2019 Travelog is not without incidents and critical informations about Tibetans and friends.
Tibetan community is changing..and fast.
Settlements are becoming ghost town..
Schools are vanishing…
Monasteries face shortage of new recruits..
2019 Tenshug and Trip to India: Part One
2019 Tenshug and Trip to India: Part Two
2019 Tenshug and Trip to India: Part Three
2019 Tenshug and Trip to India: Part Four
Part five and Six are coming soon.
Lion: The Lost story of the Tiger
In a beautiful Jungle there were Lion, Tiger and many other animals. They were living happily.
One day a Snake had moved into the Jungle. He befriended the Tiger but ultimate plan was to kill both and rule the jungle by him.
Lion realized the danger and left the forest in search of peace and abundance elsewhere.
Now, the cunning Snake up the ante. He put his next move into action. He marched the Tiger around the forest to show to other animals how he was caring for them and lion, the traitor, had abandoned them.
One day, Snake thought that Tiger had lived beyond his useful life and poisoned with is venom and killed him. Few wolves had seen the dirty tricks of the Snake.
To cover up his murder, he invited Tiger’s best friend, fox, from afar. Fox showed up after a few hours and saw tiger lay dead in his den without any physical sign of torture. Fox returned home and told others that Tiger had died due to age.
All the animals were sad but complacent that it is law of nature that living thing do die after certain time.
Holiday in Paradise
It was cold, January, and I am with my wife and three kids. We went upto Dham, Peace Bridge between Nepal and China border. Sharpas can legally cross the bridge anytime. We stayed at a hotel in Dham-Chinese side.
Our plan was to go to Lhasa for pilgrimage if transport is available from Dham otherwise we were to return to Kathmandu and back into India.
I received a letter from Tibet, by hand, saying that I am his nephew. It also says, “your mom is still alive and she is 84”. Such a letter is very rare in those years. China is not open to the world, back then. Life inside Tibet was stressful and it hangs in balance all the time. Night crawler would snatch your fragile life any time. Every breadth you take was a living experience.
I was walking the street of Dham for any information about a travelling car that can help us bring to Lhasa. I met a very helpful stranger who guided me to a traveler who had only one passenger. He agreed to take us to Lhasa the next early morning. I could hardly believe my luck. The car had all modern amenities such as heating which is essential in winters of Tibet.
No sane people would take the path that we had taken with three small kids! Yes, many people might ask me why there was not a proper plan for such trip that is froth is political, border, climate and altitude issues. I have no answer. It just happened that way. When I look back at the events that had overwhelmed us, it gives me shudder. My youngest daughter is 5. Her elder sister is 7 and our son, eldest is just 10.
We did not even prepare for altitude sickness which we could have done easily by spending few weeks in Kathmandu. We were so naïve. As a consequence, we nearly lost our youngest daughter at the highest altitude. We were so engrossed in the beauty of the landscape and we took liberty to venture out of the car and ran hither and thither in joy. My youngest daughter suddenly began to show symptoms of altitude sickness. There were few others who were going to Nepal who offered Turnip(Yungma) to chew on. They advised us to chew it until we get to Lhasa which is at lower altitude(Author: some Tibetans would swear that burning incense would help alleviate altitude sickness; Acetazolamide tablet is used as prevention of altitude sickness such as headache, tiredness, dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath). We were lost and worried. Our driver was very collective and he made us sit in the car. He wrapped my daughter up in thick blanket and he drove us down the hill. That was really scary. As altitude dropped her symptoms begin to disappear.
There was another group of car that is going to Lhasa ahead of us. We encountered them at a remote hotel. Hotel owner was beyond his belief that such a huge number of tourist would show up at his eatery and his daily quota was gone in a minute. He told us to wait as he has nothing to offer for us. We were confused. Anyway, we waited as there is nothing else we could do with empty stomach. As soon as the other tourist left his compound, he gave us sign to enter his kitchen. He offered Stampa, meat and tea to our fill. In return he asked us nothing. What on earth, just happened. It was beyond our belief. Everything is happening without any logic.
We left his eatery and left for the road to Lhasa.
It was about one hour later we hit a dirt road. Dust was flying all over the place and road was difficult to negotiate. Suddenly our driver stopped. Those tourist cars left ahead of us earlier had met with an accident with on-coming car which was packed with French tourist. Many were seriously hurt. One of the Chinese driver had a broken leg. He was really in bad condition but unfortunately they left him behind with the French. We were not allowed to help them, although we could.
When we reached a city, it was there that we met those tourist who met with accidents. Our driver was very kind man. He asked us to wait outside the car as he will help transfer some of the serious patient to some other bigger hospital which is nearby. We gladly agreed.
It was almost dark when we reached our destination. Our kind hearted driver asked us, if we would be received by our host or not; just a letter to show that we were his nephew, he thought, might not hold water.
Will this letter, send by him, be good enough to convince him that I am his nephew. We have never met in living memories. I was taken away by my uncle when my uncle escaped to India in 1959 when Chinese invaded Tibet.
