High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written in August 2012 for the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia and posted on her blog on September 19, 2012.
In this post, Woeser re-visits the events that unfolded in the aftermath of March 2008, as experienced by the monks from the three main monasteries in Lhasa. The sad song mentioned in the post was originally published on Woeser’s blog in February 2009 and the English translation was also posted on High Peaks Pure Earth.
Photo 1. The sealed monk quarters of Drepung Monastery
Photo 2. The deserted Sera Monastery
“Prostrating Before the Most Revered Monks
Who Have Faced Great Difficulties”
A few months ago, a monk from the distant Kham region, who I’d never met before, delivered a message asking me to write the preface for the book he’d just completed. Later, I learned he was one of the thousands of monks who had been arrested by military police in one of Lhasa’s three main monasteries in 2008 and had been imprisoned and finally deported home. In his book he mainly writes about this experience and I was happy to write a preface for him. In fact, this is the first time that I had written a preface for a fellow Tibetan’s book.
In the preface, I recounted a dialogue with a different monk who had experienced similar bitterness. He first asked me: “Will the Chinese government one day kill all monks and close all monasteries in the whole of Tibet, so that each monastery is only left with a few monks?” I was surprised and answered that this would never happen because in that case the whole world would start protesting and that it would be the worst possible crime. I wanted to say “crime against humanity” but did not know the Tibetan words for that.
The monk who I had first met many years ago did not believe me. He said in a low voice: “I think they would. And no one in the world would care.” Then he also said, “You don’t remember? In 2008, many monks from the three main monasteries in Lhasa were beaten to death and many were imprisoned, even until now. We monks, we were taken away from our sleeping quarters at gunpoint, were first locked up for over a month and then, blindfolded with a black headscarf, put onto a train and on the Qinghai-Tibet railway were brought to Gormo military prison where they kept us until the Olympic Games were over to then forcefully deport us back to our home villages; from then on we became monastery-less and homeless suspects who had no choice but to drift and wander about. But does the world really know about these great difficulties?”
He also said: “In fact, if in 2008 they had killed us all, whether in Lhasa or in Gormo, I don’t think this world would ever have known it or said anything. After this experience, I am convinced that it is possible for them to kill many monks of every monastery in Tibet. For example, at Kirti Monastery, if any more monks self-immolate and if other monks and ordinary people keep protesting, the military police have a reason to open fire. This kind of situation has happened before. But this time, the scope of such massacres may perhaps be even greater, which would mean that Kirti Monastery would cease to exist.” After I heard his words, I could no longer hold back my tears.
Indeed, four years ago at around midnight, a month after “March 10” and “March 14”, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, Ganden Monastery were suddenly invaded by thousands of soldiers accompanied by Tibetan police and Tibetan cadres as accomplices to help interpret. In just one night, thousands of monks lost their place of worship or using the words of the profane world, they lost their homes… Until today, I will never forget the song that a monk imprisoned at Gormo rewrote and sang in a sorrowful voice:
The three seats of Sera, Drepung and Ganden,
Are struck by the vapour of the poisonous snake,
Because of this sea of adverse circumstance,
There’s no right to diligently study the scriptural texts.
O Triple Gem! Kindly guide and protect us!
O Triple Gem! Come forth with speed.
Since the chance for the Mandala of the trichilliocosmic Sun,
Shining through the windows of the prison cell,
Is well-nigh impossible,
The weary gloom of anguish has set in.
O Sun! Come forth with speed!
O Sun! We cannot wait much longer!
My karmic destiny shaped in past lives,
Has rendered this youth a victim of circumstance.
In the Three Seats of learning of the U-Tsang region,
There’s no freedom of movement.
O Karmic Destiny!
Grant us good fortune!
Highlighting the well known state of affairs,
We await freedom of movement!
This is why I want to express my thanks to the monk who was living through great difficulties but managed, despite all the suffering, to write this book, he experienced one chapter of the dark history that characterises the past half century of Tibet. However, as long as there are written accounts, there will be existence, truth will come out bit by bit and there will be the possibility to fight against the shooting and slaughtering of the authorities.
This is why we have to pay our most profound respects to all the monks, one of our Three Precious Treasures. Over the slowly passing by years, in the past, today and in the future, the whole of Tibet will always be surrounded by pure white snow mountains, and Tibet’s intrinsic spirit will be deep red, the colour of our robes, the colour of the sangha, the colour of the flames in which human life is sacrificed, it will never perish; for this I prostrate over and over again, I follow and praise, cherish and thank.
August 2012, Written in Beijing