WOODSIDE, NY, US, 4 February 2019
As the year of the Earth Dog comes to an end and the year of the Earth Pig ushers in, I can’t wait to wish my fellow Tibetans especially the ones inside Tibet a very happy Losar. Although my only cynical displeasure is that this year Tibetan New Year falls on the same day as that of the Chinese. Not that I don’t like Chinese people, I sincerely do, but to take a day off from work with my Chinese colleagues on the same day to celebrate one’s new year is uninviting to say the least. I wish like it is already that we have nothing, nothing in common. But ever since Princess Wencheng was granted by Tang Emperor to marry the fierce King Songsten Gampo of Tibet to accord a peace deal between the Han and the Tibetans around the 6th century, incorporation of some Chinese culture, food, and astrology became commonplace.
It’s been a challenging year for us, including the personal loss of my near one. It’s also been a year where many patriots and freedom fighters and political prisoners alike died, and along with them their dreams of seeing their country free also vaporized and went up in flames through countless self-immolations that fell on the blind eyes and deaf ears of the United Nations. But the seeds of freedom and courage to rise up against the oppression have been deeply sowed into the minds and souls of all Tibetans to carry our dreams for freedom forward.
It’s been a tragic year, where we lost a few brave freedom fighters and daring political leader who supported and carried the mantle of the Tibetan cause all their dedicated lives. One such man is monk Pawo Palden Gyatso, who suffered ruthless torture and was made to till prison lands yoked like an animal and forced to scavenge on rats and roaches to keep himself alive. After his release and escape from Tibet, he survived to become an impassioned advocate for human rights, showed the world the brutality of the Chinese gulags with the tools of torture he toured around with, and who until his last breath spoke up for the freedom of Tibet.
Another tragic loss was a man who devoted his entire life for the Tibetan cause. He was an astute politician and a seasoned diplomat. He served as an emissary with unwavering devotion to His Holiness and tirelessly steered the international campaign for Tibet. Mr Lodi Gyari was instrumental in our political landscape and sowed empathy for Tibet within many congressmen and senators mind. His legacy will always live on.
It’s been a year where our adversary, our nemesis, has taken new shape and its leaders now fully manifested as Mao’s incarnate and risen to his full evil dominance, is hell bent on attacking and crushing the indomitable Tibetan spirit, so much so that they are now forcing pictures of tyrant Mao instead of the Buddha into the altars of the private homes of the Tibetans inside Tibet. But they have failed to know in their sixty years of occupation that the sacred monastery resides within the moated mind of every Tibetan and is impenetrable and indestructible.
It’s been a year where Tibetans celebrated the passing of the Reciprocal Access Act to Tibet amidst the usual fiery condemnation from the Chinese government and the escalating trade war between the US and China to the much delight and pleasure of the Tibetans including myself despite knowing the symbiotic nature of the globalized economy will hurt us too.
It’s also been a year where India, our host for sixty years spanning fourteen prime ministers and now under Hindu nationalists Modi’s reign, has shown some reservations as of late with their approach to handling the Tibetan issue and the Dalai Lama, orchestrated in diplomatic forms by snubbing invitations of much of the Tibetan-related events and the continued baseless suspicion spawned around the Karmapa as a Chinese spy. Although I must say that Modi has firmly stood up against Chinese bullying and aggression on their Indian borders. Using of Karmapa as a pawn for his historic status as a leverage in dealing with the diplomatic fallout with China is a soundbite hard to process.
It’s also been a year where we lost a great statesman and a friend of the Tibetan people in George Fernandez, an ardent supporter of the Tibetan cause and beloved by His Holiness, an Indian political leader, great thinker, an activist who tirelessly advocated for the independence of Tibet and never kowtowed against the Chinese pressure. So much so that His Holiness said that his face will always remain in his heart and that he will remember him even into his next life. So much gratitude His Holiness have for this beautiful soul.
It’s been a year where we witnessed gathered optimism on many levels from the Tibetans within Tibet to radiate their strength and unwavering resolute to preserve their culture amidst systematic attempts by the Chinese to destroy our very identity. Their undying spirit and eternal love and reverence for His Holiness still remains highly intact, both seen and heard, embedded within the songs of their lyrics and protests.
We have also deciphered their many hidden messages in their songs full of metaphors, speaking of their pain and expression of unhappiness of the state of the Tibetans outside Tibet, that they have held hope in and who are lost in infighting on regional and sectarian grounds. They have composed songs to call for the unity of all Tibetans under one identity and become stronger.
It’s also been a year of vicious internal turmoil within the CTA and revenge politics became the new norm to settle political scores and personal vengeance, deeply saddening His Holiness, who probably imagined a different democratic setup free of dirty politics. In this new year, let’s all heal the wound in His Holiness’s heart caused by our political divisiveness by just being one Tibetan free of regional clinging and sectarian divide.
This Losar let’s bolster our courage to groom our convictions to our often compromised conscience and let not realistic thoughts and practicality always obstruct us as an idealist. Let’s empower hope into our suppressed despair and naivete.
Let us make amends to fix broken mandates and exercise to align crooked spines with clean politics and stay away from repugnant thoughts and divisive games.
Let us all be resolute to support the truth and not the person that is near or dear, not the person who is your schoolmate or from same town. Nepotism is the backbone of power consolidation to manipulate the community for total control. Support the ideas and not the personality therefore. Support the content and not their shady characters.
Let’s all usher this Losar, the year of the Earth Pig, with the pomp and zeal of a progressive generation of Tibetans who are ready to thwart and shred ancient clinging that is pushing us backwards and embrace modernity with liberal thoughts to ferry us forward.
Let’s be united; pledge to just ignore any Tibetan who asks you with divisive intent which phayul [region] you belong to.
With these few words of mine — that usually do turn into so many — I wish each and everyone, a very warm and eventful Losar, good health, spiritual wealth, hope, and the spirit of delicious aged rice wine.
About the author
Ugyen Gyalpo lives in Woodside, New York, and works as an insurance agent for United Health Group, New York.
More articles by Ugyen Gyalpo on Tibet Sun.