Dear friends of Tibet:
What began as a Web portal by Friends of Tibet for our associates to present their views and findings on various aspects of Tibet has now evolved into a comprehensive website that publishes research papers and study materials for further studies and scholarly researches.
We humbly present Friends of Tibet [Research], a website with research materials on the unique heritage, legacy and history of Tibet. This initiative was officially launched on October 13, 2020, by Claude Arpi, French-born author, Tibetologist and one of the long-time supporters of our organisation. We are fortunate to associate with him almost a decade ago to develop the 'Indian Cartoonists on Tibet', a travelling exhibition of selected cartoons on the Tibet issue and the turbulent Indo-Chinese relations by renowned Indian cartoonists. We regard Claude Arpi as a mentor and a guide. In his inaugural message titled "The Importance of Memory", he opined that "the survival of the Land of Snows depends today on the research on Tibet's past as well as a vision for the future; this needs to be looked into with a modern and scientific mind." And he concludes by hoping that: "the world will soon change for the better and His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Land of Snows will be able to play again a role in the Concert of Nations; in the meantime, it is crucial to preserve the memory of this unique nation." Let us hope this change comes soon enough!
As a research group that focuses on Tibet's traditions, ecology, art, literature, medical, spiritual and other contributions to the World as a whole, Friends of Tibet [Research] hope to produce varied researches in collaboration with scholars, academicians, scientists, sociologists and holistic health educationists. We welcome you to visit: www.friendsoftibet.org/research/ to read, study, download, and share our research presentations.
Stay healthy, stay blessed!
"The Importance of Memory"
Author: Claude Arpi Publishing Date: October 13, 2020
OCTOBER 7, 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) crossing the Upper Yangtze, entering into the territory controlled by Lhasa and advancing towards Chamdo, the capital of the Kham province. While invading Eastern Tibet, Beijing asserted that it was 'liberating' the Land of Snows. It was indeed a great tragedy for the Tibetan Nation, but perhaps worse is the fact that today the world seems to have completely forgotten what befell on the Land of Snows.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, His Holiness the Dalai Lama's native country had all the attributes of a sovereign State (a government, a language, a script, a flag, a (mild) army (for keeping order in the land), coins, stamps, etc). For centuries, the Land of Snow had unhindered relations with India, first and foremost, in the cultural and spiritual domains (Tibetan Buddhism originates from Nalanda), and also economically with countless 'silk' routes across the Himalayas; in other words, it was a deep kinship between the two nations. This has been forgotten by many.
A Nation sans Memory is a Dead Nation
That is why one can welcome the initiative of Friends of Tibet to open a Research Page on their website; in their own words, their objectives are: "to conduct and publish research on the unique heritage, legacy and history of Tibet, before and after the Chinese occupation."
To keep the memory alive, research is necessary.
Let me present a personal example. Lost memory is what motivated me to record the history of the relations between India and Tibet from 1947 to 1962. Today, the world is facing China's formidable propaganda machinery, which is able to white wash what is black and vice-versa. The 'liberation' of Tibet which, in fact, was its enslavement. To give a more precise example, the last volume of my four volumes (1958-1962) witnessed the most dramatic events not only for the Tibetan nation, but also for the bilateral relations between India and Tibet. First it saw the consolidation of the Chinese military presence on the plateau facing the Indian borders, then the Uprising of the Tibetan masses in March 1959, which prompted His Holiness the Dalai Lama to flee to India, where the Tibetan leader and tens of thousands of his followers became refugees. The Chinese propaganda projected the March 1959 events as the 'emancipation of the serfs', though the reality was the exact opposite. Very few today remember the Indian Trade Agents in Gartok, Gyantse and Yatung or the Consul General of India in Lhasa who played such an important role in the life of the Himalayan nation and the silk roads with India. More than ever, now it is necessary to remember the past to understand the present.
During the last two years just before the 1962 border war, many realized that era was ending. Mao's China did not want any Indian presence in Tibet, China's 'new colony'. A sense of jealousy towards India prevailed; Beijing clearly resented the existence of an age-old civilizational relation between India and Tibet. It simply wanted to erase all traces of Indian presence in Tibet. It is what the Chinese Communists did.
Trying to reconstitute what happened from the very few rare resources available is always a hard job, but ultimately a satisfying one.
Using new sources, I had managed to uncover some not-too-well known aspects of the 1962 China-India war, in particular, the five-year 'training' of the PLA during the Tibetan insurgency which greatly helped the Chinese forces in becoming familiar with the terrain and other logistic difficulties on the plateau.
In a previous volume, I quoted Apa Pant, the Political Officer in Sikkim, saying that the Chinese officers were not interested "in harmony and compassion but in power and material benefit." Pant spoke of the confrontation of two different worlds: "The one so apparently inefficient, so humane and even timid, yet kind and compassionate and aspiring to something more gloriously satisfying in human life; the other determined and effective, ruthless, power-hungry and finally intolerant. I wondered how this conflict could resolve itself, and what was India's place in it."
An ancient world disappeared in 1962 and in that process; India lost a friend, a kind neighbour and a peaceful border.
