Other nations would unite, “This is my people, this is our land”, Tibetans on the other hand push away our own people, “you are Ambo, he is Khampa, they are Toepa”… by GC
The Gendun Choephel(1903 ‑ 1951)
Gendun Choephel(GC) was born in Amdo,1903, in a humble family. He started his life as a monk, studied under various teachers and moved a lot to quench his gifted mind. A tradition in GoMang, Drapung, monastery in which different class level challenge each other by debating on Buddhist philosophy made GC famous. This congregation includes students, teachers, lamas and Tulkus.
He was a prolific writer, poet, translator(LoTsawa) and a fine artist.
His monastic life changed when he met Pandit Sankrityanyan Rahul in 1935 in Lhasa, Tibet. Rahul was a Sanskrit scholar and an Indian activist who came to Tibet in search of original copy of some Sanskrit work which were lost due to ravage of time from India. GC and Rahul traveled together for almost a year through Lhasa, Shalu-Shigatse, and Sakya. They left together to India with few original copies which are now in Patna museum, India.
However, GC and Rahul were separated when Rahul was imprisoned by British India for his subversive activities-India gained independence in August,1947. It was a personal experience of political significance to GC- a wake-up call.
13th Dalai Lama had written to a Bhutanese Raja Dorjee for help to translate one of Tsongkhapa’ s writing into English and he in turn sought GC’s help. They completed the work in 2 months period. Soon after GC took a tour to Bhutan and wrote a Bhutan travelogue with illustrations-he was an artist too. Maps are political hot potatoes then. GC was accused and thrown into jail. He was later released but was for a while in state of mental shock.
GC remained in India for about 12 years. Places he visited were Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kulu Manali, Calcutta, Bodh Gaya, Varanasi and Shri Lanka.
GC co-translated “Bodhisatva Way of life” by Shantideva into English while he was living in “Bhotia Basti”, Darjeeling. Original manuscript was later discovered from YMBA school office in one of the boxes.
GC’s other major translation into Tibetan language are
- Two chapters from Bhagavad Gita(Song of God),an extract from Maha Bharat Epic, Devotion (Chapter 12) and Karma-yoga(Chapter 3 and 5). Maha Barat Epic is the world’s longest epic story of about 90,000 verses. Bhagavad Gita (700 verses) is extract of communication between Krishna and Arjun ( http://www.asitis.com/12/). A Badvad Gita is the core text of Hinduism.
- Ramayana, An epic story of Ram, Laksman and Sita-Hinduism.
- Shakuntala, An epic story related to Hinduism.
- Dhamapada- from Pali canon, Buddhism.
- Krishna, Comic life story, Hinduism
- Shiv ji Shankara poem, Hinduism
- Samaya Tara story, Buddhism
GC had written many books(manuscript) and published numerous articles in “Melong” owned by Tharchin Bapu(A missioner, who owns a printing press) and “Mahabodi society magazine”. They are
• White Annals-Political history of Tibet…Book
• Mind-only philosophy(Chittarmatra) a perspective…..Book
• Rest of the philosophies (Detail) ….Book
• Rest of the philosophies(Concise)….Book
• World detail…Book
• Art of love.. Book
• Learning Tibetan Language Part One….Book
• Learning Tibetan Language Part Two….Book
• Spoken Tibetan..Book
• Snow Lion, Refuting existence of such a creature…..Book
• U-Me(Font) derived from U-Chen(Font)…. Book
• Indian culture, climate, herbs and Ashoka pillars…..Book
• Lhasa to Dorjeeling- a poem
• Sri Lanka- a Travelogue
• India – a travelogue.
• Bhutan.. a travelogue.
• Tibetan Alphabetical Poem (News paper: Melong)
• Important Tibetan Historical events(News paper: Melong)
• Lhasa and Rasa(News paper: Melong)
• Tibet-China treaties and invasion of China by Tibet(News paper: Melong)
• Origin of Tibetan text(News paper: Melong)
• My journey from Kumbum to Lhasa(The Mahabodi July 1940)…. English Journal
There are few other books that claim to have been written by GC but their authorship belongs to other people. They are
• Final thought of Nagarjuna by Dawa Sangpo - a very controversial topic.
• A dictionary by Horkhang Geshe Choedak.
Other books he wrote and lost were King Songtsen Gampo about 70 pages and King Trisong Detsen. First few pages of King Songtsen Gampo describes old Tibetan language, their meanings and semantics. GC mentioned that ancient Tibetan language was still used in “Loe” land. For instance GaDro for Dro(wheat) and NaSe for Nae(Barley).
GC earned his living by painting and private tutoring. He often ends up painting portrait of aristocrat ladies who want to see themselves chubbier – a photo cannot provide. He offers private tuitions for Tibetan grammar and poem.
Likewise he offered to sketch a map of Arunachal, en route to Lhasa, for two Tibetans (Kunphel and Bu Rabga) in Kalimpong who were Russian paid Chinese spies. Map details bridges, garrison and personnel. British India intercept the mail from Kalimpong to China and seized its content.
GC’s artistic skill came in handy when “Tibet Improvement Party” logo was created by him at the request of his two Tibetan compatriot (alleged spies). This organization was labelled “communist” because among many things (mountain, river, sort of illusionary bridge) there was Machete and Sickle (Hammer & Sickle was Communist Russia).
British-India did not tolerate any communist activity and officially alerted Tibetan Government through their diplomat (Hugh Richardson) in Lhasa and complained GC’s subversive activities to overthrow Tibetan Government in Lhasa.
When GC appeared, 1947 in Lhasa, Tibetan government was under pressure and had to act as this allegation was made by none other than British-India Government through diplomatic channel. Dilemma encountered by the Tibetan government was under what charge GC must be held as all the evidence for alleged subversive activities took place in Kalimpong-British India soil.
