His Holiness the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorjee
24 February 2005
Times of Tibet
Source: Tibetan Review
Tsering Dhondup: It is said that at the time of your birth numerous
auspicious signs were witnessed in your village. Do you remember your
past life and the circumstance of your birth?
H.H. Karmapa: Frankly speaking, I do not remember anything about my
birth; I am a normal child like any other. What has or has not happened
were beyond my decision. Yes, my parents and relatives told me that
there were numerous auspicious signs- signs like the sound of conch
shell being blown, which occurred during the time of my birth, was
similar to that witnessed when the 5th and 13th Karmapa were born.
Tsering Dhondup: How do you compare your life here in India to that back
H. H. the Karmapa: Tibet is my country and I feel that I was happy
living there; but I do not feel any unhappiness living in India.
Tsering Dhondup: What in your view is the essence of Buddhism?
H. H. the Karmapa: In my view, the essence of Buddhism consists in
reducing physical, mental and verbal defilement. We should not harm
other beings even if we cannot help them. It is important to develop
love, kindness and sincere motivation. It is very important to practice
these Bodhisattva qualities and contemplate on the essence of Bodhichitta.
Tsering Dhondup: How can one manage negative emotions like attachment,
fear hatred, pride, etc?
H. H. the Karmapa: Lord Buddha has shown that there are limitless
methods to tackle one's problems. We must understand these methods. The
important qualities are contemplation on the loving kindness,
compassion, emptiness and meditation and practice them in our daily
life. We must sincerely dedicate these qualities for the benefit of
other sentient beings. It is also very important to have a genuine
master to guide one in the right way.
Tsering Dhondup: The human society is beset with numerous problems, or
rather, conflicts. How do you think they could be best addressed?
H. H. the Karmapa: There are many problems in our society and all these
occur due to selfish motives. Important tools to resolve conflicts can
be developing compassion to other beings, developing sincere motivation
and putting effort to bring unity and harmony. It is important to think
others as more important than oneself.
Tsering Dhondup: How can we make our life more meaningful by applying
the concepts of Buddhist philosophy?
H. H. the Karmapa: Our body, speech and mind are laced with defilement
due to which we find ourselves subject to various kinds of suffering. We
must strive for happiness by training our mind. If we manage to train
our mind, we can bring peace, happiness, harmony and joy for all
sentient beings. The problem is that we are not practically achieving
them because we fail to train our mind. Buddhism is a very strong tool
for taming the mind and bringing it to a peaceful state. So, if we can
train our mind, we can definitely achieve peace and happiness, which is
the ultimate aim of our life.
Tsering Dhondup: How do you compare modern life to the ancient?
H. H. the Karmapa: The only difference that I find between ancient and
modern life is the development of modern scientific technology. With the
development of science and technology, there are fast communication
between nations and individuals. But despite the absence of these, I
feel that our ancient ancestors had more joy and happiness. People in
the past were more peaceful, more motivated, more patriotic, and there
was more love among the people. I respect the ancient people because
they were very genuine and sincere in nature and understanding. And
ancient culture is richer.
Tsering Dhondup: Do you have any special advice for our readers?
H. H. the Karmapa: I have not much things to say now, yet I believe that
it is very important to build one's life in a very meaningful way.
Thinking about making one's own life as well as dedicating work for the
goodness of other beings is equally important. The modern life is more
busy and tougher, so it is important to strive to build sincere
intention, motivation and indulge in positive and pure actions. As a
Tibetan, we should not waste our time. We must do our own work as well
as we must think about our nation to bring more unity and harmony among
ourselves as well as with other people. Development of positive wishes
is also very valuable.
Dalai Lama and the Muslims of Tibet (OTNY)
Source: Office of Tibet, New York
By Masood Butt
DHARAMSALA, February 18 - Tibet had pockets of Muslims entrenched within
its borders, although there is no documentary evidence on how they first
came to settle there. In fact, information on Tibetan Muslims is scarce.
But the existence of Tibet appears to be known to the Muslim world from
the earliest period of recorded history. Arab historians like Yaqut
Hamawi, Ibn Khaldun and Tabari mention Tibet in their writings. In fact,
Yaqut Hamawihas, in his book Muajumal Buldan (Encyclopaedia of
Countries), refers to Tibet in three different ways: Tabbat, Tibet and
Kashmir and Eastern Turkestan are the nearest Islamic regions bordering
Tibet. It is said that Muslim migrants from Kashmir and Ladakh first
entered Tibet around 12th century. Gradually, marriage and social
interaction led to an increase in the population until a sizable
community came up around Lhasa, Tibet's capital.
Muslims are known to the Tibetans as "Khache". This is perhaps because
the earliest Muslim settlers had come from Kashmir which was known as
"Khache Yul" in old Tibetan texts.
