By Tashi Dhondup
DEHRA DUN, India, 14 December 2019
Thousands of people around the world flock to Dharamshala to catch a glimpse of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the lucky ones get a close-up audience with him. He is the living symbol of peace and compassion for humanity. I, too, visited the hill station of Dharamshala in India’s northern state of Himachal Pradesh for both worldly and spiritual purposes, but especially to fulfil my late father’s fervent wish to present the story of his life as a freedom fighter to His Holiness.
On the 27th of November 2019, I lined up anxiously with pilgrims from all around the world at His Holiness’ residence. I waited patiently with a heart full of reverence and with a great sense of belonging to His Holiness, who is the ultimate protector and role model for all Tibetans. No Tibetan could command so much love, respect, and reverence in our community. It is hard to think of life without him!
Soon he appeared from his residence. His personal attendants escorted him as all of the pilgrims waited patiently for their turn to get his blessing. First, he blessed the pilgrims from Tibet and senior citizens separate from the others, and then it was our turn to line up for his audience. I stood in line, holding the book that represented the memory of my late father, whose story I was going to share with His Holiness and the world. This was the dying wish of my late father Makchi Shangri Lhagyal.
I feel lucky that almost two decades ago, I had the opportunity to invite HH the Dalai Lama to bless and consecrate the Sambhota Educational Home in Dekyiling, Dehra Dun, on 18 November 2000. And now, this time, I am having the audience with HH the Dalai Lama on behalf of my late father, Makchi Shangri Lhagyal.
I travelled from Dehra Dun to Dharamshala, representing our entire family and relatives, with a fervent wish to present our book to HH the Dalai Lama. we had worked tirelessly for many years to bring out this book.
My late father’s memoir, entitled Resistance and Unity: The Chinese Invasion, Makchi Shangri Lhagyal, and a History of Tibet (1947-1959) is written by Tashi Gelek, Dorjee Damdul, and myself Tashi Dhondup, and edited by Carole McGranhan. The book was first launched in Switzerland in September 2019, and is now available worldwide. The book was born out of two audio cassette recordings in which my late father Makchi Shangri Lhagyal narrated his life story and the battles he fought with the Chinese.
When my turn came, I quickly offered the book to His Holiness. Without wasting any precious time, I mustered all my courage to tell him that this book Resistance and Unity is about my late father, who was one of the commanders of Tensung Danglang Mak (the Tibetan Voluntary Army to Defend Buddhism). I explained that my late father wanted to tell his story because His Holiness the Dalai Lama had asked all the freedom fighters to write their story,
His Holiness was very pleased and said, “Good, it is s very important to write books and let the world know the true story of Tibet.”
He held the book fondly and then flipped through the pages. He looked at most of the photos and felt nostalgic, looking at photographs of himself spending Losar with Mao, Zhou Enlai, Panchen Rinpoche, and Liu Shaoqi. He remarked that Zhou Enlai was a tricky man. Another photo of His Holiness’ mother with Pandit Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Tsepon Shakabpa, and Tibetan trade representative Khenchung Lobsang Gyaltsen made him reminiscence about the past. He said, “Nehru did a lot for us.”
He looked closely at the photo of himself being escorted safely to India by the Chushi Gangdruk freedom fighters and asked: “Where are the relatives of Andrug Gompo Tashi?”. Since I was at a loss for a response, Ex-Kalon Tsering Dhondup, who was standing nearby, chimed in and said that they were in the US. His Holiness remarked that the freedom fighters had done their best. He made several comments about other pictures depicting Taring Amala, my late father, and Dr Johannes Schindler, our school sponsor.
I had to explain as quickly as I could, as many other people were waiting for his blessing. While I was caught up with HH with the book, the kids in the audience started to get impatient. They made some noises. Seeing that, His Holiness the Dalai Lama asked the attendants to hand them candies, and it worked for the kids miraculously, for they become quiet again.
Finally, His Holiness blessed me and my rosary, and asked me to carry on the good works I was doing, before posing for the photo. The golden countenance of HH the Dalai Lama is sparkling, and a calming and serene atmosphere descended upon the waiting people. It was a moment of unexplainable bliss.
HH the Dalai Lama took about five minutes with me and the book, and it was a most uplifting experience. I felt as if a burden had been taken off me as I emerged from his residence, with a phenomenal sense of being blessed and of fulfilment. This was the most significant moment of my life. I was able to fulfil my late father’s dream to speak from his heart to His Holiness about his and other freedom fighters’ humble life and sacrifices for the cause of Tibet. As His Holiness always says, each one of us has a responsibility to fulfill for the cause of Tibet.
My father, late Shangri Lhagyal, sacrificed everything defending His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Buddhism, and the country of Tibet while serving as a commander in Chushi Gangdruk. Getting this special attention from His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his book Resistance and Unity means so much. It is a great honour for both the dead and the living.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is and has always been a symbol of the Tibet nation and the Tibetan people, and has represented Buddhist values and traditions in the best possible ways to the world. He is undoubtedly the most effective spokesman of the Tibet issue.
Following this audience, I renewed my pledge to carry on the spirit of the Tibetan freedom fighters in restoring freedom in Tibet and abiding by the wishes and guidance of HH the Dalai Lama.
Lastly, I pray for His Holiness Long life:
In this Pure Land surrounded by the snowy mountains,
You are the source of all benefit and happiness, without exception
All-powerful Avalokiteshvara, Tenzin Gyatso
May you stay immovable until Samsara becomes exhausted.
The story of the writing of Resistance and Unity is here on Tibet Sun.
About the author
Tashi Dhondup is the Director of Sambhota Educational Home, Dehra Dun. He can be reached at [email protected]