By The Progressive on October 27, 2005
My visit to the Dalai Lama’s town
By Amitabh Pal

October 26, 2005

I went down to Dharamsala, India, earlier this month to interview the Dalai Lama and ended up meeting a number of interesting people in the process.

Dharamsala, as you may know, is the town in the foothills of the Himalayas where the Dalai Lama lives. And in case you’re interested in visiting there, you have to endure a long bus ride from New Delhi, or take a train-taxi combination, such as I did. Flights to a nearby airport are infrequent, seasonal and quite expensive.

The Tibetan government in exile set up interviews for me. The wonderfully friendly and helpful Jigmey Tsultrim was my escort.

He introduced me to Ngawang Woebar, a monk who was a political prisoner in China and now heads the Gu-Chu Sum Movement (the Tibetan ex-political prisoners’ association). The Chinese imprisoned Woebar for four months in 1987 for taking part in a peaceful protest and subjected him to constant interrogation. He escaped to India through Nepal in 1991 after his monastery was pressured to expel him the previous year. Woebar narrated to me, through a translator, his travails in a very matter-of-fact way without any bitterness or rancor. In fact, he even smiled a number of times, in spite of the grim political conditions he described for people living in Tibet. (His organization estimates that there are currently more than 1,200 political prisoners in Tibet.) Woebar ended our conversation by appealing to Americans, including American athletes, to boycott the Beijing Olympics in 2008 unless there’s dramatic improvement on the Tibetan front.

“China tramples on its people,” said Woebar. “An estimated 1.2 million Tibetans have died during the Chinese occupation. Plus, Tiananmen Square has happened. Since the Chinese government shows no respect for human rights, it is illogical for it to host the Olympics.”

I also met Tsultrim Dorgee Chunang, the general secretary of the Tibetan Youth Congress. This organization disagrees with the Dalai Lama’s nonviolent tactics and his compromise demand for genuine autonomy for Tibet, rather than full independence. The Youth Congress reflects the impatience that many young Tibetans have with the Dalai Lama’s cautiousness, and it has organized hunger strikes and self-immolations during visits of Chinese officials to India.

“At our meetings, some of our members have expressed frustration with His Holiness’s nonviolent approach, and have asked that why doesn’t the Tibetan Youth Congress go in for violence?” said Chunang. “But the Dalai Lama has threatened to resign from the leadership if this happens. After him, our thinking may change.”

Every year, between 2,500 and 3,000 Tibetans flee China for India through the Himalayas and Nepal, and it is the job of Dorjee, the director of the Tibetan Reception Center, to help set them up initially.

Dorjee, who fled Tibet as a six-year-old with his parents, showed me heart-rending photographs of Tibetans with frostbitten and gangrenous hands and feet, developed during their perilous journey to exile. In rooms below his office were housed entire families who had just completed that journey.

And, yes, I did meet with the Dalai Lama himself. For details of that, I’m afraid, however, you’ll have to wait for a little while.

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This Halloween movie will scare anyone who cares about news.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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