tibetan refugee

Guerrilla fighters of the Indian Special Frontier Force (SFF) in 1971. The SFF was founded in the early 1960s and raised mostly from Tibetan refugees who had fled into India. Originally envisioned for use against China in the event of a future conflict, the 9,000 man force first saw significant action during the 1971 War, deploying in the Chittagong Hill Tracts on the eastern border of Bangladesh, and engaging in clandestine operations beginning in November (prior to official involvement of India in the war).


A bit of context on this next series of photos: Dharamshala, India is where the exiled government of Tibet resides. Led by the Dalai Lama, nearly 100,000 Tibetan refugees live in this northern Indian city, where they seek to maintain their traditions and culture in exile. The long journey from Tibet to India includes a grueling 28 day walk through the Himalayan mountains. Many of the refugees make this trek as children, sent by their parents in hopes of studying their language and religion in freedom. In conclusion, here’s a young Tibetan monk playing with a kitten.

(Dharamshala, India)


Update on my jeans! I’ve added a lot of stuff since you last saw them including some wristbands from festivals, Iron Maiden and AC/DC patches, a Pink Floyd patch, a star, anarchy patches, some bits of writing and an ॐ patch from a Tibetan refugee in Nepal, amongst other things.
Everything was sewn on by hand, if you have any questions just ask.

Won’t Back Down — The Captivity of Palden Gyatso

The human body can bear immeasurable pain and yet recover. Wounds can heal. But once the spirit is broken, everything falls apart.”

—Palden Gyatso

In 1950 Chinese forces under Mao Tse Tung invaded Tibet, the large mountainous country that is now located in the southwestern corner of China.  Against the Chinese Army, the 5,000 strong Tibetan army stood no chance and was swept away within the matter of days.  During the initial occupation by the Chinese, for the most part little changed in Tibet.  Tibet remained a de facto autonomous region and communist reforms were enacted slowly and incrementally.  That all changed in 1959 when the Chinese Communist Party decided it was time to radically change Tibet.  Programs were immediately put in place to transform the Tibetan economy along Maoist ideals while severely restricting Tibetan religion and culture.  What resulted was a nationwide uprising against the Chinese occupation composed of both peaceful protestors and armed guerillas.  The Chinese responded with extreme brutality, causing the deaths of between 80,000 and 90,000 Tibetans.  One of China’s goal was to completely gut Tibetan culture, most especially Tibet’s cultural cornerstone, the practice of Tibetan Buddhism.  In that year, the Chinese destroyed over 2,000 monasteries, arresting or executing thousands of monks.

Palden Gyatso was a 28 year old monk when the Chinese arrested him and destroyed his monastery near Lhasa.  For the next 33 years, he was forced to live hellish existence in various Chinese prisons and forced labor camps.  Along with his fellow monks, he endured harsh treatments including communist indoctrinations sessions, beatings, torture, and starvation. 

His captors offered a simple way to escape their tortures; if he merely renounced his religion and his country, he would be set free.  He refused.  During his 33 year captivity he was fed very little.  Often, all he was given to eat was a bowl of soup so thin that he could see his reflection in it.  It wasn’t uncommon for his guards to deny him food for days on end.  Him and the others monks survived by eating boiled leather, tree bark, leaves, grass, and insects.  When Palden Gyatso was finally released, he was described as a walking human skeleton.

Worse than the starvation was the torture, which commonly occurred after indoctrination and “re-education” sessions.  The guards viciously beat the monks routinely.  In one particularly horrific torture, the guards hogtied Gyatso’s hands and feet behind his back, suspended him from the ceiling from a rafter, then slowly dripped boiling water down his back, yet still he refused to give in.  In the 1980’s the guards began using cattle prods, jolting them with powerful electric shocks across the body.  Often the guards would sadistically tease the monks by pretending to shock them but holding back, only to randomly shock them later.  One guard jammed a prod into Palden’s mouth, the blast of which knocked him unconscious.  When he awoke, he was lying in a pool of his own bodily fluids and found that he no longer had any teeth.  Regardless, he refused to denounce his convictions. Today he wears dentures.

In the 1960’s he managed to escape from a labor camp, however a short time later he was arrested for placing “free Tibet” posters on buildings in Lhasa.  He was finally freed in 1992 under international pressure, espcially by Amnesty International.  Before he departed, Gyatso and the other monks managed to convince the guards to sell them the instruments of torture they used, which he now displays during his speaking tours. 

