Monday, December 28, 2015

New Year Resolution and yesteryear.

As the year 2016 ushers in , everyone talks of new year resolution. I think it is a good idea to write your own new year resolution. The past is past, what is done can not be undone. What really matters is learning from the past and move in a right direction. I will write another blog to details the specific new year resolution for 2016.  But here I would like recall the major milestone of my life in year 2015. What I have not achieved in 2015 should be carried over to 2016. I will look back to 2015 by reminiscing on five major issues that affects me and those people around me. Those are family, Career, distraction, ambition, and disappointments.

1. Family:  As a married person, whether your immediate family or the extended family. Their welfare and their state of affair is a matter of concern. As for my immediate family, my wife has been extremely gracious in taking care of us with diligence and consistency unmatched by any other. My two lovely daughters had the best care possible, and they are provided the best environment for their growth at home and at school. Kunsal's summer reading class was an excellent idea, that she picked up reading fast from that summer program. My wife did her best even at time, with seriousness and stern that required to command children to do things. The kids are growing into a healthy and well rounded person. They are exposed to good environment and their play time is not shortchanged for any other things. In health wise, they get healthy food, at home and school. Even though it is still a struggle to urge them to eat healthy, they have not strayed too far away. Mom's discipline is needed to maintain order and keep them in a right path.  So they received maximum care , love and affection, at the same time, kids are told and showed that there is always a boundary that they can not cross. Overall, I am happy to see them in delightful mood, and their laughter and shout and playing is a wonderful sights.  Having said that, I should stress here that we the parents, have to be their role model, in our own behavior. They learn the most inadvertently from their parents. Therefore virtues such as patience, respect, politeness and good communication and principles are some of the things they should be acquiring from us, if we fail to be  exemplary for those.

As my extended family, my dear mom had some health issues, and fortunately she is getting better and no more relapsing. Our inability to visit them yet is a major setback. My brother Jampa Choedup's successful passing for Geshi Lamran was very joyous occasion. He is near the top and we continue to urge him to study until he is granted the title. We are hopeful for that.  Our niece Jampa Yangchen's entrance in D. Pharm was satisfying and now the ball is in her court. She has keep up her momentum. Now other major health crisis.   Owing to hosts of issues besetting Nepal, we could not take our kids to see grandpa.  But Choekyi's and kids trip to Canada was delightful and good for the kids and Choekyi.   There are many more memorable things in the 2015, but the above is what is on the tip of my tongue, and we should be cherishing. Now going to the career part.

2. Career: My career is steady and progressive. Every  year I venture in new territory and I take initiatives. If my staff  evaluation is anything, I have improved my rate besides being very consistent on my performance.  I urge myself to keep on improving, be more disciplined and aim for higher. I should be happy with my current career. There are challenges and moral issues that bother you for certain things. But overall, it is better to be playing save, that rocking the boat on issues, that do not directly affect you. But the very fact that whatever doesn't bother is the very reasons for uneasiness for me for staying quiet.  There is progress in my career, and no regress.  Let waite and see what other might come around after a month on my career related issue. So there is nothing much to share, other than that the status quo maintained. But I urge myself to be more dynamic, things need to change, it can not stay stagnant.  While career prospective looks good, I should point out that I should get rid of my distractions in life.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Bosterious Party

After attending few get-together party at the end of the year 2015, I have a taste of fun time and merriment for a sustained period. I say it is a temporary sensory pleasure, not at all lasting joy or happiness, which we only might attain from spiritual attainment and salvation.

The first time it was the gathering of friends from Tibet, where raising your glass to ruckus of revelers and the tasting food was unforgettable. Then at our family friend Pema's house, we had yet another ball around Thanksgiving.

Staying late into the night, singing a song to toast and dancing to the tune of traditional Tibetan dance is a hit. And the most recent one was at another friend's house. Where the gathering was small and limited to parents and kids, but still we stayed late night and sing song and danced to our joy. I heard some say that without music, life is boring. While I can say, with music life is enlivened and added pleasure.

Such get -together is fun and stress relieving.  We savoured sumptuously the delicious food while the kids are playing together in separate rooms. The absence of children gives the parents time to themselves for some relief and fun from their regular stressful parenting.   My only concern is that while the parents and kids both have some good time, the loser is the kids. They do not go to bed at their usual time, because of such party. And I also don't know if leaving them all to themselves during our partying time is a good idea.

