Just my two cents worth


Of People & Places

Just this and that about people and topics that I am interested in.

Writer’s “Blog” or writer’s block?

Writer’s “Blog” or writer’s block?

Bhuchung K. Tsering


I have not posted anything on this site for quite a few months. In fact , I have not done any such writings for some time, except for the work-related output that seems to come out mechanically.


Some people have noticed the absence; I, too, have been noticing it.


I do not consider myself a writer in the conventional sense of the term; I don’t even have a published compilation of my articles, leave alone a stand-alone book in my name. What I do is commentary and occasional light-hearted look at life. There have been many significant developments on which I could and should have written about. When the media, mainly the Tibetan language ones, ask me for my views on the visit of the Chinese President to the US of A, for example, I remind myself then that I ought to put some of my thoughts on “paper.” Also, occasionally, people test me as if goading me to write on this or that. This may be in the form of a phone call from someone from whom I only hear occasionally, giving me inside story of this or that candidate in the Tibetan elections. Or it could be in the form of “tagging” me on Twitter to a particular issue. Continue reading “Writer’s “Blog” or writer’s block?”

The Re-transformation of Samdhong Rinpoche

The Re-transformation of Samdhong Rinpoche
Bhuchung K Tsering

The other day I was watching this video of Samdhong Rinpoche’s commentary on the iconic Tibetan Buddhist scripture Lojong Tsig-gyema (བློ་སྦྱོང་ཚིགས་བརྒྱད་མ། Eight Verses of Training of the Mind) by the 11th century master Langri Tangpa. In eight short verses Langri Tangpa shows the path to inner transformation of an individual, and, when practiced, helps you in becoming a better person.

But this blog piece is about another transformation, rather re-transformation i.e. the person of Samdhong Rinpoche.

To date, those who follow the issue of Tibetan culture and politics have seen two faces of Samdhong Rinpoche. For much of the initial post 1959 period, Rinpoche was an academician, beginning with teaching in, and administering, some of the Central Schools for Tibetans in India. Thereafter, he made his mark as the head of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (renamed now as Central University of Tibetan Studies) in Sarnath. This university continues to be the premier institute for Tibetan Buddhist studies internationally. His stint at the university also led to his fame as a scholar with the title of “Prof.” attached to his name that has become to symbolize the same.

I have not had the privilege of being a student of Rinpoche, but many of my friends and colleagues have, and they are all bonded by their common reverence to him.

After Rinpoche was nominated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to be a member of the Tibetan Parliament in 1991, we saw another aspect of him, that of a political leader. He has been one of the key personalities who have assisted His Holiness in shaping Tibetan democracy, whether it was drafting of the Charter of the Tibetans in Exile or restructuring the working of the Tibetan Parliament or the Kashag, of which he was the head until his retirement in 2011.

We are now seeing another face of Samdhong Rinpoche; that of a lama. In sooth, his very name indicates that he is a lama and generally would have developed spiritually as a Buddhist master. So, it is just a re-transformation, if you will. Continue reading “The Re-transformation of Samdhong Rinpoche”

Why do the Bhutanese Names of the Days of the Week differ from that of the Tibetan?

Why do the Bhutanese Names of the Days of the Week differ from that of the Tibetan?

Bhuchung K. Tsering


Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 11.29.54 AM

Let us talk about the days of the week now, specifically as Tibetans and Bhutanese refer to them. The reason why I am saying this is because of an interesting difference. Let me preface this by saying that in general, Bhutanese, Tibetans and, for that matter, many communities in the Himalayan region share a similar culture. Therefore, while Tibetans, Ladakhis, Sikkimese, etc., have the same names for the days of week, in the Bhutanese case, even though the names themselves are the same, they refer to days different to ours.

Overall, our culture follows a lunisolar calendar with the calculations involving both the sun and the moon. Then, similar to the ancient Greek and Hindu systems (the Chinese used to have a ten-day week and switched to a seven-day week in the seventh century, but refer to the days by number only), we have a system of naming the days after the Sun, the moon, and some planets. These are ཉི་མ། Sun (Sunday) Nyima; ཟླ་བ། Moon (Monday) Dawa; མིག་དམར། Mars (Tuesday) Migmar; ལྷག་པ། Mercury (Wednesday) Lhakpa; ཕུར་བུ། Jupiter (Thursday) Phurbu; པ་སངས། Venus (Friday) Passang; and སྤེན་པ། Saturn (Saturday) Penpa. Also, even the term for the day (གཟའ་) is the same one for a planet.

