Saturday, April 16, 2011

Concentric Circles in North Eastern Tibet

HH Dalai Lama holding St Bridgid's Cross aloft in Kildare, Ireland.

Last Wednesday i celebrated my 46th birthday in glorious company... it was the visit of HH Dalai Lama to Ireland and we managed to share an hour full of compassion and grace only metres away from His Holiness in Kildare parish church.

It was such an amazing day, i hardly knew what to write about it in my blog - so i didn't.

Now today i am moved to write about it for a very different reason altogether.

We are so privileged in the West to have such easy access to Tibetan Buddhism, the dharma, and so many visiting masters... living buddhas indeed. If you wait long enough, even HH Dalai Lama comes to see YOU!

This is a photo of Phuntsog - a monk in Kirti monastery in North-Eastern Tibet [now irreversibly swallowed up into China's Sechuan Province].

In 2008, the ill-fated Tibetan protests [which i blogged about from Dharamsala] sparked a brutally violent crackdown by the Chinese inside Tibet. Soldiers opened fire directly into a large crowd in Aba the town where Kirti monastery is.
Of course, this left scars beyond imagination on the psyche of locals and monks alike.

Anger and resentment have fermented and festered in the years since then and even the young monks have taken upon themselves to plot rebellious acts of defiance against the Chinese.

One month ago, young Phuntsog walked into the small town centre carrying a photo of HH Dalai Lama [which is banned of course] and set himself on fire.
Kirti Monastery
Defaced photo of HH Dalai Lama

Phuntsog on fire, carrying picture of His Holiness

The monastery of Kirti is large and is home to around 2500 monks.
Before the occupation this region - known by Tibetans as Amdo - was always famous for breeding honest but tough people.

This was famously evident in rare TV footage during the 2008 uprising when the courageous men of Amdo were seen galloping into town on horseback, wearing traditional dress and shouting pro-Tibetan slogans and prayers for Dalai Lama.

The men went even further when they removed the Chinese flag from the post outside the town hall and raised the much loved but outlawed national flag of Tibet in its place.

Reprisals and tensions in the area, though unreported, have been on a brutally epic scale [as evidenced by sites such as ]

The Chinese soldiers' defacing of HH Dalai Lama's picture at Kirti Monastery, the threat that all monks between 18 and 40 years of age must be 'relocated for re-education', and more recently monks being forbidden from praying together, has all led to the present situation whereby a monk attempts public suicide in protest.

Phuntsog didn't die from burns, however.

Rather than trying to put out the flames, horrified Tibetan onlookers reported that 3 gunshots were heard and that the Chinese soldiers present beat him so badly that he died later in hospital from his terrible injuries.

This all happened a month ago and since then it is reported that another young monk at Kirti was found to have hanged himself in the monastery.

Things go from bad to worse...

I began by writing about HH Dalai Lama in Kildare and how he held aloft the powerful Irish symbol of St Bridgid's cross.
Now i am even more mindful of another Irish/Celtic symbol - the circle.
The early Irish used circles, concentric circles and spirals to depict the eternal truth.

Sometimes the truth is positive: Life is a cycle that always renews itself.

Sometimes the truth has a negative connotation: Negative forces are also very real...  Hatred and violence can only lead to more negative results.

Now, bear with me a moment - if you will ...

Imagine a dot, at the centre of a circle, which is inside yet another larger circle...

The dot represents Kirti Monastery in North-Eastern Tibet and its 2500 inhabitants. They are starving because they have run out of food and supplies.

The first circle that engulfs the dot represents the Chinese army who have surrounded Kirti for weeks now, effectively cutting it off altogether.

But what of the outer circle?

The locals, the poor beleaguered Tibetans themselves, have entirely surrounded the Chinese army and forced a stalemate. The monks are under seige, the Chinese are trapped, the Tibetans are locked into a potentially fatal manoevre that cannot really have any good outcome.

Today, HH Dalai Lama made the following announcement appealing for peace and restraint on all sides:

Appeal by His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressing concern on the situation at Kirti Monastery in Ngaba, northeastern Tibet

by Dalai Lama on Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 5:52am
The current situation prevailing at Kirti Monastery in Ngaba in northeastern Tibet is extremely grim because of the stand-off between the Chinese military forces and the local Tibetans. The monastery, housing approximately 2,500 monks, is completely surrounded by Chinese armed forces, who at one point prevented vital food and other supplies from entering the monastic compound.

The local Tibetans fearing that this siege on Kirti Monastery is a prelude to large scale detention of the monks have surrounded the soldiers blockading the monastery and have filled the roads so as to prevent Chinese trucks and vehicles from either entering or leaving Kirti.

The local Chinese blockade of Kirti Monastery began on 16 March 2011, when a young Tibetan monk at the monastery tragically set himself on fire as a way of observing the third anniversary of the widespread peaceful protests that shook Tibet in 2008. Instead of putting out the flames, the police beat the young monk which was one of the causes of his tragic death. This act created huge resentment among the monks, which resulted in this massive blockade of Kirti Monastery.

I am very concerned that this situation if allowed to go on may become explosive with catastrophic consequences for the Tibetans in Ngaba.

In view of this I urge both the monks and the lay Tibetans of the area not to do anything that might be used as a pretext by the local authorities to massively crackdown on them.

I also strongly urge the international community, the governments around the world, and the international non-governmental organizations, to persuade the Chinese leadership to exercise restraint in handling this situation.

For the past six decades, using force as the principle means in dealing with the problems in Tibet has only deepened the grievances and resentment of the Tibetan people. I, therefore, appeal to the Chinese leadership to adopt a realistic approach and to address the genuine grievances of the Tibetans with courage and wisdom and to restrain from using force in handling this situation.

The Dalai Lama
 April 15, 2011

1 comment:

  1. Greetings from the American south. Are you the photographer who shot the image of HH holding the Brigid cross aloft? It's one of the most powerful images I've seen in quite some time.