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A Monk's Petition to Hu Jintao: First detailed account of 10th March protests in Tibet

November 30, 2008

High Peaks Pure Earth received a copy of a petition submitted to
President Hu Jintao by a monk from Sera Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet.
The petition is the first detailed account of the incident of 10th
March at Sera Monastery and refutes Chinese media coverage of the
Tibetan peaceful protests in all parts of Tibet.
The Tibet Post International
November 27, 2008

In the mid-1980s, unsuspecting tourists to Lhasa suddenly found
Tibetans thrusting crumpled pieces of paper into their hands
requesting them to pass them onto the United Nations. Sometimes these
documents contained names of prisoners and others, written in florid
style, detailed human rights abuses and appealed for the UN's
intervention. Such appeals barely made the news and were often seen
as no more than naive and misplaced hope on the UN.

High Peaks Pure Earth received a copy of a petition submitted to
President Hu Jintao by Ven Gedhun, a monk from Sera Monastery in
Lhasa, Tibet. The petition is the first detailed account of the
incident of 10th March at Sera Monastery and refutes Chinese media
coverage of the protest. The Tibetan version of the petition can be
found on the Tibetan language website Khabdha. More information on
Sera Monastery can be found here:

An Appeal Made to President Hu Jintao and Concerned Leaders Based on
my Personal Experience of Suffering

I am a very ordinary student of the central seats of Sera and Drepung
[monasteries], a centre for traditional Tibetan education that has
become a blissful realm for the core psyche of all Tibetans. I have
the desire to honestly express some of the present problems faced by
the Tibetan monasteries that I have seen, heard and experienced. That
is because I am a citizen of the nation and you people are the
leaders who work for the welfare of the citizens.

Are we entirely responsible for the events of March 14th?

This year in March, trouble arose everywhere in Tibetan areas,
principally starting in Lhasa and, through a series of tragic events,
caused great loss of life as well as property for both the protestors
and those protested against. I believe that the statement by the
authorities that the cause of the incident is solely due to the
instigations of the 'separatists' is an incomplete one. That is
because such an approach of stubbornly laying all blame upon the
Tibetan people is widely seen as being irresponsible among the
intellectuals within the country as well as among the international community.

Otherwise, it may be asked why is it that the so-called 'Splittists',
for their own selfish ends, disregarding the actual fate of the
Tibetan people, were able to orchestrate the Tibetans both in and
outside Tibet with such ease; and why were the Tibetan people who,
according to the central government, are supposed to be enjoying a
happy and enriched life that is akin to a change of heaven and earth,
thought nothing of risking their very lives to be so ready and
receptive to such separatist activities being promoted. Moreover,
even though the government claims that under the instigation of the
Dalai Lama, the leaders of the present protests were the monks of
Tibetan monasteries led by Sera, Drepung and Ganden, yet in reality
the real cause is the desperation we experience in our daily life, on
account of oppression, fear and restrictions. It is a cry for freedom.

In the minds of senior monks who have been long term residents of
monasteries studying the scriptures, and particularly the bulk of
monk students, the causes and conditions of the current or the past
and presently unfolding events need to be looked at from two perspectives.

The bullying and forcible expulsion of students:

For a monk to study Buddhism is the only way to seek one's ultimate
goal. As it is clear from many hundred years of history, for us the
large monasteries, with deep foundations in traditional education,
like Sera, Drepung and Ganden, are the best educational institutions
even in the present time. But for any monk, whether coming from far
away or living nearby, the opportunity to study in these large
monasteries is very rare because of governmental restrictions. Even
for the small number of monk students in these monasteries they have
been facing restrictions on their stay and experiencing expulsion
campaigns even to the extent of their beddings being thrown out of
their quarters by the officials. Such incidents are not a one-time
matter. For example there have been many such incidents in the
central seats of Sera, Drepung and Ganden monasteries, Serta Larung
monastery in Kham (Sichuan), and Ngaba Kirti monastery in Amdo
(Qinghai). Likewise the monastery management officials, assigned
specifically by the government, randomly enter the monks' quarters
for inspection. They not only whimsically search the quarters, but
also indulge in countless acts that are irritating and insulting to
us, such as stepping on beds and even beddings with their shoes on.