Some young boys, are little rough and playing aggressively sometimes. To the point of quarrel and conflict that is not healthy at all for young kids. The children have been left without much parental supervision, play their games and watch TV often in a small secluded room,away from the sight of their parents and elders, which might not be sensible things.

 I have clandestinely observed their movement, and most of the time, kids are engrossed in watching a movie on their tablets or TV and Other. Other times, they play video games.

On this Christmas Eve, we host a dinner for our friends at our house.  Tsering has worked out a menu, and everyone has been invited.  In total at Tenzin Kunsal's call and tally, there are over 30 people old and small. This is probably he biggest gathering in our house for years.   T  prepares and purchases things for the dinner. I have cleaned the room, and did my part for the success of the party.

This ones a while get- together is a social norm; that builds friendship, networking and rapporteur. A sense of Tibetanness is felt with all Tibetan friends coming under one roof.

Two essential things I learnt when attending  for such party is that you should, at least, be able to sing few songs. So when it comes to your turn, it will not be a bombshell.  The second thing is participating in the merriment is important in any way possible, so you will not feel out of touch. Since such gathering often disrupts the kids' regular hours or sleeping pattern, so such mass of the adult should be minimized.

As at all, another place, the Christmas Eve, party at our house is another joyful occasion.   Again late night, doing a round of sing songs and drinking into the wee hours, is a way of living for work and not working for living philosophy of life. . But I left sorry for the kids, who are left to themselves with minimum interference.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Cocktail For Overseas Chinese

The Office of Tibet, Washington D.C hosts a cocktail party for overseas Chinese. It was intended for Chinese outreaching efforts. The guests invited are predominantly Chinese intellectuals, activists and writers and journalists. Other distinguished guests include representatives of various campaign organizations and human rights activists of capitol hill. It was a  night of empowering speeches, entertainment, networking and revelry.

Kydor Auktsang in his welcome speeches stressed the office's outreach effort with the Chinese dissidents and this gala evening is the first step of much more in the offing. He outlines the nature and critical issues of Tibetan struggle, by stressing on the common ground of the Tibetan people and Chinese.  The evening is intended to bring together like-minded people and to deepen the rapport and good will amongst Tibet supporters, and it serves that purposefully.

With the departure of  Chinese liaison officer, the Office of Tibet is left with a vacuum. The Chinese outreach initiative suffered owing to this significant figure as a go-go person in strengthening and expanding people to people contact with the overseas Chinese. To a predominantly Chinese guests, the best way to communicate with them might be their mother tongue Chinese. Kydor la's  well-meaning speech on the significance of middle path and the policy of CTA is all delivered in English. Thus, the impact of it might not be felt as strongly as it would have for the Chinese only speaking if parleyed in Chinese.

Present at the meeting is another prominent Chinese dissident, Wenjing Chen, the father of Chinese democracy or Nelson Medal of China. His speech delivered in Chinese and translated into English consecutively was very critical and provocative. He stresses the importance of having a plurality of thinking and views and political ideology in exile Tibetan democracy. Such a well-represented democracy that is tolerant of other views will be a tremendous example for the Chinese democracy activists.  I believe he is among those few Chinese who indeed support Tibetan people's right to self-determination and freedom. He bashed against those who emphasizes on conformity and uniformity of approach and thinking.  The speech has a strong element of dissatisfaction at the state of affairs in regarding the Chinese and Tibetan.  Mr. Wen blasted Chinese President Xi saying that under his leadership, the rights of Chinese and Tibetan people have gone down the hill.   He busted the myth of Chinese President Xi's leniency and progressiveness and bold reform initiatives.  He made it a point that there is not telling sign of such a change shortly.  

It is a fun-filled event, with all the representatives of Tibetan communities and NGOs, and such exchange of Tibetan and Chinese should be organized more frequently.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Good People

 The Righteous Mind:
 Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt.

Over All Impression.

This is one book that I have read and find difficulty in understanding the themes thoroughly. When I sit down to reflect and write on my interpretation of the book's crust of the matter, all I have is a muddled up and vogue thoughts on the central points of the book. Nothing coherent and concrete to help me to clearly articulate any useful points. So be warned that what  you read here will coupound that confusion;

Anyway it seems the author is pointing out how our mind is made up. What determinates the righteous mind from the perspective of a moral psychology, and thus dwelling further by taking us on a tour of human nature and human history.  The author unequivocally stresses that moral psychology is the key to understanding politics and religion. Why people are divided by these ideas.

