By Dr. Lhundup Tsomo Bhutia
The roof of the world as we refer to the ancient settlement of Tibetans was never susceptible to external aggression. Religion in terms of Buddhism was what kept the ancient holy place guarded by the fears of the outside world. The coming of the British, then the Europeans paved the way for mankind to explore the unhindered footsteps leading to the holy path of religious beliefs and customs. The event of the Chinese in the earlier interactions with the Tibetans was non hostile towards the Tibetans and their way of religion, yet the following events after the fall of the Chinese empire to the communist paved the way for religious intolerance which ultimately led to the annexation of Tibet, the roof of the world. An independent country which was known for Buddhism, which had travelled from the ancient times from India which preached the Nalanda traditional teachings, believed to have travelled by the pious ways and means of the great Guru Padmasambhava also known in the Himalayas as Guru Rinpoche, who through his mystical ways and means of tantric Buddhism travelled the dangerous terrains and had eventually reached and tamed the barbaric now subdued clan of Tibetans.
The Tibetans since the advent of the teachings of Indian form of Buddhism now became an ethnic group of religious followers who lived by the sole purpose of following and practicing the path of the Great Buddha his teachings that were brought to their corridors by various Indian Buddhist saints. Peace loving, caring, non violent, yet hardworking were some of the features of the Tibetans who were touched by the Buddhist philosophy and wisdom which can be traced in the present day monasteries of Tibetan origin around the globe. The attention to details in the paintings, the narrative flow of the brush in the walls, which are used as canvases in these monasteries depict the stories of what Tibetan culture, heritage, and religion had been in the past. And to some extent can be found where the human rights violated refugees have made their homes in various countries, not forgetting the hardships their ancestors had to undergo at the hands of intruders, the communist Chinese.
The aggression showed on the Tibetans and the sacred lands of Tibet was and is still witnessed by destruction of religious sites, looting, and plundering of the natural resources and gross violation of human rights. Ever since the coup against His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and his escape from Tibet in 1959 brought a reign of terror among the natives of Tibet being the Tibetans by the Chinese. An independent religious country was forcefully taken by the Chinese in gross violation of the United Nations and is today termed as an autonomous region with no freedom of speech, press, expression, and above all the religious freedom which was once the core values on which stood an independent country of Tibet. Major Rivers have their origin in Tibet, which is also rich in minerals, precious stones, and gold, a land so prosperous with ancient medicinal plants and one of a kind flora and fauna. The Communist want the world to believe they have brought development in Tibet through introduction of railways and highways, with job opportunities and industries but in true sense they have destroyed and are in the verge of making extinct the identity of Tibetan people along with Tibet’s natural resources. The Trains and roadways not only serve as transporting people from China to settle them in Tibet, due to constraints of land for the ever increasing population of China but also to subdue the natives and their way of life and religion.
The enhancement in transportation is being used to take valuable natural resources found in Tibet to be used or sold in the foreign markets which eventually will benefit the Chinese and their economy. The infrastructure that is being built in Tibet by the Chinese is also to give them an added advantage in threatening its neighbors by way of deploying its armed forces along the borders. The intolerance of religious freedom, in Tibet is used as a tool to wipe out the way of life of Tibetans, the constant, easily available and economical Chinese manufactured products is being supplied to the Tibetans in the name of development, and raising the standards of the Tibetan people is just ways and means to blind the common public of Tibet so that they do not return to their traditional way of religion and life style at the same time inhuman atrocities could be hidden or be kept unknown from the eyes of common man and the world. The ways and means of the Communist country is no secret to many other countries but unfortunately in today’s world, business is an important tool that determines the sustenance of mankind and keeps a nation ahead in this competitive times with regards to the rest of the world, as such the Tibet chapter along with it the Tibetans identity is over looked. But the world should be wary about the greed that has engulfed Tibet, could eventually land at the door steps of the other independent nations which could breach the sovereignty of any nation (s) as was the case of Tibet and the Tibetan identity.
Fortunately there have been friends of Tibetan people, like India a nation which is rich in heritage, from where Buddhism came into existence, where scholars of prestigious ancient schools such as Nalanda have ear marked limitations for others to follow and leaders like Mahatma Gandhi who preached non violence as the tool to overcome the mighty British Empire’s colonial rule. The Tibetans remain grateful for the extended hand as support by the people and government of India for the Tibetan people, and for giving them land and a roof over their heads, a means to earn and live a decent life, to acquire knowledge, and keep striving for the freedom of Tibet. Had it not been for the ever loving hospitality of the Government of India till date, the very identity of Tibetans would have been at stake which could eventually have led to wipe out from the face of the world. The Tibetans then would only have been, mere reading material in books of history, had it not been for India and her generosity towards His Holiness and his people the Tibetans. Many Tibetans have made their homes in India and continue to practice their traditional yet acculturated religion and practices of various Indian religions and beliefs with theirs. With the blessings of ancient deities of Tibet, and the faith of Tibetan people in His Holiness and the religion followed by the Tibetans they have been able to be in existence, which means the identity of Tibetans is alive. Even in the remotest corner of the world where a single Tibetan survives, he or she holds a light that shines for the identity of Tibetans and their quest for struggle, it shows the world that Tibetans have not been defeated nor can the might of the Dragon extinguish the light of freedom they hold. It can be rest assured that till the last Tibetan survives, and survival is what Tibetans have been recognized for, their struggle will continue for the freedom of Tibet.
The efforts of His Holiness, his dedication, prayers, and the hope that he instils in each Tibetan is highly commendable, and extraordinary. No ordinary human being can achieve such greatness in peace, love, compassion for human kind. His sincere and continuous commitment for the Tibetan people is one of the main reasons that Tibetans are firm that their identity as Tibetans will never erode. His vision to look after the Tibetans by giving them basic human necessities like education, health care, provisions for religious centres like monasteries, to keep their identity alive is note worthy and commendable, he has portrayed the plight of Tibetan people in the world and continues to rally support for the Tibetans and Tibet. Though the communist china has tried in Tibet to destroy the cultural identity that the Tibetans follow and they believe to have succeeded, the Tibetans as refugees have erected their own culture and traditions in firm foundations wherever they have made their homes. Religion is a bond that keeps the very essence of hope alive for the Tibetans who still believe that their leader, their guru, and their spiritual head, recognized as the Nobel Peace prize winner throughout the world His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama will lead them into a free Tibet one day. Generations have left this physical world as their bones have turned into ashes yet their spirits live among the present generations of Tibetans knowing that their land will definitely be returned to them, if the perseverance and determination is strong and the belief in religion and in His Holiness is unshakable. Though some may want to believe that the identity of Tibetans has been wiped out but for the Tibetans who have undergone such tremendous pain and sufferings at the hands of the communist, who have captured their lands, plundered their natural resources, looted their monuments, yet Buddhism that the Tibetans follow teaches them to have patience and practice kindness and forgiveness , karma will have its own consequences as it is the will of the cosmic way and we should accept the present and pray for a better tomorrow.
(Author is an Assistant Professor with Department of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Gangtok, Sikkim. [email protected])