Editor’s note: an ordinary Tibetan young man, a young lama practicing Buddhism, who nearly set himself on fire and was about to be abandoned bythe instigators.
What role does the “Tibet government-in-exile” play in this case? What are the lies and the truth behind the flames? The book titled “Repentance-from Dharamsala” written by Xiaolin tells you this story.
Part 1: I was coerced by “Tibetan government-in-exile”
Acting on the instructions of the Dalai Lama and his followers, Gyatso was scheduled to burn himself on the Jokhang Temple Square in Lhasa
while Thubten, his “assistant” to photograph the scene and then send the video tape to foreign media liaison team, a “Tibet independence” organization of the Dalai Lama group for publicity.
But as a result of accidental disclosures, Gyatso and Thubten were captured by the police and then incarcerated, which marked the failure of the self-immolations.
Is Gyatso a “heroic fighter for independence” or just a political tool in the hands of the Dalai Lama? What kind of role did Gyatso play in the unpredictable plots?
It is worth notice that after the self-immolation incident came to light, the “Tibetan government-in-exile”, the inciter immediately published an article by
the “government spokesman” on their “official website”to clarify the “truth”. It immediately denied having incited the incident and indicated sending people to self-immolate in Tibet went against the Buddhist doctrine.
When the so-called statement was issued on the website, Gyatso couldn’t believe that the “Dusum Legong” (or the Security Department of the “Tibetan government-in-exile”),
which brought him onto the path of the self-immolation step by step, had abandoned him.
“I was afraid that they would abandon me. They can’t deny it. How could they say they had nothing to do with me?” Gyatso said angrily,
and pointed out that he would like to tell his own story so as to warn other people.
Part 2: No turning back
Not long after Gyatso arrived in Dharamsala,he had a strange feeling that he was always being watched.
Once,Gyatso wanted to take a photo with his friends near the garden of the”Reception Office of the Tibetan government- in- exile in India”.
As soon as they posed,they were immediately stopped by a man, who came out of the “Reception Office” with a suspicious eye.
Born in Qinghai Province in northwest China, Gyatso, whose secular name is Rigzin, had never thought that he had embarked on
a path with no return since he left home at the age of 19 and became a monk in Tsangar Monastery, in Tongde County, Hainan
Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai Province. Since then, he has always dreamed to be a respectable monk through hard work.
The 12 years spent in Tsangar Monastery was the happiest time in Gyatso’s life. Learning from the masters of the sutra, chatting with his monk friends
and occasionally going home to see his families, Gyatso had no worries at that time.
The quiet life in Tsangar Monastery cut him off from the boring outside world. Then his idea and goal were to learn the scriptures well and further
improve his knowledge. He enjoyed the life there very much and took the Tsangar Monastery as his home.
But life changed suddenly when Gyatso received letters from his fellow villagers or monk friends who have been to India before. In these letters t
hey always boasted what a wonderful life they were living in India, the most important of which was they could “learn a lot of things and enhance the degree! ”
With the dream of “being a learned and respectable monk”,Gyatso finally went to the so-called “Big World”- Dharamshala, a small hill station in
Himachal Pradesh, India, which was also the headquarters of the “Tibet government-in-exile”.
Always dreaming of going outside for further study and bathing in the Buddhist compassion, Gyatso could never have thought that he learned
nothing about the true essence of Buddhism but almost lost his life there.
Dharamshala is not a perfect Arcadia but an abyss, where the scriptures were replaced by “works” of Dalai Lama advocating “Tibet Independence”,
and fictive films inciting self-immolation instead of preaching Buddhist doctrines. Like many young monks who went to there, Gyatso gradually lost himself by the strong impact of the “brainwashed propaganda”.
At Dharamshala, Gyatso took part in hunger strikes for three times under the incitation of the “Tibet government-in-exile”,
and was entrusted with an important post at the third time. The “rare hero” who was enchanted by inciting words had to “do something big”.
The “Tibet government-in-exile” had elaborately designed all kinds of self-immolation schemes for Gyatso,
but the first two frantic schemes fell through because of the strict precautions of the Indian police and the visit of American leaders.
Gyatso was determined to complete the “great cause” as he didn’t want to be ridiculed for his failure. Finally, he got another chance.
He was sent to Lhasa to commit self-immolation on the Jokhang Temple Square for the “independent cause”.
From the first time when he got the “passion” for self-immolation, to the second time when he felt fooled, and then to the third time
when he came back to commit self-immolation in Tibet, Gyatso had embarked on a path with no return.