Our cultural brethren in the Indian and Nepalese Himalaya region as well as Mongolia (classical tradition) follow the above system of naming the days of the week.

However, in the case of Bhutan, I notice that “Sun” day begins on Saturday and moves on to the rest of the week. Accordingly, as can be seen from the above calendar, the Bhutanese days of the week are: ཟླ་བ། (Sunday) Dawa; མིག་དམར། (Monday) Migmar; ལྷག་པ། (Tuesday) Lhakpa; ཕུར་བུ། (Wednesday) Phurbu; པ་སངས། (Thursday) Passang; སྤེན་པ། Venus (Friday) Penpa; and ཉི་མ། (Saturday) Nyima.

Therefore, I wonder what is the origin for this Bhutanese system of naming days of the week like this!

If Indian PM Modi goes to Mount Kailash in Tibet, it will be more than a pilgrimage

If Indian PM Modi goes to Mount Kailash in Tibet, it will be more than a pilgrimage

 Bhuchung K. Tsering

As I write this, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj is about to leave for China on a trip that might result in Mr. Narendra Modi making another history by being the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the sacred Mt. Kailash (གངས་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ revered by Bonpos, Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains) in Tibet.


"Kailash north" by I, Ondřej Žváček. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons
“Kailash north” by I, Ondřej Žváček. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

If everything goes as per speculation, Mr. Modi will be visiting Mt. Kailash in the second week of May this year and he is likely to follow the route through Nathu La (agreed to during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s India visit) on the border of Sikkim and Tibet.

This development is interesting. Of course, Mr. Modi, being a devout Hindu, has been on a pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash many years back. But then he was not the Prime Minister of India. Although the nature of the proposed visit is not clear, but being a Prime Minister there cannot be any visit that will not have political significance. More so because Mt. Kailash is in Tibet and that has me wondering what the implication is on India, China and Tibet.

Before I try to comment on the implications, some history. Mr. Modi will be the second Indian Prime Minister to be visiting Tibet. In September 1958, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made overnight sojourn in Tibet on his way to Bhutan. In his letter to the chief ministers of India from Gangtok on September 16, 1958, Mr. Nehru explains this: “… the easiest route to Paro, the summer capital of Bhutan, goes from the Nathu La and crosses a small corner of Tibet. Thus, I shall have a brief glimpse of Tibet and I shall spend a night at Yatung, which is about sixteen miles across the border.”


PM Nehru with some Tibetan Lamas at Indian Residency at Dromo/Yatung on Sept. 29, 1958. Photo Division Govt. of India
PM Nehru with some Tibetan Lamas at Indian Residency at Dromo/Yatung on Sept. 29, 1958. Photo Division Govt. of India

Continue reading “If Indian PM Modi goes to Mount Kailash in Tibet, it will be more than a pilgrimage”

Sakya Trizin announces historic changes in the lineage’s succession system

Sakya Trizin announces historic changes in the lineage’s succession system

Bhuchung K. Tsering

The head of Sakya lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, the Sakya Kyabgon also known as Sakya Trizin (Throne holder of Sakya), has announced major and historic changes to the system of heading the lineage. Traditionally, the title of Sakya Trizin is passed between the two Palaces, known as Dolma Phodrang and Phuntsok Phodrang, that are descendants of the founder of the lineage. The present Sakya Trizin is from Dolma Phodrang while the head of the Phuntsok Phodrang currently resides in the United States. The title is held for lifetime.

In an address to the gathering on December 11, 2014 at the Sakya Monlam, the Sakya Trizin announced an agreement reached between the two Palaces that said in the future all sons of the two families will be eligible to lead the lineage, based on seniority and the required spiritual educational qualification. The title will be held for a period of three years and transferred thereafter to the next senior son.

The Sakya Trizin said the agreement was reached between the two Sakya masters on May 8, 2014 and subsequently, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was informed and gave his support and blessings to this.

The Sakya Trizin announced that the new system would be implemented from 2017.

Here is a video of the Sakya Trizin making the announcement.