Gyatso was smuggled out of Tibet, escaping to Dharmasala, India, now home to the largest community of Tibetan refugees in the world. Shortly after his captivity, he wrote an autobiography detailing his experiences. Today Palden Gyatso travels the world, speaking to audiences about his experiences and advocating for Tibetan rights and freedom.  When asked if he hated the guards for what they had done to him, he responds that he holds no ill will against them, rather that he pitys them for being caught up in a system that has stripped them of humanity, and understands that what they did, they did out of ignorance.  Gyatso’s most common speaking venues are high schools and universities.  His advice to the youth,
Treasure your religious and political freedom.  Try to live your lives well. Realize how fortunate you are. Don’t waste your time, be respectful of your time. It behooves you not to waste your opportunities.”


In 1998 Jamyang Yeshi, a talented singer and musician from the Amdo region of Tibet, fled his Chinese-occupied country and settled in Dharamsala, India. Over eight years in India he performed widely, and released several CDs, until his life took a different course in 2005. Jamyang was invited to Canada to perform at The Banff Centre’s “Cultures at Risk” Summit and was granted refugee status in Canada. This brought him closer to his brother, Tsundue, who had also escaped Tibet and made his home in the United States. However, both men’s freedom in exile kept them continents apart from the rest of their close-knit family in Tibet. 

In early 2006, the Tara Café Project began work on the Shining Spirit recording and film project with a dream in mind … the project would bring the family together through their music, using multi-tracking technology; as well, a short film would be made of the process. This project would be accomplished with the help of western friends who were able to travel freely to Tibet, a country now forbidden to Jamyang and Tsundue. In the summer of 2006, Mark Unrau and Karen McDiarmid travelled to the family’s home in Amdo, bringing with them a video camera, and music tracks recorded by Jamyang in Canada and stored on Mark’s laptop computer. They were joined by Gompo Kyab, a musician friend of Jamyang and Tsundue’s, who acted as music facilitator and translator for the project. 

Over the course of three weeks, members of Jamyang’s musical family – father, two elder brothers, younger sister and nephew – and the extended family, were recorded. The recordings from Tibet were then carried back to Canada, and the family was reunited musically by mixing the tracks together in the studios of The Banff Centre. Jamyang and his father sing together, as do Jamyang and his younger sister, while the entire family joins in song for the first time in fifteen years in “Aku Pema.” And the family, having not heard Jamyang sing since he had left Tibet, were able to listen to his beautiful voice soaring from the laptop computer. This was an emotional time for everyone, including the project members. The Shining Spirit Project is a testament to the power of music, the resilience of the Tibetan culture, and the enduring bond of a family separated by politics and geography.

sidewalkbeat  asked:

What would you say to someone that says "Buddhists aren't supposed to get mad?" I don't particularly identify as a Buddhist but anytime I find myself experiencing a particularly strong emotion, someone always says "You can't do that because you're a Buddhist."

Should or shouldn’t is irrelevant. If anger is there, it is there. The difference between a Buddhist and a non-Buddhist is that the non-Buddhist will say “I shouldn’t feel this way, I should be feeling that way.” Whereas a Buddhist sets aside such judgments and preferences, instead attending to what is

A spiritual Way is a practice, it is a way of relating to and engaging being alive in this moment. It is a way of emerging from our own habits of confusion. Whereas the common concept of religion is about beliefs, what you can do, what you can’t do, and other such nonsense. 

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” ~ Buddha

Notice that Buddha is not saying anger is unacceptable or wrong or not permitted. He is saying that should anger appear, do not grasp at it. Do not hold onto it. Let it go the way it came. 

People have this notion of Buddhism being like a religion of peace and tranquility, which is in actuality utter bullshit. You think the Tibetan Buddhists had much peace and tranquility when they were fleeing for their lives from the Chinese occupation of Tibet? Even now they live in exile with the Dalai Lama among others in India. 

Real Buddhists have known hardship and anger and injustice and fear. The difference is that they have been given the teachings and training to meet those incredible challenges and still remain sane, clear, loving, and whole. 

I’ve had the privilege to speak with a few Tibetan refugees and it really drove home the point that circumstances do not dictate sanity. That is the real meaning of peace. Peace is not found in the realm of emotion but rather it is recognized within as existential sanity. 

The way of Buddhism meets all aspects of human existence. That which is changeful is truly powerless to make us suffer or to make us happy, such is the lesson of impermanence. Therefore change need not be sought or avoided, only awakened from as a means to peace and happiness. 

A lesson I myself learned long ago is to refrain from discussing spiritual matters with those who aren’t actually interested. Nothing useful comes of it. While I am quite open about all this, I don’t invite opinions and speculation from those who have no direct understanding.

If they don’t meditate, if they do not examine their minds and hearts, if they do not learn from the teachings of wise ones throughout the millennia, if they do not question the things they have taken to be true about themselves and others, then what can they possibly offer to such a discussion besides the chattering of a restless mind?

Don’t look to non-Buddhists and the like to tell you about Buddhism. And most certainly don’t look to others to tell you about yourself. 

Look within.