I feel this book would be a good supplementary teaching aid for psychology class.  As for me it takes a while to completely dissect and digest the points made /raised in the book. It requires careful reading and reflection to fully absorb the theories and principles of understanding human psychology for an average reader like me. Except that I can not unlock the intricacy of the new knowledge and research presented, the book is indeed a treasured repository of knowledge and understanding of moral psychology, but too mysterious and metaphysical and far fetched to my mind.

 The one thing that brings some clarity of thoughts is in the following analogy:

The righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors:
"morality is like cuisine, it is a cultural construction, influenced by accidents of environment and history, but its not so flexible that anything goes. You cant have a cuisine based on tree bark, nor can you have one based primarily on bitter tastes.  Cuisines vary, but they all must please tongues equipped with the same five taste receptors. Moral matrices vary, but they all must please righteous minds equipped with the same six social receptors" (p. 114).

The six moral foundations based on which we cling to our idealogy are : Care/Harm, Fairness/cheating, Loyality/betrayal, Authority/subversion, Sanctity/degradation.

But  again these theories may not be the absolute truth and have different application.
"In  Physchology, theories are cheap. Anyone can invent one. Progress happens when theories are tested, supported and corrected by empirical evidence, especially when a theory proves to be useful- for example,if it helps people to understand  why half of the people in their country seem to live in a different moral universe...(p.127)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Flame of discourse burning

 "There are thus at least three Tibets-one recognized by China as the administrative area ruled by the Dalai Lamas until 1950 and limited to the western and central parts of the plateau, another referring to the common cultural and historic heritage found throughout the plateau,[ethnographic Tibet] a third implying a single political entity covering all the Tibetan areas"(p.18)-    
                                                                a quote from  Robert Barnett’s master piece introduction 

 On the wake of Virgina declaring a state of emergency ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Joaquin, the streets have been awashed with the ceaseless rainfall for the entire day. As a gloomy evening descended upon us, it is all wet and windy.  But several of D.C Tibetan book club members braved the ferocity of the weather and converged at the house of the host for Friday’s book discussion. It was a sheer determination to keep the flame of book discussion burning, come rain or shine. 

Nestled in the cozy and comfort of the host's immaculate house, four of them eagerly awaited to engage in a discourse on reading, “My Tibetan Childhood" by Natsang Lulu. The moderator Jigme la opened the discourse by skillfully summarizing the gist of the story.

In summing up, the memoir has several broad sections: Featuring the nomadic life prior to Chinese arrival in Eastern Tibet, the arrival of the Chinese soldiers on the scene, the struggle of survival, and failed second flight to Lhasa, followed with imprisonment and finally the release and rehabilitation of Natsang. Ones the moderator, opened floor, it was like opening the gate of a flood water. Nonstop, the discussants weighed on the various talking points, which the moderator mooted for further discussion and analysis.
 To give you a little background, Natsang Lulu,The author's birth place is Madey Chugama, in  Machu county,  Ganan prefecture. He was being captured and imprisoned in Chumarleb [in Yushul county, Qinghai province] in 1958 along with his brother and father, who managed to cover on horseback in their desperate forty-eight -day flight from  Chugama (p.20). The narrative is the unvarnished evidence of a young- child-what he saw, what he heard, and what he thought. (p.59).  On the following,  you get a taste of some of the major issues we discussed in relating to the book. 

 General Impression:
 The readers have felt that given the popularity of the book, it must be interesting and worthwhile for reading. Consequently there are many important takeaways from it.  The book has shed light upon the carefree life of a child in the vast pasture land of the Tibetan plateau with its up and downs. But the depiction of the life and the society of the old Tibetan were not as rosy as some readers expected. Such as one particular scene where a monk peeing on someone's head and the father of the author, was flogged with hundreds of lashes for showing disrespect and on the flimsy excuse of carrying weapon in the vicinity of the monastery by the head disciplinary of the monastery. These took place in 1950s at eastern Tibet. “The Golok area that time saw little penetration by outside forces, Tibetan or Chinese, apart from occasional military raids, until the PLA finally established its authority there in 1950s "(p.19). The author's experience in his first visit to Lhasa was no better, "The government's executioners know all kinds of tortures: burning, skinning alive, and beheading. There are more punishments than the world knows."  Lhasa was a place of both joy and sorrow.  " Here joy is intense and sadness deep. The strong are too strong and can do whatever they want. The weak are too weak and have no protection. The rich are too rich, and their butter and meat are rot uneaten. The poor are too poor and eat plants beside the  is our karma".(p.183)