The Relations between India and Tibet
Cultural relations between India and Tibet are as old as the Himalayas. Historically, the first contact occurred when Nyatri Tsenpo was enthroned as the first king of Tibet (Yarlung dynasty) in 127 BC. The King is said to have belonged to the Sakya clan (Buddha's family) and to have 'landed' in Central Tibet from India with the help of a legendary 'sky-rope'. However, modern research in the pre-Buddhist Tibetan civilisation have revealed the presence of a highly developed culture on the 'Roof of the World', the Bon faith, long before Buddhism was introduced. This culture, which flourished in the kingdom of Shangshung (Western Tibet) had constant contacts with India as well as Central Asia; its script (Mar-yig) probably derives from the old Brahmi script.
The relations with the 'Roof of the World' took a new turn during the period known as the 'First Propagation' (VII-VIII century A.D.) of the Buddha Dharma in Tibet. Many great Indian Masters such as Padmasambhava and Sankarakshita visited Tibet and Buddhism became the religion of the state. The present Tibetan script and grammar were brought from India by a minister in the court of the King Song-Tsen-Gompo to translate the Buddhist scriptures. 'The Second Propagation' (X-XI century) is considered by many scholars as the period of renaissance in Tibet. The temples and gompas (viharas) of Tholing and Tsaparang in Western Tibet (as well as Alchi and Tabo in the Indian Himalayas) witnessed a scintillating vibration of Buddhist art, literature, architecture and more than anything philosophy and spirituality. The origin of this renaissance was India.
The Indian sources of inspiration were cut-short with the Muslim invasion of Northern India (XII-XIII century) and with the reestablishment of the Brahminical order in place of Buddhism. All the remnants of Buddhist culture and knowledge disappeared from the sub-continent. Tibet had to turn towards Mongolia and then China to seek protection. Eventually the Tibetan Lamas became the gurus of the Mongolian Khans and the Manchu Emperors. However for Tibet, India remained 'the Sacred Land': the Aryabhumi.
The Tibetan Medicine
Many aspects of Tibetan history and civilization need to be researched and recorded. I particularly think of the necessity to preserve the Tibetan System of Medicine or Sowa Rigpa (The Science of Healing). If not done, China will do it... but modified spuriously with Chinese characteristics which they have already started.
Beijing recently applied to get the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage status for the Tibetan Art of Healing. It has submitted an application to the Paris based UNESCO. China says that Tibetan medicine, which originated from the 'Qinghai-Tibet Plateau' in the 7th century is one of the world's four traditional medicines and "It has been well known in neighboring countries such as Nepal, Mongolia, Russia, Bhutan and India as well as European countries in the 8th century." The age-old connection with the Indian medicinal systems such Ayurveda has been relegated to just be "well known in neighboring countries."
I am happy to note that Friends of Tibet has already started posting research papers on Sowa Rigpa in this section. The possible research topics are countless, in the religious and spiritual realm as well as in art, poetry, painting, architecture, or sociology. It has never been a so important need to record the rich heritage of the Tibetan nation, even though the world politicians, in their egoism and their eagerness 'to do business with China' are still reluctant to admit that there is such a thing as a Tibetan nation.
I have to add that some fifteen years ago, it was a real pleasure for me to work with Friends of Tibet and write the text giving the background of a number of exceptional cartoons on Tibet.
The survival of the 'Land of Snows' or 'Roof of the World' depends now on the timely research interventions on Tibet's past routed in the present, aimed with a vision for the future. This needs to be looked into with a modern and scientific mind. Hopefully, the world will soon change for the better and His Holiness the Dalai Lama's sovereign country, Tibet will be able to play again a role in the Concert of Nations. In the meantime, it is crucial to preserve of the memory of this unique nation.
Let us hope that the initiative of Friends of Tibet [Research] will be emulated. ◼
Claude Arpi, French-born author, researcher and Tibetologist, who travelled by road from Paris to India in 1974, crossing western and Middle East countries, ultimately settled in Auroville, India for more than 40 years. The 'karma' took him to Himachal Pradesh where he was greeted by hapless smiling Tibetan refugees who had lost their kith and kin, belongings, motherland and everything but had not lost their deeper humane qualities of compassion and peace of mind. Claude was later led to HH Dalai Lama, Tibetan spiritual leader in exile, the living epitome of inner qualities, who all made Claude Arpi understand 'something' he had not grasped and experienced till then in his life back in Europe. Impressed by the warmth and hospitality, dignity, kindness and other core qualities of Tibetans and Indians, Claude Arpi was convinced that these qualities that make them a hundred times 'richer' than the wealthy people in the West.
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Friends of Tibet [Research], PO Box 16674, Mumbai 400050, India.
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The primary objective of Friends of Tibet [Research]
is to conduct and publish research on the unique heritage, legacy and history of Tibet, before and after Chinese occupation. Our research also focuses on Tibet's traditions, ecology, art, literature, medical, spiritual and other contributions to the World as a whole. Friends of Tibet [Research] co-ordinates, executes and produces varied researches with the collaboration of scholars, academicians, scientists, sociologists and holistic health educationists.
Digital Support: Design & People, India + Ibiblio Digital Library & Archive Project, University of North Carolina, USA