The Dalai Lama and 25 Years after the Nobel Peace Prize

The Dalai Lama and 25 Years after the Nobel Peace Prize

Bhuchung K. Tsering

December 10, 2014

On December 10, 2014, lovers of peace, friends, well-wishers and followers of His Holiness the Dalai Lama celebrate the 25th anniversary of the bestowal of the Nobel Peace Prize to him.  His Holiness is of course is in Rome to participate in the Nobel Peace Laureates Summit, which has now been relocated there.

It is a cliché to say what a difference 25 years can make. But in the case of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, these two and a half decades have indeed cemented his place as a statesman and a conscience of the world.  Today, the Dalai Lama and peace/compassion have virtually become synonymous.

In 1989, I was working in Dharamsala and so was part of the collective Tibetan rejoicing of the event.  We, at least I, then interpreted the prize solely in the context of Tibet, and Tibet alone.  We saw this as Tibet’s day in the sun. Fast forward to 2014 and  I reread His Holiness’ acceptance speech (of December 10, 1989) as well as his Nobel lecture (of December 11, 1989), and the Presentation Speech by Mr. Egil Aarvik, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.  I now have a fresh perspective of the expanse of the Dalai Lama’s impact.

His Holiness’ remarks in Oslo in 1989 appear to me as the germinating ground for the philosophy for which he has become well-known today.  This includes his dialogue with the scientific community, his adherence to nonviolence, and, above all, his three main commitments: promotion of human values, promotion of religious harmony and promotion of Tibetan culture.

Let me expand. Continue reading “The Dalai Lama and 25 Years after the Nobel Peace Prize”

China’s Corruption Inspection Team Finds What Tibetans Already Knew

China’s Corruption Inspection Team Finds What Tibetans Already Knew
Bhuchung K. Tsering
November 5, 2014
The report from Lhasa about the visit there by the central inspection team and finding corruption at grass roots level, and remarks by the Tibet Autonomous Region Party Secretary Chen Quanguo warning cadres who continue to be loyal to His Holiness the Dalai Lama is interesting in a few ways.
First, here is a summation of the report. The official Tibet Daily carries a report on November 5, 2014 about the findings of an inspection team of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), which was in the Tibet Autonomous Region from July 25 to September 24, 2014. It quotes Ye Dongsong, head of the inspection team, as saying, “Some officials have failed to take a firm political stand and some grass-root officials in the region were found to have serious corruption issues.” Apparently, the team collected the information by “interviewing some people, receiving letters from the public, receiving phone calls, personal visits, and looking at and reading relevant documents.”

It is good that the authorities are finally realizing something that has been an open secret among Tibetans in Tibet for many decades; corruption is rampant and even routine tasks that are expected from any official cannot be performed without going through the Takgo (“back door”). Therefore, finding “serious corruption issues” will not be a surprise to the Tibetans, but they will now be waiting to see how the authorities will be following up on this. Ye is quoted as reiterating that on the issue of anti-corruption campaign, Tibet will not enjoy any special privileges. But a belief among the Tibetan public is that the authorities will not be prosecuting any of these officials as they are also the ones who mouth slogans of loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. So far the trend is for the authorities to specifically reward those officials who are criticized by the public because this was taken as an indication that these officials are upholding party lines (and conversely demote those who are praised by the people).

The Tibet Daily reports Chen Quanguo, Party chief of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, as accepting the team’s findings saying that they were “factual and comprehensive” and have “woken us up from the sleep of ignorance.” Continue reading “China’s Corruption Inspection Team Finds What Tibetans Already Knew”

Mind Your Tibetan Language

Mind Your Tibetan Language

Bhuchung K. Tsering

During the ongoing Tibetan parliament session when the work report of the Department of Education was being discussed there were some discussion on an issue that comes up frequently in the Tibetan society; the need to preserve and promote the purity of the Tibetan language. In the parliament, specific incidents involving parent-child interaction as well as specific words were highlighted in this discussion to stress the importance.

While I am all out for Tibetans, both students and non-students, to be fluent in the Tibetan language, I wonder whether we are missing the wood for the trees when we assume that usage of non-Tibetan words along with Tibetan may be the main impediment. I fear by doing so, we may not be tackling the real problem in promoting the better usage of Tibetan among the younger generation.

