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My Correspondence with a Tibetan Nun

Posted by E on August 8, 2007

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In light of the recent arrests by the Chinese authorities of a couple of Canadians who dared unfurl a Free Tibet banner at the Great Wall, I thought I would share the first letter in my ongoing correspondence with a 20-year old Tibetan nun.

I could write several articles on my thoughts about the Chinese government and their treatment of those who dare possess dissenting opinions. But many other bloggers are doing just that. So instead, I will let Dolma’s words describe the peaceful nature of the oppressed Tibetan people.

Dolma (not her real first or last name)  is a Tibetan refugee now living in a Buddhist nunnery in India. I began to sponsor her through a private arrangement where I send a small amount of money over to her twice a year. The yearly $120 covers her basic meals and necessities since she is all alone, her family living back in Tibet.

We write to each other whenever possible. This was her first letter, received at the beginning of this year.

My dear sponsor Elisa,

First of all, I am so thankful to you for accepting me. I am fortunate to get a new sponsor. I received your lovely letter and am so glad to hear about [.I am removing this part since it contains private details about myself.].

Regarding myself, I am Dolma ****, 20 years old. I have 12 family members. My father Lobsang is 45 years old. My mother Narwang is also 45. They are Nomads. I have one elder brother and eight youngers. Five of them are boys, and three girls. My all family are in Tibet. In summer, they live in a tent and in the rest of the years they live in a house. They have animals like – yaks, sheep, and goats.

In Tibet, our town is so beautiful. There are high mountains with beautiful flowers and rivers. The climate is so cold in winter, all the rivers become ice, etc.

How I decided to become a nun is…when I was a child, I listen and learn much on Dharma from our high guru (teachers) and my parents. When I became 15 years old, I thought it’s the best thing to learn and practice religion (Dharma) for whole life, to purify one’s mind and to help others through spirituality. So, I decided to become a nun.

But back in Tibet, we Tibetans have no rights to practice religion because the Chinese have banned everything. So I heard that in India, people can get opportunity to study and practice religion so I thought to escape to India.

I came to India by walk. It took 23 days to cross the high Himalayas mountains and to reach India border. On my way to India I faced much difficulties. Of course, I was afraid because, if once we were caught by the Chinese then they will imprison us for life. We walk whole night and when the sun rise we hide under a small cave waiting for night to fall. We crossed high snow mountain by walk. And most difficult was that after many days, our food which we carried from our home was finished and we have to go without food for many days. And on high rocky mountains sometime we didn’t even get a drop of water.

I came to India in Jan.2006 and first I went to Dharamsala to get blessings of his Holiness the Dalai Lama, and then I came to South India. I am now studying at First Standard, which is called 1st year of Dialectic, and we debate and study on that. Our annual exam is approaching, it is in June. After the Exam I will send you my result sheet. And tell you how it was.

My daily life in India is like: in my nunnery, we nuns study Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan grammar and poetry, Prayer memorization, English. Every day we get up at 5:00 am to attend Morning Prayer Ceremony. Then we go to Philosophy class; after that we play Debate in Debate yard for 2 hours. We eat lunch at 11:00 am. We take nap for 1 hour and after that we go for Tibetan Grammar class, then English class, and we do self-studies.

We take dinner at 5:00 pm, and at 6:30 pm we assemble for Prayers. At 8:30, we again play Debate for 3 hours altogether. Then we go to room, and revise our studies and we go to bed at 12:00. This is my routine.  My hobbies are: feeding animals, reading Tibetan stories.

Lastly, I will cease here with all my love, prayers and best wishes. I pray for your good health, success and happiness. May your heart be filled with all joys, and mind with peace. I’ve enclosed one picture of mine.

Take care and I am thankful for your kind help. Do write me if you get time. And send me your sweet letter. I am so happy to hear from you. Thanking you,

yours sincerely,

Dolma

If Dolma or any of the others would have been caught trying to cross into India on the mountains, they would likely have been shot to death.

On October 20, 2006, news reports out of Khatmandu described a horror scene witnessed by many Western mountain-climbers. Reuters Press wrote: “Foreign climbers described on Tuesday the horror of watching Chinese guards shoot at a group of Tibetans high in the Himalayas, killing at least one of them.

Three climbers from Britain and Australia told Reuters they watched the incident on September 30 in Chinese territory, close to Nangpa La, a mountain pass in the Mount Everest region. At least 10 Tibetan children were also taken into custody by Chinese authorities, one climber said.

