archivio notizie

Confronto sull’art. 21 della “Dichiarazione universale dei Diritti Umani e Civili delle Nazioni Unite”.

Jamyang Norbu: A Tibetan Cultural Critique
2 ottobre 2009

Over the years I have been trying to understand our [Tibetan] predilection to deal with national emergencies by burying our collective head in the sands of superstition and inertia. The observations and conclusions gathered in these two essays “Body Snatchers” and “Back to the Future” are presented in the hope that they will help to persuade younger Tibetans to think rationally and act vigorously in politics (and in religion) in much the way as the Buddha himself seems to have advocated. [...]

On a grey morning during the monsoon of 1976, the small town of McLeod Ganj, or at least the Tibetan part of it, experienced a curious upheaval … The cause of the disturbance was not physical, like an earthquake (which the area is somewhat prone to) nor social or political, like the communal riot we had some years ago. A psychologist might say that it originated from “the dark, inaccessible part” (to borrow from Freud’s definition of the id) of the Tibetan mind. [...]

One of the most widespread and persistent of phobias that Tibetans have had in the past about travelling to “the great Indian plains” (gya-thang or gya-ding) was of being abducted and having their “human-oil” (mi-num) squeezed out of them. The extraction process was explained to me by a geshe (doctor of divinity) from Drepung monastery, when the two of us arrived at the North Indian city of Siliguri from Kalimpong. Geshe L was a heavily-built man of around fifty years of age, quite learned, in the traditional sense, yet fairly open-minded as well.

As we boarded a cycle-rickshaw and were pedalled away to the New Jalpaiguri railway station by a skinny, hollow-cheeked rickshaw-wallah, geshe L appeared ill-at-ease. He turned to me and asked whether I had heard of any “human oil” squeezers operating in the town. I insisted that those old stories were absurd and completely without foundation. But he was not reassured, and seemed to regard my attitude not only as frivolous but dangerously naive as well. Geshe L patiently explained it all to me.

It appeared that in most cases of human oil abductions, the victim was first rendered helpless by a drug slipped into a drink or a cigarette. He or she was then taken to some lonely warehouse or shed where he or she was stripped naked and hung upside down from the rafters over a low fire. Gradually, the body would begin to drip fat — in the manner of a roasting pig — which was collected in a pan underneath, and later bottled, or whatever. [...]

Then one day … a monk taking a walk from the town to the Tibetan Children’s Village encountered a group of Indians on the road. At this time of the year, Dharamsala is filled with yatris, pilgrims, visiting Hindu holy sites around the area. These pilgrims generally wear red headbands or carry red flags as tokens of their faith. This particular group of Indians on the McLeod -TCV road started to shout and whistle (in the noisy exuberant way of Indian pilgrims) to some of their friends on the road below. The monk, who was somewhat corpulent, suspected the worst and fled back to McLeod Ganj, where his breathless account of red flags and near abduction immediately circulated around the town, sending a frisson of apprehension through it.

Two days later, on a somewhat overcast day, I was hanging about the bus stand at the air-gun stall that once stood just by the intersection of the two roads, one leading to the Tibetan Children’s Village and the other to the nearby village of Forsyth Bazaar — which then continues on to Lower Dharamshala. The stall owner and I were having a chat when a few Tibetans from Forsyth Bazaar walked by. They were hailed by a McLeod Ganj Tibetan. The subsequent conversation went something like this:

McLeod Tibetan: Hey! Where are you all going?

Forsyth Tibetan 1: We’re going back to Phosa Baza (Forsyth Bazaar).

McLeod Tibetan (gravely): You’d better be careful. People are being grabbed and taken away these days, just like that. There’s this jeep with a red flag that comes along, and then there’s nothing you can do about it.

Forsyth Tibetan 1: We heard something like that.

Forsyth Tibetan 2 (worried): We’d better rush back, our children are alone at home.

McLeod Tibetan: You do that. Someone told me that there was a jeep full of Indians this morning at Phosa Baza. He thinks the jeep may have had a red flag stuck in the front.

The group from Forsyth Bazaar quickly walked away down the road. The McLeod Tibetan hurried towards the main street. I couldn’t swear it was him but the next minute there was this outcry “Where’s our children?” Another voice pitched in, “The children have been taken!” It was absolute chaos after that.

In a surprisingly short time, the bus-stand was filled with panic-stricken Tibetans. The women were the noisiest, screaming at the men to do something, and crying and howling as if it were judgement day. The men rushed around shouting threats and curses. I remember one man in particular, a self-important but simple fellow [who] loved bustling about in public gatherings, looking busy and important. That day he was running up and down the main street brandishing a long and wicked-looking Tibetan dagger, all the while shouting ferociously: “Where are they? Where are they?”

A few female hippies were in the crowd with some old amalas. All of them were weeping copiously. One old granny was holding a yappy little apso that was adding its share to the general cacophony. A rather brainless German girl I knew spotted me and came over howling, “Save the children! Save them!” [...]

I’m afraid I laughed out aloud. Some people in the crowd turned on me. “How can you laugh? …Our children … abducted … etc.” I tried to explain how mistaken they were but got nowhere. Fortunately there was a timely distraction; someone had the sense enough to suggest that they check the local day-school where the very young children of McLeod Ganj studied. Everybody surged down the street to the small two-room school. The old monk teacher was rudely woken up from his nap. He had given the kids the day off and most of them had gone off to play. Finally, the children were rounded up. In fact, quite a few of them had been in the crowd all along, shouting and enjoying themselves. [...]

For the few Tibetans who fancy themselves as rational and progressive, and further suffer from the need to express such views, life in the Tibetan community in Dharamshala often takes on … absurdities, frustrations and hazards … Even on such a basic issue as public health it is easy to put oneself in a false position by merely doing the sensible thing. In 1983 there was a nasty outbreak of rabies in Dharamshala. At the Tibetan Children’s Village over a dozen children were bitten by rabid dogs and two boys died. I was director of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) at the time and, despite opposition, had all the dogs around the area removed somewhere far away. In spite of my efforts a woman whose husband worked at TIPA was bitten by a stray. I wanted her to get rabies shots immediately but her husband insisted on her being treated by a shaman. There was little I could do except rail against the futility of shamans and oracles. The woman died, of course, and it was a horrible lingering death. But that in no way seemed to convince the husband, or his friends and relatives, that they had done anything wrong. All it did was add to my reputation as an “unbeliever”.

…In the exile Tibetan world even a moderately progressive position runs up not only against the conservatism of the older generation and the church, but often against the whimsies of Western “Dharma types” enamoured with everything “traditional” or “mystical” in the Tibetan world. The advantage for Westerners in love with shamans, spiritual healing and what not, is that unlike the natives, if things go wrong they can fall back on the technology, wealth and security of the Western world.

Tibetan tales: old myths, new realities
2 ottobre 2009

The apathy and superstitions of modern Tibetans are just as destructive to their country as romantic western misconceptions, warns prize-winning writer Jamyang Norbu.

In Satyajit Ray’s film, Ganashatru, an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play, Enemy of the People, a doctor discovers that leaking sewers are contaminating a water source which is regarded as holy, and which attracts large number of
pilgrims. The doctor, concerned by the sudden rise of water-borne diseases, tries to warn the townspeople of this danger. But the mayor and others, with a vested interest in the pilgrimage site, attack the doctor for what they see as his anti-Hindu views, and soon with all manner of demagogic rabble-rousing tactics turn the entire town against him.

For the few Tibetans who fancy themselves as rational and progressive, and further suffer from the need to express such views, life in the Tibetan community in Dharamshala often takes on much of the absurdities, frustrations and hazards as those faced by Ray’s doctor-hero. Even on such a basic issue as public health it is easy to put oneself in a false position by merely doing the sensible thing.

In 1983 there was a nasty outbreak of rabies in Dharamshala. At the Tibetan Children’s Village over a dozen children were bitten by rabid dogs and two boys died. I was director of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) at the time and, despite opposition, had all the dogs around the area removed somewhere far away. In spite of my efforts a woman whose husband worked at TIPA was bitten by a stray. I wanted her to get rabies shots immediately but her husband insisted on her being treated by a shaman.

There was little I could do except rail against the futility of shamans and oracles. The woman died, of course, and it was a horrible lingering death. But that in no way seemed to convince the husband, or his friends and relatives, that they had done anything wrong. All it did was add to my reputation as an “unbeliever”, which eventually got me into the kind of hot water that Ray’s doctor experienced.

Time machine, Jang Yung

Time machine, Jang Yung

I am no advocate of Victorian-style rationality and progress, and I certainly do not see myself as shepherding the ignorant masses out of their superstitious darkness onto the sunlit path of empirical facts. Yet in the exile Tibetan world even a moderately progressive position runs up not only against the conservatism of the older generation and the church, but often against the whimsies of western “dharma types” enamoured with everything “traditional” or “mystical” in Tibet. The advantage for westerners in love with shamans, spiritual healing and what not, is that unlike the natives, if things go wrong they can fall back on the technology, wealth and security of the western world.

Of course, even in the so-called developed world, irrational beliefs still persist, Bernard Shaw in his introduction to Saint Joan went so far as to declare that modern man was as credulous as someone from the middle ages. Shaw was exaggerating but he did have a point. Still, even if modern man is not all that wonderfully rational a being as was hoped, he is, nonetheless, miles ahead of the average Tibetan in this respect.

Nearly every traveller to “old” Tibet, even the friendliest, has unfailingly commented on how auguries and magical beliefs dominated the lives of the people. Such observations, in books and documents from around the period of the Younghusband expedition (Waddell, Landon, Candler et al), are more pronounced and hostile, with Tibetans being described as a brutish people mired in ignorance and exploited by a degenerate and xenophobic
priestly class.

