”You must not hate those who do wrong or harmful things; but with compassion, you must do what you can to stop them – for they are harming themselves, as well as those who suffer from their actions”. Dalai Lama XIV
We have dwelled over writing a blog about Tibet obviously since it’s a month late. A few reasons why…. It’s a beautiful and interesting place with so much to cover not sure if we’d do it justice, and because we are angry at the situation and what we learnt that writing about it is mentally/emotionally difficult but here we goooooo!
Our trip started with Intrepid Tours in Kathmandu, Nepal. A great Australia tour company and a safe way/only possible way these days to travel in/out and around Tibet safely and with a reasonable about of ease. The tour is called Tibet Unplugged… as stated above its not unplugged and it can’t be under the Chinese “Cultural Revolution”. God forbid if you carry a book on the Dalai Lama in your backpack (it all gets searched) he’s a terrorist you know? There’s checkpoints every 20km (well it felt like that) checking papers and passports… maybe were hiding the Dalai Lama in our bus, or carrying a Tibetan flag! The Tibetan people so beautiful in their faith quietly wander around heads down, smiling but having no real freedom to have an open and honest conversation with you. Everywhere we went we felt the unease around us, careful where we dropped the D bomb, yet eager to ask questions and discover more about the history and what’s still happening today! We were lucky to have a knowledgeable and open Nepali guide who was with us the entire time, who told us some interesting stories of his experiences. We also had a beautiful guide, who did his best to give us facts, but when he quietens his voice and looks around himself to answer a question you have to back off your questioning at his obvious discomfort of being watched.
Deciding weather to travel to Tibet or not was a hard decision, we did much research through pages such as Free Tibet and the Dalai Lamas page to discover if it was a good idea for us or not.
Reasons against travelling include:
· Travel to Tibet means basically adhering to the Chinese regime
· It can be hard not to spend your money in Chinese owned venues
· You can only go where the Chinese allow, no freedom to really explore
· There is police everywhere…. Everywhere!
· The difficulty to actually talk to Tibetans about anything to do with their history and culture without the risk of getting in trouble and especially putting them at risk
· 14th Dalai Lama who?
Yet obviously we did visit and these are the reasons that won us over:
· With a little bit of research and effort you can shop and spend your money at Tibetan owned venues – and they need that support
· What a better place to learn about the history of Buddhism in Tibet
· Knowledge is power you know and by going to actually see the country for yourself and what the Tibetans are going through is a pretty powerful fuel to raise awareness, share their injustices and join their fight for human rights!!
· It’s a beautiful country, harsh really harsh but beautiful!
We were with a great group of random travellers throughout our journey, and travelled very comfortably our entire 15 days. Maybe only one night that we were close to freezing to death… that was with thermals, many layers, and 4 blankets! The food was basic, but the dumplings were an absolute hit! If you visit don’t try the Yak Butter Tea… yeah just don’t and get use to bad toilets, really bad toilets learn to laugh about it!
Boy did we visited temples, monasteries & nunneries, that was most our days. Yet we didn’t get templed out, we may have froze but the architecture, history, smell of yak butter candles burning, beautiful paintings, statues, offerings, meditating Monks and praying Tibetans kept us intrigued and temple happy!!
Tibet is so full of amazing culture (despite the suppression), history, a stunning way of the life through Buddhism and spiritual devotion aswell as the vast changing landscape, we saw barren landscapes full of amazing hills and a few yaks, to high mountains covered in pure beautiful snow then in some areas lots of trees and greenery. It is certainly the harshest place on earth to live we were there in the winter and although the days were hot the sun was burning our skin it was still freezing in the shade and we still had to wear about three different layers. The first few days Megan was being brave/stupid and wearing thongs, it was actually a great conversation starter as the locals found it shocking and hilarious and enjoyed having a stare and a laugh about it. After a few night times though we discovered the socks and thongs trick wasn’t warm enough and had to buy some uggboots – these were the savour of the trip because as we went further it only got a hell of alot colder.
We were lucky enough to visit the Patolo in Lhasa, where the Dalai Lama spent the majority of his day as a young boy before being exiled at 14 years old. Did you know that the Dalai Lama has not been back to Tibet in 60 years!!!! Given that you would think the culture and faith of Buddhism would be abit lost, considering the un-buddhist practices imparted by the Chinese in Tibet, but no it’s still bloody strong! We visited the Patola and Jokhart square (the main place for political protests) in Lhasa and every single day there were hundreds of Tibetans holding their pray beads and pray wheels doing their Koras. After that most usually got on to prostrating…. prostrating basically looks like a burpee, their down on their flat stomachs, arms out in pray and up again. Sounds okay, we do burpees but they do it 108 times… everyday, everywhere, when your wandering the streets just watch your step as a elderly man can just drop to the ground beginning his prostrating. It was very humbling for us to be apart of this and gave us a great appreciation for the strength of the Tibetan people.
Another kick in the gut moment however is whilst reaching the top of the Patola, the childhood home of the 14th Dalai Lama, you take in the views and boom there’s a big ugly monument across from the Patola, built to celebrate 40yrs of Chinese “Cultural revolution” in Tibet, you know just in case the Buddhist monks had forgotten whilst meditating in the Potala that their leader is considered a terrorist and that everyday people disappear & take their lives in standing up for their freedom.
This blog is a bit of doom and gloom, no wonder it’s taken so long to write. Don’t get us wrong we had an amazing time with our fellow travellers, loved the views, the great Tibetan people we met and we grew in such appreciation for the Buddhist faith. We could talk about those experiences but the issue is the Tibetans fight for freedom so we just want to share some facts as the most important thing that has come from our journey to Tibet is what we’ve learnt. We might not be able to do much right now, a cultural revolution probably has to come from within China to change their ways, and sadly intervention from western countries has said to do more harm in the past. Yet as we mentioned knowledge is power and if we allow these behaviours and just ‘get use to it’, we are giving these acts a power and it’s scary to think just how fast power can spread these days if were not aware.
Remember as Martin Luther said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
Thanks for reading, and we apologise for the lack of flow but here’s some not so fun facts to learn a little bit more.
- In Tibet they grew Barley which thrives at high altitudes, when the Chinese arrived in 195,0 they forced farmers to grow wheat instead as it suited their tastes more, this had disastrous results’’.
- “There are still thousands of young Tibetans who leave their homeland to come to Dharamasala each year to become Monks. Like most Buddhist monks, they spend many hours each day in deep meditation and study. They harm no one, carry no weapons, they just want to be allowed to live in peace and follow their beliefs. The fact that the Chinese military have continued to hound and persecute the monks – and the people of Tibet – for forty years, is the saddest part of the whole Tibetan tradegy. That, and the empty silence about it across the world.’’
- Since 1949, the Chinese gov have destroyed over 6,000 Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries and shrines
- China has repeatly violated the UN convetntions thorugh extensive use of torture against Tibetan political prisoners, oftern Monks or Nuns.
- Many Tibetans in refuge in Nepal and other places are still not given passports or refugee cards because the Chinese gov pressures the Nepali Gov to not let them. Therefore these people do not belong to any country and even though they are extremely educated and wonderful they can never study, work or live overseas and become more empowered.
- The Dalai Lama believes in the middle way as do most Tibetans. They hold absolutely no hatred towards Chinese people and just want to be allowed back into Tibet safely and have the rights to make decisions in government, work in high positions and practice their beliefs and culture.
- Over half of Tibet’s available forest stock has been felled and exported to China