 The Ruling Class:
 The monastery and chiefdom is the ruling class. When discussing about the particular incident of monk's cruelty, some thought provoking exchange occurred. Readers pointed out on the strength and weakness of Tibet's theocratic rule. That political system in the past has provided room for abuses. It is also come up that the Tibetan society never had a overhaul of its governing system.  Such a lack of true reform has stunted the Tibetan people's intellectual and political awareness. As all the western society has been revolutionized and started a new, Tibet society lacked that sophisticated transformation, despite numerous efforts including by the 13th Dalai Lama. However a real revolution is unfolding in exile initiated by the His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama's voluntary devolvement of the political authority to a elected political leader.
But questions raised again that in the absence of the Dalai Lama, can there be an united front movement for all Tibetans inside and out. 

Scar literature:
The reader also has mixed reaction to the content of the book. The book has merits and also seemingly downfall in its narrative style.  In terms of the literary value of the book, it doesn’t have the intellectual prowess of a robust literary work. Narration at some points drag on and rambling nonsensically and overall fail to sustain readers’ interest. But the work fits in what is known as scar literature. The English version of the My Tibetan Childhood is a bridged from its original Tibetan language publication. So the translation might have lost some of its nuance and precision of meanings that is why the reader find some part of the book pretty dry and dull. But Robin Bernette’s long introduction have strategically put the story into context and it added much value as well as the His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s forward buttresses its credibility and significance. 

The Nomadic Life:
 One reader eagerly shared how he was mesmerized the by sights and sought of the nomadic life and the contour of depiction of a Tibetan life prior to the Chinese arrival. it drives home a point that the nomadic life was sustainable and successful in its own term. A considerable time is spent on the Tibetan's nomad in the context of the current China's policy of resettlement. The readers agreed that Tibetan nomad need to adapt to the modern life of way, by educating their children and improving their life style and hygiene, while maintaining their profession of nomadism. The Chinese forced resettlement policy over the excuse of the overgrazing is not a valid argument. This policy has been counterproductive, by uprooting the nomadic life and decimating their very source of livelihood that is the livestock and herds. It is also opined that this forced nomadic resettlement is a political strategy aimed for easy controlling of the Tibetan nomad, who is known to be “ferociously independent nomads, ruled by local chieftains and often associated with banditry and violence"(p19).
Unlike in the past, the Tibetan nomad today has to bear the brunt of Chinese modernization, by integrating and assimilating with the town people, where they have little nor skills for survival, such as Chinese language competency.

Destruction and Denial:
The suffering the author has under gone through is a reflection and reminiscence of all the suffering of Tibetan under Chinese colonial rule. Both Tibetan male and female are imprisoned "there are 2300 male prisoners and 1600 females"(p.304).The starvation of the kids is heart wrenching, where the author has saved many by killing pikas to feed them.  In the prison, the author shared little piece of his dough Tsampa ball, which the elderly Tibetan touched on their mouths, forehead and sniffed, to stay alive with a smell to fill their stomach. “it makes you feel wonderful when you smell it, even if you dont eat it. That feeling is enough (p.282)
Even though, the majority of the story is attributed to life in 1950s, but certain Chinese solider forced monastery monks, in dismantling statues and other destruction and denial are no different from what was unleashed during the Cultural Revolution madness in 1966-1976. The author is nonjudgmental in his narration of the personal memoir. The true depiction of the audacity of the Chinese solider and their merciless attitude toward Tibetan people's religious sentiments is a powerful reminder of Chinese atrocity in Tibet. The stories we hear here is comparable to that of human suffering in Nazi’s concentration camp.