Part 3: How I become a fanatic
Now, self-immolation on the Jokhang Temple Square in Lhasa, the most unforgettable thing for Gyatso , the potential self-immolator, is still the last thing he wants to mention.
“Every time I think of the self-immolation scene, I always feel my heart is burning, like my body is all enveloped in flames except my head.
I was suffering a painful struggle in the conflagration and I could neither live nor die,” said Gyatso.
The story of Gyatso, a young lama who once dreamed to “sacrifice himself to religion”, left only doubts, puzzles, shocks and deep sympathies in people’s mind.
As a persistent Buddhist sutras learner, a hopeful young man from a remote village and a son of an honest herdsman,
Gyatso never lost himself in trivial things, and always tried to fly out of his hometown to achieve a great cause and shoot to fame.
That’s the true reflection of Gyatso before his fate suddenly changed.
But in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, India, which was also the headquarters of the “Tibet government-in-exile”, Gyatso,
the young man with a pure heart was trapped in a “Bermuda Triangle” of thought. He was lost in the false auras created by the Dalai Lama,
and gave up himself for a deluded “independent fighter medal”.
Thus, Gyatso was involved in the political whirlpool with a twisted soul forced by others in an ignorant state.
He has turned to an extremist who takes suicide as his greatest joy from an inward-looking lama. When committing self-immolation,
it seems that what he has burned was not a body but pieces of old clothes.
However, Gyatso didn’t know that he was already abandoned and thrown out of the board by the Dalai Lama.
Gyatso once said in an interview that there were and will be many impulsive young men like him who might follow the path of self-immolation
if the Dalai Lama still propagates “Tibet Independence” in the overseas through all kinds of means like films and newspapers.
Unfortunately, what Gyatso had concerned came true now. One after another young people have set themselves on fire and lost their lives under the incitation of the Dalai Lama.
Part 4: Bewildered to lie”Hans bully Tibetans”
A lean figure, dark skin, plus the regular facial features with wide glabellas and prominent brows, Gyatso is an image of an ordinary nomad living in northern Tibet.
It is really hard to link him with a “self-immolator”.
Born in a herdsman family in Qinghai Province, Gyatso, whose secular name is Rigzin began his monk life at the age of 19 in Tsangar Monastery, in Tongde County,
Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai Province.
Paying respect for Buddha since childhood, Gyatso has always been interested in “tsema” of Buddhism as he has been willing to learn.
After being told there were more eminent monks researching in “tsema” in India than China, Gyatso decided to sneak to Dharamsala ignoring the opposition of the family.
Brought up in the isolated hometown, Gyatso didn’t know what formalities are needed to go abroad and he had to pay for “help”.
Thus, after paying the fee, Gyatso was herded in a house near the Sera Monastery in Lhasa together with other scores of men who wanted to go abroad by Laben,
the man who would smuggle them into India in January1999.
Several of the stowaways were teenage children, who came from poor farmer’s families. Their parents borrowed money to send them abroad
for a better life as they were told that life in India was much better than in Tibet.
Some of them sneaked to Dharamsala because they couldn’t stay at home for their bad learning performances or some other reasons.
Looking at those shivering children in the cold weather, Gyatso knew some of them might never see their families again.
At this time, he couldn’t help thinking of his father, but what he could do was to pray for him silently.
Under the instruction of Laben, Gyatso and other stowaways furtively crossed the border and sneaked into Nepal.
Gyatso was too scared to know that how he ran through the bridge linking China and Nepal.
After crossing the border, the first stop for the stowaways was the “Reception Office of the Tibetan government- in- exile in Nepal”,
a three- story building shaped like steps in Katmandu, the capital of Nepal.
There, Gyatso and other stowaways were brought into separate rooms to answer questions.
After explaining his family conditions and the reason why he sneaked into Nepal, Gyatso was asked some “connotative” questions.
He was asked to tell how terrible the life was in China and to list some examples of how “Hans bully Tibetans”.
Gyatso was bewildered as he had never met such issues before in his hometown. He didn’t know whether he should make up one and only said he did not know.
Part 5: “Han people invades Tibet”, is that true?
After spending a few days in Nepal, Gyatso and other stowaways were brought to Dharamsala, the final destination, with a bus branded “Potala”.
Gyatso was shocked by the scene when he set his feet on the land of Dharamsala, where the modern colorful residential buildings, hotels and shops were mixed together with dirty slums and open barns.