Detail from Padmasambhava - Guru Dragpo (meditational form)

Detail from Padmasambhava - Guru Dragpo (meditational form)

But it is not an uncommon practise to demonise those you are going to subjugate or massacre. Chinese propaganda about old Tibet being a backward barbaric society under the yoke of a “man-eating” ruling class, is qualitatively no different from British publications of the Younghusband expedition era. Just a couple of years ago Beijing once again revived its 1960s- and 1970s-style vilification of the Dalai Lama “charging him with having used human heads, intestines and skin in sacrificial offering.”

This kind of crude propaganda, of course, needs no refutation. And it does seem particularly thick coming from a country where ritual cannibalism was being enthusiastically practised in the 1960s (one ate the liver of the class enemy to show devotion to Chairman Mao), and where the national belief prevailed that the pedestrian quotations of a power-mad dictator who never brushed his teeth or washed his genitals (according to his personal physician) could inspire cabbages to remarkable feats of spontaneous growth.

Introducing state oracles

In 1964 an actor at TIPA was possessed by a spirit. The possession seems to have been genuine enough. Three separate eyewitnesses gave me identical accounts of how the possessed man ran himself through with a long dagger (one eyewitness even remembered seeing the tip of the blade sticking out from the man’s back). He was not only unharmed by this performance, but was not marked by even a small scar. Such paranormal feats by Tibetan and Mongol oracles have been reported from early times by such travellers as Marco Polo and the Lazarist priest, Abbe Huc. More recent accounts by Nebesky Wojkowitz and Joseph Rock describe personal encounters with Tibetan oracles who twisted steel broadswords into spirals.

But getting back to our TIPA story: after his somewhat dramatic prelude with the dagger, the possessed man proclaimed that he was the mountain god, Nyechenthangla (of the trans-Himalayan range) and blessed all those present. He finally came out of his trance and fell into a dead faint. The matter was reported to the religious department of the exile government and probably to the Dalai Lama as well.

Some days later the mediums of one of the state oracles came to TIPA accompanied by his monk servitors. The monks performed the invocatory rituals and the medium went into a trance, at which moment the Nyechentangla deity spontaneously possessed the actor again. The state oracle greeted his fellow deity by touching foreheads, and from what I was informed, passed on to him instructions from the Dalai Lama. These were that since Tibet was on its way to becoming a modern country, the business of gods and spirits possessing human mediums could not be permitted anymore — or words to that effect. The two state oracles were, however, exempt from the decree.

There was definitely a new-wine-in-old-bottles quality to most of the modernisation efforts of the period.

Barley beer song, Zungde

Barley beer song, Zungde

I was a child of 6 in Kalimpong, when I was dragged before a terrifying red-faced oracle to receive his blessing. Childhood terror evolved to fascination as I grew up and heard numerous stories of the supernatural marvels of Tibet. Especially fascinating were accounts of the state oracle, which for a history buff like myself had the added appeal of a romantic connection to ancient Greece and Rome — to seers like the Pythoness at Delphi and the Sibyl of Cumae. The whole business was, however, hard to square with our supposed goal of creating a modern Tibet. It was even more difficult to ignore the state oracle’s dismal track record of failed prophecies.

In exile, despite the initial fervour of modernisation, Tibetans, because of the very uncertainty of their predicament, soon became caught up in the thrall of prophecies and auguries. In the early 1960s, there was a report in the Tibetan-language newspaper Tibetan Freedom that a bird had been sighted at the Tibetan school in Happy Valley, Mussoorie, cooing bhod rangzen thop, or “Tibet will gain its independence”, over and over again. Everyone became terribly excited.

The state oracle would also regularly deliver prophecies that Tibet would be free the next year, or the year after that, and so on. Now and then he would be more circumspect and suggest that a major international change would take place in the near future, which would benefit Tibet. On a few occasions he was even emboldened enough to claim that his “heavenly army” was poised to do its stuff against the Chinese.

What is mind-boggling in retrospect is the absolute faith of the public and even the Dalai Lama in these predictions that never even came remotely close to being realised. Select western guests of the Tibetan government were treated to performances of the oracle and they were invariably impressed by the mysterious rituals and the dramatic physical changes the medium displayed when going into a trance. Photographs and accounts of the oracle began to appear in a number of books and magazines. The Tibetan government’s English-language journal, Tibetan Bulletin, once featured an interview with the
medium. In the cover of the same issue they had the photograph of a fully costumed oracle in a dramatic martial-arts kind of stance, that to my profane eyes, seemed more inspired by Bruce Lee than any Buddhist deity.

Choyang, the glossy full-colour journal of the religious department (and the Norbulingka Institute), edited by western Buddhists, also came out with chatty interviews with the medium and reports on the oracle’s lifestyle. Somehow, all that this exposure and publicity seemed to do was strip away the mystery and exclusivity of an ancient institution and turn it into another spectacle for novelty-seeking westerners.

Girl, Pempa

Girl, Pempa

In this unhealthy climate of fashionable and profitable spiritualism, some unhappy and troubled young women, especially newcomers from Tibet, began to claim they were possessed by this or that deity, sometimes with unfortunate consequences. In another of Ray’s films, Devi, a young bride comes to believe she is the manifestation of the Mother Goddess, and her father-in-law, obsessed with her delusion, brings tragedy to her home.

Introducing modernity

There is a tendency these days among many of our more admiring western friends to ascribe to the Tibetan people extraordinary qualities, not only of serenity and peacefulness, but even a special wisdom, not merely traditional but proto-scientific — a characterisation which is so flattering and advantageous that quite a few of our leaders and lamas are avidly endorsing and promoting this view.

I do not intend to deny or belittle the more admirable qualities of the Tibetan people and our civilisation, and there are many, but perhaps the appeal of these have to some extent concealed the more backward and unhealthy aspects of our culture. We are frankly, a people still in the thrall of ignorance and superstition, which far from declining with the years seems to be gaining new life and impetus with foreign sponsorship and encouragement.

Among the elite, especially among lamas who have centres in the west, there is an appearance of modernism that never fails to impress their western disciples and friends. Terms from quantum physics, cognitive science and pop psychology flow easily in their conversation, but genuine interest in science is absent. More crucially, the scientific outlook is non-existent. Tibetan lamas view science from a reverse Fritjof Capra-ean perspective. All they are looking for in science are possible similarities or parallels in Buddhist philosophy, essentially, it seems, to prove to themselves and their followers that they are as modern as is necessary and do not need to change.

There is, furthermore, a proclivity to seeing modern knowledge as primarily utilitarian — as techniques that could be grafted on to traditional values and institutions, which could then remain immutable. China at the end of the 19th century had reacted in much the same way to the challenges of the modern world, with Confucian bureaucrats espousing “zhong xue wei ti, xi xue wei yong — or Chinese learning for essence, western learning for utility”. Which is also what the communist mandarins in Beijing are, in essence, espousing right now.

Many older Tibetans, especially geshes— like Hindu fundamentalists who go around saying that atom bombs and aeroplanes were invented by ancient Indians in Vedic times — are not shy of informing you that the Kangyur and Tengyur contain the secrets to the making of nuclear weapons, or that in the Great War of Shambala, tanks and nuclear weapons would be used. His Holiness himself, in an interview in an Italian journal, declared that he did not regard the account of Shambala as symbolic or legendary and believed that the apocalyptic events prophesied would actually come to pass.

Detail from Vajrapani

Detail from Vajrapani

One would expect that in Tibet itself, after so many year of communist occupation, some modern ideas, no matter how distorted, would have taken root. It has happened with some of the youth, but with the larger section of society the years of living under communism seems to have driven them ever more backwards to their old beliefs and ways. Because nearly everything to do with communist Chinese ideology and rule in Tibet was so permeated with lies and half-truths, Tibetans viewed even basic
information provided in Chinese educational material with suspicion and hostility.

For instance, a historian friend of mine, interviewing an old monk who had been imprisoned for many years, told me that the monk refused to accept that the world was round, because he had been given this information by the Chinese. In exile these days, the more fanatical and reactionary Tibetans can be found among new-arrivals from Tibet. Yet it must be said that many of the younger new-arrivals are much better-read and more interested in modern literature and secular culture than Tibetan youth in exile.

Even Tibetans born and raised in the west do not seem to be entirely free of conservative traditional thinking. In their case the influence probably comes in a roundabout way from “New Age” Buddhist influences. Looking at some of the internet chat-sites and email discussion groups frequented by young Tibetans one is struck by the number of communications that are signed off with a “Peace and Love” and “Om Mani Padme Hum”. More significantly, there appears to be a near-complete absence of any critical examination of Tibetan
beliefs, spiritual or political, among these young people.

Detail from Padmasambhava - Guru Dragpo (meditational form)

Detail from Padmasambhava - Guru Dragpo (meditational form)

Probably this would be a good time as any to mention that I personally do not reject the existence of deities, ghosts and oracles. I think that what people regard as real are to a great degree conditioned by the worldview of the period they live in. When ancient Greeks believed in gods and titans they probably did exist, and not merely as pale symbols of moral qualities or forces of nature as later European readings of the Greeks mythologies and epics would have us accept, but as living powers and entities that interacted in the lives of the people.

“Another sort of world”

Throughout his life Einstein worried about the striking and, to him, suspicious manner in which observed reality conformed to the laws of mathematics. Why he wondered, should the natural world be amenable to man-made rules? Could it be that we can grasp only that stratum of reality that is measurable by our limited methods.