The spiritual relationship between a teacher and his disciples and
forcing one to protest against one's teacher:

One of the many campaigns like this is the so-called "patriotic
re-education campaign". In general, even though it is a very common
phenomenon of life for a country's citizen and a religious
practitioner to cherish one's nation and love one's religion, the
government, rather than protecting our faith, do not even have
respect and forcefully order us to attack His Holiness the Dalai
Lama, thus creating disturbances in the minds of the monk community.
Consequently there have been many cases of quite a few monks being
expelled from monasteries when they refused to write denunciations
[against His Holiness]. For a religious community, such pressure is
seen as the deliberate destruction of our educational opportunity and
faith by the concerned authorities of our nation. What is His
Holiness the Dalai Lama or what is our relationship with him? He is
the human manifestation of Arya Avalokiteshvara in the form of a
monk. He is the wish fulfilling jewel who in every life comes in the
form of a human that bestows the elixir of compassion and wisdom in
the clean clear hearts of all sentient beings in general, and feeble
Tibetans in particular. The Tibetan saying, "If one possesses a wish
fulfilling jewel then depending on it all of ones wishes will be
fulfilled spontaneously" is quite true. He is truly the victorious
wish fulfilling jewel or the Dalai Lama. Why does the government
persist in forcefully making us attack His Holiness the Dalai Lama?
For what reason is our faith and devotion being trampled like this?
Why are obstacles being placed directly or indirectly to our
educational facilities?

The Condition of Sera, Drepung and Ganden monasteries before the
Cultural Revolution:

The education system of Tibetan monasteries that has at least more
than one thousand four hundred years of history is the heart of
Tibetan religion and literature (culture). Through a long history of
ups and downs it has continued to the present. It has become like a
heart jewel of this nationality which is quite backward in terms of
material civilization. Moreover, due to the influence of Je
Tsongkhapa, who was born in Amdo and studied in central Tibet, the
development of Tibetan religion and literature received unprecedented
encouragement and inspiration. This doctrine of Lobsang Dakpa or
Gelugpa tradition refers to the attainment of extraordinary
experience by him who, devoted to his teacher and much more devoted
to the meaning of reality than to his teacher, through his profound
analytical investigation and in-depth evaluation of this more than
seven hundred year old Tibetan Buddhist culture by keeping the
profound teachings of the Buddha and the Indian scholars as the base
or reference point. He who had accomplished the path of scholars and
siddhas, along with his immediate disciples, had newly established
the monasteries of Sera, Drepung, Ganden, Tashi Lhunpo etc., which
had a huge impact on Tibetan culture. Even at present the popularity
of Sera, Drepung and Ganden monasteries is well known not only in
Tibet but also nationally and internationally.

The Tibetan monastic educational impact from these three monasteries
is not only great in the central U-Tsang area of Tibet. For instance,
the all-knowing Ven. Jamyang Shepa Ngawang Tsundue, who established
Labrang Tashi Kyil monastery which is famous in Amdo area, had
studied at Lhasa's Drepung monastery. Similarly Kirti Khabgon, who
established Ngaba Kirti monastery which now stands in Amdo Ngaba in
Sichuan province, had also studied at Drepung monastery. Likewise
Shar Kalden Gyatso, who established Rebgong Rongpo monastery in
Qinghai province, had studied at Ganden monastery in central Tibet.
In brief, for almost all of the famous Lamas and intellectuals of the
Gelug sect in all three provinces of Tibet, namely Kham, Amdo and
U-Tsang, their main alma matters have been Sera, Ganden and Drepung.
Furthermore, even speaking in terms of schools of thought, those who
have enrolled in these monasteries for study were not only Gelug
tradition holders but also reincarnate lamas and monks from all other
traditions such as Sakya, Kagyud, Nyingma, Jonang and Bon. (As I have
lived and studied for many years in these monasteries, I am only
mentioning Sera, Drepung and Ganden as examples here. Otherwise
almost all other monasteries in all three provinces of Tibet,
irrespective of their traditions, face similar problems).

The need to implement the policy of real freedom of religion:

To ignore a cultural tradition that accords with the actual interests
of Tibetan people, who are spiritually devoted and culturally rich,
while limiting the number and expelling the monks and nuns in
general, and monk and nun students in particular, are practical
evidence that the policy of religious freedom remains just rhetoric
and not being put into actual practice.