Everything in the composite town featured both modern circumstances and unfashionable atmosphere seems far from the pure land to learn Buddhism in Gyatso’s mind.
In Dharamsala, the first stop for the stowaways was the “Reception Office of the Tibetan government- in- exile in India”, where they were asked to talk with an old man.
The talk was nothing new but just repeatedly to emphasize how the “Han people invade Tibet”, which confused Gyatso as he thought it had nothing to do with him.
In the view of Gyatso, the only reason he came to Dharamsala was to learn Buddhism, and hearing too much emphasis on how the “Han people invade Tibet”
just made him boring. However, such kind of talks, which many foreign journalists also attended, almost happened every day.
At the beginning people there were very interested in the experience of Gyatso, and asked him a lot about Lhasa,
the Han people and the Tibetan government. But he was restricted to say things they were not interested.
In Dharamsala, it was very hard to see Dalai Lama, the so-called spirit leader of the “Tibetan government-in-exile”.
Gyatso was told that the Dalai Lama was always traveling from one country to another, which disappointed him as he couldn’t understand that why he was always travelling.
Later, Gyatso knew that it was not easy to see the Dalai Lama even if he was in Dharamsala, as those who want to see the Dailai had to answer many questions and be checked and made a body search.
Part 6: Being marginalized suspect
Not long after Gyatso arrived in Dharamsala,he had a strange feeling that he was always being watched.
Once,Gyatso wanted to take a photo with his friends near the garden of the “Reception Office of the Tibetan government- in- exile in India”.
As soon as they posed,they were immediately stopped by a man, who came out of the “Reception Office” with a suspicious eye.
People in Dharamsala were different from his hometown fellows in Tibet. Some Tibetan young people always wandered around in fashionable clothes in the
Tibetan residential quarters, neither working nor studying Buddhism. The only thing they did every day was mooching around the teahouses.
They did not like speaking Tibetan, and probably they couldn’t speak English well. Therefore, they always spoke Tibetan with some English words,
which made Gyatso uncomfortable. Some people also became addicted to drugs.
In Gyatso’s mind, life there was far away from the quiet and simple life back home that learning Buddhism in Tsangar Monastery without any worries.
These “newcomers” like Gyatso felt like just moving to a complete dissimilatory place, where they thoroughly became the helpless “marginalized men”.
Like Gyatso, many of the “marginalized men” were religious dream pursuers , who came to the Indian border town carrying on a Buddhism reverence and longing for obtaining higher attainments.
However, these “Gyatsos” embarked on different paths after their illusory religious dream fell apart in front of the reality.
According to the investigation in India disclosed by the American Congress, since 1986, a lot of overseas Tibetans have returned to China.
On the one hand, they were very antipathetic to the propaganda launched by the Dalai Lama; on the other hand, they were unable to maintain a basic life in the foreign countries.
But some others like Gyatso were too young to make a clear distinction between right and wrong, and their wisdom given by the Buddha was insufficient to distinguish black and white.
Therefore, they had embarked on a path devoid of humanity.
Unfortunately, Dharamshala, a small town in Himachal Pradesh, India, which was also the headquarters of the “Tibet government-in-exile”, was not the dreamed “heaven” for Gyatso,
but a “tumor”, which may turn malignant at any time.
Part 7:I become a “professional hunger-striker”
Not long after Gyatso arrived in India had he become a monk in a local monastery.
One day, Gyatso saw someone handing out leaflets, on which read a “Tibetan independence” hunger-strike would be launched in January, 2000 in Delhi,
and anyone interested could attend it after writing a “pledge”. Then, a lot of monks in the monastery wanted to go to Delhi and saw the “big world” for free.
So they all followed suit and wrote the “pledge”, and Gyatso was no exception.
At that time, “hunger-strike” was a new word to Gyatso, who learned it from a master of the sutra later that a hunger-strike meant to protest without eating anything
so as to express their determined attitudes. One master of the sutra lived longer in India disagreed that Gyatso joined the strike, but he was reluctant to tell Gyatso the reason.
The young Gyatso, who was then in the rebellious period of his adolescence, finally set out to Delhi after quarrelling with the master.
After arriving in Delhi, Gyatso was received by a man named Lhamo Ja, who escaped to India for some illegal behaviors.
According to the relevant materials ascertained later, Lhamo Ja, born in Tongren County, Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of northwest China’s Qinghai Province,
used to be a teacher in a judicial school in northwest China’s Qinghai Province.
