By Joe Mickey
group of Tibetan monks and Lamas touring the United States provided
an opportunity for a first hand look at how Tibetans in exile view
the loss of their homeland to occupation by the Communist Government
of China and the prospects of returning home.
Tibetan Society, the position of Lama is usually determined at an
early age (The current Fourteenth Dalai Lama is considered both
the secular and spiritual head of Tibet and was recognized at the
age of 4. He was located in the village of Takster in Tibet by monks
following a series of visions and signs after the death of the Thirteenth
Dalai Lama.) The position of Lama is believed to be gained through
the work and deeds of past lives and is therefore highly respected
in Tibetan Culture.
Agha was 29 years old at the time of this interview. He was on his
third cultural tour of the United States. During the interview,
Lama Agha was very impressive as he answered with an exceptional
clarity and in assured style. His answers seemed to begin without
hesitation. It was as if his first word were the next word in the
sentence containing the question. This is consistent with his advanced
Buddhist training to be in the current moment.
Lama answered questions speaking through interpreter Tenzin Norbu,
the director of the cultural tour.
with Lama Agha
Under what conditions did you leave Tibet?
Agha: I left Tibet at the age of 13. The only education provided
by the Chinese was indoctrination. I could not read or write. Through
relatives in India, my parents learned that I could get an education
only if I left Tibet.
Chinese sometimes give permits to older people to leave Tibet because
they come back. They do not give permits to young people so I had
to escape through the mountains. That took two months. My parents
felt that as Tibetans we had a moral responsibility to learn Tibetan
How much are you in touch with developments in Tibet and those of
Agha: I cannot keep in touch that much. Most Tibetan language
newspapers in India only come out once a month or once every two
weeks. We have access to the Internet once in awhile-on tour. There
are some contacts that are made through people who travel to Tibet.
But no, we cannot follow the subtle point.
The occupation by China has been more than 40 years, nearly a generation.
Some Chinese have been born in Tibet and some Tibetans have been
born in India. What would Tibetans in exile face if they could return
Agha: In 40 years, there has been much culture damage. As Tibetans
in exile, we are able to preserve the Tibetan culture. What I hope
is that Tibet would be a peaceful, compassionate, and loving country.
There is a real danger they may loose their culture. Through contacts
in the country, we encourage that Tibetans retain their culture,
and hope very hard that they still feel as Tibetans.
If the current situation were to go on a long time before it changes
how would Tibetans in exile return with the original culture when
they may be returning to a country where they could be a minority.
Agha: We will have to send Tibetans to revive the culture.
We will have to teach. Tibetans in exile feel it is their responsibility
to maintain the culture of Tibet that existed before the Communist
Reports have said that the Chinese are rebuilding some of the monasteries.
How does this make you feel?
Agha:: It is superficial. The Communist Chinese do this because
they are very embarrassed. They only build the building. They don't
give human rights or the right education inside the building to
study properly. The Communist Chinese rebuild the buildings only
What do Americans have to gain from working to save Tibet?
Agha: For last 40, 50 years teachers, monks, nuns, lamas have
formed centers or traveled to the United States. Quite many Americans
have benefited from their teachings. Tibetan culture has tremendous
potential to contribute to every culture, make it more peaceful.
Many people will benefit from saving Tibetan culture, medicine and
teachings of compassion and love. Tibetans can also gain... from
the modern exchange and technology.
tour has been for the last 10, 15 years. Not many people come at
first. After 10 years, people are more receptive because they have
seen and realized the value of our culture towards compassion, loving
and a peaceful world. More people are becoming involved.
The introduction of Tibetan cultural programs raises the interest
in the Buddhist religion. This is a very complex religion. Where
should Americans start if they develop an interest in the Buddhist
Agha: Maybe better to follow one's own heritage. Religion is
to help you have a happy mind and that is possible through each
religion. Each religion suits a different mind. Like food, for some
sweet; for some sour. Religion is food for the mind. To understand
the profound and higher practices, one has to give up one's present
life and go and study.
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