The arrival of Muslims was followed by the construction of mosques in
different parts of Tibet. There were four mosques in Lhasa, two in
Shigatse and one in Tsethang. Tibetan Muslims were mainly concentrated
around the mosques, which also served as the centres of Muslim social
life in Tibet.
It was actually the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682), who played a seminal
role in helping to pave the way for the flourishing of Muslim community
in Tibet's Buddhist environment. He issued a decree, granting Tibetan
Muslims special privileges, which they enjoyed until the Chinese
occupation of Tibet in 1959. In accordance with this dercee:
i. The Muslims were permitted to handle their affairs independently,
according to the Shariat Law. The Muslim community was permitted to
elect a five-man committee, known as "Ponj", to look after their interests.
ii. They were free to set up commercial enterprises and were exempted
iii. They were also exempted from the "no-meat rule", enforced on the
Buddhist populace during the holy Buddhist month.
iv. They were also exempted from removing their hats in deference to
Buddhist priests during a period in a year when the priests held sway
over the town.
v. In addition, Muslims were given their own burial place. There were
two cemeteries around Lhasa: one at Gyanda Linka, about 12 km from Lhasa
town, and the other at Kygasha, about 15 km away. A portion of Gyanda
Linka was turned into a garden and this became the place where the
Muslim community organised their major public events. Gyanda Linka is
said to contain unmarked graves believed to be those of foreigners who
came to preach Islam to Tibet.
As the community grew, Madrasas (primary schools) were set up to teach
Islam, the Koran and the namaz (prayers). Urdu language was also part of
the curriculum. There were two such Madrasas in Lhasa and one in Shigatse.
After finishing their studies in these Madrasas, students were sent to
India to join Islamic institutes of higher learning such as Darul-Uloom
in Deoband, Nadwatul-Ulema in Lucknow and Jamia Millia Islamia in New
Delhi. The annual report of Darul-Uloom for the year 1875 mention the
presence of two foreign students there: a Burmese and a Tibetan. Jamia
Millia Islamia received its first batch of Tibetan students in 1945.
In those days, transportation within Tibet was undeveloped. Students
were sent along with Muslim merchants making their annuals trip to
India. This took months as they had to walk or ride horses or yaks for
most of the way. Therefore, once the students got admitted to an
institution in India, they usually did not return home until the
completion of a stage of their education.
Quite a few Tibetan Muslims successfully completed their studies in
India, achieving proficiency in Arabic, Urdu and Persian. The most
famous among them was Faidhullah, who undertook the ambitious task of
translating into Tibetan Gulestan and Boastan, Persian poetry of Sheik
Sadi. Faidhullah is well known among Tibetans for his popular book of
aphorisms, Khache Phalu (A Few Words of Advice From a Muslim).
Even today, Tibetans quote from his book in support of a point of view
in secular debates. An English translation of Khache Phaluh has been
done by Dr. Dawa Norbu and published by the Library of Tibetan Works &
Tibetan Muslims have also made significant contribution to Tibetan
culture, particularly in the field of music. Nangma, a popular classical
music of Tibet, is said to have been brought to Tibet by Tibetan
Muslims. In fact, the very term Nangma is believed to be a corruption of
the Urdu word Naghma, meaning song. These high-pitched lilting songs,
developed in Tibet around the turn of the Century, were a craze in Lhasa
with musical hits by Acha Izzat, Bhai Akbar-la and Oulam Mehdi on the
lips of almost everyone.
After the failed Tibetan National Uprising of 1959 His Holiness the
Dalai Lama went into-exile in India, followed by a significant number of
However, the majority of Tibetan Muslims, particularly those residing in
Lhasa, were able to leave only a year later. In between they, like their
Buddhist compatriots, had to suffer extortion, repression and other acts
of cruelty at the hands of Chinese occupation forces.
During this critical period, Tibetan Muslims organised themselves and
approached the Indian mission in Lhasa to reclaim Indian citizenship,
citing their Kashmiri ancestry. At that time, the head of the Tibetan
Muslim community, Haji Habibullah Shamo, was under Chinese detention
along with other Muslim leaders like Bhai Addul Gani-la;.Rapse
Hamidullah, Abdual Ahad Hajj, Abdul Qadir Jami and HajiAbdul Gani
Thapsha. While Bhai Abdul Gani-la was charged with putting up
anti-Chinese wall posters, Rapse Hamidullah was arrested on account of
his connection with a senior Tibetan official.
The initial response of the Indian Government to the Muslim request was
lukewarm. It said only those who had permanent domicile status in the
Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and those who visited India from time
to time, and those whose parents or one of the grandparents were born in
India, would be considered potential citizens of India.
But some time later, in late 1959, the Indian Government suddenly came
out with the statement that all Tibetan Muslims were Indian nationals
and entitled to citizenship.
Meanwhile, the Chinese authorities duped the Muslims into selling their
property to the government in return for permission to emigrate to any
Muslim country. Seeing this as a possible way of saving their religion
and culture, many Tibetan Muslims willingly parted with their property.