So in 1947 GC was imprisoned under fraud charge for circulating fake currency.
He was released from prison in 1949 along with all other prisoners in Tibet on the day His Holiness the Dalai lama was enthroned as a mark of celebration- a tradition.
GC was now a defunct, alcoholic and a heavy smoker without much energy or interest left in him. Although he was provided for by the Tibetan government after his release, he barely managed to finish his White Annals that Tibetan government had asked him to see it through.
When he returned to Lhasa from India, he had a sack-a size of an adult human-full of notes and writings he collected over the course of 12 years while he was in India. Some writings were on match boxes, others were on cigarette boxes. His notes, documents, drawing and papers were confiscated when he was imprisoned. Bulk of his collections was missing when he was released from jail. To compose poem, imagination is the key but to write history evidence in the form of documents, events, anecdotes, dates and landmarks are crucial- his notes were key.
GC bemoans that unlike other people who unite “This is my people, this is our land”, Tibetans on the other hand pushes them away, “you are Ambo, he is Khampa, they are Toepa”.
He opines that expansion of territory is fuelled by religion. Sustenance for politics is the religion.
He would recite Tara mantra, paint and get drunk while in prison. He would say, as a matter of fact, after his release from the prison, “Unlike India and Bhutan, prisoners of Tibet are lucky. They would go for holidays for 6 months, others go out of prison for whole day only to return at night”.
It is rumoured that whenever GC was ill he recites TenDellToePa (Praise to Dependent Origination). Some say that he had asked the person next to his death-bed to say the same prayer that his failing body could not and say along.
GC died in 1951 at the age of 49. Gendun Chophel, lost young; Tibet, lost old.
GC’s downfall: My interpretation
His passion for writing and compassion for Tibetans made him an easy target for British and the Communists (China, Russia) –they had vested interest in India, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and Sikkim.
His fervent desire to tell the world that Tibet was a formidable force in the past was a huge burden he took for himself in the ways he knew best by “writing” with material evidence he had accumulated for 12 years. For him, isolation was suicide for Tibet. Communist China was real and threatening Tibet.
GC brewed a perfect storm for his own demise. It was a matter of time and the Time was against him.
GC’s Indian friend Pandit Rahul was found guilty by British-India and was imprisoned for his subversive activities in 1937. GC went on a tour to Bhutan and wrote travelogue with maps and was briefly jailed for it. He helped drew a map of Arunachal for two Tibetan spies working for China which was, later, intercepted by British agent. He also helped them design a logo which became material evidence.
GC was served notice to leave India. He could have gone to Bhutan, Nepal, or Sikkim but chose Tibet. Which meant two things.
One, he came at the behest of Trijang Rinpoche; Two, his own will. There is very high probability that Trijang Rinpoche was aware of predicament GC was in. GC showed up in Lhasa in 1947 but diplomatic letter from British-India against GC was written much earlier- 15th July 1946.
Logo And illusory works of Art- Discovery I made
Logo includes Mountain, River, Sickle, Machete, a kind of Bridge(illusionary). Illusionary works of art
are rare and difficult to sketch. Leonardo da Vinci and few Mathematician were said have produced such Art. Bridge looks normal in one way, but often looks impossible to construct. To illustrate this, Go to the last image which I have zoomed for this exercise. Hold any straight line object across the computer monitor just above the second horizontal bar of the bridge so to hide the rest of the upper horizontal bar of the bridge. Now look at the bar crossing horizontally. It is impossible to construct such a bridge. Right upper end of the horizontal bar is crossing to left lower end.
GC is known for this kind of skill. His own name(Signature) can be read in either English or in Tibetan. For GC Logo design was more of an “Art” than political declaration.
There are Tibetan, English and Chinese word written on the Logo. English words read "Tibet Improvement Party" Tibetan word reads "West Tibet Improvement Party" Chinese- no clue.
Gendun Chophel’s Chapter by Kirti Tulku
Story of Gendun Chophel by TaeThong Thupten Choedar
Treachery of tramp -Life story of Amdo Gendun Chophel, HorTsang Jigme
Angry Monk-Video at http://www.angrymonk.ch/
Bhagwat Gita at http://www.asitis.com/12
Nagpo etc. at http://sakyaresourceguide.blogspot.com/2008/12/kanha-name-confusions.html
1 Nagpo or Nagpo pa; This word laterally means “black” in Tibetan but it may refer to various “God” according to context. For instance, Gonpo, Kanha, Kanhapa, Kanhavajra, Krishna, Krishnapa, Krishnavajra, Krishnacharin, Krishnacharya, Kala Virupa and Shiv Ji. My translation is based on reference GC makes on page 69 line 11 of "Gendun Choephel’s Chapter" by Kirti Tulku in Tibetan language.
Following images are from Angry Monk DVD. Go here
for more information.
India through sketches
His Painting work in Lhasa
the Infamouse Logo but wait....read my note!! It could be artwork of the century
Pandit Rahul in Tibet
GC with Pandit Rahul
GC with friends
Babu Tharchin- a Christian Missioner who owns Printing Press and Melong News paper, Kalimpong, India
Kunphel.. Kalimpong, India
Bu Rabga Kalimpong, India
Infamous letters that sealed GC’s fate. However, British India(1946) used such term "Tibetan Government" and "Tibetan officials" to address Lhasa, NOT Chinese Government etc.
GC had a contact with this Christian Missionary who lives around Tashi Khil Amdo Monastery before he left for Lhasa.
Birth Place: ShoPhong, RabGong, Amdo, hamlet
GC’s last photo; just before his death.
Illusionary work of Art. Please read note under Logo, above, to appreciate this master piece.