Friends of Tibet Foundation for the Wellbeing

The Wellbeing Programme is a philanthropic initiative by Friends of Tibet to support the cause of Tibet and to create awareness about the issue of Tibet amongst people all over the world. This initiative researched, designed and implemented by Friends of Tibet aims at the restoration, propagation and promotion of the endangered traditions and practices of Tibet.

Escape to Freedom: Remarkable Story of a Young Tibetan Refugee
(November 9, 2017 | Report by: Yazin T Azad | Photo: Sylvie Bantle)

Friends of Tibet Campaigner Yazin T Azad, in conversation with Dr Karma (Name has been changed to maintain confidentiality), during the 59th Wellbeing Tibetan Medical Camp at Alappuzha, Kerala organised by Friends of Tibet Foundation for the Wellbeing and Men-Tsee-Khang, Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute of HH the Dalai Lama from November 8-10, 2017.

Friends of Tibet Campaigner Yazin T Azad, in conversation with Dr Karma (Name has been changed to maintain confidentiality), during the 59th Wellbeing Tibetan Medical Camp at Alappuzha, Kerala organised by Friends of Tibet Foundation for the Wellbeing and Men-Tsee-Khang, Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute of HH the Dalai Lama from November 8-10, 2017.

This is the transcript of a conversation Friends of Tibet Campaigner Yazin T Azad had with a young Tibetan doctor, Karma (Name has been changed to maintain confidentiality), who happened to be one of the serving doctors for the 59th edition of the Wellbeing Tibetan Medical Camp organised by Friends of Tibet Foundation for the Wellbeing and Men-Tsee-Khang, Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute of HH the Dalai Lama in Alappuzha in November 2017. She refused to be photographed as she fears that her relatives back in Chinese-occupied Tibet might suffer under the Chinese authority that keeps a close watch on those Tibetans who escape their control to reach India. This rare conversation covers a whole spectrum of issues including political and social realities in China and Tibet, the imperialist and fascist practices of the Chinese government and last but not the least an incredible adventures of a teenager spanning multiple countries who sacrificed almost everything to achieve her dream of learning the truth about her legacy, culture, tradition, religion and practices.

Yazin Azad: Can you give a small introduction about yourself?
Dr Karma:
My name is Karma. I come from Chinese-occupied Tibet. I cannot reveal the exact location since it is dangerous for my family. I was born around 1990. I do not know the exact date since I was born in a family which was into farming. Farmers in Tibet are not concerned about exact dates. I have a father, mother and two siblings. My father died almost at the same time when I was born. After my high school, I came to India. This was around 2004. I also lived in Nepal for some time. I was a teenager then.

YA: Tell us about your life in occupied Tibet?
In Tibet, most Tibetans are poor and not educated. Most of them are farmers. They know very little about politics. If the Chinese government provides proper education to Tibetans, they will have a better understanding of their own human rights and the political and social situation in Tibet. This is detrimental to Chinese imperialism. The Chinese are only concerned about exploiting the Tibetans for their own profit. So they are openly not educating the Tibetan farmers. Basically the Chinese are afraid that if they educate the Tibetan farmers, it will increase the protests and uprisings against them inside Tibet. This is true especially in the case of women in my town. When I used to go school, around 90 percent of my school mates were boys. Only very few of us were girls. I remember that after sixth class, only 2 girls were admitted in my class.

The Chinese are only concerned about selling their products and services for their own profit and exploiting the Tibetans. For example, the staple food of Tibet is Tsampa (roasted wheat flour). This is healthier than rice especially in our climate. Also it is not possible to grow rice in Tibet because of its climate. But the Chinese started selling rice, pressure cooker and related accessories. The government made policies that made it more difficult for Tibetan farmers to grow wheat and also made policies that would increase rice consumption. The result is Tibetan farmers will become poorer and the Chinese businesses will increase their profits. This is the kind of politics that is happening in Tibet. Similarly, in a slow steady manner, the Chinese government is trying to destroy our culture and traditions so that they can exploit us and profiteer.

YA: Is there any protest or uprising happening in Tibet against this?
Very rare. It is because the Chinese economy and military are extremely powerful. It is almost like there are 10 Chinese soldiers to subdue 1 civilian person. Add the advanced weaponry and technology, the situation becomes overwhelming. How can we protest in such a situation? I remember an incident where my aunty who is a nun wrote the words "Freedom for Tibet" on the wall in her monastery. Somehow the Chinese government officials came to know about it. Immediately soldiers from the army came to the monastery and took her away and put her in jail for one year. If you protest for a second time, then it becomes 10 years, then 20 years and so on. This is the situation. There is a lot of pressure on us to live a certain way.

Also there are many informers all around us always looking to inform on threats to the Chinese government in return for financial gains. Another vengeful policy for the Chinese government is the practice of marking persons as potential threats or "Blacks" as they call it. For example if I say I express my wish to meet HH the Dalai Lama, they mark me as black and spy on me. As I said the situation is very overwhelming.

