By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 4 December 2017
The Tibetan version of the memoir of Rinchen Sadutshang was launched by Prof Samdhong Rinpoche in Dharamshala. Rinchen Sadutshang’s son Dr Tsetan Dorji Sadutshang introduced the book and gave an overview of it.
The English version of the book was published by Wisdom Publications in 2016.
Titled A Life Unforeseen: A Memoir of Service to Tibet, Rinchen Sadutshang’s autobiography tells the story of government officials in old Tibet before the Chinese invasion, who were the only officials to have been educated in English.
In the book he recounts the pivotal events that changed his homeland, and the fate of his people.
From being born in a village in eastern Tibet, to walking the streets of New York and appearing at the United Nations, Rinchen Sadutshang was a unique figure in recent Tibetan history. His story has much to tell about the transition phase of Tibet entering into a modern age, catalysed by the events of 1959.
Rinchen Sadutshang was born in 1929 in a village called Lingtsang near Dhargay Gonpa in Kham province close to the Tibet-China border to a well-to-do trading family. He was educated in a Jesuit school in Kalimpong in the Himalayan foothills of British India. He was one of the first common people to receive a modern education.
Under the old way of doing things in Tibet, a common person would rarely become a government official. The positions were usually hereditary. He became a Tibetan government staff after his family won a case against the Tibetan government. They were given the offer to have one of their family members in a seat in the government as compensation, and the family decided that Rinchen should take the position, as he was well-educated and spoke English.
He served in the Dalai Lama’s government both before and after the 1959 Chinese occupation. A refugee alongside tens of thousands of his countrymen, he played a crucial role in bringing the plight of the Tibetan people to the world’s attention.
In this memoir, published just months after his passing in July of 2015, the author recounts his long, fascinating career in service to the Tibetan cause. From meeting British viceroy Lord Waverly in India and General Chiang Kai-shek in China in 1946, to being part of the delegation that successfully pled Tibet’s case before the United Nations in the 1960s, he offers a first-hand perspective on a number of memorable historical events.
Rinchen Sadutshang was present on several crucial occasions to Tibet’s eventual destiny. He accompanied the Tibetan delegation to Beijing in 1951, when the 17-point Agreement was signed, When the Dalai Lama visited China in 1954 and India in 1956, he was a member of the party that accompanied him. Later in 1959 and 1961 he was a member of the Tibetan delegations to the United Nations.
Tibet’s first public broadcast system was brought to Lhasa by Rinchen’s older brother. He helped his brother set it up when the Dalai Lama first used the system to give a teaching in Lhasa. It was used again when the Dalai Lama gave the first Kalachakra in Lhasa in 1954.
In his foreword to the book, the Dalai Lama wrote that Rinchen Sadutshang was one of the few Tibetans of his generation to have had the opportunity to learn English and receive a modern education at a time when Tibetans urgently needed to understand the workings of the world beyond their borders.
A Life Unforeseen: A Memoir of Service to Tibet,
by Rinchen Sadutshang,
paperback, 312 pp, $17.95;
e-book, PDF, epub, mobi, $11.99.