For over 2000 years Buddhists in Tibet have lived freely and independently, but in 1949-50 that all change when China invaded and took control. 1 All of their traditions and customs, government, environment and rights were taken away and destroyed by this tragic invasion. 2 The majority of Tibetans were either killed or exiled, but the ones exiled have been very strong throughout all of this and stayed true to their beliefs and themselves. After enduring the exile to India, Tibetan Buddhists still managed to live their lives in the traditional Tibetan fashion.
The origin of Buddhism dates back to around 563 BCE , with a man by the name of Siddhartha Guatama. 3 He was an Indian prince born in Lumbini, India. He was completely sheltered as a child and was not let out of the palace. 4 As a result of this, at age 29 he fled the palace and became a homeless monk. 5 This event is called the ” Great Renunciation”. While on his journey he encountered the “4 messengers”; an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and a holy man. 6 This was a great revelation for him because he had no idea that those things existed.
After traveling for a while, he decided to join the 5 scetics, where he went without food or sleep for a long period of time and almost died. He did all this in search of the “truth”. After recovering from his food and sleep deprivation, he decided to turn to meditation to find the “truth”. So he went to the Bodh Gaya tree and meditated under it until he entered nirvana, which is known as a state of perfect joy. 7 Because he was able to do this, he became the first Buddha. He then traveled for 45 years with his followers called the Sangha, which were his family and the 5 ascetics.
They went around teaching people what the Buddha had learned on his journey. He died at the age of 80 and entered nirvana forever. 9 After the Buddha died, the Sangha kept traveling and teaching more and more people Buddhism. In the 7th century Buddhism was introduced to Tibet by teachers from China and Nepal. 10 Then in 775, an Indian monk set up the first monastery in Tibet. 11 Soon after that, Tibetans developed a different style of Buddhism called Vajrayana with Lamas as teachers.
Vajrayana is a combination of the major aspects of Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism. 12 In the 14th century a new sect was formed called Gelugpas. In this a new eader was started called the Dalai Lama, which means “great as the ocean”. Then from the 17th century until 1950, the Dalai Lama was the head of the state in Tibet and the spiritual leader. 13 He lived in the Potala Palace in the holy city of Lhasa. Prior to the tragedy in 1950, Tibet was a entirely sovereign country.
For example, the Government of Tibet had complete control over their internal and external affairs, the Chinese had no involvement of any kind. Also Tibet had its own currency, stamps, language and writing, maintained it own small army and stayed neutral during World War II. They were entirely ndependent and living their peaceful happy lives. Mr. Sonam T. Kazi, one of the Dalai Lamas Chief Interpreters, on his first visit to Tibet in 1948 said “Could there be any other place on this earth where peace and happiness really prevail?
The peace and happiness I saw in Tibet at this time must surely have been the result of the freedom that independent Tibet enjoyed since 1912, under the leadership of H. H. the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, and which continued even after his demise, up until the Communist invasion in 1950. “14 In 1949-50, the Peoples Republic of China invaded and took control of Tibet and ts people. 15 This was an act of “unprovoked aggression”, and there was no logical reason for it. 6 In doing this China destroyed the Tibetans cultural and religion, independence, environment and universal human rights. 17
China had broken the international laws, violated it own constitution, and went without punishment. 18 Since the Dalai Lama was such a strong believer in non-violence, he tried for 8 years to coexist with the Chinese people in his own country. 19 But even when young children would say, “Tibet is independent” or “Long Live His Holiness the Dalai Lama”, the Chinese would rrest and put them in prison or labor camps for trying to “split the motherland”. 0
Exile sources estimated that around 260,000 people died in those camps between 1950 and 1984. 21 Finally on March 10, 1959, the Tibetans decided they could not take it anymore and started a national upraise against the Chinese. 22 The Chinese fought back and stopped the upraise, killing 87,000 Tibetans in central Tibet alone. 23 The International Commission of the Jurists stated in its reports in 1959 and 1960, that there was an a attempted genocide on the Tibetans by the Chinese. 24 The Dalai Lama and around 80,000
Tibetans fled Tibet in search of peace, where the majority of them, including the Dalai Lama, ended up in Dharamsala, India. 25 Local states are still today reporting that up 4 Tibetans a day are trying to cross the border from Tibet to Nepal or India, but the Nepalese government has started to turn the Tibetan refugees over to the Chinese. 26 With the help of the Government of India , the UN High Commission for Refugees and many other, 54 agricultural and agro-industrial refugee settlements were set up, 85 Tibetan schools and almost 200 monasteries. 7
Even though the Tibetans lost basically their entire ives, there have been numerous institutions established to help “preserve and promote an ancient heritage and culture facing imminent extinction in its own homeland, whilst enhancing the cultural life of the exile community”. 28 When they arrived in India, the Dalai Lama immediately started his plans to create a new community. In 1959, he re-established his government in Dharamsala, India. A popularly elected body of people’s representatives, parliament-in-exile, was created. 9
This was started so the Dalai Lama was not the only person making the momentous decisions that would affect the future on the Tibetan community. In 1961, the Dalai Lama made a draft constitution and received the help and the opinion of Tibetans. The detailed draft was completed in 1963 and publicized. 30 In January, 1992 the Dalai Lama announced the Guidelines for future Tibet’s Polity and the Basic Features of its Constitution, where he said that he would not “play any role in the future government of Tibet, let alone seek the Dalai Lama’s traditional political position. 31
The future government of Tibet would be elected by the people on a “basis of adult franchise. “32 The Dalai Lama also announced that “during the transition period , between withdrawal of the epressive Chinese troops from Tibet and the final promulgation of the constitution, the administrative responsibilities of the state will be entrusted to the Tibetan functionaries presently working in Tibet. “33 Also during this period the Dalai Lama selected an interim president, who delegated all of his political powers and responsibilities.
Even while not in their homeland, the Tibetans were able to create and run a functioning government. Not only were the Tibetans able to keep their government in existence, they were also able to still practices their spiritual rituals while in exile. One very important ritual that the Tibetans still practice is the Kalachakra Initiation. This is a series of teaching and rituals that began during the fourth century B. C. 34 Today, the high lamas, or teachers, are the people that give the teachings and rituals.
The present Dalai Lama has given the initiation 25 times. The initiation usually lasts 10 days. During this time, students vow to have compassion for all beings and to work for the benefit of others. The initiation urges students to reach a “pure, peace-filled inner world while still living in this imperfect earthly world”. 5 One important object in the initiation is the Mandala. A Mandala is a circular pictorial representation of the universe created in sand.
It contains images of 722 deities in the shapes of animals, plants, human forms, and abstract symbols. Students in the initiation use the Mandala to visualize in meditation the steps that lead to enlightenment. 36 This spiritual ritual has been around for many, many years and is still able to be practiced by Tibetans in their exiled home. The Tibetans had to experience one of the hardest things anyone could encounter, attempted genocide and exile, and they survived it. This is a very commendable thing because they it would be extremely hard to do.
They had to give up everything they had in their lives, including for many, the ones they love. They had to out that behind them, move into a foreign land and completely start over. They did make a few changes in their government, while in India, but primarily the live their lives in the traditional Tibetan way. They stayed true to their religion and never lost faith in it. Also they never lost faith in the Dalai Lama, and without him I do not think they would be as well off as they are today.