Record and Recovering:

 As the author stated in the beginning that he wishes to leave a legacy for the future generation to recollect what has happened. This book has indeed fulfilled that goal and beyond. “Writing these stories in the form of a book has its disadvantages, but if they are not persevered in print, no one in the future will know what happened.  if they want the next generation to know what happened in the their lifetime, the previous generation must write down and hand it on to the next one”.(p.59)

 Finally, on this soggy evening, we are really fired up, by the content and hospitality of the host. the passion of the readers have kept us warm with lots learning and  Ah ha moment. But what we were able to present here is a just the tip of an iceberg. For greater appreciation of the work, the readers have to imagine or read for themselves.  As the discussion is wrapped, with a delicious meal on the table, we clinked  late into night defying the Virgina’s state of emergency.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Back To School Night

My wife elected me to attend the Back to School Night at our daughter Kunsal's elementary school.  She is just entering Grade I, and it is impressive as how much is taking place in terms of her learning and the people involved in it.

All parents have come to hear and see what their kids have been doing.  At the beginning of the 30 minutes session, the Principal of the school gave a speech on the school budget and urging parents to speak out to state representatives for full funding of the school.  She gave an overview of how the school is operating financially, a breakdown on the funding allocation and so on.

The gist of the presentation urges parents to take active role in helping the school to run smoothly through every possible help.  The school has grown exponentially in enrollment, and the funding has not increased proportionately. The contrast and comparison drawn between different public school and FCPS, where FCPS is lacking behind in teacher's salary competitiveness, and the school renovation.  So hearing all those details of the school, make us feel, that the school really needs some big funding and renovation.  As the school building structures are running well hehind the projected renovation time.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Saturday, September 12, 2015

"A love, pure love will never return void"

In this movie that I was watching while doing cycling at the gym, several couple stands up on a makeshift stage at a beach-side to share why they were married. All the couples tied the knot for over a decade, and they all go through life's many ups and downs.

 Particularly some of them are facing insurmountable obstacles, and that their relationship has reached the verge of collapse.  Amongst those couples who stand-ups to share their stories, everyone's story was very touching and moving that, make goose bump on them. The last couple who stand up to share the stories was an elderly couple, who have reached their life's final stage.  Even that old pair had a relationship that was marred with intrigue and romance and fiasco.
The old man's message to the rest of couple attending there was this " love, pure love will never return void".

I hope this wisdom will apply to another romantic love story that I have seen unfold in front of my eye.

A girl and boy developed a  friendship for over a year. Each one is treating the other in a special way. They both feel there is room for them in each other's heart.  However, this particular friendship never went beyond their normal friendly relations. After many nights of date and intimate conversations, both of them have not honestly articulated in what direction that their friendship should move.

The girl finds it weird that even after year's of intimate conversation and care for each other, the boy has not still indicated any clear sign of their future.  Except fostering a kind of usual friendship through the expression of concern, such as constant call and text in inquiring the girl's well-being, the boy has not made any advance to the girl. Even when he took her to his apartment, he slept on the sofa and her on his bed.

The girl finally determined to bring up the conservation with him in their relationship at a follow-up date. After a long night dinner date, they still could not touch on the subject matter, and again parted their ways after the boy took her to where she stays at friend's house. He returned to his apartment. 

The next day, at the insistence of the girl, they finally managed to have a conversation. Where the girl, expressed her desire for living together as a couple, or long for the boy and girl relationship. At that point, the boy told her, he never wish to get married in this life.  If he wants to, then he sees in her all the qualities of an exceptional woman.

This revelation devastated the girl, beyond belief. She cried and felt the world is upside down. The boy, wish to maintain a healthy friendship with her, as his best friend, no more and no less than that.

The poor girl's genuine love for the boy was not reciprocated. After that eventful night. The boy still tries to keep in touch with her, and at her threat of cutting off all communication, he earnestly requested against doing that.