But the authorities reneged on their promise and instead orchestrated a
campaign of social boycott against them. Nobody was allowed to sell food
to Tibetan Muslims. Many old and weak Tibetan Muslims as well as
children died of starvation.
Such Tibetan Muslims as were able to cross over to the Indian border
towns of Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Gangtok gradually moved to Kashmir,
their ancestral homeland, from 1961 to 1964. The Indian Government
sheltered them in three huge buildings in Idd-Gah in the Kashmiri
capital city of Srinagar. His Holiness the Dalai Lama sent his
Representative to Idd-Gah look into their conditions.
During the first two decades of their life in exile, Tibetan Muslims
attempted to rebuild and re-organise themselves. Lack of proper guidance
and community leadership proved to be an obstacle in their development.
Also, housing in Idd-Gah was inadequate to meet the requirements of a
growing family. In the process, Tibetan Muslims began to scatter,
emigrating to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Nepal. Some moved to other parts
of India in search of better livelihood opportunity.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama continued to keep himself informed of
conditions of Tibetan Muslims in Idd-Gah. In 1975 he visited Srinagar
and raised their problems with the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
Following a request from him, the Chief Minister provided the Tibetan
Muslims with land for their resettlement.
His Holiness also encouraged the formation of a Tibetan Muslim Refugee
Welfare Association. This Association began to chalk out projects for
the economic and educational upliftment of the community.
With the seed money from His Holiness, followed by assistance from Tibet
Fund in New York, a handicraft centre, a co-operative shop and a school
were established. A group of young Tibetan Muslims were invited to
Dharamsala to learn the trade of carpet-weaving and marketing.
The Department of Health in Dharamsala has set up a primary health care
centre to look after the medical needs of the Muslims.
Saudi Arabia provided funds for the construction of 144 houses and a
mosque in the new settlement. Construction was completed in 1985 and the
houses distributed among the people. Not all people could be
accommodated and some continued to reside in the old settlement.
There is now a Tibetan Muslim Youth Association which plays an important
role in the social upliftment of the community, and maintains contact
with the mainstream Tibetan Youth Congress.
Nothing much is known of the present condition of Tibetan Muslims inside
Tibet. According to one report there are around 3000 Tibetan Muslims there.
The total population of Tibetan Muslims outside Tibet is around 2000. Of
them, 20 to 25 families live in Nepal, 20 in the Gulf countries and
Turkey. Fifty families reside in Darjeeling-Kalimpong areas bordering
Tibet in eastern India.
They continue to look up to their Muslim brethren throughout the world
for support to the cause of Tibet so that they can one day return to
their homeland and enjoy the life of dignity that they once enjoyed. A
young Tibetan Muslim in exile, when asked whether he would return to
Tibet in the event of a solution, responded, "It is better to live under
a bridge in one's own homeland than to live as a refugee in an alien land."
*Masood Butt is a Tibetan Muslim and senior official of the Tibetan
The article below is written by my teenage son. May you enjoy reading it.
" People were teeming into this little Palelai Temple to welcome the new lunar year of the rooster and I was no exception. To me it was another boring chanting session which given the choice, I would not want to do on New Year?¡¥s Eve.
But then, today was special; the abbot who usually leads the congregation was taking a break. A fresh face monk led. On the outside he looked pretty frail and weak, but his voice was a rare jewel. And boy! Was I privileged to be amongst the audience to witness such rare wonders; not one carved out in concrete and stone, but of things that can be felt with the correct attuning of the mind inspired by this wonderful voice.
Although his chanting was very slow and a little unclear, and at times forceful; it was one without a single mistake or hesitation and came forth with such deep sincerity and boundless compassion. As soon as the voices began to ring in unison, I realized that there was something driving me to chant along. As time progressed, the voices that led the chant were more than those seven monks sitting before the devotees. How could seven monks project a choir of at least thirty voices? It was the voice of the lead monk who had summoned courage from the shy unseen beings around to join in with the chanting.
When the monks continue into deep chanting and we were to kneel, I sat in meditation instead, and sunk into the calmness that I had tried to achieve the night before. As the natural calmness enveloped me, the energy naturally gave rise to joy; the kind of happiness that is truly independent. With so much positive energy being generated, I decided to share merits with my late father as well as all other beings. The response was overwhelming. The moment I began, I received twenty-, no, fifty-?maybe hundred-folds in returns instantaneously; easily from more people than the hall could accommodate. It was then that I realized that the hall was entirely tightly-packed with beings; much like a sardine can, but a happy one.
So many happy peoples; I was overflowing with joy. It was the atmosphere that kept pounding me with glee. The service ended at half pass twelve. People were wishing each other a happy lunar new year; their hearts brimming with joy and faces beaming with happiness that saturated the entire atmosphere.
That?¡¥s a great start to the New Year!"