There is a theory that material phenomena, even physical laws, are conditioned by the belief systems of the period. While if we enter the world of quantum physics even the most bizarre event that we can think of has a chance of happening. Even something like the molecules of my body falling apart and assembling again in the next room. And it can be proven mathematically. Of course it will probably take a few billions years for the event to take place, but the possibility is there. And I am going to stop right here, before I entirely succumb to the error I earlier accused Tibetan lamas of committing.

Still, whenever I read the biography of Milarepa
I cannot but be convinced that the great yogi did practise black magic, and did perform those miracles described in the book; and that these weren’t just allegories or parables. Yet with the same absolute conviction I know that now, in this day and age, lamas can’t do these things. I do not doubt Marco Polo when he writes with amazement that Tibetan lamas levitated the Great Khan’s cup to his lips. But these days lamas are patently unable to levitate anything. When they have to fly, they do it in aeroplanes, like the rest of us. The only miraculous thing being that they do it first class.

We must also bear in mind that even in the past, back in “medieval” Tibet, people were not blind to the drawbacks and limitations of oracles and prophecies. The Great 13th Dalai Lama issued a directive to district officials nationwide, to investigate oracles and fortune-tellers, and make sure that they did not exploit the common people. In the Tibetan opera Sukyi Nima, there is a satirical scene of a drunken state oracle, repeatedly beating his long-suffering hunchback secretary, in between delivering such brainless prophecies as: “It will snow in winter” and “It will rain in summer”.

Eyes, Tsering Nyandak

Eyes, Tsering Nyandak

Stories of fake oracles and rigged prophecies are not unusual in Tibetan folklore. One of the popular folk heroes of central Tibet is Lama Methon Phangbo, a merry con-man who delights in hoodwinking the pious and gullible. On a more sinister note there is the story of “Shagdun Sangye” (Seven Day Buddha) of Ghungthang, a religious charlatan and mass murderer who promised people who undertook a seven-day retreat under his guidance a complete dissolution of their corporeal self and a direct entry into nirvana. He accomplished this by dropping them into a bottomless pit normally covered by the retractable floor of his meditation cave. He was eventually exposed by
the “divine madman” Drukpa Kunleg, who arranged for him to receive a poetic sort of justice.

In fact such popular Tibetan saints as Drukpa Kunleg, Agu (Uncle) Tompa and even Milarepa essentially taught people to disregard appearances, ritual, superstition and even conventional thinking and to seek spiritual (and sometimes worldly) truths through good sense, direct experience and their own efforts. Our forebears may have often been superstitious and credulous, but they did not lack common sense. And better-educated people in the past were constantly given to railing against superstition, namthok, as being against the spirit of Buddhism.

A former resistance fighter and CIA agent, Lithang
Athar Norbu
(who died last year in New York) told me this story.

Shortly after the outbreak of the fighting in eastern Tibet in 1956, a local resistance group laid siege to a Chinese garrison. The Khampa fighters did everything they could to crack its defences but failed. During deliberations among the fighters on a fresh course of action, one of their number went into a spontaneous trance, what Tibetans call thonbe, and announced that he was the local protective deity and that he would personally lead the charge to wipe out the “Red Chinese enemies of the Dharma” (tendra-gyamar).

Everyone was excited, and morale, which had dropped in the last few days, soared again. Next day at dawn, the fighters got ready for the attack. The medium, now in full godly regalia (borrowed from a nearby monastery) and armed with a sword, trembled and shook as monks performed the chendre or invocatory rites. As soon as the deity took possession of the medium, he rose, snarling and hissing, from his seat and climbed up on the rampart and brandished his sword in the air.

“A single shot rang out — tak-ka! ” Athar told me, “and the oracle fell over backwards on the ground. Right on his forehead, dead centre, was a hole. And that was that. No, he wasn’t a fake. None of us there had any doubts about the genuineness of the oracle. Perhaps it’s just that their days are over, and it’s another sort of world now.”

Buddha realm, Ang Sang

Buddha realm, Ang Sang

L’appello: il Dalai Lama alla Camera
2 ottobre 2009

La richiesta presentata da 165 deputati. Incerto l’incontro con Prodi. La Cina è contro anche alla visita in Vaticano

dalai-lama--180x140ROMA — «Invitiamo il Dalai Lama a parlare davanti all’Assemblea della Camera dei Deputati, nell’Aula di Montecitorio, quando a metà dicembre sarà in visita in Italia». La richiesta è contenuta in una lettera firmata da 165 deputati dell’Intergruppo parlamentare per il Tibet, indirizzata al presidente della Camera, Fausto Bertinotti. L’iniziativa è stata promossa da Benedetto Della Vedova, presidente dei Riformatori Liberali e parlamentare di Forza Italia, e dai deputati Bruno Mellano, della Rosa nel Pugno, coordinatore dell’intergruppo, Zanella (Verdi), Iovene (SD), Motta (Pd), Forlani,(Udc) Zacchera (An), Folena (Rifondazione).
«Ho pensato che dopo quanto hanno fatto nei mesi scorsi Stati Uniti e Germania per il leader buddista, anche il nostro paese debba dare un chiaro segnale a Pechino. Il presidente Bush gli ha consegnato personalmente la medaglia d’oro del Congresso, la Merkel è stato il primo cancelliere tedesco a riceverlo», spiega Della Vedova. «A pochi mesi dall’arrivo della fiaccola olimpica sulla vetta del-l’Everest, se la visita in Italia del Dalai Lama — continua — dovesse mantenere il consueto cerimoniale, cioè la sola visita ai presidenti di Camera e Senato, l’Italia rimarrebbe indietro rispetto agli altri paesi: bisogna fare molto di più».

In particolare c’è uno spinoso capitolo Palazzo Chigi. «Il Tibet Bureau di Ginevra — afferma Mellano — ci ha chiesto esplicitamente di richiedere un’udienza al premier Romano Prodi che lo scorso anno non diede seguito alla richiesta e non vide il Dalai Lama. Su internet è partita anche una petizione telematica per sollecitare l’incontro ». Sembra, però, che, anche quest’anno, rimanga la «freddezza» di Prodi, deciso a non incrinare i rapporti con la Cina (che considera il Dalai Lama non un leader spirituale ma un pericoloso separatista).

Nel 2006 lo ricevettero solo i ministri Bonino e Pecoraro e il sottosegretario agli Esteri Vernetti. Infine c’è il delicatissimo aspetto della visita in Vaticano. Su questo punto il riserbo è massimo da parte di tutti gli interlocutori. Perché non più di dieci giorni fa la Cina ha fatto pubbliche pressioni sulla Santa Sede perché non venga confermato l’incontro del leader dei buddisti tibetani con il Pontefice, che dovrebbe avere il carattere di una visita privata. «Ne va delle relazioni bilaterali», ha detto il portavoce del ministero degli Esteri cinese. E ha aggiunto: «Il Vaticano deve dimostrare sincerità nel migliorare le relazioni con la Cina». Come data, fonti d’Oltretevere avevano parlato del 13 dicembre, ma l’incontro non è stato ancora annunciato ufficialmente. Di recente, il Vaticano ha ammorbidito le sue posizioni verso Pechino, in vista di un miglioramento della condizione dei cattolici nel paese e della questione della nomina dei vescovi.

Tornando all’Italia, secondo i firmatari della lettera a Bertinotti, un gesto significativo potrebbe essere proprio dare la possibilità al Dalai Lama di prendere la parola nell’emiciclo di Montecitorio. Lasciando da parte la storica visita di Giovanni Paolo II (che avvenne a Camere riunite), ci sono alcuni precedenti in proposito: il re di Spagna Juan Carlos, e il leader palestinese Yasser Arafat, che vi tenne un discorso ancora prima di essere insignito del premio Nobel per la Pace. Riconoscimento che il Dalai Lama ha ricevuto nel 1989 e che è il motivo per cui il mese prossimo viene a Roma, dal momento che in Campidoglio parteciperà al settimo summit mondiale dei premi Nobel per la Pace.

Jamyang Norbu
2 ottobre 2009

Jamyang Norbu is an influential [1][2] Tibetan political activist and writer, currently living in exile in the United States, having previously lived for over 40 years as a Tibetan exile in India.

In his youth he briefly joined the Tibetan Resistance in Mustang. Later he founded and directed the Amnye Machen Institute[3], Tibetan Centre for Advanced Studies, in Dharamsala.

His relentless opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet has led him to criticize the strategy of the Tibetan Government in Exile, which he regards as too conciliatory[4] [5]. His endeavours have also been derided by Chinese authorities as “the wings of a fly beating against a boulder”[6].

Norbu has written several books and theater pieces in English and in Tibetan. In 2000 he received the Hutch Crossword Book Award for his book The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes.[7][8][9]. The book was published in the U.S. in 2001, first under the title Sherlock Holmes – The Missing Years.

Books In English by Jamyang Norbu

  • Warriors of Tibet: The Story of Aten and the Khampas’ Fight for the Freedom of Their Country (originally titled Horseman in the Snow), Wisdom, 1987, Wisdom Pub. , ISBN 0-861-71050-9.
  • The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes, Bloomsbury USA, 2003, ISBN 1-582-34328-4.
  • Illusion and reality, Tibetan Youth Congress, 1989.

