This year is said to be a very auspicious time for pilgrimage according to Tibetan Buddhists. Many Tibetans across the world converged onto the holy places of Bodh Gaya, Banaras and Nepal. I myself had the opportunity to visit the holy places in around Kathmandu. Owing to the massive earth quake, many of the holy places are in dire need of renovation and rebuilding but they have not lost the charm and holiness that they have imbued for centuries. Tibetans from Tibet are unfortunately barred by the Chinese communist regime to visit these holy places or participate in the teachings given by HH The Dalai Lama. It has even blocked Indian pilgrims visiting the holy sight of Mount Kailash (Tib:Gang Rinpoche and Mapham Yutso) and Lake Mansrover in Tibet. Tibet itself has countless holy sights but hardly any Tibetans from exile can visit them. Over 99.00 percent of Tibet’s holy sights were ransacked and razed to the ground by the Chinese communist regime in the 1950s during the Chinese invasion and subsequent occupation of Tibet but the so called Cultural revolution from 1966-1976 saw the total dismantling of all the Tibetan holy sights including 6000 monasteries and libraries that contained sacred holy scrolls handed down from generation to generation and the theft of all of Tibet’s priceless Buddhist artefacts from gold statues to giant gold water bowls and golden butter lamps. They were mercilessly plundered and all the Buddhist holy icons were trashed and carted away to China. All the statues that one sees in the holy Jhokang today are replicas of the ancient priceless artistic icons which were stolen and sold in the International market by the communist regime to buy weapons.
The holy sites in Nepal remained untouched, thanks to the traditional harmony between Buddhism and Hinduism in Nepal. Nepal has a very strong Buddhist community of Manangis living across the border with Tibet and the Tamangs, Sherpas, Gurungs and Newaris are staunch Buddhists. Besides the people of Mustang, Dolpo and Solo Khumbu are all Buddhists. Today, many Tibetan Lamas have built many monasteries across Nepal and many Nepalis are making Buddhism as their livelihood by opening shops to sell Buddhist paraphernalia. Tibet, which was a staunch Buddhist nation is now out of bounds for most Buddhists while Nepal which was essentially a Hindu Kingdom has thrived with Buddhist monasteries mushrooming every where. The contrast is stark when it is common knowledge that in Tibet, monasteries like the Larung Gar in Eastern Tibet are bulldozed and destroyed while in Nepal it is making a big come back.
In the 1970s, there were not many monasteries or so many mani wheels (wheels turned while reciting the mani mantara). Today, there are thousands of manis all over the great stupa of Swayambunath, Boudanath and Namo Buddha. It is virtually impossible to turn all the wheels that abound the the circuit (kora) of these magestic imposing stupas. Besides there are many gigantic mani wheels in many places both in the circuit of Boudanath and Swayambunath. It is a measure of tolerance and dignity Buddhism is treated with in Nepal unlike the Chinese regime which sees Buddhism as a threat in Tibet. It is not only destroying Tibetan Buddhism by demolishing established monasteries and learning centres but it is forcing nuns to wear army uniform and force them to perform dances to the public to humiliate them and delibrately denigrate Tibetan Buddhism. It is inconceivable that there is this regime which denounces Tibetan Buddhism and its greatest protector HH The Dalai Lama but at the same breath, tries to peddle the lie that “religion is protected in the Chinese constitution”. If they respect their own constitution and claim as they do that indeed religion is protected in their constitution, they must allow the Tibetan people to freely practice their belief without state sanctioned restriction and stop the demolition of holy monasteries and especially stop imprisonment and incarceration of Buddhist monks and nuns. Two nuns committed suicide owing to the forcible removal of them from their monastery and tearing down their homes and their monastery. Surely, this is not the act of a party which peddles itself as the one which is supposed to have brought “great benefit” to Tibet. How can one reconcile a party which makes such tall claims but who is infact the very anti-thesis of everything the Tibetans believe in? Its just like the proverbial cat who tried to deceive by claiming to have renounced killing.
Today, the holy places that is accessible for Buddhists is Nepal, Bhutan and India. Tibet, which was one of the most religious nations on earth has been ruthlessness smothered by communist China and its anti-Tibet and anti-Buddhist ideology has virtually made Tibet a land of the heathens. It is groaning under the Chinese yoke which is weighing it down by the day to be totally trampled under its weight.
Photo Credit: http://lycheetravel.com/