Tibet

For over 2000 years Buddhists in Tibet have lived freely and independently, but in
1949-50 that all change when China invaded and took control.1 All of their traditions and
customs, government, environment and rights were taken away and destroyed by this
tragic invasion.2 The majority of Tibetans were either killed or exiled, but the ones exiled
have been very strong throughout all of this and stayed true to their beliefs and
themselves. After enduring the exile to India, Tibetan Buddhists still managed to live their
lives in the traditional Tibetan fashion.

The origin of Buddhism dates back to around 563 BCE , with a man by the name
of Siddhartha Guatama.3 He was an Indian prince born in Lumbini, India. He was
completely sheltered as a child and was not let out of the palace.4 As a result of this, at
age 29 he fled the palace and became a homeless monk.5 This event is called the Great
Renunciation. While on his journey he encountered the 4 messengers; an old man, a
sick man, a dead man, and a holy man.6 This was a great revelation for him because he
had no idea that those things existed. After traveling for a while, he decided to join the 5
ascetics, where he went without food or sleep for a long period of time and almost died.
He did all this in search of the truth. After recovering from his food and sleep
deprivation, he decided to turn to meditation to find the truth. So he went to the Bodh
Gaya tree and meditated under it until he entered nirvana, which is known as a state of
perfect joy.7 Because he was able to do this, he became the first Buddha. He then
traveled for 45 years with his followers called the Sangha, which were his family and the 5
ascetics.8 They went around teaching people what the Buddha had learned on his journey.
He died at the age of 80 and entered nirvana forever.9 After the Buddha died, the Sangha
kept traveling and teaching more and more people Buddhism.

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In the 7th century Buddhism was introduced to Tibet by teachers from China and
Nepal.10 Then in 775, an Indian monk set up the first monastery in Tibet.11 Soon after
that, Tibetans developed a different style of Buddhism called Vajrayana with Lamas as
teachers. Vajrayana is a combination of the major aspects of Hinayana and Mahayana
Buddhism.12 In the 14th century a new sect was formed called Gelugpas. In this a new
leader was started called the Dalai Lama, which means great as the ocean. Then from
the 17th century until 1950, the Dalai Lama was the head of the state in Tibet and the
spiritual leader.13 He lived in the Potala Palace in the holy city of Lhasa. Prior to the
tragedy in 1950, Tibet was a entirely sovereign country. For example, the Government of
Tibet had complete control over their internal and external affairs, the Chinese had no
involvement of any kind. Also Tibet had its own currency, stamps, language and writing,
maintained it own small army and stayed neutral during World War II. They were entirely
independent and living their peaceful happy lives. Mr. Sonam T. Kazi, one of the Dalai
Lamas Chief Interpreters, on his first visit to Tibet in 1948 said Could there be any other
place on this earth where peace and happiness really prevail? The peace and happiness I
saw in Tibet at this time must surely have been the result of the freedom that independent
Tibet enjoyed since 1912, under the leadership of H.H. the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, and
which continued even after his demise, up until the Communist invasion in 1950.14
In 1949-50, the Peoples Republic of China invaded and took control of Tibet and
its people.15 This was an act of unprovoked aggression, and there was no logical
reason for it.16 In doing this China destroyed the Tibetans cultural and religion,
independence, environment and universal human rights.17 China had broken the
international laws, violated it own constitution, and went without punishment.18 Since the
Dalai Lama was such a strong believer in non-violence, he tried for 8 years to coexist with
the Chinese people in his own country.19 But even when young children would say,
Tibet is independent or Long Live His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Chinese would
arrest and put them in prison or labor camps for trying to split the motherland.20 Exile
sources estimated that around 260,000 people died in those camps between 1950 and
1984.21 Finally on March 10, 1959, the Tibetans decided they could not take it anymore
and started a national upraise against the Chinese.22 The Chinese fought back and
stopped the upraise, killing 87,000 Tibetans in central Tibet alone.23 The International
Commission of the Jurists stated in its reports in 1959 and 1960, that there was an a
attempted genocide on the Tibetans by the Chinese.24 The Dalai Lama and around 80,000
Tibetans fled Tibet in search of peace, where the majority of them, including the Dalai
Lama, ended up in Dharamsala, India.25 Local states are still today reporting that up 4
Tibetans a day are trying to cross the border from Tibet to Nepal or India, but the
Nepalese government has started to turn the Tibetan refugees over to the Chinese.26 With
the help of the Government of India , the UN High Commission for Refugees and many
other, 54 agricultural and agro-industrial refugee settlements were set up, 85 Tibetan
schools and almost 200 monasteries.27 Even though the Tibetans lost basically their entire
lives, there have been numerous institutions established to help preserve and promote an
ancient heritage and culture facing imminent extinction in its own homeland, whilst
enhancing the cultural life of the exile community.28
When they arrived in India, the Dalai Lama immediately started his plans to create
a new community. In 1959, he re-established his government in Dharamsala, India. A
popularly elected body of peoples representatives, parliament-in-exile, was created.29
This was started so the Dalai Lama was not the only person making the momentous
decisions that would affect the future on the Tibetan community. In 1961, the Dalai Lama
made a draft constitution and received the help and the opinion of Tibetans. The detailed
draft was completed in 1963 and publicized.30 In January, 1992 the Dalai Lama
announced the Guidelines for future Tibets Polity and the Basic Features of its
Constitution, where he said that he would not play any role in the future government of
Tibet, let alone seek the Dalai Lamas traditional political position.31 The future
government of Tibet would be elected by the people on a basis of adult franchise.32 The
Dalai Lama also announced that during the transition period , between withdrawal of the
repressive Chinese troops from Tibet and the final promulgation of the constitution, the
administrative responsibilities of the state will be entrusted to the Tibetan functionaries
presently working in Tibet.33 Also during this period the Dalai Lama selected an interim
president, who delegated all of his political powers and responsibilities. Even while not in
their homeland, the Tibetans were able to create and run a functioning government.


Not only were the Tibetans able to keep their government in existence, they were
also able to still practices their spiritual rituals while in exile. One very important ritual
that the Tibetans still practice is the Kalachakra Initiation. This is a series of teaching and
rituals that began during the fourth century B.C. 34 Today, the high lamas, or teachers,
are the people that give the teachings and rituals. The present Dalai Lama has given the
initiation 25 times. The initiation usually lasts 10 days. During this time, students vow to
have compassion for all beings and to work for the benefit of others. The initiation urges
students to reach a pure, peace-filled inner world while still living in this imperfect earthly
world.35 One important object in the initiation is the Mandala. A Mandala is a circular
pictorial representation of the universe created in sand. It contains images of 722 deities
in the shapes of animals, plants, human forms, and abstract symbols. Students in the
initiation use the Mandala to visualize in meditation the steps that lead to enlightenment.36
This spiritual ritual has been around for many, many years and is still able to be practiced
by Tibetans in their exiled home.

The Tibetans had to experience one of the hardest things anyone could encounter,
attempted genocide and exile, and they survived it. This is a very commendable thing
because they it would be extremely hard to do. They had to give up everything they had
in their lives, including for many, the ones they love. They had to out that behind them,
move into a foreign land and completely start over. They did make a few changes in their
government, while in India, but primarily the live their lives in the traditional Tibetan way.
They stayed true to their religion and never lost faith in it. Also they never lost faith in the
Dalai Lama, and without him I do not think they would be as well off as they are today.
The Tibetans have primarily kept alive in India what was almost destroyed or sinocised
inside Tibet.37

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