External links

Shadow Tibet: Jamyang Norbu’s blog

References and notes

  1. Tibet’s foremost political essayist and activist in exile”, according to Steven Venturino in Where Is Tibet in World Literature?, World Literature Today, January, 2004.
  2. “the foremost Tibetan political essayist, playwright, and novelist”, according to Dorsh Marie de Voe’s Tibetans in India, Springer, 2005, ISBN 978-0-306-48321-9.
  3. Amnye Machen site.
  4. ‘Hands off’ isn’t enough for Tibet by Topden Tsering, July 24, 2005, San Francisco Chronicle.
  5. Jamyang Norbu, Looking Back From Nangpa-La, January 27, 2007, at
  6. WCTIT Bio
  7. Tibetan Sherlock shakes up the movement by David Tracey, March 28, 2002, International Herald Tribune
  8. Afterlife of Sherlock Holmes by Meenakshi Mukherjee, October 1, 2006, The Hindu.
  9. Longing for the Himalayas by Tsering Namgyal, October 19, 2001, The Wall Street Journal online.
Il Dalai Lama convince i dissidenti “Autonomia sì, indipendenza no”
2 ottobre 2009

fonte Raimondo Bultrini – La Repubblica

DHARAMSALA – Con la testa piegata e le mani giunte, cinquecento delegati tibetani giunti a Dharamsala da tutto il mondo hanno offerto al Dalai lama la tradizionale kata, la sciarpa bianca che nel Paese delle Nevi suggella ogni addio. Da secoli simboleggia il rispetto e l´amicizia offerti con mente pura. Ma questa volta, nella cittadina indiana dove per cinque giorni la comunità in esilio ha discusso del futuro del Tibet, la formalità del gesto ha racchiuso significati politici che non mancheranno di essere letti a Pechino come una nuova fase nell´ormai decennale e disperata battaglia degli esuli per rivendicare la propria terra.

Era stato lo stesso Dalai Lama a convocarli, con una mossa strategica a sorpresa, per riunire da una parte i suoi fedelissimi e i suoi critici (operazione in gran parte riuscita), e dall´altra far giungere un messaggio inedito ai dirigenti comunisti di Pechino: state attenti, perché la questione Tibet può diventare parte di un progetto più vasto per portare la democrazia in Cina.
Parlando ai delegati dopo averli fatti discutere liberamente anche dell´argomento finora tabù dell´indipendenza (Rangzen), il Dalai lama ha infatti rivelato di essere stato avvicinato da numerosi studiosi e dissidenti cinesi che gli hanno offerto di diventare una sorta di «leader della Cina democratica». «Io gli ho risposto che non posso essere la guida che cercano – ha detto – ma posso sicuramente far parte del loro movimento contro la dittatura, così come in passato ho condiviso le aspirazioni dei giovani di Tien An Mien».

Da quando nel lontano 1974 offrì per la prima volta a Deng Xiaoping la sua disponibilità a trovare una pacifica «Via di Mezzo» attraverso una «genuina autonomia», il capo spirituale dei tibetani non aveva mai lanciato una sfida tanto aperta al regime. Una sfida quasi romantica, al cospetto del crescente potere economico e militare del grande impero e alle violente repressioni messe in atto dopo le ultime rivolte di Lhasa del marzo scorso. Ma al termine dello «storico» incontro degli esuli a Dharamsala, gli inviati della stampa di tutto il mondo hanno potuto assistere con un certo stupore all´abbraccio plateale tra il religioso buddista e un gruppo di rappresentanti della dissidenza cinese sbucati come d´incanto tra il pubblico.

Il messaggio andava ben oltre la minaccia della creazione di un possibile fronte comune tibeto-cinese dentro e fuori il Paese, fino ad aprire per i vertici comunisti scenari inquietanti che potrebbero includere un´alleanza con i Nazionalisti di Taiwan e gli oppositori di Hong Kong, i separatisti Uiguri nello Xinqiang e le minoranze dell´Inner Mongolia, i membri della potente sètta buddhista della Falun Gong e fasce di popolazione han rimaste ai margini del boom economico nazionale.

Per ora si è trattato di semplici accenni lanciati dal Dalai lama ai 500 delegati durante la cerimonia di saluto alla quale con sapiente regia sono stati ammessi gli inviati della stampa internazionale. Formalmente, infatti, i portavoce del Parlamento in esilio hanno semplicemente riferito che l´assemblea ha votato a maggioranza l´adesione alla Via di Mezzo autonomista portata avanti finora dal loro leader «per il tempo necessario a vedere se esiste qualche cambiamento nella politica cinese». Un tempo che il Dalai lama non ha voluto fissare («Spetta ai tibetani, non a me, decidere» ha detto) anche se i toni usati sono quelli dell´ultimatum, scaduto il quale – hanno spiegato i rappresentanti dell´assemblea – «si opterà per la richiesta di totale indipendenza o autodeterminazione».

Di certo l´unico segnale emerso dopo i 5 giorni di acceso dibattito tra gli esuli sembra togliere alla Cina ogni spazio di «ipocrisia», come ha detto ai giornalisti il leader tibetano. Da Dharamsala infatti fino a nuovo ordine non partirà più nessuna delegazione per trattare con Pechino.

European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize awarded to Hu Jia
2 ottobre 2009

image001Chinese dissident Hu Jia should be in Strasbourg Wednesday to collect the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize. Instead he is in prison in China. Previous winners and Andrei Sakharov’s widow Elena Bonner will be there to honour his struggle.

Hu Jia is a prominent human rights activist and dissident in the People’s Republic of China. He has embraced a wide range of causes, including environmental issues, HIV/AIDS advocacy and a call for an official enquiry into the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. He has also acted as a coordinator of the “barefoot lawyers movement”.

Mr Pöttering said: “By awarding the Sakharov Prize to Hu Jia, the European Parliament firmly and resolutely acknowledges the daily struggle for freedom of all Chinese human rights defenders.”

Interviews: jamyang norbu
2 ottobre 2009

q: What is the Chinese perception of Tibet?

jamyang: The Chinese think of Tibetans essentially as Barbarians. Now, the Chinese also think of Tibetans as people with magical powers. Especially since historically they’ve had long association with Tibetan Lamas. Especially after the Mongol invasions when the Mongol Khans were patrons to the Lamas. And a lot of these Lamas, they had magical powers as reported by Marco Polo. They levitated the Emperor … .. and things like that. And there’s always been this perception in traditional Chinese eyes of Tibetans being barbarians, nevertheless having certain spiritual and magical powers.

Therefore, a lot of Chinese– if they’re Buddhists and they want to have certain, let’s say Buddhism things done in their home, they feel the Tibet Lama is very effective. But, overall the perception that Tibetans are barbarians runs all the way through their sort of history. It’s never ever been away from the Chinese sort of thinking.

q: When was the last time you were in contact with people there. What are the Chinese in Tibet doing?

a: The more recent accounts I’ve heard– it’s quite troubling because they’ve managed to sort out their thinking on the problems that they have with Tibetans. Essentially, one is of culture. And the Chinese party boss in Tibet, he’s quite an intelligent person and he’s worked it out that the real problem for China is the fact that the Tibetans will never become part of China, unless culturally and linguistically they become absolutely Chinese. Unless all that is wiped out.

And, I must say he’s correct. Tibetans main nationalism comes from our culture. And, the very, very different culture that we have from the Chinese. And, I don’t think Tibetans will ever give up independence as long as they have that.

So, the Chinese have realized this now. They know they cannot compromise even on this. So, they are now working on the question of Tibetan education, making it much harder for Tibetans to really study the language or to get any kind of employment, even if they know that language. To make it that only Chinese language in any way will benefit the Tibetans. So, that’s why many Tibetans, who really have no command of the Chinese or poor command of Chinese, really have no substantial job. There’s about 75 to 80 percent unemployment among the youth of Tibet. People just hanging out in the streets, drinking, playing pool.

Furthermore, they have a movement now to remove any kind of Tibetan, even loyal party personnel, from important positions, and to replace them with the Chinese. For instance, even in a sensitive position like the University of Lhasa, they’ve removed the Tibetan, let’s say the Dean he could be called, and replaced him with a party hack, essentially someone who has really no qualifications to head a kindergarten, far less a university.

So, there are all these programs that are coming to the fore. All of them together constitute– I use the term cultural genocide. And it’s been used quite often. But, I really don’t think we can find any other term to fit the realities of Chinese oppression in Tibet.

q: Tibetans don’t seem to have the economic opportunity that the Chinese do, especially young people.

a: Essentially, there is so much unemployment in Tibet, because the system is rigged against the Tibetans. The people in power, at the top of the pyramid, are Chinese. And, in China, I think anyone who’s traveled through China knows that the system is one of “The Back Door.” If you want to have anything done, you need connections.

There is no way that you can do anything through a legitimate kind of channel. And then all the best jobs are reserved for the Chinese. If there’s a guy in the education ministry and that teachers wanted, he is going to write to his cousin, maybe in a faraway province town, and get them to come up and take a look at the position, than hand it out to a local Tibetan.

So, in that sense, every kind of official job there is taken over by the Chinese. Now, there are a few kind of cosmetic positions that they need Tibetans for. And, most of these Tibetans are not even qualified for that. They really don’t have to work or go to the office or do anything; they just take their pay and during certain festivities and celebrations, they come out in the open and their pictures are taken.

And, another thing is the fact that for any kind of official position you need to be as good as a Chinese in the Chinese language. And, most Tibetans start off with a disadvantage right there.

Now, in Tibet, the number of university Tibetan students inside Tibet are far less than what we have in exile. In exile, you have one hundred thousand Tibetans we have more university going kids than in the whole of Tibet, among six million Tibetans, you have far less there. So, I mean, that alone tells you the whole story.

q: So, in summary….

a: Well, education and unemployment is just one thing. But, when you take another factor into account, there are psychological factors. All the time, even when you go to a school, you are privileged to go to a Chinese school, or a Tibetan school.

