“Freedom”: New Translation of Prose by Imprisoned Tibetan Writer Dhi Lhaden

High Peaks Pure Earth presents a new English translation of prose written by imprisoned Tibetan writer Dhi Lhaden aka Thupten Lobsang Lhundup and translated by Bhuchung D. Sonam. The prose is an extract from Dhi Lhaden’s book “Life and Death Testaments” (Tsesog Gi Tunpai Keycha) – a series of essays and poems on the violent crackdowns on Tibetans protesting across Tibet in 2008.

The last time we posted translations of poetry by Dhi Lhaden, he was in detention and awaiting trial. Last month, the news broke that he had been tried and sentenced to four years in prison for “disrupting social order”.

Tibetan Writer Dhi Lhaden (Photo credit: TCHRD)

By Dhi Lhaden

Although food, shelter and speech are essential to human beings, ‘freedom’ is a refined air that is inseparable from your life. If your life is parted with this ‘refined air’, then you become someone whose very life-essence is extinguished. Then you become a rubber figure that others can use in any way they wish.

If your freedom is forcefully taken away by a brutal system or gobbled up by a despot, then a part of you is shattered and whatever remains in you is like a scared rat that cannot escape the claw of a cat.

Buddha said: “Freedom is happiness. Dependency is suffering.” Though Buddha taught that everyone should choose the path of happiness and avoid depending on others, strangely there are many who recite this maxim but hold monopoly over the freedom of others. These people certainly don’t value the meaning of this aphorism.

There are many rich and powerful people whose freedom is snatched by their greed for money and wealth. Seeing this one feels like crying. The excessive amount of money they hold have made them turn other people’s lives and freedom into toys to play with. They trample upon people’s lives, deny them freedom and ruin their future by turning them into near slaves.

Seeing the wealth of the rich and powerful, the ordinary people sacrifice their mind, body and speech, and they tolerate anything that is done to them – abuse, beating, killing etc.

When one sees the despot torturing people and trampling over their rights and ordinary people who do not know the value of freedom (and thus they suffer) one is left but to cry. This is something that is happening and has become an inseparable aspect of our lives.

It is possible to vanquish someone who can bind, beat, torture and kill you. However, if you have to realise your freedom of thought, freedom of movement, freedom of believe and freedom of expression while depending on others, then it is most likely that these freedoms will be curtailed. Under such circumstances, you cannot totally express or be ‘yourself’. Consequently, your inherent knowledge and strength will certainly disappear.

Once in your life, if you assert and be who you are without depending on anyone else, then you will discover your own way of expression and realise your own true nature. You will discover your knowledge and strength. And that will be the day you will affirm yourself in this world. That will be the day you will be able to live your life.

It is true that your freedom can be realised based on inner strength and by not depending on others. However, this freedom must not be confused with the bad habit of doing whatever you wish without following or respecting any value system. Behaving like a ruffian and not showing due respect to your parents and elders is not exercising freedom. Doing so goes against the very substance of what we are fighting for.

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