My gut feeling says, he will help me find my mother who is bed ridden but her memory is still strong. Will I be able to meet my mother and her three brothers? I had come a long way risking everything; my family, health, imprisonment, weather and job. With these thought weighing on me heavy, his concern was trivial.
In my mind, “I am here and I will manage to locate my mother whether my nephew helps me or not”.
It was cold, dark and we are really hungry. Road was winding and we had to pass through many gates. Finally, a figure appeared before us and our car came to a stop. He made a cursory look at us and invited us in without any visible emotions. Gate was closed behind us and he made us sit near a fire place. As soon as he closed the door behind him he hugged us and cried. That was the situation, how Tibetans lived in Tibet. He could not show his emotions. Our blood relationship cannot be exposed, we must look as if we were friends and on pilgrimage tour.
He was living with his sister. He was monk and his sister was nun. However, both were wearing layman dress to protect themselves from prying eyes and it was the only way how he can protect his sister. Despite all these hardship they have not breached the vows of Bhiksu and Bhiksuni.
The next day, we went to see my mother. She was 84. Her two brothers, who were alive then, told her that I am her son who went to India with her uncle in 1959. She kept silent for two days. On the third day, her brother spoke with heavy heart that she is not helping the situation by her silence. She must accept her son-me. After two day, she asked my alias as a child. I gave her my alias name and she broke down and cried. Then she remembered how I was taken away by her uncle and her reluctance to depart.
She and her both the brothers died after a year since we visited them. That meeting was one of the best experience of my life. If I went to Tibet a year later, my mother may not have her memory with her.
It is utmost important to meet your relatives before they loss their memory to Dementia and Alzheimer. Lately, I went to meet an old friend of mine in Shimla. He does not remember me at all. What is point of having visited him! It is very sad and poignant. We are only human.
I went to Lhasa city proper. There, we stayed at a Chinese hotel-owned and managed by ethnic Chinese; they are foreigner making profit in Lhasa. It was desperate move. It was dark and everyone is a stranger. We stayed there for the night. My plan was, wake up early and find another hotel owned by local Tibetan for our safety- nothing else. I went very early for circumambulation of Jokhang Temple- the most famous temple of Lhasa. There, out of blue, I met an old school mate. He was shocked to see me too. Without any delay, we moved to a shanty town where his house is. There are fewer prying eyes and less attention thus safer.
For the next few days, we made several pilgrimages in Lhasa. One of the highlight was a Piano which is still there as a gift for young XIV Dalai Lama by Pandit Nehru of India.
One of my cousin brother has a daughter who is 13 years old. She is being sent to work for a Chinese family as house maid. The Chinese family made her work so hard that her finger nails are almost gone. She is frail and she looks like a child due to starvation. I could not bear to see her in this condition and I told my Mom that I am taking her to India for education and proper care. We all agreed. It was not that easy.
Despite apprehension, everything in Lhasa went as smooth as possible. However return journey was a different story.
It was at the Dham, Peace Bridge between Nepal and China, that something unthinkable happened.
The girl, my cousin’s child, needed a cover story.
It is like this:
I went to Lhasa with my family for pilgrimage. There is no mother, cousins and the child story in the picture. … At Dham, as we were eating breakfast, we saw a little girl who is wretched and in poor health. We took pity and want to help her go to school in Kathmandu. One of my cousin brother, Karma, was a school principal in Kathmandu….that is the whole story.
We had crossed the Chinese border without a hitch. It was at the Nepal border that everything went bonkers.
Nepali border security guard confiscated our travel documents. They put us all in a small room that has a peeping window- much smaller size window with a transparent glass. We were two adults and four children.
Under normal circumstance, Nepali police, for want of money, would demand money from petty business people, however, we are just a regular people without any money to pay them.
Nepali border guard threatened us that we would be surrendered back to Chinese border.
I begged them to let us go because we have four kids (three kids of our own and one kid of my cousin) and we don’t have any merchandise to sell either…we are just simple folks. Guards were laughing at us. They almost take pleasure in our sufferings or they hate us for some reason. It was something in their eyes that frightened us to the core.
We were kept there for a many hours without any fire to keep us warm or water to drink for kids. Situation was turning unbearable. We were desperate.
From the small window of the cell, my wife saw three elderly men walking together. She banged the window and beckoned them with hand gesture for help. Out of blue- once again- they turned out to be some kind headman, Pardan, of the local village of Dham. They saw a damsel in distress and came to rescue her family-us.
One of the leaders told us that we have to pay them. It was money that they are after; nothing to do with border crossing and the law. Border guards could have told us that they needed the money instead of putting us in the cell for so long. It was so stressful, to say the least. We are simple folks and don’t have any clue about extortion.
Pardan informed us that we have to pay the Nepali guard more than what Chinese will pay them, if we were returned. That was a real threat. They put a price on each head-six of us. Amount was huge and I don’t have such money on me. I emptied my pocket and remaining amount was collected from Kathmandu and delivered to them by the taxi driver who was a frequent visitor at Dham. Border guards know him very well.
