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Story of Tashi Passang

October 17, 2015

Today is not so different from yesterday. Today too we suffer from the baggage of our beliefs. So tied down some of us are to our beliefs and identities that we fear anyone who is outside our circle. Hatred creeps in slowly and so does anger towards anyone who does not abide by our belief system, anyone who hurts us. Only a few of us are able to resist this hatred and anger. Only a few are able to love a friend and foe alike.

Here is the story of Tashi Passang, an old Tibetan monk. The story has been taken from the book, Nine Lives, by William Dalrymple.

“The words reached Lhasa (capital of Tibet) that my mother had died. She was not old – no more than fifty. But she never recovered from the beatings the Chinese gave her, and she died as a result of the internal injuries she received for what I had done. Of course, I wept when the news came. For days I was too paralysed with sadness to think of anything else. But I was worried too, because I now felt a real hatred for the Chinese. Violence may be justified by our scriptures in certain circumstances, but anger and hatred [towards anyone] are always forbidden.” – Tashi Passang.

Tashi Passang, was born in Tibet in 1936. Like many in eastern Tibet, his family lived a semi-nomadic life. At the age of 13, he decided to become a monk. “The main struggle, especially when you are young, is to avoid four things: desire, greed, pride and attachment. Of course no one can do this completely. But we try.”

In 1951 Chinese Army, called People’s Liberation Army, invaded Tibet under the pretext of reforming and modernizing the country. Many a monasteries were destroyed and ancient religious texts burnt. When Passang’s monastery came under pressure from Chinese, he decided to give up his monastic vows and take up arms to defend his people and his faith. He took up his old rifle that he used to use to protect his herd of yaks and dri when he was a shepherd and ran off from the monastery. Chinese went to his home and tortured his mother for days so that she would reveal where her son had gone, or so that he would come and give himself up. But Tashi Passang, then 16 years old was hiding in the mountains and it was months later he came to know of what had happened to his family. He went to Lhasa joined the Tibetan resistance movement. He became part of the group that was responsible of taking Dalai Lama safely to the border into India. This is when he received the news that his mother had died. He wanted to fight the Chinese but of course he and his fellow monks with their old rifles could not stand against the tanks and fighter planes of the Chinese. They too along with Dalai Lama crossed the border and came into India. Living in exile, in a small wooden hut in the Indian Himalayas Tashi Passang now around 80 years old, prints prayer flags in an attempt to atone for the violence he committed after he joined the Tibetan resistance. He has become a monk once again and spends his time praying.

“My conscience was very troubled by what I had seen and what I had done… the war never seems to be about right and wrong. It is because some politicians that people have to suffer and to kill. Compared to Tibet there are relatively few prayer flags in Dharamsala, and many of them are badly printed, often not even written correctly. I knew all the mantras from my training as a monk and decided I would try to make well printed flags. I thought I could now live a calm and peaceful life. Every day now, I recite the mantras of repentance. We are told if you really regret your actions, and repent… it is possible for bad karma to be removed.”

“I am especially fortunate that of late I feel I have conquered the hate I used to feel for the Chinese. Dalai Lama is always preaching that it is not the Chinese but the hate itself that is our biggest enemy. Ever since the Chinese tortured my mother, I felt a deep hatred for them, and was always striving for violent retaliation. Whenever I saw a Chinese restaurant in India, I would want to throw stones at it. Even the colour red would make me boil with anger at what Chinese had done. But after I heard Dalai Lama say we must defeat hatred, I determined that I would try to eat a Chinese meal in a Chinese restaurant to cure myself of this rage.”

“So one day when on pilgrimage in Bodhgaya, I saw a small Chinese restaurant by the roadside. It was run by two Chinese women – an old woman of seventy and her daughter who must have been around forty. I went in there one evening and ordered some noodles. I must say they were delicious. After I had eaten, I thanked the mother and asked her to sit down with me so we could talk. I asked, “Where are you from?” and she replied, “From China. It turned out her father was killed by the Mao’s soldiers at the Cultural Revolution, and her relations had fled to Hong Kong and then to Calcutta. By this stage she was weeping as she told me how her family had suffered. I told her my story. After that we both burst into tears and hugged each other. Since then I have free from my hatred of all things and people Chinese.”

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