"Those Eternally Lit Butter Lamps…" By Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for broadcast on Radio Free Asia on December 19, 2010 and posted on her blog on December 29, 2010.

In the blogpost, Woeser reflects on the past year and focuses on the earthquake in Tibet of April 2010 and on Dolkar, wife of imprisoned Tibetan environmentalist Karma Samdrup.


The painting titled “Mother Earth” was painted in memory of the Yushu earthquake by the Beijing artist Liu Yi (200 cm x 450 cm, 2010). The picture shows how monks rescue victims of the disaster; it also shows how Tibetan believers show deepest respect and concern for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The image of His Holiness appeared in late spring/early summer of 2010 in a painting by a Chinese artist.

“Those Eternally Lit Butter Lamps…” 
By Woeser

The year 2010 is drawing to an end and the Wooden Rabbit will replace the Iron Tiger according to the Tibetan calendar in over two month’s time. So which memories have been particularly engraved in our minds? What the roaring of the Snow Lion on March 10 signified for Tibetan people in 2008, was represented in 2010 by the Yushu earthquake of April 14. In an instant, karma forced thousands of lives onto the road of reincarnation. This horrifying volatility should be a warning to all of us who are living.
Khenpo So-Dhargyal, who at the time led many nuns and monks to the disaster area rescuing many victims, later wrote in an article titled “Turning Disaster Into A Miracle”: “Those who understand Buddhist volatility of life and entertain the correct attitude towards life, are able to take things calmly even when confronted with a life-and-death situation. The calm and aloof attitude with which the people from Yushu, who understand the idea and foundation of Buddhism, faced death and disaster, greatly astonished media and people from all over the world.” These words are a reflection upon the disaster, a cultural and religious reflection that is poles apart from those who have no religion or culture at all.
Because of Buddhist wisdom, human beings helping and rescuing each other was not something that only occurred during the disaster but also during the slow recovery process. Not long ago, when I was back in Lhasa, a friend started talking about September when she and her father, a retired Lhasa aristocratic cadre over 70 years old, with 30,000 Yuan saved up in their pockets, took the train to Xining and then a bus to Yushu. When they went one-by-one  to temporary rescue tents, they found 60 poverty-stricken families and personally handed each of them 500 Yuan. Of course, 500 Yuan is but a drop in the ocean but it nevertheless conveys the merciful spirit of never giving up and never forgetting.
I would like to write about an indomitable woman: her name is Dolkar and her hometown happens to be the earthquake-ridden area of Yushu − she did not only lose many relatives in this great natural disaster, but was also hit by man-made disasters. In summer this year, her husband Karma Samdrup was wrongly arrested; a protector of minority cultures, an environmentalist and elite businessman and philanthropist was sentenced to a long prison sentence by this country’s evil justice system. Before her husband was arrested, Dolkar was merely an ordinary mother raising two daughters but afterwards, she rushed to many places, went to Beijing in search of a lawyer, went to Xinjiang again and again to redress the injustice on her husband. She started a blog, gave many interviews and bravely revealed the unknown truth.
However, all those plotting and scheming vicious gangsters of course do not want these things to be made public. After only one month, Dolkar’s blogs were shut down one-by-one but she persisted and started her fifth blog where she quietly wrote: “I grew up in the nomadic regions and learned much from the laws of nature and understood little from the world of man. But I thought reason was always the same: the happiness of others will become one’s own happiness, and the fear of others will become one’s own fear. This is a wife thinking of her husband. This is a wounded soul frustrated by an injustice. 15 years. Injustice and torture is amplified by 15 years on a good man’s head. How can I ever be made silent again? How can I be made as though none of this ever happened?”
At the same time, it was her faith that gave Dolkar her strength; she wrote in a blog post calling her husband to come home: “…in this world, fortune and misfortune depend on each other, no one knows what tomorrow will bring; starting with evil intentions will sooner or later lead to the disintegration of everything; persisting in goodness, on the other hand, means experiencing difficulties, which in itself is the art of Buddhist or Taoist practice.”
Disasters are admittedly terrifying, but faith can turn disaster into a miracle. The following short account by Khenpo So-Dhargyal is heartwarming: “The sun has just set in the west, the city of Yushu after suffering devastating loss and casualties is not a city that weeps; all people are bathing in the magnificent light of the quietly setting sun. On Gesar Square, monks have erected a tent to pray for those who have become victims of the disaster. Its centre is filled with eternally lit butter lamps; a hoary voice continually chants the ceremonial scriptures for the souls of the deceased. Those passing by prostrate again and again and pause for a while to chant. At night time, those sleeping in the streets take prayer beads and prayer wheels and the sounds of chanting echo through the night sky. The subtle rhythm of the humming is replacing the bustling noises of the day; it is like declaring war with Yama, the lord of death, it is like a race with the devil. The Buddhist cries whisk the dirt off all living creatures and recall the treasures of Buddha that are deeply buried in the hearts of the living, faith beyond words is passing through the hearts of the people.”
Beijing, December 19, 2010

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