Following the March 14th incident more than a thousand monks from
Sera, Drepung and Ganden monasteries - centres of Tibetan Buddhist
learning - were forcibly evicted and individual quarters ransacked at
night by the hundreds of thousands of military men who forcibly
entered into the monasteries by breaking all the doors of colleges
and monks' quarters with weapons such as guns etc. in their hands.
There were apparently many instances where pictures of His Holiness
the Dalai Lama, cell phones, electronic calculators and money were
lost or stolen. I was told that in some other areas of Tibet the
military confiscated all the pictures of His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
spread them out on a ground near the monastery, trampled them with
their feet and then went away. Another surprising thing I heard was
that vegetable-knives in the kitchen of some monks were also taken
away. Later on we realized that those were taken as evidence to prove
us as violent. In this way the monks were beaten, arrested and
detained for more than six months. Even after their release they were
not allowed to return back to their monasteries. While in the prison
the monks made several verbal and written requests stating that they
don't mind staying there as long as needed, but later send them back
to their monastery where they study. But all their requests fell on
deaf ears like stones thrown in the water. How true is the Tibetan
proverb that says, "Tibetans are betrayed by hope and Chinese are
betrayed by suspicion." In this manner more than thousands of
ordinary monks, without protection and livelihood, suddenly had to
stop treading on their chosen-path of life in, on account of fear,
hardship and sorrow. Now, where will these monks, who, leave aside
other things, were not even able to put their shoes on and just went
out with their slippers during the time of their arrest by the
military policemen from Sera, Drepung and Ganden, go? There is no
monastery in one's native locality. Even if there is one, there is no
facility to study. Where does such an ordinary monk – who has no
monastery or individuals to depend on as his family members and
relatives have died - go?

The law must not create obstacles but should instead suppport the
survival and development of this Tibetan Buddhist tradition:

In this age of information, Tibetan monks also should be provided by
our country a universal educational facility (opportunity), according
to their choice, and not create obstacles to receive an education.
Largely some of these depend very much on the services and
opportunities provided and created by the government.

Firstly, the one child family planning policy has not only put the
Tibetan nationality, which is small in population and large in area,
in danger in terms of numbers, but it has also automatically limited
the number of ordained population as well.

Secondly, the law that restricts anyone becoming ordained before
eighteen years of age has closed one of the doors for a religious community.

Thirdly, because of the restriction imposed on the number of monks in
many of popular monasteries with excellent Buddhist studies
environment the opportunity to study has been curtailed for many
monks who yearn for learning, just as a thirsty person yearns for
water. On the contrary, I believe that counting people permitted to
prostrate, to go for circumambulation, and to erect prayer flags as
the representation of the enjoyment of freedom of religion (from the
disk entitled "Tibet from its Historical Perspective" produced by the
government) is a mere external gesture to deceive others but it
displays one's real face rather than help benefit the actual work of
our country and nationalities. Even while the path of the foundation
of religious activities is becoming smaller and smaller every day as
the younger Buddhist followers face problems entering the monasteries
and face difficulty in getting opportunity to study even after
entering the monasteries, reconstructing a few temples and giving
Geshe Lharampa degrees etc., including many other activities,
conducted by the authorities in the name of restoration of
monasteries, are merely external displays. There is absolutely no
definitive guarantee that such activities help sustain and develop
this rich and profound Tibetan Buddhist cultural heritage. Compared
to the period before the Cultural Revolution the Tibetan monastic
population has fallen ten times: Sera had 9900 monks before but has
merely 850 monks at present, Drepung had more than 10000 monks before
but fewer than 1400 monks at present, Ganden had 5400 monks before
but has less than 400 at present. According to the government, the
present total number of the ordained population is about 74500 and
there are more 1700 religious establishments. This is the figure only
for the Tibet Autonomous Region. Compared to the monk population of
the region, since not more than only ten percent of the monks are
able to receive the opportunity to study, how is it possible for the
monks who are ignorant about the philosophical tenets of the Dharma
be able to preserve and develop this Buddhist tradition? How can we
make this religious tradition in accordance with socialist society?

The Tibetan monasteries are the centres for the practice of Buddha Dharma:

It is a matter of great joy that the government has spent and is
still spending a huge amount of money to restore the monasteries. Far
more important than that is to help create an effective education
facility in the monasteries and not create obstacles, and I will keep
waiting with much hope and evidence that the bright rays of the
Party's policy of freedom of religion will shine on the actual life
of the common people.

