After my post about living in a Refugee camp, I ran into a few perfect examples of what I was talking about. Both from the side this being a refugee camp and from the side of inappropriate behavior from "Supporters." This also goes a bit into Pongu's post about doing everything in English.
Yesterday was His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa's birthday. Since I don't live far from Gyuto monastery, where he resides, I headed over to Gyuto for the day to take part in the celebrations. Overall, it was a wonderful day with prayers in the morning, a chance to meet HH Karmapa, free lunch, a talk in the afternoon, a "Cake" made out of Tsampa (Barley flour...in this case mixed with butter, sugar, cashews and raisins!), and a performance by the Tibetan Institute of Performing arts. It was hot, it was VERY crowded, but overall, it was a wonderful day and His Holiness seemed happy with the celebration as well.
But one incident really riled me up.
First I should note the demographic at Gyuto. I would say about 85% of people were Tibetan, the remaining 15% being westerners, Taiwanese, Chinese and Koreans with a small smattering of others. Of those Tibetans, the vast majority were new arrivals from Tibet. I met a lot of people from Sokor Loptra (TTS, the Tibetan Transit school) which is only for people who have arrived from Tibet within the past 5 years. I also saw a lot of people from the New Arrival Center, who had arrived from Tibet within the past 2 months. The Karmapa, as a younger Lama who only escaped from Tibet in 2000, has a much greater following among Tibetans inside of Tibet or immediately from Tibet than from Tibetans in India. So the vast majority of Tibetans present were new arrivals from Tibet and very obviously so. Please read Living in a Refugee Camp for a better understanding of the situation of New arrival Tibetans.
I was sitting with some of my friends outside of the Gyuto store. We were drinking soda and eating chips and just enjoying ourselves. At the next table over, an American Buddhist nun was doing the same as us. There were lots of people and definitely not enough chairs. She was holding a seat for a friend by placing her backpack on the seat next to her.
A young Tibetan man who had arrived from Amdo only a couple of years before and speaks mediocre English came over and asked if he could take the chair. The nun, with her mouth full, responded in English that she was holding the chair. Since she did not make any hand gestures, and since her speech was muffled, the young man assumed compliance and started to take the chair. The nun then started yelling at him.
Nun: "I told you, you can't take that chair!"
Man: "But, no one is sitting there!"
Nun: "No one is sitting there now, but my friend is coming!"
Man: "I didn't know"
Nun: "Well, I was telling you, but I was eating!"
The young man apologized and went away. The nun continued to, loudly, complain about how rude these young Tibetans were.
I was shocked. I almost went up and confronted her, and in retrospect, I should have and I am ashamed of myself for not doing it. Here she, a woman who has been living in India for nearly 10 years as a Buddhist nun, has made no effort whatsoever to learn spoken Tibetan, or apparently, even simple Tibetan cultural hand gestures. She clearly has no understanding of the fact that most of the people there were new arrivals who speak poor (if any) English and might not understand a muffled comment. And I suppose I should note that while she was complaining about his rudeness, she was the one talking with her mouth full!
Here she is, living as an ordained nun in Tibetan society in India, very publically promoting her own charitable activities for Tibetans, but clearly taking no time whatsoever to understand the situation of those around her or even, during the ten years of her residence, learning the language of her host society!
I wonder if she ever interacts with Tibetans, because I find it hard to believe that she never would have learned even the simple hand gestures that mean "wait a minute" or "No" if she had spent more than five minutes with Tibetan people.
The other incident was actually very beautiful, albeit very sad and I think illustrates the mindset of this place as a refugee camp.
A friend of mine, visiting from Sikkim, held a place for me inside the temple for His Holiness' afternoon talk. She is Tibetan, born and raised in India. She has never seen Tibet.
We love hanging out and gossiping with each other, just like girls anywhere in the world, and always try to sit together at teachings.
At the end of His Holiness' address (In Tibetan, English, Chinese and KOREAN!!! With no translators. Can I just note how impressed I am???) members of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts stood up to sing a song for His Holiness. Their piece was a stunningly beautiful song with lyrics and music composed by His Holiness immediately prior to his escape from Tibet. It's one of my favorite traditional style songs. The style and words are beautiful and absolutely classical. When listening to this song it's very easy to imagine oneself back in Tibet
My friend leaned over, as the song started and said, "Whenever I hear this song, all I can think is 'here we are, in the presence of His Holiness Karmapa, in our Chupas [traditional dress] listening to our music, and we aren't in our country, we can't go to our country. We don't have a country'" And she just started repeating "We don't have a country, we don't have a country."
As we listened to this elegant melody, she kept reaching up and wiping away tears. And trying to laugh off how embarrassed she was to cry in public. She continued silently crying throughout the whole song.
This is really what it means to live in a refugee camp.
This land is my land - ལ་ཐོན་པོའི་ཙེ་ལ། ལྷ་སང་གཅིག་བཏང་ནས། དར་ཅོག་གཅིག་བརླངས་ནས། ལྷ་རྒྱ་སྦྱིན་མཁྱེན་པས། ལྷ་ཆོས་སྐྱོང་སྲུང་མས། འདི་ང་ལ་གསུངས་བྱུང་། ཕ་ཡུལ་འདི་ང་ཚོ་ཚང་མའི་རེད། Cho...
1 year ago