This is a freaky weird love story, and I don't know if the wisdom that "love, a pure love will never return void" still valid in this case.  Will the boy ever come to his sense and reciprocate the girl's love eventually?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Best Gift

The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who issue the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery once said, "My Best Friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read". Of all the gifts that I have received from friends and relatives this year, I treasure the gift that I received yesterday the most. It is a Chinese book with easy to follow stories. My desire to read Chinese and study the language has rekindled with this valuable gift. 
Chinese reader for 5th grade
The book is actually designed for young Chinese national staying overseas and fitting for a fifth grade level. I feel this level is perfect for me. It is not too hard, and nor too easy. Even without assistance at hand, I can still move along the stories and chapters with good comprehension. Many of the words, expressions and sentence are refreshing my past memory of studying Chinese.  The fact is I have studied Chinese up to middle school. Even though it was not the subject I have excelled, still my standard of the language is in par with mediocre Tibetan students or even little better. But after leaving Tibet in early 1990s, I hardly have a chance to brush up my Chinese language skill. My schooling in Tibetan refugee camp and later in college  in India deprived me the opportunity of pursuing Chinese studies.  Consequently what little I know have been faded away and lay dormant owing to lack of its usage.  As the saying goes, use it or lose it. So my competence in Chinese language has not only deteriorated, it has reached to verge of extinction or total self annihilation. 
Thanks to my work at RFA, my interest, as well as the language demand coupled with plenty of exposure to Chinese culture, has reignited my yearning to improve the language and an opportunity arrived to revive it. 
As  I have firmly established the worthiness of studying this language in the U.S. then I have not given it up.  Despite of tremendous challenges and time constraint and resources availability, I have slowly and steadily aimed to improve the language through all possible means in my daily life. 
The social network sites, and all the language apps, including Chinese dictionary is a added advantage for a language learner ardent like me.    So far I have been trying to have a routine study of the language. But my enthusiasm and passion did not march with the existing learning environment and resources availability.  My progress was slow and the frequency of the effort and time spent on the study was not consistent and regular.  Therefore, my language skill in Chinese mandarin remains stagnant and not to my satisfaction. 
Fortunately, this book a friend  brought me is the perfect launching pad for me to study the language on a systematic and consistent way.  At a summer reading class program for my daughter Kunsal, the teacher emphasized  on the importance of choosing books that fits with the kid's level of understanding and ability. I totally agree with that insights on effective reading and learning. So this book that my friend gifted fits me  like a glove . I immediately fell in love with it and after reading several chapters and doing all exercises, I couldn’t believe what I will be able to achieve with so much excitement and love for it. 
This book opens the gateway for my successful communication and comprehension of ancient language and language that is rich and beautiful and spoke by one fourth of the world population. 
 I wholeheartedly appreciate the thoughtfulness of my friend for picking such a treasure, and particularly the sincere motivation to help with my mandarin studies, which  has deeply moved me. 
The simple reason for my interest in Chinese language is that I have a good foundation, that the language is in demand and it makes me more marketable in the world of work, and that  knowing the language is the best way to know the culture and mind set of the Chinese people. Besides it is the language by which a true Tibetan Chinese dialogue would be possible.
With this auspicious gift of wonderfully illustrated reader friendly Chinese text book of my level, I am committing and pledging to study hard, without any excuses. This is a god given opportunity to reinvigorating my studies of Chinese language with a strong conviction that I can do it. After all, the best way to repay my best friend who gift me this book that I have never come across  is to maximize its uses to further improve my proficiency in the language.  

Discussion on Mimpa

I could not pass up Palkyi la's urge to do a summary of our discussion and also this is in appreciation of Gyaltso la's recommendation of the book. How incomplete and unpolished it might be, all responsibility is mine only.

The reading of Mipam, refreshes one's understanding of Tibetan customs and culture in its finest or crudest form. The opening of the novel piques readers interest with lots of drama, suspense, and thrill at a fast paced. As the plot thicken and character revealed, the reader would have a bitter and sweet taste of every fabric of Tibetan's rustic cultural practices.

The novel has the three typical elements of a Hollywood blockbuster; whereby a love is formed, that led to an altercation, and a chase followed, with a happy or unhappy ending.

Our moderator Tenzin Woedbum Ggt leads the discussion with a succinct summary of the story; that paves the way for everyone's self-reflective thinking and critical inquiry. Amidst so much curiosity and questions, our discussion on Mimpa revolves around several important issues or themes that the readers could identify:

Those main points are summed up by the moderator as follows:
 "It is a struggle between grasping Buddhist ideals within a materially driven and competitive world; the pros and cons of reincarnation; impact on society of religious divination; the decisions Mipam makes to encounter his struggle between love and religious enlightenment; the subtle implications of his spiritual relationship with his mother; and more."