You are taught that Tibetan culture is nothing; it’s a barbaric culture. You are taught that your parents, your ancestors, are fools, superstitious idiots, people far less advanced than the Chinese. It creates a certain way of thinking and inferiority complex. People with chips on their shoulder. To a certain extent like maybe, Native Americans, the way these people think.

People don’t become alcoholics for– for the love of it. There are certain conditions where everything seems to be hopeless. And the only rosy thing in life is what you see in that bottle. Tibetans are coming to that, and I don’t want to say it in many ways because the official propaganda, even among Tibetan in exile, that the _… (inaudible) government is that things are improving, we can get along with the Chinese, and something wonderful is going to happen, it’s just around the corner.

I don’t see that at all. I see a broken people; broken by the cultural revolution; broken by what’s happening now.

Then, the answer sometimes is escape. Escape from Tibet. A lot of them do it. They cross some of the highest passes in the world. Just near Mount Everest there’s a pass called the.. … (inaudible) If you even take one look at the pass, it’s terrifying. These people are not climbing for the fun of it. Not saying it’s there so you can climb. These people are trying to get away from the Chinese communist.

When see that vast wasteland, all the ice and the snow and he … … (inaudible), it just sort of stuns you, there’s nothing you can do. But, people are doing it with no equipment, just wearing sneakers and wearing a light jackets, maybe a sweater. A lot of them die.

I ran a newspaper a couple of years ago, I was editor. And, one of my informants gave me photographs he had taken on one of the side of the pass. And there was this Tibetan there, dead, he had tried to cross. And his body was totally desiccated. It was like the body of this … … (inaudible) man they found in the Alps some time ago. I think they call him the “Ice Man” or whatever. And it’s just like that

This guy was there. His skin was just tight over his bones. He had this … … (inaudible) His eyes were big hollows. And he’s dead. There’s a lot of people trying this. Young children as young as 8 or 9. And a lot of them show up in _… (inaudible) in the end. They’ve got frostbite, some of them don’t have toes, some of them don’t have fingers. It’s all a big tragedy.

When you talk of cultural genocide in Tibet, we have to consider first that the way the Chinese go about it is not an unsophisticated and immediate one.

The Chinese have a very subtle approach to this, because of their long-standing relation with Tibet, over two or three thousand years of history is between us. And, the Chinese know how to deal with a lot of these things.

The way they work about it is in some ways very, very devious. For one, let’s say with the Tibetan language, the changes that they are introducing to it, even in the manner of tone. Because Tibetan tonally is very different from Chinese. It’s a different language altogether.

Radio Lhasa Television, — all these kind of official radio, television, broadcasting stations, and even movies–the kind of language that is used there is supposed to be Tibetan, but tonally it’s been devised so that it sounds no different from Chinese.

In Tibet that is the problem with language; it is not there to communicate. A lot of it is there to change the way people think about their own language and their culture, to make Chinese

Now, even in the terms of genocide right now let’s say mass killings of Tibetans are not going on as they did, in the 60’s and maybe in the 70’s. But, a lot of Tibetans regard this as a rest period. And even the most brutal killers cannot kill every day; people have to take a rest, Maybe, this is kind of a timer, the Chinese are relaxing, sort of storing up their energy for a next move. You never know what’s going to happen in Tibet.

Another thing that’s going on inside Tibet-. In the 70s when they first started the so-called liberalization policy, there was an idea that maybe the Tibetans might be allowed to practice their own culture, as long as they didn’t demand independence.

Now, that thinking has totally changed. The Chinese realize that any little opportunity given to Tibetans to demonstrate their kind of cultural differences from China, they use that as an opportunity to demand independence. And the Tibetans do it. So, the Chinese really are in a kind of situation where they have no alternative but to clamp down on the Tibetans.

Because if they give Tibetans religious freedom, Tibetans use that religious freedom to demonstrate their difference from China.

For instance, the Tibetans have this … … (inaudible) ceremony, where you take– where you burn sprigs of juniper. And when the smoke goes up in the air, Tibetans throw handfuls of barley to … … (inaudible) the Gods of Tibet. Now, that was considered okay by the Chinese sometime ago. But, then the Tibetans began to do that whenever the … … (inaudible) Lama made a big kind of– It was a success for him, let’s say, when he got the Nobel Peace Prize, he was received by Clinton in the White House. Tibetans began to celebrate that by doing this.

And, the Chinese realized actually that the whole religious and the political thing were intertwined, so they clamped down. That’s not allowed anymore.

Even in the case of, let’s say, diet, there’s a Tibetan pancake which is filled with meat and which is deep fried. That is called independence food and it’s not _… (inaudible). Because when Tibetans were thrown in jail during the demonstrations, all their families and neighbors they tried to take food into the prisons. And, they found the most convenient food was this pancake because it’s got protein and it’s got a lot of fat, because of the deep trying. And it’s got the dough. And it’s convenience. You can just take it, someone can eat it like you’re eating hamburger.

So, this was being sent to the jails and, it was called after awhile, it was called …which is independence food. And the Chinese banned this.

So, in these small ways, you build an overall totality where your whole culture and your life is banned by the Chinese. The way Tibetans express anything, if it’s perceived by the Chinese. And, in a way, it’s perceived correctly as demonstrating that we are different from the Chinese. We don’t to live under China; we want to have no part of China. We want our freedom.

q: Cultural genocide, what does it mean?

a: Well, as I said early, when the Dalai Lama talks of cultural genocide, essentially it means just what you said, the entire civilization of Tibet is being denied to its people, and it’s being destroyed. But, I think also, sometimes I wouldn’t know, because we talk of cultural genocide, but is it culture alone? Thousands and thousands of people are being thrown into jail. They are being beaten. You may have heard nuns being prodded with electric cattle prods, and their genitalia being– you know, like raped, what have you. And you’re given these long, dreadfully long prison sentences.

When you have this, you are creating a population– Because earlier, let’s say the fathers and the mothers, a lot of these people are going to jail right now, have also been to prison for over 19, 20 years before. You have a whole nation of people with prison backgrounds. Essentially, the idea is to break the spirit of the people. You may not kill all these people, but essentially you are making them into no persons.

There are a lot of Native Americans still alive in the United States, but they are not a viable force. Something has been done to them, whether intentionally or not. In the case of Tibet, it is being done very intentionally, it’s to break the spirit of the Tibetan people.

For me, I think it would be much better if the Chinese actually just lined up all the Tibetans, shot them there outright; it would be far more merciful. Then to make them into really sort of broken third rate people, who like 10, 20, 30, 40 years from now will just be someone who’s begging from tourists. Just bums, people with chips on their shoulder, the wrong attitude for life. Basically, these sort of people are being created, so–

Yes, far more than even cultural genocide, I think actual genocide is being practiced.

q: How does the West see Tibet?

a: I think, primarily the West sees Tibet, to some extent, as a fantasy land, as a Shangri La. Of course, this is a kind of stereotype that has existed in the Western kind of perception for a very long time, even before the movie “Lost Horizon,” the movie was made. Initially, the perception came from ideas of medieval Europe that they had of … … (inaudible), the Christian king who lived behind the mountains of Gog and Magog, and who would come maybe to make the whole of Asia a Christian country.

Because maybe people in medieval times heard of Tibet and a lot of liturgical practices in Tibet, religious rites and ceremonies, resembled the Roman Catholic ones.

q: Tibet is suddenly very chic in America. Why is that?

a: There’s a kind of New Age perception of Tibet, which is fed to some extent quite deliberately by propagandists for Tibet, many New Age type Buddhists, Tibetan Buddhists. And, also subscribed gradually by Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama and a lot of prominent Lamas. The idea that this even materialist west will be saved by the spiritualism of the Tibetan Buddhists. It’s total nonsense.

Tibetans are in no position to save anyone, least of all themselves in the first place.

But, this is the kind of idea that’s being subscribed by a lot of New Age type people. This is the problem that Tibetans face, because their issues and the tragedy of Tibet has not being taken seriously. Primarily, it’s very fuzzy; it’s sort of a feel good issue, rather than a stark, ugly reality.

You have the Palestinian problem. Now, whether you like the Palestinians–and I’m sure a lot people in the West don’t like them—- but you give them the respect that their condition is real.

A lot of people love Tibetans in the West, tremendous sympathy, but it’s a very fuzzy kind of sympathy, because it never touches on the reality. It doesn’t touch on the reality that the Tibetan people are disappearing, they’re being wiped out.

You look at even supportive friends of Tibet like Galen …. Have you seen his calendars? It just says everything is wonderful. Tibet is wonderful. The culture is wonderful. The land is wonderful. It does not touch on the tragedy that people are actually being wiped off the face of the earth and their culture is being wiped out. That is not touched; it’s considered in bad taste.


Blog di Beppe Grillo – Free Tibet
2 ottobre 2009

image002Il Dalai Lama mi ha onorato di un incontro privato a Milano. Il Papa non ha voluto riceverlo, il presidente Napolitano neppure, Prodi è dato per disperso e il dalai-lema non lo vuole alla Farnesina. Camera e Senato non hanno ritenuto di doverlo ospitare ufficialmente. La Moratti ha deciso di usare prudenza, lo vedrà, ma insieme ad altri premi Nobel per non dare troppo nell’occhio. Dicono che si vestirà da monaca di clausura per non farsi riconoscere. Solo Formigoni, onore al merito, lo vedrà in via ufficiale. Siamo al trionfo della viltà. Il Dalai Lama è anche premio Nobel per la pace, oltre che guida spirituale dei buddisti tibetani e massima autorità temporale del Tibet.
Quando la Cina era solo comunista il Dalai Lama veniva ricevuto da tutti, ora che la Cina è ipercapitalista il Dalai Lama è oscurato. Il dio denaro è la più forte tra le divinità italiane. Templi in suo onore sono presenti al centro di tutte le città, sono le nuove chiese: le banche, le assicurazioni.
Uno degli uomini più importanti del mondo è trattato come un cane in Chiesa. La Confindustria è salva, l’Italia un po’ meno. Che differenza c’è tra la democrazia cinese e la nostra? Una sola, da loro la pena di morte è esplicita, ti sparano. Da noi ti isolano, ti diffamano, ti trasferiscono. Solo se è necessario ti ammazzano. E’ una dittatura buona. L’omicidio è solo l’ultima risorsa.

