Saturday, April 12, 2008

Three Tibetan Voices to Hear

Today I'm blogging for no good reason except to send you off to read a newspaper interview with an extremely intelligent person working in Tibetan studies in Georgia these days. Although he has accomplished many other things, and I mentioned his book about Tibetan festivals in an earlier blog, Tsepak Rigzin (Tshe-dpag-rig-'dzin, born in western Tibet in 1957) is perhaps best known for compiling one of the essential reference works for anyone learning to read Buddhist texts in Tibetan. It was published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala in 1986, with a revised and enlarged version published in 1993. So, without further ado, just go away from here and read the story at the Meyul website. It won't take long.  I'm always on the lookout for testimonies about the Tibet situation by seasoned experts in Tibetan studies, and will keep you posted as I come up with more.

In a category all its own, I vigorously encourage you go to Agam's Gecko blogspot and view the video of a 40-minute Dalai Lama interview by Ann Curry of NBC.

If you have trouble with the video formats, you can read the complete transcript of the interview here.

Then if you have any time left follow Agam's link to the editorial by Isabel Hilton (if you would like to know more about her, look here) in the April 12th Guardian.  It's still worth going back to read one of her older editorials, here.  Rare among journalists writing about Tibet these days, she has actually written an entire book on the subject, even quit her job to write it, The Search for the Panchen Lama.

Today this story by Barbara Demick about "patriotic [re-]education" appeared in the Baltimore Sun.  It quotes from Tibetologist Ronald D. Schwartz (author of the book Circle of Protest: Political Ritual in the Tibetan Uprising), and mentions the open letter to Hu Jintao signed by Schwartz and "more than 200 other Tibet scholars ... calling for the Chinese government to negotiate over Tibetans' grievances." I just went to the webpage a few minutes ago. There were 78 signers of the original petition before it was posted on the internet. With a few exceptions these are professional Tibetologists. That means people with research jobs involving teaching and/or research in the field of Tibetan studies. More people signed online since then. In this second list there is the problem of several duplicate names (some people clicked the button twice), but I simply downloaded the list and eliminated the doubles, coming up with 448 people who signed it online (this number includes quite a few professors, too, but also graduate students and Tibetologists without academic affiliation). This comes to a grand total of 526. This is far more than 200.  

It might not need pointing out, although I will do it anyway, that while nearly if not quite every professor, researcher, language instructor and grad student in the field of Tibetan studies in the globe (regardless of their national identity and personal background) did sign this petition, there is one group that is entirely absent. That group of Tibetanists lives and works inside the Peoples Republic of China. I won't insult your intelligence by telling you why that might be.

Oh, and one last but not least thing.  Here's an opportunity to hear an audio file that includes a fairly long interview with Lobsang Sangay (Blo-bzang-sangs-rgyas; his name could be translated 'Good Mind Enlightened One') about the current situation done for Minnesota Public Radio. Lobsang-laa is very articulate in at least two languages, and manages to make considerable sense of Tibetan discontents and their background.  This program in particular addresses questions not even brought up elsewhere.  I had an opportunity to see him speak in person several years ago, and was quite impressed by what I heard. 

I'm sure we'll be hearing more from him.  He's a senior fellow in the Harvard Law School these days, although he is destined for greater things.

* * * * *

"The Chinese media spin the story as anti-Chinese riots instead of anti-government riots. They try to make it something against the Chinese people. It is not against the Chinese people."

Tsering Wangdu Shakya, Chair in Modern Tibetan Studies, University of British Columbia


  1. Hi Dan, this is KNAB from PvCP. Thanks for checking out my little blog ( and commenting. I too hope that the plight of the Tibetan people will be solved positively. I think the Tibetans have a right to their own culture and a right to practice their own spirituality without fear of persecution from a central government. Good luck to you in your endeavors, and I have you bookmarked so that I can check the latest happenings in Tibet from time to time! Best to you, KNAB

    One more thing - PvCP may be branded as being "right-wing" by some ideologues, but that is because we believe in liberty, freedom and the basic human rights of all peoples. These are "old-fashioned" ideas apparently. Good luck in all things - K

  2. Hi Knab, I don't really remember visiting that blogsite, but maybe I did. I've been to so many lately. Don't you detest those right-left labels with meanings that keep on shifting? There are so many issues that we have to think about both separately and in terms of their interdependence, it seems foolish (and careless) to "choose" your friends and your ideas all in one piece. H.H. the Dalai Lama has for long been a great personal friend of Jesse Helms, and mentioned him while receiving the Congressional medal. Some people find that so much more remarkable than his association with Richard Gere, or even the Beastie Boys. But then H.H. doesn't care all that much about which religion, or which political party or leaning, people profess. That's just how He is. I think it has something to do with all that compassion. Thanks for writing. Yours,
    PS Oh, and one more thing. The 'news' aspect of Tibeto-logic is just a temporary aberration. The Tibet situation will be resolved and before you know it -- hints of talks are beginning to surface, so lets be optimistic -- I'll be back in the centuries I like the best. I recommend going to Agam's Gecko if you want a blog that really keeps up with the Tibet situation (Agam broke a very remarkable story just yesterday beating the international press to the punch).

  3. Notice also this rather old but still interesting story about Lobsang Sangay:


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