TIBET: NOW

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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 culture.

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.


[The 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 enlarge it.]


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Tibet Info Network

Tibet Ctr/Human Rts

Tibet House, NYC

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worldgarden@igc.org

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