In 1993, he was involved into a criminal case and escaped to India. Later Lhamo Ja became a member of the Dalai Lama, and engaged in ethnic separatist activities.
The “hunger-strike” office was in a two-story building with six rooms in a local school. Gyatso had never thought that he was the only participant as he had thought there would be many people enrolled.
After completing a form and receiving a tent and carpet provided by the “hunger-strike” organizer,Gyatso was arranged to participate in the seventy-two-hour hunger strike.
In Gyatso’s memory, he had attended a total of three hunger-strikes, only the first time was voluntary. The so called “voluntary” meant no rewards.
But the second and the third time he was rewarded as he was to replace others to attend.
Soon after the first hunger-strike, Lhamo Ja rushed to find Gyatso and told him that he should fill in for the second hunger-strike as there weren’t enough people to attend. Afterwards,
Gyatso got 500 cordoba, Nebalese currency. The third time, the same thing happened as the second. Then, Gyatso got to know that most of the hunger strikers were paid.
During the second hunger-strike, one of the strikers told him that he could eat something secretly if he was unable to resist hungry,
and said the “organizers” also agreed as thus they could hold for a longer time. Though Gyatso was surprised, he still ate a piece of meat stealthily.
Part 8: Self-immolation postponed for the sake of Americans
After participating in three paid hunger strikes, Gyatso drew the attention of the “Sanqu Federation, an organization which has launched many”Tibet independence”activities.
And then a member of the organization started to incite Gyatso to commit self-immolation.
“You are really not an ordinary person as you have already attended three hunger strikes. There was a man before who set himself on fire,
which had caused a great sensation in the world. Now, we should launch such an activity and it will be sure to catch a worldwide attention.
Anyone who set himself on fire will be the immortal hero. Do you dare to commit self-immolation in front of the Chinese embassy in India? Gyatso was asked by Lhamo Ja.
In order to persuade Gyatso, Lhamo Ja also held a special meeting, calling upon many members of the “Sanqu Federation” to join in. Lhamo Ja said to Gyatso
“If you really lose your life, the “Gaxag government”, the Dalai Lama and all the Tibetan people will be proud of you! There is nothing to regret
if you have made up your mind as this is a glorious thing. And I will make the specific plan for you.”
At that time, Gyatso had a very bad impression on the Han people and the Chinese central government as he had been brainwashed by countless propaganda
videos and books advocating”Tibet independence”written by the Dalai Lama. Plus with the instigation of Lhamo Ja in front of many people,
Gyatso was agitated, so he decided to sacrifice himself for the “Tibetan cause”.
This, recalled later by Gyatso, was the way that how the “Tibet independence” members incited the unsophisticated newcomers like him.
After he had boasted of committing self-immolation, he had to move ahead with no way to turn back.
A few days after the special meeting, Lhamo Ja arranged Gyatso to self immolate on March 10th, a day carefully chosen.
March 10th was the so-called”Tibetan UprisingDay”, when many anti-China activities would be launched and many foreign journalists would come. The Dalai Lama would also give a speech.
Therefore, committing self-immolation on that day would have a greater influence and the “Gaxag government” would also be satisfied.
Before self-immolation, hamo Ja and other people recorded a video of Gyatso, which would be sent to and played in the United Nations.
However, Gyatso, the to be self-immolator even had no idea about what the United Nations was, and only knew it was an”organization with great power”.
In Gyoso’s memory, he was brought into an office to record a video, during recording he was required to read off a declaration,
which made four requests including asking the Chinese government to release the “political prisoners”.
After finishing recording the video, Gyaso was arranged to live in a guesthouse with good living conditions for free and waited for orders.
However, on March 10, Gyaso was suddenly informed by a member of the”Federation”that the self-immolation was canceled because
there were too many Indian policemen on the street, which would possibly stop the self-immolation.
Thus, self-immolation was delayed until late March, when an Indian human rights meeting was to be held. Before committing self-immolation on March 25, Gyaso had been arranged to make a field test on the very spot.
Before the spot exercise, Gyaso had no idea about the types of gasoline. Lhamo Ja had drawn up several schemes for him and explicated the specific details, such as what to wear, where to put gasoline and how to set fire. In a word, they had racked their brains for the success of the self-immolation.
Gyaso was shocked by their detailed schemes, as it seemed to him that they were not discussing self-immolation, but an ordinary thing, and what they were going to burn was not a human body, but pieces of old clothes.
