[permaculture] FW: These days in Dharamsala.
Lawrence F. London, Jr.
lflj at intrex.net
Fri Mar 28 07:58:59 EDT 2008
These days, Dharamsala feels alternately like a temple and the seat
of revolution. At times it feels like both. Every morning, thousands
of Tibetans, young and old, those born in Tibet and those born in
exile, march down the hill from the market of McLoed Ganj, shouting
in English for justice and human rights, for the help of the UN, for
the long life of the Dalai Lama. Today, their shouts are mingled
with the moan of long horns blasting out from a nearby monastery.
They have been marching every day since March 10th and they never
seem to tire. Each evening around dusk, thousands more walk through
McLeod all carrying candles and chanting the bodhisattva prayer--
May I become enlightened to end the suffering of all sentient
beings--in Tibetan over and over again. This prayer has become the
anthem of Dharamsala. You hear it muttered from old women, belted
out by toddlers, and chanted by monks through loud speakers: May I
become enlightened to end the suffering of all sentient beings.
The evening marchers end up at the Tsuglakhang; the temple located
right in front of the Dalai Lama's private residence, to assemble in
what is essentially the Dalai Lama's front yard. They shout freedom
slogans and Bod Gyalo!!! (Victory to Tibet) at the top of their
lungs for twenty minutes, while young boisterous monks with Free
Tibet scrawled across their foreheads in red paint, wave giant
Tibetan flags to rally the crowd. The red, yellow and blue of
Tibetan flags are everywhere, and a feeling that must accompany all
revolutions of past times--a feeling of passion, resolve, and the
sting of injustice--stirs the air.
And then, suddenly, all you can hear is the sound of a baby crying
as the crowd sit and perform silent prayers for their countrymen.
The evening ends with everyone singing a song that was composed
after the 1959 uprising in Lhasa against the Chinese occupation.
It's stirring and evocative, and even if you don't speak the
language, its hard not to feel moved.
One evening at the temple, the monks of Kirti monastery in Amdo,
Tibet, the site of huge demonstrations in recent days, brought a CD
of photos of the bodies of Tibetans who eyewitnesses say had been
shot by Chinese police. The photos were displayed on a large plasma
television on the steps in front of the temple. A more placid group
of seven robed monks sat in front of the screen and prayed. With
hands folded at their chests, the images of bloodied and mangled
bodies filled with bullet holes flashing before their eyes, many now
wet with tears, 5,000 people joined in. One young monk told me later
that he saw the dead body of his cousin on the screen. He hadn't
known that he'd been killed.
Now these photos and other images coming out of Tibet have been put
up on flyers on the outside of the temple wall, directly opposite a
tent filled with hunger strikers. On their way back home, people
pass candles over the photos of the disfigured and bloody bodies and
speak in hushed voices. Opposite, the hunger strikers continue to
chant prayers and mantras all day and all through the night.
Tibetans seem to be able to hold, without contradiction, many
different ways of expressing their grief, and their concern for and
solidarity with the people in Tibet; to wave banners and shout until
their throats are sore, and to sit and pray with heartfelt devotion
to the Buddhas that, one day, may they become like them for the sake
Yesterday, I heard about a different kind of demonstration organized
by the monks of the Buddhist Dialectic School. No face paint, no red
bandanas, no hand-made placards reading Shame on China. They shaved
their heads clean, put on the outer yellow robe normally only worn
for religious teachings, and walked slowly, heads down, single file
through the town, chanting the refuge prayer in Pali. Buddham
sharanam ghachamay/dhammam sharanam gacchami/sangham sharanan
A reporter asked the monks why they were wearing the yellow robe.
The monk replied, "We are monks but we are also human beings. We are
not immune to anger. Wearing the yellow robe reminds us to subdue
our negative emotions."
At an intersection, the monks met up with a few thousand
demonstrators led by angry young men with Tibetan flags draped
around their shoulders, shouting anti-Chinese slogans and punching
their fists into the air. The monks kept walking and chanting. At
the point where the two groups met, the demonstrators fell silent
and stood aside to let the monks pass, forming two lines on either
side of the street. They brought their palms together at their
hearts and bowed their heads. Many began to cry. The monks kept
walking and chanting. Buddham sharanam ghachamay. After the monks
had passed, the demonstrators picked up their flags and placards and
fell in behind them chanting another slogan; May I become
enlightened to end the suffering of all sentient beings.
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