue reading “Thoughts on the Self-immolation in Tibet”

Prayers to the Liberator on Tibetan New Year

With the presence of H.H. the Dalai Lama in Bylakuppe, I, like all the people who had gathered here, began Losar, the Tibetan New Year, in a very spiritual note. Thousands of people thronged inside and outside of the teaching ground of Sera Lachi early on the morning of the first day of Losar yesterday. Everyone had come to receive the long-life initiatiion that His Holiness was going to bestow. Even though the actual initiation rituals began only around 7:30 am, people had started marking their seats as early as 2:00 am and by 4:00 am most of the seating area within the compound had been taken.

His Holiness arrived at the teaching venue a little after 7:30 am. As he began his preparatory rituals, he asked the gathering to recite the prayers to Dolma, the goddess who is known as the liberator. I thought that interesting because the term liberation has been much in vogue with the Chinese officials in their reference to Tibet. His Holiness then read his written New Year message to the Tibetans before he began the initiations. Given the development in communications technology, the impact to the Tibetan people of not only reading the message, but being able to see and hear His Holiness in person is great. Continue reading “Prayers to the Liberator on Tibetan New Year”

The Dalai Lama and Tibetan New Year

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is making a social history of sort this year by spending Losar, the Tibetan New Year, period for the first time since 1960 outside of his temporary headquarters in Dharamsala. He is at the Sera Monastic University in south India and will be there till after Losar.

The first day of Losar in Dharamsala used to be a much awaited occasion when everyone would gather at the Tsuglakhang (the main temple there) even before the crack of dawn. The officials of the Tibetan Government would get a pride of place to participate in the roof top Tsetor ceremony, which used to be participated by His Holiness. I remember the occasion being always a solemn and a chilly one. An official of the Tibetan Department of Security would stand at the base of the stairs that would go up to the roof and read the names of the government servants, according to their grades. Continue reading “The Dalai Lama and Tibetan New Year”

Secretary Hillary Clinton, Tibet and China

Secretary Hillary Clinton is scheduled to arrive in China today in her maiden visit to the country as the head of the US foreign office. Her visit comes at a period when there is great expectation for the Obama Administration to have a different approach.

The State Department website has a feature where you can ask a question to the Secretary on her trip. It says, “”Ask the Secretary” is a new online interactive forum that can allow you to connect with Secretary Clinton directly. While Secretary Clinton travels across the world, you can submit your questions for her using this form. Secretary Clinton will select various questions to answer and they will be posted to this website.”

Continue reading “Secretary Hillary Clinton, Tibet and China”

The Indianization of Momos

Anyone who has had some contact with the Tibetan people would recognize “momo” as a distinctly Tibetan delicacy. This dumpling, filled with vegetables, cheese or meat, is (along with the Thukpa or noodle soup) one of the main menu items in all Tibetan restaurants. At least in the post-1959 period, for several years momo was the symbol of either a party in progress or someone having food in a restaurant. Momos were seen in private homes occasionally and during special occasions. In short momo is considered as Tibetan as the yak or the mythical snow lion.

But in reality, we have shared this food (just as we have done so with our Yak) with our cultural cousins in the Indian Himalayas, Bhutan and Nepal. Even then, Tibetans continued to be seen as the owner of the momo brand.

Now things are changing (at least in Delhi) with the Indianization of momos. I don’t know how it began (may be an enterprising Tibetan must have opened a roadside shack selling momos) but today there are several road side stalls in South Delhi as well as in North Delhi selling momos. Last week I was in north-west Delhi and I had the latest sighting of one such stalls in a small market there with the announcement of the different types of momos and their rates all written in Hindi. The common feature is that these stalls are all owned and operated by Indians. The momo brand has become generic, I guess.

My Initial Impression of China’s Human Rights Report Review

I had the opportunity to watch some of the proceedings of today’s United Nations’ review of China’s human rights report, which was done by the Universal Periodic Review Working Group of the UN Human Rights Council. The session was held in Geneva. According to the UN record, 60 Council members and observers took the opportunity to make comments and convey recommendations.

The Chinese Ambassador (Li Baodong) took nearly three hours to present China’s report. The report is on the UN’s website and there was no startling revelation. I was more interested in the comments that representatives of other countries were making. I am giving here my comment on some of them.

The representative of Bhutan, Mr. Yeshey Dorji, gave a surprisingly (to me) long comment (he seems to have gone beyond his time for his speech was cut in mid-sentence). He appreciated China’s “frank self critical approach” as well as China’s placing “people first.” Bhutan, he said, appreciates China’s pursuit of an approach to “build a harmonious society characterized by democracy, rule of law, equity and justice.” Continue reading “My Initial Impression of China’s Human Rights Report Review”

Tibetan Contribution to Indian Civilization

I rejoice in the naming of Prof. Geshe Ngawang Samten as a recipient of this year’s prestigious Padmashree award by the Government of India. This award, which is the fourth highest civilian award, is both a recognition of the personal contribution of Prof. Samten and the overall contribution of Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, the institution that he heads.
Continue reading “Tibetan Contribution to Indian Civilization”

Tibetans and Losar this year

It is 21 days to go before Losar. This year it falls on February 25 in the Gregorian calendar. As I write this, there is an ongoing movement within the Tibetan community about observing this year’s Losar differently as a mark of mourning and in rememberence of the very many people affected by the Chinese onslaught on Tibetans last year. Irrespective of where one stands on the debate, I can feel the social movement gaining ground in mobilizing the attention and energy of Tibetans throughout the world. Continue reading “Tibetans and Losar this year”

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