YA: What are some of the other evils in Tibet?
There is also a systematic propaganda, misinformation and thought control campaign in Tibet regarding the political, social and historical realities, especially against the Dalai Lama. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is portrayed as this evil person trying to lead you to sin. Also the history that we are taught in our schools is completely in favour of the Chinese government. In schools, we are taught that the Chinese are saviours who saved the Tibetans. Our own language, tradition and race are taught to be substandard to our own people. And also that everything about the Chinese is superior. This is extremely frustrating.

YA: What is the Chinese attitude towards Tibetan spiritual practices?
According to our practices, we follow the Dalai Lama as our spiritual guide and leader. He is also our political leader. The Chinese government is afraid of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan spiritual knowledge as its influence will be detrimental to the Chinese imperialism. In fact the Chinese government seems insecure about all the minority communities and their traditions. Their propaganda teaches that all minority races are substandard and that the Chinese race and traditions whether spiritual or otherwise is superior.

YA: How do you see His Holiness the Dalai Lama's role in the Tibetan Freedom Movement?

DK: I see him as a global leader. He is not just a spiritual leader or just a political leader. His influence is much wider and deeper than we imagine. His followers and supporters are not restricted to any race or religion. This is because of his love and compassion towards all humanity. The Chinese are afraid of this influence. That is why they try to restrict all those who come in contact with him. They see him as a threat to Chinese imperialist ideas and its ambition to become the most powerful nation in the world. This is our greatest asset which takes the Tibetan Freedom movement forward.

YA: How did you feel inspired to come to India?
To answer this question, I will have to tell you why I left Tibet to come to India, leaving my family behind. There are mainly two reasons why people leave Tibet to come to India. One of the main reasons is the restriction of knowledge and information about reality and the resulting thirst to find the truth. Because of the lack of knowledge and systematic misinformation, some Tibetans have this superstitious belief that The Dalai Lama is "God". All access to Tibetan scriptures and knowledge is restricted inside Tibet. Many of us in Tibet believed that Dalai Lama to be a "God" with superhuman powers. The elders in the society know the truth that HH the Dalai Lama is our spiritual leader because they were born during the time of the Chinese incursion. But they cannot tell us because talking about will lead to torture or even jail. So the main reason to coming here is to meet with HH the Dalai Lama and to know the truth about him. The second main reason is that all our text books in school are in Chinese language, especially the books on our history, tradition and politics are propaganda by Chinese government. So if we need to learn about our own history and tradition, we have to come to India.

YA: How did you personally come to know the truth about the Dalai Lama?
People in the cities secretly have a little more access to information. My sister who lives in the city came to know some of these truths and also got access to some pictures of the Dalai Lama. She felt the need to share some of these truths with me. That was beginning of journey towards the truth and my inspiration to come here. I also wanted to study the real history and traditions of Tibet.

YA: How was your journey from occupied Tibet to free India?
Tibetan people are not given a passport by the Chinese authorities. So we have to secretly escape to Nepal first; stay there for some time to get fake Nepalese passport and identity and use that to come to India.

YA: Did you face any hardships on your journey to Nepal?
Personally I did not have much of a problem. But there are lots of other people who met with accidents. Because we have to travel secretly without getting spotted by the Chinese. Even during my own journey, I had to cross a dangerous river without a proper bridge to cross to Nepal. I almost fell down in the river. But luckily I was caught by another monk who saved my life. I was prepared to face any difficulties because my desire to know the truth was so strong. After we cross to the Nepal side, we are taken care of by Buddhist monks in Nepal. So our life is little easier once we cross to Nepal. We live using a Nepali identity in a Buddhist monastery in Nepal until we cross to India.

YA: How did you become a Sowa Rigpa Practitioner?
I was always interested to learn more Tibetan traditions. The practice of Sowa Rigpa or Tibetan medicine is one of the best and useful aspects of Tibetan culture and tradition. By practicing Sowa Rigpa, it is possible for me to help others also. After coming to India, the Tibetan Government in Exile in India put us through a Transition School to bridge gaps of our knowledge. They teach us Tibetan history and also basic Tibetan, English languages and the basics of other subjects. Then I got admitted to Sarah Institute near Dharamshala, where I studied bachelors in Tibetan history for 3 years. After that the Tibetan Government in Exile announced that they needed students for Sowa Rigpa at Men-Tsee-Khang, the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute of HH the Dalai lama and I applied for the course. My English was not that good and the entrance test was in English. But somehow with God's grace and luck I passed. The duration of the course was 5 years.

My main aim in life is to study Tibetan tradition. I and my family have sacrificed a lot to achieve this. You can say one of the aims in life has been achieved. I feel as though I blessed and lucky to be here. My main aim in life is to sacrifice for Tibetan struggle. I will keep doing that for the rest of my life.

YA: How do you see the future of Tibetan freedom movement?
You see, in my view it's not only about Tibet. Nobody is free. All the minority communities in China are not free. Same with the case of Mongols, Tibetans or Uyghurs. Even the Chinese people are not free. The whole system has to change. Because of misinformation and propaganda, most people do not know about their own human rights and also the political and social realities. The flow of information is tightly controlled by the communist regime. Change can happen only through the spread of knowledge and awareness. This is the reason they don't provide proper education to people in China or in Tibet. But right now the Chinese economy is so strong. And also most people in the government system is corrupt. Hopefully the situation will change in the future. Let's hope so!

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