To look at Tibetan monasteries as mere museums is to set the standard
too low. If that remains the case, then not only does it betray the
conditions for the survival of the monasteries but it also goes
against the need of establishing them in the first place. Why is
there a need to establish a monastery? Because it is a traditional
school or a spiritual practice centre where Lord Buddha's profound
and sublime teachings - brightened by the works of many standard
Indian Buddhist scholars and adepts led by the Six Ornaments and Two
Supremes and further enriched by a unique Tibetan way of life known
as Tibetan Buddhism whose fundamental essence is based on the view of
interdependent origination and the conduct of non-violence - are
studied. It is also a place where the genuine practitioners of this
profound doctrine are nurtured. The external cosmetic displays, such
as flying prayer flags, doing prostrations, circumambulating a
temple, painting deities and constructing temples that are the outer
expressions of some parts of the culture, cannot represent the
survival and development of Tibetan Buddhism. Hence if the
monasteries remain merely as tourist spots and museums, then there is
no need for monasteries as there is no reason why the museums run by
the government cannot serve the same purpose?

Distortion and the accusations of splitting nationalities:

We were really greatly hurt and disappointed by the fact that during
the March 14th incident the official news media, based on a few
people who appeared in the scene wearing monk-robes, propagated, not
only nationally but internationally as well, by stating that Tibetan
monks had beaten, broken into places, robbed and burned. For example,
during the peaceful demonstrations by the monks from Sera, Drepung
and Ganden on March 10th, 11th, and 12th,etc. thousands of military
men, with lethal weapons, surrounded the monks who were tear-gassed
and beaten. Such photos were nowhere to be seen. On the contrary,
when the police sprayed tear-gas on the assembly of monks the monks
tried to throw water on themselves to wash away the effects of
tear-gas, but a distorted photo was shown saying that the monks threw
water on the policemen. Similarly a couple of people, getting
desperate and threatened by the overwhelming power of weapons, with
rocks in their hands, were described as violent and aggressive.
Likewise many incidents of March 14th have been distorted and
propagated nationally and internationally. Even though such deceptive
and short-sighted actions are a matter of real surprise and
disappointment, this will be a temporary phenomenon as history will
definitely clear everything. What I have heard is that presently
whenever Han travelers see monks or even Tibetans traveling in buses
in the cities around the country, the Han Chinese get off the buses.
Alas, what strong distortion is being created by the government or
its propaganda agents whose eyes of wisdom to see the effects of
causality are blinded! More than a billion honest and diligent people
of China have been deceived in such a way at once! As this ever
present talk of national harmony and protection of the motherland
continues what purpose is there, while talking of national unity, to
spread such rumours and create dissension between the nationalities?
Isn't this the real separatism?

The government must support in practice to fulfill the expectations
of the people rather than merely talk about people's expectations:

In recent times what the government repeatedly expects from religious
institutions is that this religion should be in accordance with
socialist society. I believe that this is a really good idea. Any
culture that remains separate from the service of society becomes
devoid of essence. Likewise, religion also survives and develops for
the benefit of society, and to adapt to the changing time and society
not only has a strong connection with the prospects of religious
activities themselves but also relates to the benefit of the general
devotees. But it is not enough merely to say that religion needs to
be in accordance with socialism. Rather, providing the devotees a
meaningful freedom of religion or opportunity to study remains the
crucial question of whether the above rhetoric will materialize into
concrete action. Therefore, we hopefully await the time when through
the farsighted wisdom and pragmatism of the concerned leaders, in the
twenty first century bright rays of the central government's policy
of openness and liberalization will immediately fall on our actual cold life.

Finally, I pray that the stability of the Peoples Republic of China
and the unity of the different nationalities may sustain without
degeneration and the warm sunlight of freedom shines on all of China.

I have honestly and openly submitted the above mentioned problems,
practically being faced by thousands and thousands of people like
myself, to the higher authorities, working for the benefit of the
people, for your reference and consideration. I hope this appeal will
enable [the authorities] to see some of our fundamental problems in
our actual day to day life. Nevertheless, since I was unable to
receive an opportunity to study until I was seventeen years of age
and on top of that due to my little knowledge and lack of inherent
wisdom I might have been unable to express myself or I might have
been unable to put into writing what I intended to write. In brief
since this is merely an opinion of an ordinary citizen, please feel
free to advise me if the higher authorities deem this an
overstatement or if there are any conflicts with the views of the authorities.

Submitted by Ven. Gedun on October 7, 2008. Tashi Delek
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