When the firing began, a gap formed in the crowd as those directly outside the gate ran for their lives–all except a 21-year-old monk named Kunga, one of the 200 monks from Chokri Monastery who had joined the demonstration. Kunga found himself caught in the open, right in front of the police gate. He was immediately shot and slumped to the ground.
Tsewang rushed to help him. “There is a Tibetan saying, when a rabbit is picked up by a vulture it’s useless for the rabbit to petition the sky. But like the rabbit, I found myself calling out in my mind for the blessing of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.” Another man appeared and together they began to carry the monk away. Tsewang felt a searing pain in his left side and knew he’d been shot. He took only two steps before he was hit by another bullet in his left elbow. “Blood was rushing out of my arm like a water fountain and I began to feel dizzy.” Just before he lost consciousness, Tsewang managed to call out, “Someone help this monk!” Kunga later died from his wounds.
The Tibetan struggle is almost impossible for many of us to comprehend. It’s estimated that over one million Tibetans have been killed since 1950. What is even more excruciating about this genocide is that most Tibetans honor the requests of the Dalai Lama and refrain from violence against the Chinese. Unfortunately, the Chinese Government has taken advantage of this and mercilessly executes these peaceful warriors.
When I was studying in Dharamsala last month, I was able to spend time with many Tibetan refugees. Some of them were still struggling with physical injuries and emotional traumas that had followed them from Tibet. However, amidst these lasting marks of abuse, many still had hope glimmering in their eyes. They hope that one day, through a peaceful route, this struggle will end. Some say that it may not mean Tibetans return to Tibet, but at least their culture and practices will be accepted and the killing will end.
When I arrived home, I wanted to find a way to honor the lives that continue to be lost in Tibet. After sitting with this for a while, it became clear to me that the Tibetan struggle can serve as a powerful reminder of the violence and hate that is still prevalent in the U.S.Perhaps the assaults are not as blatant as they are in Tibet, but hate crimes against those who are gay, differently-abled, of a different race or those who practice a different religion are still common. I believe that i f we take the opportunity to love and accept one another (without the ego-driven need to change or convert them), then we can find peace and happiness amidst the struggles that life inevitably brings.
I have created affirmations that I say to honor those who work peacefully for change and remind myself that I am also a peaceful warrior:
I am thankful. And so are those without material pocessions. Becuase life is not measured in dollars.
I am beautiful. And so are those who look different than me. Because beauty blossoms in diversity.
I am happy. And so are those who have experienced tremendous life struggles. Because attaching to unhappiness is a choice.
I am wise. And so are those who have never attended school. Because wisdom comes from within.
I am divine. And so are those of a different religion than me. Because religion provides a language and a community to honor that which connects all of us.
We are all thankful. We are all beautiful. We are all happy. We are all wise. We are all divine.
This is a sign that hangs in the main play room at the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) in Dharamsala, India. I also like to sub the word “human” in for child.