You are standing before a ponycart on an ancient stone-paved avenue in the Tibetan city of Gyantse; in the background is the
old hilltop fortress Gyantse Dzong, stormed by the British in 1904. Here, the old Tibetan ways have stood up courageously
to the onslaught of Chinese "modernization," which has destroyed much of the character of larger cities such as
Lhasa and Shigatse. The Tibetans need -- and deeply deserve -- our assistance to keep their culture and their country alive.
If you wonder what you can do to help, the answer is that you are limited only by your own imagination. Follow some of
the links on this site to learn more about the situation in Tibet; you will also be given many, many suggestions about how
your input can support the Tibetan people. In the end it simply comes down to this: learn what you can; use your own imagination
to bring forth a vision of a free Tibet, whose people live in liberty and dignity; and TAKE ACTION of the best kind you can
carry out with enthusiasm and with love. You will change the world more than you may presently believe. And that's a promise.
Today, the Chinese flag flies in the plaza below the famed Potala palace -- the historical seat of both Tibetan religion and
government since the time of the fifth Dalai Lama, the "Great Fifth." In the location where the plaza now sits
were once dozens of homes, lived in and cared for, resembling those still standing along the lanes of Gyantse.
If you've seen the movies "Kundun" or "Seven Years in Tibet" -- or such excellent independent films
as "Windhorse" -- you will have an idea just what the Chinese flag symbolizes here, and at what cost it came to
this place. Your actively envisioning the reappearance of the Tibetan flag to Lhasa and to the Potala -- and envisioning
it with compassion not only for the Tibetans but also (as the Dalai Lama requests) for the Chinese -- is an exercise of imagination
that has great creative power.
Although the Chinese government has taken extreme measures to impede the practice of traditional religion in Tibet, and will
now even arrest private citizens for displaying a photograph of the Dalai Lama in their own homes, reverence for the ancient
Buddhist traditions persists. Nomads, for example, may walk hundreds of miles from the outlying countryside to reach this
spot at the heart of Lhasa: the Jokhang -- the city's ancient central temple -- and the Barkhor, the clockwise circuit around
it followed by pilgrims (and respectful tourists as well).
Such Buddhist devotion has deep substance -- and the
Chinese government fears it, just as it fears Falun Gong and other genuine spiritual movements within its own borders. Buddhist
or not, you can I hope respect the commitment shown by the true followers of the Dalai Lama's peaceful, visionary religion.
Their dedication to spiritual ideals brings into the modern world an energy that can counterbalance contemporary materialism.
In that sense, those of us in the West may be more indebted to the Tibetans than we realize.
My own involvement
with the Tibetan cause began over a decade ago, when I read a powerful article by the great (and deeply missed) American photographer
Galen Rowell, describing the devastation of the Tibetan environment he'd witnessed in the early 1980s. That devastation,
which came at the hands of the Chinese occupiers, paralleled the holocaust visited on the Tibetan people, more than 1.2 million
of whom have been executed or tortured or starved to death.
At the time I read Rowell's article I was the National
Speaker for the American branch of the organization Greenpeace. Shortly thereafter I was asked by representatives of the
Tibetan community in Los Angeles to address a gathering commemorating the Tibetan uprising of March 10, 1959. Since that
time I have periodically given public presentations on the Tibetan situation, and my book, _The Spirit's Terrain_, contains
a chapter on Tibet and bears a Foreword kindly contributed by the Dalai Lama.
My writing and speaking are now in
a phase that includes both a slide program and a book entirely devoted to Tibet.
From the very best of 600 slides
taken during the Fall of 2000 in Tibet, northern Nepal, and Dharamsala, India -- home to the Tibetan Government-in-Exile --
plus some made available by Galen Rowell before his death, I've created the slide lecture, TIBET NOW!. Designed both to inform
and to inspire, it's available to colleges, universities and other sponsors; a minimum of one-half the proceeds will go to
some of the organizations to which this site is linked or to other notable groups and individuals working on behalf of Tibetan
As a grateful past recipient of the National Association for Campus Activities' award as Lecturer of the
Year -- named by the New York Times among the speakers most popular on campus in that period -- I promise sponsors of TIBET
NOW! a powerful, moving, and deeply educational experience. If you're interested in the presentation, or in any aspects of
my Tibetan experiences (or the progress of the book), please contact me at the e-mail address below.
photos below illustrate both the beauty of Tibet and the ways in which is at risk. They include: a young boy whose face has
aged too soon, in a village near the sacred lake Yamdrok Tso; a billboard in Lhasa, revealing in poor English the Chinese
government's commercially-oriented plans for the city, without reference to the needs and desires of Tibetans; a high lake,
lovely to look at, but created by a dam that yields hydropower at great cost to the environment; the ominous "Tibet Museum"
in Lhasa, which captures the essence of the Chinese wish to render the nation of Tibet a mere artifact that attracts Western
tourist dollars and euros; and the stunning view toward the Himalayas below the pass at Lalung La. Click on any image to