Il Dalai Lama in Cina è cancellato dalla Rete, se inserisci il suo nome sui motori di ricerca non lo trovi, in Italia questo non è ancora possibile. E la Rete parla di lui, mentre gli altri media minimizzano, tagliano, disinformano.
Il Dalai Lama mi ha regalato una sciarpa bianca, gli ho promesso che sarò per lui il Richard Gere italiano per la liberazione del Tibet. L’ho visto un po’ perplesso forse perchè sono più bello di Richard. Il blog farà il possibile per dare informazioni sul Tibet. Per un Tibet libero. Conto sul vostro aiuto.

Bibliografia consigliata
2 ottobre 2009


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  4. Dalai Lama, L’Arte della Compassione, Sperling & Kupfer, Milano, 2003
  5. Dalai Lama, Il Sutra del Cuore, Sperling & Kupfer, Milano, 2003
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  7. Dalai Lama, Parole del cuore. Il buddhismo e la pratica della compassione, Sperling & Kupfer; Milano, 2002
  8. Dalai Lama, I Consigli del Cuore, Mondadori, Milano, 2002
  9. Dalai Lama, I sei stadi della meditazione, Rizzoli, Milano, 2001
  10. Dalai Lama, I sentieri della sapienza e dell’incanto, Mondatori, Milano, 2001
  11. Dalai Lama, Illumina la tua mente, Gruppo Editoriale Armenia, Milano, 2001
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  1. Sette anni in Tibet (Seven Years in Tibet),
    di Jean Jaques Annaud, musiche di John Williams, Cello Solos di Yo, Yo Ma
    (tratto dal libro di Heinrich Harrer), prod. Cecchi Gori Ed., 2002, col.
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    di Bernardo Bertolucci, prod. Tao Film, 1987, col. 156 min.
  3. Samsara, di Pan Nalin, prod. Pandora Film,
    2001, GMBH/Paradis Film & Fandango, musiche Ciril Morin, col. 138 min.
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    The story of a tragedy
    , un Film di Ludovic Segarra, France
    3, Mediterranée Film Production (coproduction)
1 ottobre 2009


I hope that this summary of the intellectual and historical facts and argument supporting the Tibetan case for independence will energize readers for the coming 10th of March. Of course much of the information will not be new to the reader and in fact have been presented in the Rangzen Charter earlier in 1998. The reason why this summary is being offered now is that the arguments have been thoroughly updated and shortened considerably so that this Rangzen “brief” could become a more effective action tool.)

There is a rare and defining moment in human history when a crushing and seemingly permanent tyranny reveals on the surface of its implacable structure the first tiny cracks of impending collapse — allowing the faint stirrings of hope in the hearts of long oppressed peoples and subjugated nations. Such a transition was heralded in Eastern and Central Europe and parts of Central Asia by the fall of the Berlin Wall.

For the people of Tibet such a moment may be at hand. China’s economic boom has created enormous and irresolvable problems and conflicts that threaten to tear Chinese society apart. Endemic official corruption, desperate peasant uprisings, large-scale labour unrest, harsh religious repression, ever-widening economic disparity, ecological devastation (of apocalyptic magnitude), absence of independent courts and the almost non-existence of civil society, have been the cause of over 83,000 demonstrations and riots (according to official Chinese government reports), many violent, all over China in the last year. This year (2006) with four months to go, the reported number of incidents of such public unrest has already exceeded 100,000.

In recent years, certain senior members in the Communist leadership have reportedly expressed their misgivings about what might happen in 2008, when hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors and the world media descend on Beijing for the Olympic Games. According to a well placed observer of the Chinese scene, this situation could provide an unprecedented opportunity to the voiceless, the dispossessed and the oppressed of China (peasant groups, clandestine labour organizations, underground churches, secret religious societies and dissident groups) to openly express their grievances before the eyes of the world.

At such an important turning point in Asian history, it is vital that Tibetans not hesitate or weaken in their commitment to the struggle for independence. It is also crucial that Tibetan friends and supporters, and also the world at large, realize the absolute necessity of Rangzen for the survival of the Tibetan people and their civilization, and appreciate how this claim for an independent homeland is eminently reasonable, moderate and just.

Origins of Tibetan National Identity
Few people in the world are so distinctly defined by the kind of land they live in as the Tibetans. Tibetan national identity has not just been created by history, nor only by religion, but has its roots deep in the Tibetan land. Tibetans are people who live, and have always lived, on the great Tibetan plateau, high above and apart from the rest of the world. The passage to Tibetan-inhabited areas from the surrounding lowlands of Nepal, India and China is not only unmistakable and dramatic but clearly a transition to a unique world.

Tibetan identity is so rooted in the land that Tibetans of the past regarded the major mountains of their own specific regions, Yarla Shampo of Yarlung, Amnye (grandfather) Machen of Amdo, Nyenchenthangla of the Northern Plains, Khawa Loring and Minyak Ghangkar of Kham, and many others, as their ancestors or ancestral deities. This belief far predates the legend of the compassionate monkey ancestor of the Tibetans, which is probably a later Buddhist innovation. The worship of these mountains, which Tibetans still faithfully, but somewhat unconsciously, perform in their routine sangsol and lungta ceremonies, is the original expression of Tibetan nationalist identity, according to the distinguished Tibetan scholar, Samten Karmay.

Few other people are so specifically identified by geography or climate except perhaps for Eskimos, Bedouins, Polynesian Islanders and the Bushmen of the Kalahari. But very early in their history Tibetans managed to transcend this merely environmentally-defined existance to create a powerful national identity through the unification of the various kingdoms and tribes throughout the plateau. The sense of wonder and pride that these first inhabitants of a united Tibet felt for their new nation and empire is evident in this ancient song on the manifestation of Tibet’s first emperor:

This centre of heaven,
This core of the earth,
This heart of the world,
Fenced round by snow-mountains,
The headland of all rivers,
Where the peaks are high and the land is pure,
A country so good,
Where men are born as sages and heroes,
And act according to good laws
A land of horses ever more speedy…

Though the imperial period of Tibetan history ended around the tenth century, its legacy of nationhood was permanent. Later monarchs consciously drew inspiration from the imperial age in their efforts to create a united and free Tibet. Jangchub Gyaltsen (1302-1364) of the Phamodruba dynasty overthrew Mongol rule in Tibet (over a decade before the Mongol Yuan dyasty ended in China) and ushered in a golden age that Tibetans call “Gamu Ser Khor”, since the land was so safe and peaceful it was said that an old woman carrying a sack of gold could pass without fear from one end of Tibet to the other.

The Great 5th Dalai Lama (1617-1682) reunited Tibet, from the regions of Ngari in the west, to Dhartsedo in the southeast and Kokonor to the northeast, for the first time since the collapse of the Tibetan Empire in the 9th century. More recently, the Great 13th Dalai Lama’s (1876-1933) untiring and monumental struggle to regain and later defend Tibetan independence was no less an expression of this heritage of national freedom that Tibetans have maintained throughout their history.

Legitimacy of Tibetan Independence
It is absolutely essential that we Tibetans understand how longstanding and legitimate our claims to nationhood are. Many nations in this world are, in a sense, largely products of history. The United States, Canada, and Australia do not, in a true sense, derive their national origins from the land, as Tibet does. Other countries such as Kuwait, Jordan, Singapore, and some African states are creations of Western colonial policy, or the debris of colonial rule. More recently, out of the collapse of the former Soviet Union, countries like Belarus, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, etc. — which never existed as nations before, have come into being.

In light of international attention to that part of the world, one might add that there had never been a Palestinian nation. What you had, historically, was a sub-province (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire that later became a British protectorate. Iraq too is a nation cobbled together by Britain after World War I out of three vilayets of the defeated Ottoman Empire: Mosul, Baghdad and Basra. The intractable and violent divisions in that country today: sectarian (Shia v Sunni), ethnic (Kurd v Arab) and tribal, reveal the tenuous nature of the union.

This is not to argue that Tibet has any more right to exist as a nation than these states and territories just mentioned — after all, it is the natural and fundamental right of all peoples to determine their own way of life — but to underline the fact that Tibet’s status as a nation is as legitimate, if not more, than that of any other country in the world. That we did not join the League of Nations or the United Nations, or that some big powers did not recognize Tibet as a nation, because they did not want to jeopardize their trade links with China, does not detract from this legitimacy.

Trade with China is in fact the overarching reason why Britain and the United States have in the last two centuries refused to support, even acknowledge, the fact of an independent Tibet. No less an authority than Sir Charles Bell “the architect of British policy in Tibet” affirmed this in the 1930s:

“Britain and the United States, and probably most of the European nations, regard Tibet as being under Chinese rule … besides, we are always being told about the vast potentialities of trade with China. To my recollection we were told this fifty years ago, but during those fifty years no such vast potentialities has materialized; the potentialities are still no more than potentialities. However, the foreign nations wish to gain a good share of this trade, and to that end try to please China. But it is an outrage that they should sell Tibet in order to increase their own commercial profits in China.”