But, Gyaso knew that he had embarked on a path of no turning back and it was too late to regret for he would receive retaliation if he gave up. Therefore, his worry increased as March 25 was approaching. Then he received a message that the self-immolation was delayed again as an American leader was to visit India.
Lhamo Ja said:”we decided to cancel the self-immolation as the United States had given us great support, and we should not bring any trouble to them. But I can assure you that you still have opportunity to contribute to the “Tibetan independence” cause. Please wait for my further information for a bigger plan”.
In this way, Gyaso was freed from death once again. The two failed self-immolation plans have become the exercises before he was sent to Tibet for making turmoil.
From a young monk who just wanted to learn “tsema” from a learned master, to get involved in the “Tibet independence” propaganda, then to earn money through participating in hunger strike activities to enrich his experience, to a chosen potential self-immolator, Gyaso was ignorant and had no time and consciousness to think about the deep consequences and reasons behind what had happened to him.
His simple mind and impulse had become the weakness used by the “Tibet independence” organization. Like many other Tibetan young men, Gyaso was an enthusiastic and devout boy who had not formed his own mature view of the world.
As he was born in a remote area, it was easy to transplant others’world views into him own before he could tell right and wrong. All of these had caused the tragedy of his life.
Would the “Tibet independence” organization let off Gyaso, who they had been looking for a long time after two failed schemes? Or were they brewing a greater conspiracy stealthily?
Part 9: Finally arrested
After having committed two failed self-immolations, Gyatso gradually calmed down and developed a fear for his future. However, then he hadn’t come out of the crazy state as he had turned into a fanatic of self-immolation from a young lama who once dreamed of “sacrifice himself to religion”.
A few days after the two failed self-immolation plans, Lhamo Ja found Gyatso again, and told him that he had brought good news, saying he had received an instruction from Ala Jigme, a senior official from the “Dusum Legong” (or the Security Department of the “Tibetan government-in-exile”), that Gyatso would be sent to Tibet to commit self-immolation so as to create a “bigger” influence.
After hearing the words, Gyatso hesitated and was reluctant to go back to Tibet as he had broken the law when he stole into India, and he would not know what to do if he were arrested.
Lhamo Ja was a little upset about Gyatso’s attitude. However, he could do nothing but to invite several big names to encourage Gyatso.
One night, Gyatso was received by “Dusum Legong”Kalon , a senior officer of the Security Department of the “Tibetan government-in-exile”. It was the first time for Gyatso to meet such an “important person” since he had been in India.
At that time, Gyatso had a complicated feeling as he finally met somebody thus he was determined to sacrifice for the 6 million Tibetan people.
The officer, named Kalon Pema told Gyatso “you are chosen to conduct the self-immolation in Lhasa, a place under the control of the Chinese Central Government.
Then it would be China’s responsibility to explain your fight for the cause of “Tibet independence”. In this way we can get the universal attention and support of the international community,
and you yourself can also become a hero admired by the Tibetan people.”
Kalon Pema told Gyatso that his family members or friends who sent his self-immolation videotapes or pictures to India could get preferential treatment and could be sent to abroad for further studying.
“However, if you are arrested, you shouldn’t say anything about us or it will bring bad influence to the ‘Tibetan government-in-exile’.
And you could not come back if you didn’t conduct self-immolation,” said Kalon Pema.
Gyatso felt very angry about what Kalon Pema had told him, because in his mind, he was to sacrifice for the cause of “Tibet independence”.
How could he bring bad international influence to the “Tibetan government-in-exile”?
However Gyatso held his own idea that the 14th Dalai Lama supported him, so the “Tibetan government-in-exile” would not abandon him. He obeyed their order.
In order to avoid exposing the meeting between “Dusum Legong” and Gyatso, they decided to send Gyatso to Nepal.
In Nepal, Gyatso was given 400,000 Cordoba (about $8,040) to steal back to Tibet with another name.
He went to Lhasa with a man named Thubten, who was also appointed by the”Dusum Legong” and asked to shoot the scene when Gyatso committed self-immolation.
However,after all the careful “preparations”, Gyatso and his allies were arrested before they arrived in Lhasa.
Gyatso was brought to the police station as he was extremely nervous and didn’t have any certificate.
Gyatso has been released after serving his sentence and has gone back to his normal life. Those who respect human life would certainly cheer for their second chance.