Since I heard about the horrific plight of the mild and peaceful people of Tibet many years ago, I have felt great compassion and kinship with the tragic circumstances that these human beings have had to endure.
In the wake of the invasion of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual and temporal leader, and around 80,000 Tibetans fled into exile in India. In the years after, Tibet's remarkable culture, and its inhabitants, have been systematically persecuted. The flow of Tibetans fleeing Chinese oppression continues to this day, principally through Nepal into India.
Human rights conditions in Tibet remain dismal. Under the Chinese occupation, the Tibetan people are denied most rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights including the rights to self-determination, freedom of speech, assembly, movement, expression and travel.
China's consistent use of excessive military force to stifle dissent has resulted in widespread human rights abuses including multiple cases of arbitrary arrests, political imprisonment, torture and execution.
(Source: International Campaign for Tibet)
Of course I don’t know what it feels like to be a refugee, but I do know what it feels like to want to seek exile. I have lived in several cities in my lifetime and not always because that’s what I really wanted to do. So like the Tibetans, I have been nomadic. At times, I have felt almost forced to be a nomad, even when I didn’t want to be. Perhaps this is my kinship with the people of Tibet. Also, the Buddhist philosophy, which deeply values the cultivation of compassion for self and others, has deeply affected me. It’s a journey that I’ve found, lost, and picked back up along the way.
Last night I met an actual Tibetan exile. He is the husband of a newfound friend and a brilliant, warm, and wise person. This Tibetan refugee escaped that country when he was 12 and lived in India and Israel before coming to the United States. How lucky my daughter and I are to have met this friend and her husband. I can’t imagine the trauma that such a life brings. As I go through my own personal trauma presently, I’m in awe and inspired by such a strong and beautiful spirit who has been able to brave such a long and painful disconnect from his family and homeland. (I can closely relate to the disconnection from family and loved ones.)
Back in the late 90s, I used to have two bright red and yellow stickers on the back of my 1981 yellow Volvo that said “Free Tibet.” Amnesty International sent the stickers to me after I had become of member of that organization. I have since sold that car and last night was presented with a “Free Tibet” sticker again from the hands of a Tibetan. I hope this is a sign that more peace and compassion is on its way back into my life—-I so need more of those things in my life right now. Please let this be a sign. From my mouth to God’s ears.
"Don't try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are." --His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama