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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

Tibetan expresses no anger at China

September 30, 2008

Buddhist in Camarillo speaks about love

By Cynthia Overweg
Ventura County Star, CA
Monday, September 29, 2008

After five decades of Chinese occupation, the cultural heritage of Tibet
is on the brink of extinction within its own borders, Lama Tulku Karma
Gyurme Sonam Rinpoche said at a public forum in Camarillo.

The lama is a senior member of the Tibetan Buddhist order and is
visiting the United States on a speaking tour. He lives in a refugee
camp in India.

He was invited to speak Saturday at the Camarillo Yoga Center by owner
Audrey Walzer, who said she wanted to acquaint Ventura County residents
with a culture that has practiced nonviolence for centuries.
"Nonviolence is at the center of Tibetan culture, and yet they can't
practice their religion freely under Chinese rule," she said. "They're
denied rights we take for granted."

In a 90-minute talk before about 100 people, the lama spoke about the
Tibetan Buddhist principles of "unconditional compassion and loving
kindness." He cited the unconditional love of a mother for her child as
an example of what is possible in relationships. "When we realize that
every being is related to every other living being, no matter what they
look like, then we can make a real difference in the world," he said.

Walzer said the idea to invite him came about during the run-up to the
Beijing Summer Olympics, when the Olympic torch relay provoked protests
of human rights abuses in Tibet.

She said she wanted to support the work being done by the lama's
nonprofit organization, the Yogi Tsoru Dechen Rinpoche Foundation, which
is building a school and monastery that will house 700 refugee children
in central India. It is funded by grants and private donations.

During a question-and-answer session, he was asked about the treatment
of Tibetan monks by Chinese government officials when a peaceful protest
in March in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa turned bloody and as many as 18
monks died.

"Now that the Olympics are over, they are punishing and killing people
in Tibet, and they are squeezing the monasteries," he said. But he has
no anger toward China, he said. "Compassion and loving kindness includes
China; I can't exclude them."

Tibetans have had an increasingly difficult time preserving their
culture, said Paul Hanson, professor of history at California Lutheran
University in Thousand Oaks.

"The Buddhist practice of nonviolence has kept them from waging a
violent rebellion against Chinese rule," said Hanson, who visited Tibet
in 2006. He said China's policy of massive settlements of ethnic Han
Chinese in Tibet has marginalized Tibetan culture, much like Australia's
aboriginal population and Native Americans in the United States.

"I am struck with admiration for the Tibetan people and their tenacity
in preserving their culture in the exiled refugee community outside
Tibet," he said.

The number of Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal has grown to 120,000,
said Mary Beth Markey, spokeswoman for the International Campaign for
Tibet, a nonprofit advocacy group based in New York.

"What's at stake is thousands of years of Tibetan Buddhist scholarship
and a tradition that embraces nonviolent conflict resolution," Markey said.

In an interview before Saturday's talk, the lama spoke about adversity
in his own life. As a boy of 11, he got lost at a train station in
southern India and was kidnapped by a thief who stole his train fare.

"The man sold me as a house slave to an Indian family, and I was
frequently beaten," he said. At 12, he said he was traded as an
indentured house servant to another family in exchange for a German
shepherd puppy.

The beatings stopped, but he said he didn't gain his freedom until he
was 18, when he passed a letter to a Tibetan street vendor "who helped
me find my family again." On his return, he entered a monastery and said
he now has the blessing of the Dalai Lama to work on behalf of Tibetan

Tseten Chonden, the North American representative for the Tibetan
parliament in exile based in Los Angeles, said 6,000 Tibetan monasteries
have been destroyed and estimates that 20,000 monks and nuns are in exile.

"Our tradition urges forgiveness even when atrocities occur," Chonden said.
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