In general, if we look at the history of development of major world languages we can see that they have all benefitted from welcoming foreign words that have eventually become an integral part. We are all familiar with the English language, which has taken much from other languages, mainly European but also Hindi, too. A common example would be “jungle” for “forest”. What we know of as the English language today has imported much from German, French, Hindi, Latin, etc. Similarly, from the little that I know of, incorporating words from the Persian languages has also enriched some Asian languages.

Therefore, I do not see it as a negative solely because Tibetans use additional foreign words. In fact, if we are objecting to a word merely because it is non-Tibetan, then we may become guilty of an isolationist position. Also, if we have to strictly go by this rule then I wonder how the usage of the mantras in Sanskrit that is prevalent in the Tibetan Buddhist prayers can be explained. Should we not be striving to recite them purely in Tibetan?

I am of the opinion that for certain technical terms that do not have a Tibetan equivalent as yet, we might want to see if we can incorporate the foreign terms that are already there. A case in point would be “email” which has more or less become an international word. And, didn’t Thakjug clearly say, “If the symbols are correct, but if it is difficult to pronounce, then use the one that is easier to pronounce.”

However, I would object to usage of certain Chinese terms that have political implications e.g. using Zhongguo for China rather than Gyanak.

The real problem, as I see it, in the challenge to children embracing the Tibetan language fully could be because to them it is a buyer’s market. On a daily basis they have a plethora of choice, whether print, radio, TV or film, in other languages that might appeal to them rather than in Tibetan. The little that is out there in Tibetan, methinks, still is not up to the mark in becoming attractive and child friendly. There are hardly any cartoon or films for children in the Tibetan languages; the few magazines that are out there highlighted as being for children uses terms that are not age appropriate, thus defeating the very purpose for which they are being published.

Therefore, when children are provided with these many choices how can they resist being influenced by other languages, whether, English, Nepali, German, Chinese, French or whatever.

These are my thoughts on a Saturday evening.





Kiss & Ride at Meeting Point



One aspect of developed societies that I admire is that they try to look at ways to enhance the life of people even at the simplest level. This is done both through use of available resources (which might be a challenge to developing or poorer countries) or through sheer ingenuity with minimum need of resources (which could be copied by any society).


kissnride                                                                                       kiss and ride

Today, I was returning home from work on the subway and as I was waiting for my wife to pick me up at the usual spot in the “Kiss & Ride” area outside our metro stop, I began to ponder over such matters.  “Kiss & Ride” area is literally where people come to drop off or pick up their family members or guests while greeting them with a kiss. In this area, lanes are supposed to be clear of parked cars so that there is a constant movement enabling more people to avail themselves of this opportunity.  It enables people not to have to go to a parking spot.


DCF 1.0                                                                                       meetingpoint

The “Kiss & Ride” area seems to be common in the United States as well as some other countries.  In Europe I have noticed another creation that has enabled individuals not to be lost while going to visit a friend or a stranger in a new town.  Many of the train stations there have a designated “meeting point” (Treffpunkt in German) with a clearly marked sign that enables the individuals to decide as their point of meeting.  All the authorities did was designate a spot at the station as the place and placed a sign nearby and that enables people to never having to ask “Where were you all these time?” afterwards.

The Dalai Lama and Tibetan Religious Freedom

On this day, February 27, in 2009, Tapey, a Tibetan monk, committed self-immolation in Tibet and since then 127 Tibetans have self-immolated in different parts of Tibet and China, with the common message of yearning for the return of their revered leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and for freedom, including religious freedom, in Tibet.

Today, the United States released its annual report on the state of human rights for 2013 all over the world; on Tibet they found that the Chinese Government “engaged in the severe repression of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage by, among other means, strictly curtailing the civil rights of China’s ethnic Tibetan population, including the freedoms of speech, religion, association, and movement.”

The above convey the gravity of the current situation of the Tibetan people in Tibet. The Dalai Lama has been leaving no stone unturned in his endeavor not only to look after the present and the future spiritual and social welfare of the Tibetan people, but also to make Buddhism relevant to the 21st century.

During the visit of His Holiness to Washington, D.C. and California in February 2014 (as I write this he is on his way to Minnesota to continue his effort), while there was widespread positive response from the American public, there were also some people in California who organized protests under the banner of “International Shugden Community”. Continue reading “The Dalai Lama and Tibetan Religious Freedom”

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