The fact that Tibet has, for periods of its history, been conquered by foreign powers or that some Tibetan ruler used foreign military backing to gain political control of the country makes no difference to its rightful status as a free nation. Even when Tibet’s political and military power had declined considerably in the 18th and 19th centuries and a degree of Manchu rule was exercised over the country, the uniqueness of Tibet’s civilization and its racial and national identity was recognized by people all over Asia, not least by the Manchus themselves, who only appointed Manchus and Mongols of high birth as their commissioners in Tibet, never a Chinese. In fact, Manchu relations with Tibet were handled by the Li Fan Yuan (one of the two “departments” of the Manchu “Foreign Office”), which also handled relations between the Manchu court and Mongol princes, Tibet, East Turkistan (Xinjiang) and Russia.

Tibet and especially its capital, Lhasa, were regarded by Buriats and Kalmucks in Russia, and millions of Mongols as the centre of their culture and faith. The Russian explorer Prejevalsky in 1878 sent a memorandum to the Geographic Society and the War Ministry in which “… he drew a picture of Lhasa as the Rome of Asia with spiritual power stretching from Ceylon to Japan over 250 million people: the most important target for Russian diplomacy.”

There is probably no country in the world that has not at one time or another been under the rule of another. Few, if any, of the UN member states could claim independent statehood if they had to demonstrate a history of continuous and uncompromised independence. As the Irish delegate pointed out in the 1960 UN debate on Tibet, most of the countries in the General Assembly would not be there if they had to prove that they had never in the past been dominated by another country.

Britain was for nearly four hundred years a part of the Roman Empire. Russia was under the Mongols for well over two centuries, and of course the United States started off as a British colony. China itself was ruled both by the Mongols and Manchus, and repeatedly defeated in war by the Tibetans, who even captured and briefly held the Chinese capital of Chang An in 763 A.D. And lest we forget, a large part of China was under Japanese occupation earlier last century.

Inside Tibet Now
There is probably no place in the world (except possibly for North Korea) controlled in the Stalinist police-state method like Tibet — most noticeably Lhasa city. To a great extent this grim reality is overlooked by Western tourists and even naive exile-Tibetan visitors, too ignorant of the chameleon qualities of the Chinese totalitarian system, and impressed, in spite of themselves, by the scale of China’s brave new capitalist society — and possibly sometimes tempted by the opportunities.

Visitors to present day Tibet, including Tibet “experts”, encountering a population going about its daily business and not expressing open defiance of Chinese occupation, and then concluding that Tibetans are satisfied with the status quo, invariably fail to take into account the realities of life under Communist Chinese rule. Vaclav Havel has tellingly described the double personae that people living under coercive and repressive regimes adopt with regard to their intellectual, social and political behaviour. Put bluntly, in a state that penalizes people for holding “wrong” opinions, not only are visitors unlikely to become aware of the true feelings of the people, but even the state itself would probably be ill equipped to take an accurate reading of those opinions.

In 1979, the Chinese authorities were stunned by the overwhelming emotional reception accorded to the Dalai Lama’s emissaries when they arrived in Lhasa. The authorities appear to have actually believed, at some level, that only a “handful” of Tibetans supported Rangzen, until the depth of the problem forced the authorities to take repressive measures well beyond a basic restoration of order.

Behind the tawdry facade of concrete buildings, discos, karaoke bars, whorehouses, nightclubs and hotels, the Chinese Government’s chillingly unambiguous “Merciless Repression” (1988), “Strike Hard” (1996, 2001 and 2004) and “Fight to the Death” (2006) campaigns are being rigorously implemented. The People’s Liberation Army, forced labour camps (laogaidui), State psychiatric units (ankang), the Public Security Bureau (gongan), the People’s Armed Police and the “mutual watch” system (danwei), implemented through work units, re-education teams, neighborhood security watches and ever present informers, all operate freely and openly. They are unfettered by anything remotely resembling independent courts, a free press, civic bodies, independent watch dog organizations, moral or religious voices, the presence of a single representative of the world media. Even in the worst governed countries of the world one usually finds some such institution or the other, frustrating, if not preventing an absolutism of tyranny that Chinese leaders practice with impunity in Tibet.

In May 2006, Zhang Qingli, Communist Party Secretary of TAR, announced his “Fight to the Death” campaign against the Dalai Lama. Tibetans, from the lowliest of government employees to senior officials, have been banned from attending any religious ceremony or from entering a temple or monastery. Previously only party members were required to be atheist. Patriotic education campaigns in the monasteries have been expanded. Tibetan officials in Lhasa as well as in surrounding rural counties have been required to write criticisms of the Dalai Lama. Senior civil servants must produce 10,000-word essays while those in junior posts need only write 5,000-character condemnations. Even retired officials are not exempt.

Inside Tibet, after decades of soul-destroying Communist indoctrination and one of the most cruel and unrelenting systems of repression in the world, the Tibetan hope for independence, Rangzen, still stubbornly refuses to be crushed. Though large-scale demonstrations are not possible right now, a steady stream of courageous individuals, nuns, monks and lay people, have through the months and years, raised the forbidden Tibetan national flag, put up anti-Chinese posters and cried out in public for Rangzen. On October 2, 2003, Nyima Dragpa, a 20-year-old Tibetan monk from Nyitso monastery, died in prison from being repeatedly tortured. He was serving a nine-year sentence for “splittist” activities — for putting up posters calling for Tibetan independence. On 3 September 2006, at the busy Barkhor street in Lhasa, a lone 23-year-old Tibetan monk staged a short demonstration calling for independence in Tibet. Within minutes, he was dragged away by Chinese security personnel. In these and hundreds of other similar cases it might be noted that the watchword, the rallying cry was always, without exception, “Rangzen”.

Why Rangzen is Absolutely Essential
It can be argued that some countries have been part of other nations and empires and have not only managed to survive but in some cases have even benefited from foreign rule — the most obvious example being, of course, Hong Kong under Britain. But even China’s most ardent supporters will concede that Chinese rule in Tibet has been nowhere as visibly successful or even comparatively humane and liberal as Britain’s in Hong Kong.

Yet even relatively benign foreign rule appears on the face of evidence to be detrimental to the culture and morale of the native people. Australia and Canada are developed countries with rich economies and various democratic institutions to protect the rights of their people, including (at least these days) their indigenous populations. But many of the native people in these countries are demoralized, stricken with poverty and disease and victim to alcoholism and despair; a situation disturbingly similar to what is beginning to happen inside Tibet.

It seems that the only way to survive under foreign rule with any self-respect is by constantly defying the oppressing power and maintaining the hope of eventual freedom. Even the respect of your conqueror is granted, it seems, only if you resist his tyranny. Of all the millions of Native Americans who suffered and died under the injustice and violence of the white man, only the names of great war-chiefs as Geronimo, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull are still remembered with respect by Americans. Those native leaders who tried to live peacefully under the white man and went to Washington DC to submit to the “Great White Father” are forgotten.

George Orwell, in one of his newspaper columns, reflected on the fact that though the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome had rested entirely on slavery, in the same way as modern society depended on electricity or fossil fuels, we cannot recall the name of a single slave, except perhaps for Spartacus. And we remember him “…because he did not obey the injunction to ‘resist not evil’, but raised violent rebellion”.

The hope for any kind of autonomous status under China is not realistic because it assumes that the Chinese system is flexible enough or tolerant enough to accommodate different political or social systems within it. One can envisage autonomous areas within, let us say, a nation like India, because of its genuine functioning multi-cultural and multi-racial makeup, and its democratic institutions as the constitution, the free press, free elections and an independent judiciary to prevent the government or a dominant group from suppressing the rights of another group. But this is something that by its very nature the Chinese leadership cannot do.

The Chinese leaders are as much victims as their people of a long and oppressive cultural and political legacy — what a leading Australian sinologist, W.J.F. Jenner, has termed “the tyranny of history” — which has paralyzed the realization of positive fundamental changes in Chinese society and politics. Jenner raises “…the dreary possibility that China is caught in a prison from which there is no obvious escape, a prison continually improved over thousands of years, a prison of history — a prison of history both as a literary creation and as the accumulated consequences of the past”.

The “one nation, two systems” granted to Hong Kong was an exception, agreed upon because the deal was advantageous to Beijing. If China had not made that concession it would have, at the time, probably damaged international confidence in Hong Kong’s economy and caused a major financial problem in China. In the years following the Communist takeover, journalists, radio talk-show hosts, political-satirists, lawyers and other voices of democracy in Hong Kong have been systematically harassed and intimidated with threats of violence and death-threats in an increasingly “suffocating” political atmosphere. Many have left Hongkong. The Basic Law that was supposed to guarantee the ex-colony’s freedom China has been effectively neutered and the islands parliament and executive bought under Beijing’s control.

Unlike the citizens of Hong Kong, Tibetans passionately feel, and know, they are different in every way from the Chinese, culturally, racially, linguistically and even temperamentally. Economic improvement in the lives of Tibetans in Tibet, even if it did happen (which it hasn’t in a meaningful sense) would not significantly alter their feelings in this regard. It must be remembered that the Lhasa demonstrations occurred at a time when the economic situation in Tibet had markedly improved in comparison to the preceding period. The Tibetan attitude in this matter is best expressed in this excerpt from a dissident document which was circulating in Tibet in the late eighties: “If (under China) Tibet were built up, the livelihood of the Tibetan people improved, and their lives so surpassed in happiness that it would embarrass the deities of the Divine Realm of the Thirty-Three; if we were really and truly given this, even then we Tibetans wouldn’t want it. We absolutely would not want it.”

