High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written in July 2015 for the Mandarin service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on July 8, 2015.
The post was written on the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday last year.
“A Gift: Two Contemporary Tibetan Folk Tales”
July 6 of the Gregorian calendar was the 80th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (according to the Tibetan calendar, it was on May 5); for this reason, I would like to pass on two true stories that have been told by Tibetans inside Tibet; they are a gift to His Holiness.
The first story: A senior monk went through much trouble to make his way to Dharamsala; when he met His Holiness, he asked to be instructed in Lamrim teachings. But His Holiness said that the best master to teach Lamrim was not him, but a lama who lived inside Tibet. He asked the senior monk to go back and find Lama Druba Gyatso who was living in a remote mountain cave in Amdo, silently practicing Buddhism in seclusion. This would be the person to ask for advice regarding Lamrim; after that, the senior monk should return to Dharamsala and pass on the knowledge to His Holiness.
Upon his return to Tibet, the senior monk did as His Holiness had told him; he went and found Lama Druba Gyatso who was in seclusion. He was already 106 years old and had gone into hiding in this remote mountain cave even before the Cultural Revolution, in retreat for over 40 years. Even though his deeds have become well-known, he decided to remain silent, only wishing to offer his humble help to those in need.
The senior monk beseeched this lama to instruct him in Lamrim teachings. The lama replied: I will soon leave this world, but I still do not want to accept any disciples or offerings. The senior monk said: it was Gyalwa Rinpoche who sent me to you. When the lama heard this, he immediately prostrated three times towards the Dalai Lama’s photo on a Buddhist shrine. Then he spent three whole days instructing the senior monk in Lamrim teachings with the utmost care. Ten days after the senior monk had left, the lama passed away in peace and with a happy smile on his face.
Today, the senior monk who received the Lamrim teachings has grown old. He has been hoping to return to Dharamsala many times for an audience with His Holiness, but because of the increasingly difficult situation in Tibet, he has not been able to go. It seems that the obstacles in the mortal world have even obstructed the deepest sphere, to the point that a passport has turned into smoke. Yet, the senior monk has remained calm, telling his students in their maroon robes that, in fact, Gyalwa Rinpoche already received Lama Druba Gyatso’s Lamrim teachings a long time ago.
The second story: In 1959, three monks of Drepung Monastery were arrested and imprisoned by CCP soldiers; they survived the years of disaster in prison. When they returned to the monastery that was named a “pile of pure white rice” by Tibetans, they were already old; this was in the early 1980s.
All they wanted was to practice their religion, to make the people who had been deprived of Buddhism see and understand its real essence, and revive the Buddhist glory of Drepung Monastery that had been founded by Gyalwa Rinpoche. But they spent two decades living a life in agony; each and every political movement further buttressed the rewritten and fabricated history of Tibet; they were controlled by the work groups made up of Tibetan and Chinese cadres who repeatedly swept through the prayer halls, through every single village, and did not even stop at the monks’ residences.
A 30 year old monk who had left the Kham region at the age of 19, came to Drepung Monastery to dedicate himself to the study of Buddhism; he set out to carefully and with all his attention recite more Buddhist texts, to come one step closer on the road towards enlightenment. He was the student that the three senior monks were most satisfied with. They particularly liked his name; it was the name of the brave warrior who one thousand years ago brought the light of Buddhism that had been extinguished by violent storms back to Kham and reignited it; perhaps the three senior monks already foresaw that history was to repeat itself?
And they foresaw something else, not something malevolent coming back to haunt people, they foresaw that their monastery, the centre of their life, would once again encounter misfortune. So the oldest and weakest of them passed away at the end of 2006. One year later, the other two also left this world. And indeed, a few months later, I am talking about 2008, the year of the Earth Rabbit according to the Tibetan calendar, several hundred monks were expelled from Drepung Monastery at gunpoint, locked up in unknown prisons, deported from Lhasa in hermetically sealed trains, and disallowed to return until the present day.
“These three lamas must have foreseen this tragedy, which is why they decided to live on in a different world, it is really quite amazing!” This is what the young monk from Kham who has by now escaped to a monastery in Amdo uttered in astonishment. And he who has received the Heart Sutra from these three senior monks, now fulfills his obligation to carry out the task that his namesake, the brave warrior carried out a thousand years ago: to promote Buddhism.
This post is also available in: English