Our Friend, Venerable Palden Gyatso

July 10, 2009 Link Amma's Grace

Dearest Friends and Family,

In 1993, along with some friends, Link, Anni and I started the “Northeastern Connecticut Tibetan Awareness Society.” At that time, I was working at the University of Connecticut. Using my position, I was able to arrange talks and presentations about numerous topics requiring our intellectual concern. Through this medium, we arranged lectures and events with several Tibetan people, all of whom became our cherished friends. Some, the children and I were also able to get into local highschools to speak as well.

One of our Tibetan guests, was the Great Soul of Venerable Palden Gyatso. We met him in 1993. It was his first trip abroad, after his release a year earlier from 36 years in Chinese Prisons in Tibet. What was so uniquely astounding about this simple, humble, honest, direct and resolute monk, is that despite imprisonment for over ½ his life, despite the total inhumanity he experienced, the demoralization he saw human beings participating in, he harbours no ill-will. He is filled with love and invincible faith in the human spirit and human rights.

His life story is told in his gripping autobiography, Fire Under the Snow. Many of the events that he experienced which he told us in that first year out have not been included, perhaps because of their inhuman gruesomeness, which seems so incredible. But, more evidence is coming out now from nuns and monks who have escaped from Tibet. Its heart-sickening.

In 1993, on his maiden trip to the USA, he stayed in our home for 3 days. The love-power he had was such that all our housepets – a cat named Radhika-Rani, a dog named Kashi, a parakeet named Peter and a guinea pig named Kokila – all clustered around him, ignoring their instinctual tendencies towards each other. Radhika-Rani, Kashi and Kokila would put themselves right under his chair, while Peter jumped and fluttered around his head.

At that time, I inquired how he had been able to maintain an open and loving heart despite the terrible inhumanity he was faced with. He told us that after the torture sessions which were every 14-21 days, he was often unconscious due to the violence. As he came to, he would work on relaxing and dissolving the tension in his body. He said that his religion, Buddhism, taught him that inhumane behaviour comes out of ignorance. He would reflect on this until he was able to feel no hatred or animosity towards the sick individuals (very often brainwashed Tibetan guards themselves) who had violated all norms of human sanctity.

Amnesty International took interest in his case and had begun a process with the Chinese government seeking his release. By God’s Grace, he survived the last torture session which was meant to do him in. An electric cattle prod was forced into his mouth and his teeth were blown out. When he regained consciousness, he was choking on his blood and tooth remains. After he escaped, he met with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, who told him to write a book about his experiences. I have included a series of photographs here of sketches made from the descriptions of Tibetan political prisoners, men and women, who escaped. Many of these were his experience. He was also scalded with boiling water. These photos are deeply disturbing. They were hanging in the walls of the Gu-Chu-Sum building, an organization devoted to helping Tibetan political refugees in Dharamshala. Gu-Chu-Sum provides jobs, pensions, housing for these poor broken people, escaping and living only on hope for many years through unbelievable human darkness. Only look at them after your food has digested and with the inner recognition that they are the result of darkest human ignorance. They are based upon the truthful testimony of numerous monks and nuns. We really have to pray for the people who do such things. I can’t imagine more wretched creatures than those who inflict such suffering on other.  If you click on the item below, you will come to the photo album.

Ven. Palden Gyatso, Dharamshala
When we met in 1993, Ven. Palden Gyatso had only a hut in Dharamshala, no pensions or steady income. Over the years, his numerous travels abroad, have brought him international attention. He is now one of Tibet’s most famous political prisoners. In 1996, he was honoured by the US Senate. See Album.

Over the years, I have asked everyone who has told me they had gone to Dharamshala if they had met him. No one had. We had no idea if he was even still alive. Our very first hour in Dharamshala, we were sitting on the small terrace of our hotel room, which overlooked a busy footpath. Happy to meet friendly, smiling people, we were busy saying Namaste, or Tashi Delek, as the case may be, to the pedestrians that smiled our way. In a few moments, we met Tsetin, a Tibetan historian and scholar, who actually knew of Ven. Palden Gyatso. He made arrangements to meet us in the next morning, and escort us to his home. Over the years, some kind people sponsored a small house for him that is quite close to Namgyal Monastery and Temple, the area where HH Dalai Lama stays.

The next morning, our first morning in Dharamsala, we eagerly went to his home, but he wasn’t there. Then, Tsetin told us that it was possible that he was down by the temple area, as HH Dalai Lama was returning that very morning from a trip to the Scandinavian countries. Link and I were most surprised, and hastened to the rapidly swelling ‘darshan’ line-up…much like with Amma, but, less crowded and more decorous. Tsetin recommended we wait in one area, where he felt the Dalai Lama would be travelling up the road to. Link and I did, and were standing on the less populated side of the road when HH Dalai Lama went by. To our amazement, he turned towards us in his car, and greeted us. It was a great joy in our hearts, to see our dearly Beloved Dalai Lama again after so many years, to feel that he had seen us as well.

After that we again went towards Ven. Palden Gyatso’s house with Tsetin. Again, he was not there. Once more, Tsetin fortuitously spoke, “He might be coming up the path.” And so it was. In a few moments, we beheld him once more, after so many years. He is now 79 years old. He appears to have aged very little. Tsetin introduced us, I showed him a photo of the kids when he had last seen them. He remembered Anni, and was saddened to learn she had left her form, and marveled at the huge baby boy, now Link. He took us into his humble abode, and we spent a few happy hours, talking about all kinds of things. We made arrangements to interview him later for some ideas that came to mind. On another occasion, we brought other ashram friends to see him as well.

He now lives a simple monks’ life, in quietness and peace. He told us he does his practices between 4-10 AM, sees people, or goes out, between 10-4 PM, and again does his practices and studies from 4-10 PM.

Tibetan Buddhism gave education through its monasteries and nunneries. There were some that offered fantastic education, and others that were more mediocre. What was amazing it that, through this system, the entire human culture was geared to a simple fact – education was to know Truth, and the capacity to know that Truth is inside ourselves. Skill education, which is what education is called now, was kept simple. The result of all of this was a cultured human civilization, geared towards ahimsa that lived lightly upon the earth, nurtured the environment and did not cause pollution. Tibet, the land of snows, the great snows that feed the Ganga, the Indus, the Selveen, the Brahmaputra, the Mekong, the Yangtse and the Yellow Rivers, the waters for all Asia, was under careful stewardship. Not that there weren’t problems. I don’t feel that women received their due at all. Its clear there were rich and poor. But, people generally had a high level of life contentment and social peace.

If you would like to enrich your lives and that of organizations and groups of people that you may know of, through having a Tibetan political prisoner speak, please contact:
Gu-Chu-Sum at www.guchusum.org or email them at guchusummt@yahoo.com
Let us all use our invincible human spirits to stand up for human rights and Earth rights, the rights of the creation here with us.
Loving you,
Kamala, Anni and Link

gu-chu-sumhuman rightslost postpalden gyatso

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