Why Give Up Now?
There is certainly no denying that the situation inside Tibet is grim, especially when we take into account the fact of Chinese population transfer to Tibet, and its acceleration since the completion of the new railway. But the standard argument by proponents of the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way policy, that to prevent Chinese immigration we must give up the Freedom Struggle and live under Chinese rule, is demonstrably false. Has anyone in the Chinese leadership or bureaucracy remotely suggested that they might reconsider their population transfer policy if Tibetans gave up their claim to independence? If the Freedom Struggle was abandoned and the situation inside Tibet were to become peaceful and settled, then Chinese immigration to Tibet would definitely increase — far more than has happened in the last five years. And it does not require any profound understanding of international law to appreciate that if the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile accepted Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, then China’s population transfer to Tibet would, in a definite and complete sense, become legitimized in the eyes of the world.

The only way to resist Chinese immigration is by intensifying the Freedom Struggle and destabilizing the situation inside Tibet to a degree where foreign investors, Chinese entrepreneurs and job seekers would not regard Tibet as a tolerable location much less a profitable one. Even if Tibet’s independence cannot be realised in the immediate or near future, what must be established in the eyes of the world is that the Tibetan plateau is an actively “contested” area, and that the issue of Tibetan independence is far from closed.

Yet no matter how grave the fact of Chinese immigration into Tibet, we must bear in mind that this is not an entirely irreversible situation. Stalin forced large-scale immigration of Russians into small non-Russian nations like Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In 1939, the combined population of these three states numbered about six million, about that of Tibet’s. Stalin also executed thousands of the native people and deported hundreds of thousands of others to Siberia. It was generally thought in the world then that these nations were finished. In the fifties, sixties and seventies the very existence of these countries seemed to have been eradicated from human memory, in spite of the fact that the officially recognized representatives of those countries maintained their presence in London and New York. Even the Nobel prize-winning Polish writer, Czeslaw Milosz, born and educated in Lithuania, and speaking out for the Baltic people in the concluding chapter of his book The Captive Mind, leaves a lingering and sorrowful impression that, like the Aztecs wiped out by the Spanish conquistadors, the history of these ancient Baltic nations had come to an end.

But after the collapse of the Soviet Union these three small nations became independent. Though these states still have considerable Russian populations, they are not the absolute threats to the survival or integrity of these nations as it was once thought they would be. The thing to bear in mind is that these small nations, once believed to be completely eradicated by Soviet totalitarianism and Russian immigration, are now free countries — flying their ancient flags, speaking their own languages and living in freedom.

Tibet never disappeared quite so completely as the Baltic States, even during our worst period under the Chinese. And right now, in spite of the cynicism of governments and business interests everywhere, Tibet does, in one way or another, continue to draw people’s attention worldwide. Certainly, it is not always the kind of attention we want. Nevertheless, there is some awareness of Tibet’s situation throughout the world and often concern for its plight. If there was a period when we might have had a passable excuse for giving up, it would be the sixties and seventies, when it seemed that International Communism and Chinese control of Tibet would go on forever, in sæcula sæculorum; and when most intellectuals and some celebrities in the free world appeared to be besotted with Communist China and the thoughts of Chairman Mao.

Right now, Tibet enjoys an attention and sympathy in the world that, although has diminished considerably since its heydays in the nineties, is nonetheless quite remarkable. The fact that this sympathy does not translate, as a matter of course, into political support for the Tibetan cause is certainly unfortunate. We Tibetans, especially the religious leadership, must accept significant blame for our inability to present our political objectives clearly and consistently to the world. In fact, these inconsistencies have spread confusion among our own activists and supporters and bogged down every kind of effort on behalf of the cause.

International Dimension of Rangzen
Since the nineties, the Tibetan leadership and a section of its Western supporters have contrived to blend “global
concerns” such as the environment, world peace and spirituality with the Tibetan issue. Following this a lofty and
somewhat condescending notion has developed among certain Tibetans and friends that struggling for Tibetan
independence is unsophisticated and limited. Of course, such a viewpoint is not only mistaken but demonstrates how people tend to mix their need for a cause of some kind with their other needs or tendencies towards political correctness, social acceptance, personal advancement and sometimes even material gain.

The real battles for freedom are fought in local and mostly desperate struggles, by people prepared to give up not just respectability and careers, but even their lives. Freedom Struggles are by their very nature disruptive. Yet, however unsettling, however much a source of economic distress and human suffering,the indomitable (yet specifically local) struggles of Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela (and earlier in history, Mahatma Gandhi) inspire freedom-loving people all over the world; far more than, let us say, the well-intentioned efforts of diplomats, career activists or even the Secretary General of the UN to ensure what can essentially be described as the preservation of the international status quo.

Each victory of freedom over tyranny is a tremendous boost to other causes. I am sure Tibetans remember how genuinely thrilled we were when Bangladesh became independent, and even more encouraged and proud when we learned that Tibetan paratroopers had made an important contribution to the victory. After India gained her independence, a whole succession of African and Asian nations also became free from their European colonial masters. In the nineties, with the fall of the Berlin wall, another series of countries gained their freedom, this time from the Soviet yoke. Tibetan independence could well precipitate, or at least herald, a new era of freedom not only for neighbouring regions as East Turkistan and Inner Mongolia but even for the people of China itself.

We must also bear in mind that at present the most repressive and murderous regimes in the world: Kim Jong Il’s North Korea, the military junta of Burma, Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, Islam Karimov’s Uzbekestan and the government of Sudan which to all purposes has been engaging in genocide in Darfur, basically survive, even thrive because of Chinese economic, diplomatic or military support.

Democracy and Rangzen
Only in a truly democratic Tibetan society will creativity, fresh thinking, and new leadership — desperately needed in the Freedom Struggle — not only emerge but also be valued and be effective. Furthermore, only democracy can provide for adequate transparency in the functioning of the government and for genuine accountability on the part of our leadership; and is therefore the only way in which the true feelings of the Tibetan people for Rangzen can be fully represented.

To the oppressed people of Tibet, democracy represents not only a goal of eventual freedom from Chinese tyranny but also the best hope for a truly just and equitable government of their own choice. As such, the promise of a true democratic Tibet will be an effective repudiation of Chinese propaganda claims that independence would mean a reversion to theocratic feudalism. Hence democracy becomes a potent weapon for the cause and its genuine and effective implementation in our exile-society an absolute necessity for the credibility of the Freedom Struggle. Though a small beginning has been made to implement democracy in exile, much more needs to be done. Unless a genuine party-based election system replaces the current structure, which resembles nothing more than Nepal’s old cosmetic panchayat “democracy”, the exile administration and parliament will never truly reflect popular will, nor implement policies based on the people’s desire for an independent Tibet.

Yet, reform of the election system alone will not ensure a democratic and dynamic society. Tibetans must embrace democratic thinking and culture with the same zeal and commitment our ancestors displayed in adopting Buddhism in Tibet. The enduring vitality of Tibetan Buddhism can be credited, in no small measure, to the monumental scholastic labour of the great Tibetan lotsawas in collecting, studying and translating Indian texts from the seventh through to the thirteenth century, that created the bed-rock intellectual foundation on which all Tibetan Buddhist institutions, doctrines, and achievements, right to the present day, have been created. To guide the course of our nation’s political future Tibetans should study and discuss the ideas and philosophies that created Western democracy and civil society, through the great books of the French and British Enlightenments, the writings of the American Founding Fathers, and subsequent works by liberal thinkers and democrats of our time.

It is only with such intellectual effort, political commitment and moral passion will we be able to bring about the restoration of an independent Tibet and the establishment of a true democratic system of government based on the rule of law and the primacy of individual freedom.

Even the Hope of Independence is Vital
Of course, there is no guarantee that independence will happen soon, or even in our lifetimes — though I am somehow convinced it will. Yet it goes without saying that maintaining the goal of Rangzen is vital to its eventual achievement. It must be remembered that it was the hope of independence that kept our exile society strong and united in the difficult early years. Many of the problems our society now faces with religious and political quarrels, decline in educational standards, the lamentably disgraceful commercialization of our religion, cynicism in the administration, and loss of self-respect and integrity among the ordinary people, have definite roots in the gradual relinquishing of the Freedom Struggle by the Tibetan leadership during the last two decades.

The hope of independence is vital for people inside Tibet. Keeping alive the Freedom Struggle in exile gave people inside Tibet hope, and in spite of the terrible sufferings they underwent, gave them some assurance that their civilization and their world had not disappeared entirely. In order for Tibetans to preserve their identity, culture and religion, the hope of a free Tibet must always be preserved. If we resign ourselves to being a part of China then we will certainly lose not only our national but our cultural identity as well. Beijing might allow us to remain Buddhists, of a docile and unquestioning kind, as you would expect, but we must bear in mind that there are a lot of other Buddhists sects and cults in China. It would be the ultimate and tragic irony if in the end all that were left of Tibet’s monumental two-thousand year old civilization and culture was a quaint Chinese Buddhist sect in the mountain regions of the People’s Republic.

The only way for individuals (and also their families) to survive distinctly as Tibetans, not just within Tibet itself or in exile in India, but even in isolation in a foreign country, or alone inside a Chinese prison cell, is by holding fast to the hope of an independent Tibet, and by demonstrating to oneself and the world unremitting defiance of Communist China and its inherent inhumanity and evil.

The greatest of modern Chinese writers, Lu Xun (1881-1936), would, I feel, probably not have advised Tibetans to curl up and die in the face of their present predicament. He was a congenital pessimist but he had this to say on the matter of hope:

“Hope can be neither affirmed nor denied. Hope is like a path in the countryside: originally there was no path — yet, as people are walking all the time in the same spot, a way appears.”

Jamyang Norbu

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