"An Email Received on March 10th" By Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for Radio Free Asia on March 10, 2010 and posted on her blog on March 15, 2010.This year, Woeser returned to Lhasa and spent Tibetan New Year in the capital. In her previous blogpost, “Lhasa In February”, Woeser described everyday life and the tense atmosphere there. In the blogpost below, Woeser spends a little time commemorating March 10, 1959 and 2008, two historic occasions. However, she clearly refrains from writing a whole blogpost about it, perhaps due to the sensitivity around the topic and the fact that she is still blogging from Lhasa.

In the first paragraph, the poem that Woeser quotes is “Tibet’s Secret” and High Peaks Pure Earth is grateful to Ragged Banner for the use of the English translation lifted from the volume “Tibet’s True Heart”.

In the final paragraph, Woeser mentions the film “Dreaming Lhasa”, a film that she has previously written about. Incidentally, Woeser and her husband Wang Lixiong are both interviewed by the filmmakers of “Dreaming Lhasa”, Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, in their new documentary “The Sun Behind the Clouds”, currently being screened at festivals around the world.

“An Email Received on March 10th” by Woeser

For Tibet, March 10th shows the way in which the fate of all Tibetans is constantly changing, and this is a fact that the whole world already knows. As the 51st commemoration day approached, I was returning to Lhasa from Beijing and I could not but be discreet in my words and deeds. This is because on the exact same day in the Year of the Mouse, the fate of all Tibetan people once more changed; accordingly, I could see many soldiers and policemen with guns but what I could not see were those hidden “ears and eyes” (“amchoks” and “mi”). I previously wrote in one of my poems “It’s been said, “Tibetans’ fear is palpable.” But I’d say the air has long been charged with fear, real fear.” Let’s stop at this point and talk about something else?
For example, on that day I received an email early in the morning before daybreak containing some deep thoughts worthy of further investigating. The sender was a Han Chinese woman and a believer in traditional Tibetan Buddhism. After the protests that spread all over Tibet in March two years ago, she went to the northern region of Kham, Eastern Tibet, and upon her return she published a travel diary. In the preface, she expressed the following: “I witnessed with my own eyes that this nationality and its culture are currently being engulfed by the ferocious imperialist policies of the Chinese government, I am extremely worried about how long it can maintain to exist.” For this reason, I posted her travel diary on my blog.
Later on, she went to India and Nepal to study Buddhism. Just like His Holiness Dalai Lama said in his speech at the gathering marking the 51st commemoration day: “And because the heads of all four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the Bon religion are in exile, we have been able to re-establish various institutions for religious training and practice. In these institutions over ten thousand monks and nuns are free to pursue their vocations.” I read in the email from this Han Chinese Buddhist of her happiness, showing how she has immersed herself in studying with many great Tibetan Buddhist masters and acquiring the knowledge and experiences, which they have brought with them. To be honest, I really envy her because I am just like one of those numerous Tibetans living in Tibet, I simply don’t have the opportunity to so closely study with the great masters; this is our reality.
Also, she wrote one paragraph especially for me: “seeing you taking hardships and fighting for the reality in Tibet day and night, I feel very moved, and even more want to say to you, there is one path, which eliminates all of this, it is the path of Buddhism…, people do not merely live in Tibet, in China, in the People’s Republic of China for a short period of time, all living beings experience suffering, if we expand and broaden our horizon a little bit, our lives will gain a more far-reaching meaning… If it’s possible, spend a little more time studying Buddhism and practicing; spend more time together with our teachers, it will make our hearts more composed and peaceful.”
Being converted to the Three Precious Jewels (the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), I of course agree with the Buddhist teachings about being a way to leave suffering behind and reach happiness. Yet, thinking more about this, there are a few points I need to raise. Believing in Buddhism or studying Buddhism should not only be done for the sake of seeking for happiness for oneself; if in reality, there are so many sentient beings who do not reach happiness, what use is the individual’s happiness? At the end of last year, at the Buddhist festival held for Taiwanese Buddhists, His Holiness the Dalai Lama conveyed that “about 15 or 20 years ago, I met a group of French people believing in Tibetan Buddhism, they said that they only paid attention to Tibetan Buddhism but did not pay attention to politics. At the time, I asked them whether they got up early in the morning and prayed for the prosperity of Buddhism and they said that they did. At the time I answered, if one prays for the prosperity of Buddhism, one should consider that the current situation in Tibet is destroying Buddhism; if one wishes for the eternal prosperity of the Buddhist doctrine, it becomes a question of the state of Tibet. That’s why Tibet’s autonomy and Buddhism are interlinked. If there wasn’t autonomy in Tibet, Buddhism would not be able to exist.”
I still remember once watching the film “Dreaming Lhasa” with a Rinpoche and his Han Chinese disciple. It described how thousands of Tibetans in 1959 after losing their homes were forced out of their native land and parted, never to meet again with their relatives who were left behind. For many years they lived a life of suffering in a foreign place. Moreover, it shows how the next generations, the situation of young Tibetans today, is equally full of the bitterness of being in exile. The Rinpoche was moved to tears by the film, yet, his Han Chinese disciple soothingly said: “this is the fate of Tibet, what is there to complain about?” I need to make clear that the reason why I mention Han Chinese Buddhists twice is just because I know them; I do not wish to infer any other meaning to these mentions. In fact, this March 10th, or rather over the last 51 years, every March 10th has already turned into one nationality’s most bitter collective memory. If Buddhism did not exist as a means of relief, this would be unbearable.
Lhasa, March 10th, 2010

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