We also believe the story highlight the significance of fulfilling mother's wishes, recognition of Tibetan's business acumen, the norm and practice of polygamy, and infusion of the supernatural element in the practice of Tibetan Buddhism and also the folly and foibles of particular ritual supplications.

The main protagonist of the story, is Mimpa, the prodigious son of Phuntsok and Changpal. The title of the novel is also derived from his name. Historically Mimpa Rinchen (The Lama of five Wisdoms, Yeshes Nga den) was a disciple of Jowo Atisha. This novel might be a recreation of a semi-biography of a renowned spiritual master.

Now on the question of fulfilling mother's wishes, we can see how the story unfolds with the earnest desire of Mipam 's parents for the recognition of his son as reincarnation. When the parent's wishes for the son did not materialize, still the mother, Changpal perceives extraordinary qualities in his son. As the story ends, Mimpa has realized certain spiritual prowess, which he contributed in fulfilling his mother's wishes.

Through the success story of Mimpa's business dealings In China. The story compliment Tibetan man's business acumen. Becoming prosperous from doing trade was also way for Mimpa to be self-reliant and independent in asking for the hand of her love, Dolma. The social status of a person would be determined by the size of his caravan. Later we learn his love, and trade served as detractors from his earlier spiritual realization.

Another main point of the story is that polygamy exists in Tibet, and Mimpa's father Phuntsok has willingly adopted it with two spouses. This harmony's existence of such relationship underpins the social norms of the time. While polyandry is also socially accepted norms in eastern Tibet, Mimpa refuses it when it comes to the proposal of sharing his darling Dolma as a wife with his brother Topgyal. An outsider in a conversation with Mimpa condemns such a proposal: "Only savages could think of giving several husbands to the same wife. It is putting things upside down. It is logical on the other hand, for a man to have several wives".

While this has been the tradition, which I believe have grossly discriminated women, it is also pointed out in our discussion that what has been the practice in the past, can not be projected in today's contemporary Tibetan society.

On the themes of infusing occult power in Tibetan Buddhism. The story marvels at such manifestation of supernatural power through various forms and shapes. While the belief in such a phenomena is deeply rooted in the conscious of every Tibetan at the time, it has also opened the door for abuses and malpractice by impostors who claims to possess such power.

In the story, at one instance, a family in distress invited a sorcerer, the later's supplication of a ritual involves animal sacrifice:

"Asking for a pig, he slew it as he murmured secret formula over it. Then, cutting up the carcass, he laid the joints and a bed of leaves and offered them up to his tutelary deity..." the sorcerer, after a mere pretense of sacrificial offerings, carried off, as part of his fee, the best portions of the animal. Such is the practice of the country..." (p.17) The anecdote illustrates that certain Tibetan ritual practice is very primitive.

The book discussion and intelligent questions raised helps the reader to gain new insights from critical reflections. The author's portrayal of old Tibetan society is brutally honest.

The climax of the story had philosophical and psychological overtones but shrouded in mystery and mysticism is the least a reader would expect for an ending in a contemporary love story. A comment from one of our reader gives some sense in unraveling this mysticism through his eloquent expression: "Unconsummated love can be the most poignant and beautiful because of the insurmountable obstacles, obstructions, and ultimately Karma itself. They call for yet another lifetime to pursue. Poor Mipham and his love". I think this view has hit the nail on the head probably.  As a matter of fact, there was so much heat but no light produced.

 Our book discussion enabled readers to deduce that story has a significant spiritual dimension. A real understanding of the essence of Tibetan Buddhism is that you are your enemy, and you are your savior. Reincarnation should not have depended on others endorsement, and reincarnation should be realized through study and contemplation and practice.

Finally, huge thanks to our book discussion host, Woedbum and others for their warm hospitality, the food, snacks, tea, beer and the conversation keeps us at the edge of our seat, and we are so reluctant to leave even in late night.

D.C Tibetan book club memebers at their monthly book discussion

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fearless Heart Review

                                                           A Fearless Heart

                                                                                                       By Dorjee Damdul

               “You are your own enemy, and you are your own savior” (p81).


Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. The idea here is the cultivation and practice of compassion for others, for self and for the entire humanity in this interconnected world.


