Take a look at this photo. Take a careful look. The face of Lobsang Lozin. When I first saw it I was struck by the kindness reflected in it. It’s a very compassionate face, yet there is an element of devil may care in it too. It’s like the face of someone who would go to the wall for you. Strong, cheeky and brave.
To me, it’s the face of a son every man would love to have and every mother would treasure.
I looked him up on the internet to try and gauge if I was right and all I got was “Lobsang who has been described as an exemplary student with an excellent track record in his monastic studies set himself on fire at around 12 noon near his monastery’s main prayer hall and began walking towards the local Chinese office before falling down.”
I saw his face on a wall in the Tibetan Museum in Dharamsala. His was one of 147 faces of Tibetan monks who had self-immolated in protest over the intolerable burden of being under the Chinese Government’s occupation of Tibet.
We all know today that Tibet is basically a Chinese Government gaol. The native Tibetans are being strangled in their own country. They have no freedom to be themselves and they are being overrun by countless foreigners being moved in to make a minority of the very people who have lived there for countless generations. They are punished if they even have photographs of their leader, The Dalai Lama.
The pain they must be suffering both psychological and physical cannot be described.
Yet, for me, all that dissolved into this one photograph and I found myself dissolving into tears.
I mourned Lobsang as I would my own son.
In Tibet all family members of those who self-immolate are severely punished and all their property destroyed in that tired old failed policy that Nazi Germany took on. Hundreds of years ago the British even failed in flooding Northern Ireland with loyalists.
The Tibetan people daily face the torment of being treated as second rate citizens in their own country. Being of a gentle, kind compassionate Buddhist nature, they don’t throw bombs or undertake acts of terror, they suffer in silence and the pain comes out in these self-immolations. Of course, the craven stupidity of successive international governments and business leaders allows the Chinese Government to get away with it. It is almost as if where there is money to be made or benefits to be received then sacrificing 3.18 million Tibetans is par for the course.
They should hang their heads in shame.
I also have to state I have no argument with the Chinese people or their leader Xi Jinping who, it seems to me, is as much a captive of his party as any ideologue is. In many ways it seems to me he is a typical bureaucrat leader so no wonder he is reluctant to deal with the unfinished business of Tibet, Hong Kong and Tiananmen Square.
I am writing this on the 82nd Birthday of my great friend His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet. I spent an hour in private conversation with him in Dharamsala just a couple of weeks ago. Ironically, we spent most of the time talking about love. How He copes is a triumph of His religion. He says to me “Bill, you learn the most about life and yourself from those who make your life difficult”. Well, he and his people know what difficulty is! I met with many of his people who had trekked all across the Himalayas, many bringing children to enable them an education denied in China. I am truly humbled at what I see and what I learn.
Thousands of years ago the Babylonians overran the Hebrew peoples and drove them into exile. Because of that they freed a religion from its geographic limitations and allowed it to evolve into what is Christianity today. In attempting to destroy a people and their religion these Babylonian barbarians ultimately enabled a tremendous gift to be given the world in the form of Jesus.
Many, many people had to die excruciating deaths for that to happen but few would argue that gift was not, when everything is taken into account, a blessing.
I am absolutely certain that long, long after the Chinese empire of today has crumbled into dust, the religion of the Dalai Lama will be as strong as ever.
Happy Birthday, your Holiness.