‘We felt a bit shocked and upset because we came to climb the mountain and here we are watching people being shot,’ said British climber Steve Lawes, who was at the advance base camp on Cho-Oyu — at 8,201 metres (26,906 feet), the world’s sixth highest mountain. The area is about 20 km (12 miles) west of Mount Everest. There has been no official Chinese comment about the incident.”

The total disregard that the Chinese government has toward human rights within China itself and in Tibet requires condemnation – not an Olympic event and international whitewashing.

Since China began its occupation of Tibet in 1951, over one million Tibetans have been murdered in a genocide that continues to this day. Poisoning of crops and animals in order to drive away farmers, people taken away in the night and made to “disappear”, forced abortions and sterilizations of Tibetan women and gang raping of Tibetan nuns while in police custody, are just some examples of the ongoing crimes against humanity taking place in Tibet to this day.

A small number of Tibetans have been able to escape to India, Nepal and Bhutan, where they are free to observe their culture and practice their religion.

China has begun an aggressive plan to eradicate the remaining vestiges of Tibetan culture by relocating millions of ethnic Chinese into Tibet. The cultural genocide will ensure that within a few generations, the “Tibetan problem” will once and for all be a fleeting memory for the Chinese leadership.

Sadly, the West is helping to finance this genocide. China enjoys a significant trade imbalance in its favour that helps maintain and advance its military infrastructure. Multinational corporations have lobbied hard to prevent the issue of human rights abuses in China and Tibet from being a topic at trade talks. The politicians have obliged by turning a blind eye to the oppression and persecution of the innocent.

The only way that China will be forced to deal with Tibet is if human rights is made an issue at trade talks. It will then be in China’s own interest to deal with Tibet in a humane manner. However, as long as the international community puts profit above human dignity and freedom, the destruction of a vibrant people and their ancient culture will continue.

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6 Responses to “My Correspondence with a Tibetan Nun”

  1. Elisa – I admire you for the service you are doing. The mail from Dolma was really moving. I am an Indian and yet I don’t know all this is happening in my neighboring country.

    Its been a long standing dream of mine to visit the ancient temples in Tibet. I am shocked and saddened to know that the Tibetan culture is being systematically destroyed.

  2. Elisa said

    Archana,
    I also wasn’t very well informed until I started doing human rights/charity work a couple of years back. The news we watch here is Canada is overly politically-correct; they also tend to edit and whitewash things that people might find very troubling. It doesn’t help that all governments these days are so profit-oriented and rely on China for cheap exports, so it would affect good relations if they were to question what is happening in “their backyard”.

    I’m surprised India doesn’t have better news coverage of what’s taking place across its borders. There are hundreds of thousands of Tibetans living in India right now, Dalai Lama included. There are Tibetan colonies both north and south (the Tibetans I keep in touch with, 3 girls including Dolma, all live south of Karnataka – in the Mongdog area), in protected/restricted colonies. To enter there, one needs a Restricted Area Permit. I’m not sure whether it is to keep intruders out or the other way around.

    I also wish to visit Tibet someday. Reading more about this, I discovered that it’s not as easy as just getting a Chinese visa (which I’ve done in the past, when I traveled to Beijing). To enter Tibet, you need an additional visa – I think it’s a security precaution to keep Tibetan supporters out.
    The funny thing is, China is beginning to market Tibet as a sort of Buddhist amusement park – bringing in tours led by govt-approved tour groups, etc. But just to make sure that tourists don’t forget they are in CHINA, not Tibet, they build massive communist structures with Chinese flags across the road from Buddhist temples. It’s pretty sad, actually.

  3. Tisha said

    Good job, Elisa! It’s important that we all support whatever efforts we can to protest the atrocious human rights record that China has. It’s shocking and sad and, even just scratching the surface of the human rights issues in China is depressing. It’s human nature to want to avoid suffering, even vicarious suffering, but it will not stop as long as we turn a blind eye, either because it’s disturbing or because Chinese goods are inexpensive.

    Do you have any info on how the “average Joe” can help?

    🙂

    Tisha

  4. I am surprised too, Elisa. They don’t give such news prominence anymore. The news channels here have become very tabloid focusing mainly on TRPs.
    Pakistan is featured prominently, not China and Tibet

  5. […] Tibetan Child, A Life In Exile I recently read a very moving account by Canadian blogger, Elisa, about her sponsorship of Dolma, a 20-year-old Tibetan Buddhist nun, now living in exile at a […]

  6. […] to my sponsorship of Suvimali, my other favourite correspondence, organized through Tibetan Sponsorship Scheme, was with a young Tibetan nun in Nepal to whom I sent […]

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