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