In spite of above incident, everything went well.
I managed to put my cousin’s daughter in TCV homes, Dharamsala, India. She graduated from TCV school and went to college. Today, she is working as a teacher in some Indian school.
It is painful to see my paradise in trouble. I wish my holiday was a dream.
What does KhaChe (ཁ་ཆེ) mean?
Most of the Tibetan Buddhist scriptures were composed in an ancient city called KhaChe (ཁ་ཆེ) which is present day, Kashmir. The word KhaChe (ཁ་ཆེ) stands for Khawa Chenpo which is translated as Huge Snow. It has nothing to do with Muslim. Khache as a religious connotation for Muslim was a misnomer. Once, Kashmir and Nepal were land of Buddhist.
What is ADARSHA?
1. ADARSHA is an app that lets you read and conduct searches of ancient documents in a digital format. There are three main categories of texts: (a) Kangyur (the words of the Buddha translated into Tibetan) ; (b) Tengyur (commentaries by Indian scholars translated into Tibetan) ; and (c) Tibetan Buddhist scriptures.
2. The software features a fast search engine and simple user interface that meets the needs and habits of the common user in searching and reading material. Searches can be made in Unicode Tibetan or Wylie, and there are summaries of the scriptures for the convenience of the academic community.
3. His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, named the software ADARSHA (Sanskrit), which means “clear mirror,” with the hope that users will be able to clearly see their own minds reflected in the scriptures as if they were looking at a clear reflection in a mirror.
click below for more information
Vinaya Pitaka (Bhiksu Vows) and how it is taken
Buddhist ordination or becoming a Bhiksu has THREE steps or rituals. First is to shave head, replace mundane cloth and name with Bhiksu robe and Bhiksu name(Novice -རབ་ཏུ་བྱུང་བ). He must be 7 years or older. Second, a Bhiksu must take Pratita Moksa(དགེ་ཚུལ་གྱི་སྡོམ་པ) vows(36). Third, he must take the complete vows(253) of Bhiksu.
First ritual (novice vow རབ་ཏུ་བྱུང་བ) has 3 vows which are shaved head, Bhiksu robe and Bhiksu name, which is conducted by any Bhiksu with 253 vows(དགེ་སློང) who is a Bhiksu for the past 10 years. Such ritual is performed for any number of novices. There is no limit.
Second ritual (དགེ་ཚུལ་གྱི་སྡོམ་པ) has 36 vows which is conducted by any Bhiksu with 253 vows (དགེ་སློང) who is a Bhiksu for the past 10 years. Such ritual is performed for any number of novices. There is no limit.
Third ritual (PratiMoksa vows དགེ་སློང) has 253 vows which is conducted by any Bhiksu with 253 vows(དགེ་སློང) who is a Bhiksu for the past 10 years. Such ritual is limited to only THREE in a group. If there are four novices, for example, it is three in one group and single in the next group. Four and more in a group make them Sangha which is higher in hierarchy of Biksu hence not allowed unless situation is deemed dire.
These rituals require a reading from specific passage that must be read “from heart” to the novices. It cannot be read from a screen or a book, according to Vinaya Sutra.
In the case of second ritual (དགེ་སློང- 36 vows) if novice fails to understand the meaning of the passage, vow is not qualified one; he must generate a genuine renunciation of worldly affaires (ངེས་འབྱུང་གི་བསམ་པ). Historical instances were cited where Ananda’s two cousins had to take this vow twice; another historical Bhiksu who had to take this vow twice was Chakawa. Thus, if one feels that the genuine renunciation was not upto the mark when vow was taken, he or she is allowed to take the 253 vows again due to those historical cases.
Note: Although Karmapa took the first and the second ritual of Bhiksu, simultaneously, from HH the Dalai Lama, yet the specific passage was read by the Gyaltsap Rinpoche who was with him at the time and according to Vinaya Gyaltsap Rinpoche becomes his Lopon not HH the Dalai Lama. Karmapa expressed this simple fact and his desire to receive the second -36 vows- from HH the Dalai lama.
When one is beings bestowed with these higher vows(36 and 253 vows), it should bring tears of joy. If not, you are allowed to take it again. Sometimes, it is not the vows themselves but from whom it is taken that can bring tears of joy.
In case of female novice, a female Bhiksu can perform above rituals but procedure are the same. If due to situation, Bhiksuni with 10 years and 253 vows is not available, male Bhiksu with above qualifications can perform the ritual for a female novice according to Sutra; many Tibetan Bhiksu are unaware of this special clause- please read Vinaya Sutra more.
click below for Video and few photos of 600th-Year Monlam chenmo at TCCC on 15, March, 2019
600th-year Monlam chenmo
Click here for Ex-CTA Tenshug Program: 2019 July 6
BodhGaya, Main Vihara; Picture Courtesy: Geshe Nechung Dorjee, 2018, Dec.
click here for more photos by Karma