When we discuss and share our thoughts on reading a book, I feel it is more like a review of the book. So the question is how to do a book review?  I have no answer to this myself, but I am interested to share with you what inspires, and strikes me and any Ah Ha moment I have felt from reading the book: A Fearless Heart.

Of all the things that the book touched on, I would focus on the fascinating story of the author, who we all know is the principal English translator  for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but little did I know about his other facet of life, until I read the book. I would try to encapsulate the central idea of the book and finally the learning that occurred to me.

I.                  Thupten Jingpa went against his parents’ wishes to be the breadwinner of the family and choose to be a monk at the tender age of 11. But two decades later, he gave up his celibacy vow to become the breadwinner of his own family. The reason he gave for why he chooses to leave the monastery is for his longing to have a family of own, which he feels he was deprived at his young age. There is some mention of his difficult decision on this issue.  I thought it would be very interesting stuff for western readers, if he could share a little more details of his romance with a westerner. How it started, what was the trigger point for his aberration. I wonder if he ever feel remorse today? Even though the author said that his disrobing is not a sign of disillusion of monastic life, but I feel people may not perceive that decision as a sign of strength. In fact, as intellectually stalwart as he is today, could he have achieved more by remaining a monk than being a lay person.
D.C Tibetan Book Club meeting at Office of Tibet. Aug.03.2015

What is interesting is that the author has not attended any formal school, and he is self-taught. He learnt English by listening to VOA, and BBC world service and through the help of another Germany lady, while staying at the monastery. No doubt he was a veracious reader. He wrote the  evocative power of the English language deeply impressed him and thanks to his mastery of the language, landed him the job of interpreting for His Holiness the Dalai Lama since 1985. His Holiness sensing his acute intellect told Thupten Jingpa to lead an independent life dedicated to scholarship. His attendance at o Cambridge University to further his studies on religion might have been a turning- point in his life. Dr. Jinpa is one of the rarest cream of the crop in our exile society, who has a combination of deep knowledge on Buddhism philosophy and western thoughts.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Family Reunion

My wife and kids are away on vocation in Calgary, Canada for the past 20 days. They are returning tomorrow and I am excited to pick them at the airport. When they are vacationing, I have equally enjoyed myself with all the things that I like to do independently. Without  my family at my side, I have all the time to myself. and I use my time to my satisfaction.

As always, I hope that my wife and kids have the best of their time in Calgary with beloved aunty and their family. They went out for a sightseeing to some of the most attractive places in Calgary. Stayed over night in hotel and dipped in hot spring I guess.  Seeing the nature in its glorious form, with pristine blue sky and fresh blue lake must be very soothing to their senses. My kids have seen so much things in their so young age. They must have understand lots of things now, gained experienced, and see the wide world in its various shape and forms. The things that my wife sent me occasionally shows their chillax in a yard doing barbecue,  riding a boat in a blue lake, and sitting in a boulder near by a river, and running on the river bed.  It is all full of fun, and lots of activities.
So there is no doubt they are fully recharged for the semester to start and my wife too must been relieved from all the stress of life in taking care of the kids.

While they have lots of fun in vacationing in Calgrary. Such as meeting relatives, friends, and eating out and dining with family relatives or so.  But my concern is for Tenzin Kunsal's reading. My wife promised me to make Kunsal read during holidy.  However, when I call to inquire about it, she doesn't seem to bothered it much.  Kunsal is watching movie in downstair , or she is playing with her friends.  So this pissed me off. Kunsal has become very good in reading, after attending her summer reading class. But now without letting her do anything on read,  how she could catch up with her reading. My wife promised something nice and beautiful before she leaves, but she has failed to deliver her promise, by making reading a part of Kunsal's daily activities.  I am dismayed by this.

Over the phone, she has told  me that now, that vacation is over, so at home I will take over to teach Kunsal read. I will be glad to do so. But reading has to be consistent and there shouldn't be any lax in this reading habit

During their holiday, I have fun time in my own way. For me, to nourish my thought, I have read the books and to pump my body, I have done workout at Gym, and went to eat outside. I have disconnected all my services of internet at home, and thus able to do my works productively.
Now they are back, and I am happy and relieved.  It is true, distance makes memory fonder and more cherishing.  

While driving back home after I pick them at the airport, I asked my daughter Kunsal, what is the best thing she did while in Calgary.  Her response blow me off, "Dad, my best thing is that you are with me now".